Home » Employee Rewards and Employee Recognition Ideas: Perfect Ways to Boost Employee Motivation

Employee Rewards and Employee Recognition Ideas: Perfect Ways to Boost Employee Motivation

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In today’s business landscape, employees aren’t just cogs in a machine; they are the lifeblood that drives organizational success. Recognizing and appreciating their contributions through employee rewards isn’t just a kind gesture; it’s a strategic imperative.

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Let us understand the ‘what,’ ‘why,’ ‘when,’ ‘how,’ ‘where’ and ‘impact’ of employee rewards and recognition on employee motivation with the help of a relatable story.

What are Employee Rewards?

Employee rewards refer to tangible or intangible acknowledgments of an employee’s performance, behavior, or accomplishments.

These can range from monetary benefits like bonuses and pay raises to non-monetary recognitions like plaques, certificates, or even simple verbal praise.

What are the types of Employee Rewards?

Employee rewards can be broadly classified into four groups:

Monetary rewards: Salary raises, bonuses, stock options, etc.
Non-monetary rewards: Appreciation gifts, thank you swag, work-from-home snacks, certificates, extra vacation days, flexible hours, etc.
Benefits: Health insurance, gym memberships, retirement contributions, etc.
Career and Development Rewards: Training, mentorship opportunities, promotions, etc.

Why are Employee Rewards Important?

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The employee rewards are important as they help us in:

Employee motivation: A well-timed reward can act as a motivation booster. It signals to employees that their hard work is being noticed and valued.
Attract and retain talent: Offering competitive rewards is a way of ensuring that you attract and retain the best talent in the industry.
Enhance productivity: Employees are more likely to be productive when they feel recognized and rewarded.
Builds a positive work culture: Regular rewards foster a culture of appreciation and recognition.

When Should You Reward Employees?

The timing of rewards plays a pivotal role in ensuring their effectiveness.

Scheduled rewards: These are given at predetermined intervals, such as yearly bonuses or bi-annual pay raises.
Unscheduled rewards: These are spontaneous, given for exceptional performance or behavior that deserves immediate recognition.
Milestone rewards: Given when an employee reaches a particular tenure or achieves a significant accomplishment.
It’s essential to maintain a balance. Too frequent rewards might diminish their perceived value, whereas too infrequent rewards might demotivate employees.

How to Implement an Effective Employee Reward System?

Customization: Understand what motivates individual employees. Some might value monetary rewards, while others may appreciate flexible hours or additional training.
Transparency: Ensure that the rewards process is transparent. Everyone should be aware of what they need to do to earn a reward.
Consistency: Stay consistent with how and when you reward. This ensures that rewards are given out fairly.
Feedback Loop: Allow employees to give feedback on the reward system. This helps in continuous improvement.

Where Should You Reward Employees?

Public Recognition: In team meetings or company-wide events. This not only celebrates the individual but also sets a benchmark for others.
Private Recognition: Some individuals prefer one-on-one acknowledgments. Understand the preferences of your employees.
Online Platforms: In the digital age, platforms like company intranets, newsletters, or even social media can be used to recognize employees.
Reward Events: Organizing events dedicated to celebrating achievements can be a great way to reward.

The Golden Apples of Appreciation: A Tale of Employee Rewards and Recognition at The Prestige Corp

The Prestige Corp, once a beacon of innovation and employee satisfaction, was facing a crisis. Employees felt undervalued, and productivity was at an all-time low. The management was puzzled: they paid competitive salaries, but morale was sinking.

1. The Unrecognized Talent: Jane, a dedicated programmer, worked late nights but felt invisible. A pat on the back or acknowledgment of her dedication was rare.

2. The Passionate Yet Disheartened Marketer: Mark had initiated multiple successful campaigns, but they went unnoticed. No bonuses, no accolades.

3. The Forgotten Administrative Hero: Sarah, the backbone of logistics and operations, efficiently managed her duties but felt her hard work was for naught.

4. Team Unity – A Lost Concept: The sales team, once a tightly-knit group, was now operating as mere colleagues, not as a united force.

Understanding Reward Motivation Theory and Psychology

The psychology of motivation is vast, but among its intricate web, the Reward Motivation theory stands out as one of the most relatable and tangible concepts. At its core, it revolves around the idea that people are driven to act or behave in certain ways due to the rewards they anticipate receiving. This article aims to shed light on this fascinating concept, enriched with relevant examples and references.

