20+ exciting rewards for employees to motivate them at work

by Andy Nguyen
rewards for employees to motivate

Money isn’t everything for most employees today.

They also seek meaning and fulfillment in their jobs. And this can often come from feeling like they’re contributing to something larger than themselves and being appreciated for their efforts. 

That’s why managers are constantly brainstorming rewards for employees to motivate them.

But what’s an effective rewards program

In this article, we’ll highlight 23 ideas for meaningful employee incentives and discuss how you can plan and implement a successful recognition program for motivating employees. We’ll also tell you why employee rewards work better than penalties.

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23 useful rewards for employees to motivate them

Companies with effective rewards and recognition programs have the advantage of increased employee productivity, lower turnover, and a higher return on investment than their competitors.

According to an SHRM report, when employers offer rewards that appreciate employee performance or indicate that the management cares about them, it boosts the employee’s intrinsic motivation to work harder.

If you haven’t done this so far, you can still do it as a part of your year-end holiday celebrations.

But how do you ensure that you reward your employees in the best way?

Here are three tips for designing and implementing an effective employee incentive program:

  • Decide your criteria: You may choose to reward your employees based on criteria like employee of the month, best performance, most dependable, etc., depending on your company.
  • Allocate a budget: You can plan on the number of rewards you want to give out in the year. It’ll help you fix a budget for the employee reward and understand what kind of gifts you can offer. 
  • Pick your reward: Once you’ve decided on the award categories and budget, you can shortlist the kind of incentive you want to offer. These can be financial incentives, company swag, profit sharing, cash, etc.      

But these incentive programs needn’t always be a cash reward.

Sure, cash rewards are always a great idea. But a small handwritten note, a team celebration, or some other ‘experiences’ can be great non-monetary rewards too! 

So what employee incentives can you offer to increase employee motivation?

Here’s a list of 23 valuable rewards for your employees:

1. Flexible working

If your company isn’t remote, offering flexible work options can be a great incentive. You can allow your employees to work at home on any day they wish or choose a shift according to their preference. 

And if you’re working remotely for fixed hours, you can allow some flexibility in the work timings on one day of the week.

Explore how you can offer a flexible work environment in your organization.

2. Added paid leave

If you offer an extra day-off apart from the set vacation days, your employees are sure to feel extra special. Some may even appreciate it more than any monetary reward.

You can also offer a longer lunch break or a half day off. Of course, these kinds of employee benefits depend on your company’s needs and requirements at that particular time. 

For example, if you have an important upcoming release, you may choose to schedule these extra leaves in the next quarter.

3. More responsibility

Engaged employees may feel motivated if you entrust them with additional critical tasks and responsibilities as it may contribute to their professional development.

However, this kind of incentive boosts morale only for some people who like to take on challenges and work hard to prove their worth. Others may not consider it much of a reward but rather a burden.

4. Ambassador assignment

You could invite a high-performing employee to attend an important meeting that they would otherwise not be a part of. 

Meeting a top client or senior leader of the company can go a long way in motivating employees. You could offer this incentive to someone with an outstanding performance to show them that they deserve to be known by all the important people in the company.  

5. Reward in the presence of the entire office 

Rewarding employees in the presence of their colleagues can instantly make them feel important and noticed. Who doesn’t love being the center of attention once in a while?

You can gather all members during coffee breaks or for an impromptu meeting and announce the employee’s achievements that prompted you to reward them. 

But what if you don’t work in a traditional setup?

Remote and hybrid work sometimes tends to isolate teams and employees. In such situations, rewarding employees during an all-team Zoom meeting can instantly unite teams as they cheer on their co-workers.

You can even declare the rewards on the company Slack channel and encourage peer recognition.

6. Recognize your employees on social media

Employee recognition on your company’s social media channels like LinkedIn or Facebook for employee milestones, work anniversaries, etc., can be a meaningful reward.

You can ask your other team members to show their appreciation for the employee on these posts.

It shows that you’re proud of their achievements and helps your social media followers understand that you care about your employees.

7. Quality healthcare

As a part of your incentive plans, offering affordable but high-quality healthcare is a great way to reward loyal employees. 

You can collaborate with reputed insurance companies and offer group insurance for certain employees. Since it’s a serious incentive, you can reserve it only for your top performers or employees who have completed a stipulated duration in your company.

In some cases, it can work even better than a monetary incentive to boost employee retention.

8. Gym membership

Taking care of your employees’ physical health can go a long way in boosting their mental health and productivity.

Instead of a direct financial reward, a membership for a gym or any other activities like tennis, swimming, etc., can emphasize to the employees that you value their health and well-being. 

When employees feel cared for, it automatically boosts loyalty and a sense of belonging.

9. Pets at the office

Pets in Office

A pet-friendly office has been found to have a massive impact on facilitating a positive attitude and refreshing everyone’s mood. 

Allowing employees to bring their pets on a certain day can brighten the work environment and also allow them to spend more time with their fur babies. 

If you can’t allow pets in the office for safety or other reasons, you can always tie-up with a local rescue organization and let your employees spend a day there. It can help them bond and make good memories together.