What is the eward Motivation Theory?

Reward Motivation theory is rooted in the belief that human behavior is largely driven by the anticipation of rewards. Essentially, people are motivated to perform actions if they expect a reward in return, whether that reward is tangible (like money) or intangible (like recognition).

Key Concepts of Reward Motivation Theory

  • Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Rewards:
    • Intrinsic rewards are intangible rewards that arise internally, such as personal satisfaction or a feeling of accomplishment.
    • Extrinsic rewards refer to tangible rewards like bonuses, prizes, or promotions.
  • Immediate vs. Delayed Rewards:
    • Immediate rewards are those given instantly after a task is completed.
    • Delayed rewards are deferred and are received after some time has passed.

Examples of Reward Motivation

  • In the Workplace: An employee works overtime to receive a bonus at the end of the month. This bonus acts as an extrinsic reward.
  • In Education: A student studies hard to get praise from their parents and teachers (intrinsic reward), and possibly a scholarship (extrinsic reward).
  • Health and Fitness: Someone hits the gym regularly to feel better about themselves (intrinsic reward) and to win a local fitness competition (extrinsic reward).
  • Online Gaming: Players compete in a game to achieve personal satisfaction (intrinsic reward) and to possibly win in-game items or real-world prizes (extrinsic reward).
  • Workplace Bonuses: Many companies offer bonuses to employees for achieving certain targets. This monetary incentive drives employees to work harder and achieve their goals.
  • Gaming Achievements: Video games often provide rewards in the form of points, badges, or levels. This keeps players engaged and motivated to progress further.
  • Education and Grades: The anticipation of receiving good grades can motivate students to study harder and perform better in exams.
  • Personal Fitness Goals: The satisfaction of reaching a fitness milestone, be it losing weight or achieving a new personal best in a race, can be a strong motivator to continue training.

Importance and Benefits of Reward Motivation Theory

Understanding the Reward Motivation theory has several implications:

  • For Employers: Recognizing that employees are not just motivated by salary but also by intrinsic rewards can help in designing comprehensive reward systems.
  • For Educators: Recognizing the value of both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards can aid in creating a motivating learning environment.
  • For Marketers: Tapping into the principles of reward motivation can help in designing loyalty programs or promotional campaigns that resonate with consumers.
  • For Employees:
    • Enhanced Performance: When used correctly, rewards can significantly boost performance, both in terms of quality and quantity.
    • Over-reliance on Extrinsic Rewards: While extrinsic rewards can be powerful motivators, an over-reliance can diminish intrinsic motivation. This means when the external reward is removed, the individual may lose the drive to perform.
    • Short-term vs. Long-term Goals: Reward motivation works best for short-term goals. For long-term objectives, intrinsic motivation – driven by personal values and passions – tends to be more sustainable.
    • Risk of Unwanted Behavior: If not implemented correctly, reward systems can inadvertently encourage undesired behavior. For example, if a company rewards employees solely based on quantity rather than quality, it might lead to compromised quality of work.

Reward Motivation theory offers a lens through which we can understand a wide array of human behaviors. By recognizing the power of both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, we can design strategies in various domains, from businesses to education, that can harness this understanding to produce desired outcomes.

As humans, we are constantly driven by various motives to achieve our goals. Among these motives, reward plays a central role. The concept of reward motivation is deeply embedded in our psychology, driving us to perform actions that bring pleasure, satisfaction, or a sense of accomplishment.

The Rewards and Recognition Programs: Ways and Types

When it comes to boosting employee morale, engagement, and loyalty, few strategies can compare to the impact of a well-executed rewards and recognition program. Beyond mere monetary compensation, these programs can foster a culture of appreciation, enhance employee satisfaction, and drive performance.

Concept of Rewards and Recognition Programs

Rewards and recognition programs are systematic approaches to acknowledge and incentivize employees’ performance and behaviors. They can range from formal annual award ceremonies to spontaneous day-to-day acknowledgments.

  • Rewards: These are tangible or monetary gifts given to employees for achieving specific milestones, results, or behaviors. Examples include bonuses, gift cards, or physical gifts like a new laptop or holiday package.
  • Recognition: This is an intangible acknowledgment of an employee’s contributions. It could be a simple ‘thank you’ email, a mention in a company meeting, or an employee of the month acknowledgment.

Examples and Types of Rewards and Recognition Programs

  • Employee of the Month: A classic approach where exemplary employees are highlighted and rewarded every month based on their performance.
  • Spot Awards: Immediate rewards given to employees when they go above and beyond. It might be a gift card or a small bonus, given spontaneously to recognize exceptional work.
  • Peer-to-Peer Recognition: Allowing employees to recognize each other can build team spirit. This can be facilitated through apps or platforms where employees can send virtual ‘kudos’ or ‘high-fives’ to their peers.
  • Service Awards: Recognizing employee loyalty by celebrating anniversaries. A 10-year tenure might come with a sabbatical or a special gift.
  • Training and Development Opportunities: Rewarding top performers with opportunities to develop their skills, like workshops, courses, or even higher education funding.
  • Health and Wellness Rewards: Encouraging a healthy lifestyle by offering gym memberships, wellness retreats, or even health insurance discounts.

Importance and Benefits of Rewards and Recognition Programs

  • Boosts Morale: Recognizing efforts make employees feel valued, leading to increased satisfaction and enthusiasm in their roles.
  • Enhances Performance: When employees know their hard work is noticed and appreciated, they are more likely to put in extra effort.
  • Retains Talent: A sense of being appreciated reduces turnover rates, as employees feel a stronger connection to the company.
  • Promotes Desired Behaviors: By aligning rewards and recognition with company goals, businesses can drive specific behaviors, such as teamwork, innovation, or customer service.

employee productivity

How to Announce Reward and Recognition at the Workplace

Announcing rewards and recognition in the workplace can boost morale, motivation, and engagement. Here’s how you can make the announcement effective and inspiring:

Choose the Right Medium:

  • In-person: Organize a team meeting or an all-hands meeting. This allows for immediate celebration and acknowledgment.
  • Email: Send out a company-wide or department-specific email.
  • Newsletter: If your company circulates a periodic newsletter, include a special section for recognition.
  • Bulletin Boards: Utilize physical or digital boards to highlight achievements.
  • Company Intranet or Social Media: Share the news on internal communication platforms or even on company social media channels, provided the awardee is comfortable with public acknowledgment.

Make it Personal:

  • Personalize the Announcement: Always mention the person’s name, role, and specific achievement.
  • Tell a Story: Briefly narrate what led to the achievement, how they contributed, or any challenges they overcame.

Add Visual Elements:

  • Include a photo of the awardee or a visual representation of their achievement.
  • If digital, consider adding graphics, GIFs, or even video clips to make the announcement more engaging.

Give Specific Details:

  • Clearly state why the person is being recognized. Was it for a project well-done? Consistent performance? Going above and beyond in a specific instance?
  • Mention the impact of their achievement on the team or company at large.

Include an Appreciation Quote:

  • Include an appreciation quote from a manager, colleague, or client praising the individual’s effort. It adds authenticity and depth to the recognition.

Encourage Others to Join In:

  • Prompt team members to share their own words of appreciation. This can be in the form of comments on a post, emails, or verbal praises during meetings.

Pair with Tangible Rewards (if applicable):

  • If the recognition comes with a tangible reward (like a bonus, certificate, or gift), mention it in the announcement.
  • However, always ensure that the focus is on the achievement and not just the reward.

Reiterate Company Values:

  • Align the achievement with company values or goals, illustrating how the recognized individual embodies the ethos of the organization.

Keep it Regular:

  • Ensure that recognition isn’t a one-off event. Regularly acknowledge and reward deserving employees, even for small wins.

Invite Feedback:

  • Encourage employees to suggest peers who they feel deserve recognition in the future. This promotes a culture of appreciation and acknowledgment.

By recognizing employees in a structured and heartfelt manner, companies can foster a positive workplace environment and motivate others to strive for excellence.

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Companies with Best Employee Rewards and Recognition Programs

Employee recognition has become increasingly important as companies recognize the value of appreciating their workforce and the positive impacts such appreciation can have on employee morale, productivity, and retention. Some companies are renowned for their outstanding employee recognition programs, while others leverage platforms or services offered by companies like SwagMagic, SnackMagic, and Stadium to bolster their initiatives.