10. The best parking spot

Who wouldn’t want a sheltered spot for their vehicle that’s right next to the main entrance?

The best parking spot means less parking hassles and a better start to the morning!

You can offer this perk to a winner for a week or two and even add a sign with their name on it to tell them that it’s really theirs. 

11. Dinner with the boss

In a large company, only an exclusive group of people has access to the CEO or president. 

This is why spending time with such top executives makes for an alluring opportunity for your company’s up-and-coming leaders. They can use the dinner (or lunch) to discuss their professional ideas or simply bond with the higher-ups. 

If you prefer keeping it informal, the executives can ensure that they keep work-related conversations to a minimum. 

12. Special event tickets

The holiday season is right around the corner, and so are some of the best music concerts, food festivals, and more. And if you don’t have these in your area due to the pandemic, there are tons of virtual events like virtual tours, virtual cooking events, etc. 

Rewarding employees with tickets to these events is a great way to spread holiday cheer and encourage bonding among team members!

Rewarding certain employees with paid vacation time can go a long way in letting them know that your company emphasizes work-life balance. 

Any employee who loves a vacation (everyone!) will definitely strive to work hard and earn that vacation.

14. Wine tasting or brewery tour

Local wineries and breweries often collaborate with organizations to host a group for a day of fun. You can offer wine and beer enthusiasts an opportunity to explore their passion while supporting a small business. 

However, you must do your best to ensure that the people you’re rewarding don’t have a history of substance abuse and that they’re able to enjoy the tour responsibly.

15. Spa day

Everyone loves some personal time, and what better way to do that than a relaxing spa?

You can reward employees with a spa coupon so that they can choose the treatment they like best to de-stress and rejuvenate themselves.

16. Tech accessories 

Tech swag like speakers, wireless earphones, etc., are an excellent incentive for any employee. You may also offer this reward as a discount coupon or partial funding for an employee’s dream gadget.

It’s also a great reminder that hard work pays off, and your company doesn’t mind spending on high-end gadgets for its deserving employees. 

17. Gift cards

Tangible rewards like gift cards are incredibly versatile and allow the employees to spend it on whatever they’ve been wishing for. 

You can ask your human resource department to buy gift cards from luxury brands for an added glam feel. Even Amazon vouchers make for a greatly loved and easily usable employee incentive, especially if it’s an impromptu reward.

18. Ask your employees what they’d like

A reward system that asks the employees what they would like for their hard work can make them feel valued and heard. 

Let them know about your budget and ask for the top three things they would like to get. You can then get one from that list and (almost) surprise them with it!

19. Off-site team events

You can show appreciation to your employees by organizing annual out-of-office activities for the entire team.

Off-site trips, picnics, movies, sports, etc., are some ideas that’ll help your employees unwind and also foster team-building. To double the excitement, you could plan an outing on a working day.

20. Team lunch 

Team lunches after meeting important deadlines, hitting specific targets, etc., can further enhance employee engagement, team spirit, and camaraderie. 

For this tangible reward, you can again let the team know your budget and let them choose a restaurant – making it another team activity!

21. Celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries

You can make an employee feel special by celebrating their birthday with a small party and a crowd-funded gift.

For work anniversaries, you can put up their achievements on your social media pages or even on the office notice board. On this day, they can also share a few words on their experience with the company so far, which can encourage retention too. 

Though these actions may seem small, they enhance the feel-good factor and boosts employee motivation. 

22. Department recognition bulletin board

employee recognition board

Recognizing each department’s good work is critical to whole-team cohesion. This lets everyone know that they’re not just cogs in a machine and their contribution matters to achieving the larger goal.

Moreover, because it puts a team’s achievements over individuals, recognizing a department promotes teamwork. It also encourages each individual to push their team members to give their best.

You can pick one team each month and appreciate their roles and responsibilities, achievements, etc. 

23. Year-end awards

Up your employee appreciation with a double celebration: a company awards night coupled with a New Year’s Eve party.

Host your own Oscars, complete with nominations, voting, and thank-you speeches!

If you keep it light and include everyone, it’ll surely be an evening that employees will never forget. After all, you’ll have trophies to remember it by!

So what makes rewards a better incentive for motivation than punishment?

Why employee rewards work better than penalties

While penalties may seem like a quick way to motivate employees, they may have the opposite effect.

Penalties such as loss of pay, potential employment termination, etc., may push employees to unwillingly change their behavior in the short term. And in a few cases, the chilling effect may even encourage the desired behavior in the whole team. 

However, this may drain employee morale and loyalty in the long run. 

And when employees feel like they’re being forced to do something, they might develop resentment towards that task or your company as a whole.

Instead, a rewards system that recognizes their efforts and dedication builds a better bond between the employees and the company since they feel valued and appreciated. 

It also enhances employee well-being and job satisfaction, boosting productivity and reducing employee turnover.

Final thoughts

Employee rewards are undoubtedly valuable for enhancing employee engagement and retaining top talent.

You can use the tips and reward ideas given above to develop your employee recognition program and make it a part of your company culture.

Once you have an excellent incentive program in place, you’ll be able to see a dramatic change in your employees’ engagement levels and their overall attitude at work.

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