  • Google: Google is renowned for its work culture. The tech giant not only provides its employees with a host of perks and benefits but also ensures that they are recognized and rewarded for their achievements. Google uses a mix of peer recognition, financial bonuses, and other recognition systems.
  • Salesforce: Salesforce has a comprehensive recognition program that uses both monetary and non-monetary rewards. Employees can give each other “Chatter” compliments on the internal social network, and top performers are sometimes treated to trips or special experiences.
  • Adobe: Instead of traditional performance reviews, Adobe uses a “Check-in” system, allowing managers and their direct reports to have continuous conversations about objectives and expectations. This allows for real-time recognition and feedback.
  • Zappos: Zappos has an interesting peer-to-peer recognition program. Employees can award one another with “Zollars” (Zappos dollars) for good work, which can be used to purchase items from the Zappos gift shop.

Best Vendors Offering Employee Rewards Ideas and Employee Recognition Services

Companies like SwagMagic, SnackMagic, and Stadium bring a unique spin to employee recognition:

  • SwagMagic: This platform offers custom swag options. Companies can utilize SwagMagic to create branded merchandise that’s used as part of a recognition program. Recognizing an employee’s hard work with a custom-made item can make them feel valued and special.
  • SnackMagic: Recognizing that everyone loves snacks, SnackMagic allows companies to send personalized snack boxes to their employees. This can be used to recognize special achievements or milestones, or simply as a way to boost morale. The option to customize the content ensures that employees get something they truly enjoy.

snack box with swag

  • Stadium: This platform focuses on group food orders, making it easy for companies to treat their teams to meals from various restaurants. Celebrating team achievements or milestones with a special lunch or dinner can be an effective way to recognize hard work.

Addressing Pain Points of Employee Rewards and Recognition with SwagMagic Offerings

  • The Unrecognized Talent:
    • Pain Point: Jane’s consistent hard work goes unnoticed, making her feel undervalued.
    • SwagMagic Solution: Custom and Personalized Swag such as a tailored T-shirt or notebook engraved with a special message like “Jane – The Code Magician” can make her feel singled out and appreciated for her unique contribution.

  • The Passionate Yet Disheartened Marketer:
    • Pain Point: Mark’s successful campaigns don’t earn him recognition.
    • SwagMagic Solution: Promotional Merchandise tailored to represent his specific campaigns can serve as tangible evidence of his achievements. For instance, a campaign-specific keychain or badge can act as a constant reminder of his accomplishments.

  • The Forgotten Administrative Hero:
    • Pain Point: Sarah feels that her daily contributions are taken for granted.
    • SwagMagic Solution: Gift Card Solutions can give Sarah the freedom to choose her own rewards, reflecting a personal touch in appreciation and acknowledging her value.

  • Team Unity – A Lost Concept:
    • Pain Point: The once-united sales team no longer feels a sense of camaraderie.
    • SwagMagic Solution: A Swag Store can be a place for the team to pick collective rewards, fostering a sense of unity. Additionally, Corporate Gifting Solutions for team anniversaries or milestones can reinforce the team spirit.

  • Monetary Bonuses Aren’t Always Enough:
    • Pain Point: Cash can seem impersonal and does not always resonate emotionally.
    • SwagMagic Solution: Custom and Personalized Swag offers a personal touch, turning a generic reward into something memorable and emotionally resonant.

  • Lack of Tangible Recognition:
    • Pain Point: Verbal appreciations are fleeting and can be quickly forgotten.
    • SwagMagic Solution: Promotional Merchandise provides a tangible and lasting acknowledgment of an employee’s contributions, serving as a physical reminder of their value.

  • Team Achievements Go Uncelebrated:
    • Pain Point: Without acknowledgment, team achievements can feel meaningless.
    • SwagMagic Solution: Corporate Gifting Solutions can provide team-wide rewards, celebrating collective milestones and promoting unity. Offering team-oriented merchandise or experiences ensures everyone feels valued for their collective effort.

In essence, SwagMagic’s diverse offerings address the core issue of feeling unrecognized and unappreciated. Their solutions not only provide tangible rewards but also infuse a sense of belonging, recognition, and camaraderie among the employees.


  • Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.
  • Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. Riverhead Books.
  • Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.
  • Lepper, M. R., & Greene, D. (1978). The hidden costs of reward: New perspectives on the psychology of human motivation. Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Bersin by Deloitte (2016). “The Employee Recognition Maturity Model.” This research provides insights into how mature organizations develop recognition strategies.
  • Gallup (2017). “State of the American Workplace.” This report highlights the importance of employee recognition in retention and engagement.
  • Grant, A.M. (2013). “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success.” This book emphasizes the power of recognition in the workplace and how it can drive success.
  • Pink, D.H. (2009). “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.” A deep dive into human motivation and how rewards can be effectively used to drive performance.


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