Reward
March 13, 2024
March 1, 2024

21 Creative Ways to Reward Employees

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Offering employees rewards is an important part of any employee value proposition and retention strategy. Assuming a paycheck is enough of a reward for all that your people bring to the table each and every day is a shortcut to dissatisfaction and disengagement.

In this post, we’re going to go over why rewards are so impactful and provide twenty one ideas to reward employees in a creative, fun, and effective way. However, the key takeaway to keep in mind is the power of choice in employee rewards. (Don’t worry—we’ll go over that, too.)

The Importance of Employee Rewards

As one of the leaders in the employee rewards and recognition space, we here at Awardco are very familiar with the impact of a good reward for employees. That’s because rewards show employees that they are appreciated and important, both for their work and for who they are as people. 

When those rewards come from management, executives, or the company, it shows that every employee’s contributions are noticed and valued, no matter their position or seniority level. Some other benefits of rewards include:

  • Increased motivation
  • Enhanced performance
  • Greater retention

Pretty nice, right? Rewards show employees that they matter and they push employees to work even harder. But only when the reward is something employees are happy with.

Understanding the Power of Choice in Employee Rewards

One study found that being offered a choice of rewards boosted employee excitement by 86% and creativity by 82%, showing that by offering employees choice in the types of rewards they get for effort, they’ll be more invested and innovative in their work.

Employees want to participate in decision-making at work, and when they feel that they have some control over things at work, they’re more engaged, happy, loyal, and productive. And employee rewards are one of the simplest and most effective ways of giving your people more control.

Instead of rewards passively happening to them, where they get items that they don’t care about or wouldn’t have picked for themselves, let them be an active participant in the reward process.

Letting employees choose their own rewards allows them to each get something they want or are passionate about, which really enhances the perceived value of that reward and increases the benefits of rewards overall.

Without further ado, take a look at some creative employee rewards to really show your appreciation!

Illustration of women thinking about reward ideas

21 Creative Employee Rewards

1. Experiential Rewards

One of the best ways to reward employees for their work is to empower them to get away from their work for a bit. Experiences, such as tickets to an event, a stay at a hotel, a tropical snorkeling trip, or even just a trip to a local museum or golf course, can be awesome ways to tailor rewards to employees’ interests.

2. A Paid Subscription

Do your employees like music? Podcasts? Streaming? Learning new skills? Clothes? In today’s world, there are plenty of subscription services to choose from that offer many different learning opportunities, entertainment, or services. Ask your employees what subscriptions they’re interested in and offer them as rewards.

3. Workspace Upgrades

This is great for remote and in-office employees. Create a catalog of different office upgrades, such as keyboards, mice, monitors, desk decorations, water bottles, or even expensive items such as new office chairs or walking treadmills. For those on their feet, offer supportive shoes or insoles. These are great rewards and can also make people more comfortable and productive in their workspaces.

4. Mystery Themed Gift Boxes

Offer themed mystery boxes sent to employees’ homes. Each box should be full of fun and useful items that fit a specific theme, such as self-care, movie lovers, healthy snacks, bookworms, outdoor equipment, or anything else you can think of! 

5. Professional Development Opportunities

Reward employees who are passionate about their work with the opportunity to gain new skills, take on new responsibilities, and develop their careers. Find courses, workshops, books, or other career-specific tools that help employees grow and develop.

6. Personalized Acknowledgements

Sometimes, rewards don’t have to be tangible. Reward employee effort with things like a public shoutout in a company meeting, a spotlight on the company social media platforms, or a hand-written thank you card from their boss.

7. Charitable Donations

Many employees have causes and organizations that they care about. Show that the organization cares about what’s important to the employees by offering amplified donations as a reward to a charity of the recipient’s choice.

8. Lifestyle Spending Account Contribution

A great way to give employees more freedom of choice is a Lifestyle Spending Account (LSA). This gives employees an account that can be used on any approved expense, like wellness, self-care, self-improvement, etc. A great reward could be a contribution to this account, giving employees more money to spend how they want!

9. Useful Swag

Branded swag gets a bad rap, but it can be a great reward if you offer employees things that they’ll actually use. Some employees may appreciate a mug or a shirt, but others may want a water bottle, a tote, a hat, or socks. Offer plenty of options so that this reward is really rewarding.

10. Extra Time Off

Whether you give them a free day of PTO, a short day, or even a full week of vacation, any sort of time off will always be appreciated. Reward your people with time to unwind and relax in whatever way they prefer.

11. The Perfect Parking Spot

For those who may have to usually park high in a parking garage or far away from the workplace, offer the coveted parking spot right in front of the office as a reward. Some people may not care about this, but for others, the convenience and ease of access can be huge, and they’ll appreciate this.

12. In-House Massage

Reward individuals or teams with a relaxing hour with a professional massage therapist. This is the perfect way to reward hard workers with a short but supremely relaxing break while at work. 

13. A Personalized Meal

Free food is a staple for many workplaces—make this reward special by letting the employee order their own meal, with minimal budgetary constraints. This can be a great choice for foodies or for those who may not be able to afford eating out very often.

14. Team Activities

For a team reward, let the team take a day off to enjoy time together. Escape rooms, go karts, mini golf, and arcades are a few ideas of places teams can go to have fun. Let the team choose what activity they go for.

15. Symbolic Rewards

Plaques, trophies, and other symbolic rewards aren’t for everyone, but some people appreciate these tangible expressions of gratitude.

16. Family Gifts

For employees with families, rewards that benefit their loved ones can be a huge blessing. Whether the reward is a family getaway, a family meal, or anything else, think of rewards that reach the employee’s family in a meaningful way.

17. Pet Day

Reward employees with a puppy day, where you bring in puppies that everyone can come and pet. Or, on the other side, let employees bring their pets in for a day. This reward can mean a lot for those who love animals.

18. Choice From a Favorite List

This takes some future planning, but it can be a phenomenally custom reward for employees. Have each employee fill out a list of their favorite things, such as favorite food, snack, color, activity, hobby, sports team, etc. Then, when they earn a reward, let them choose a reward based on their favorite things list.

19. Personal Expenses Help

Reward employees with help paying for some of their minor personal expenses. Things like gas and car maintenance or groceries are great options to start with. And if you want to go big, covering expenses like new clothes or even a month’s worth of rent, utilities, or mortgage bills.

20. Shopping Spree

Give employees a certain budget, take them to a mall, and then let them go out and buy whatever they want or need. This no-stress shopping will be fun for nearly every employee. 

21. Custom Artwork

Many services can take photos and transform them into different types of art. Give the gift of a pet turned into an army general or an employee turned into a cartoon. Fun art is a great reward that employees can use to decorate their workspace or their home.

Illustration of man thinking about reward options

Implementing a Choice-Based Reward System

As mentioned above, choice is a vital part of offering effective rewards that help employees feel motivated, valued, and loyal. Here are some strategies to keep in mind as you build out your reward program to maximize employee choice:

  • Create custom catalogs. If you want some sort of limit/restriction on the rewards employees can choose, but you still want to offer them choice, create custom catalogs. These allow employees to choose from different options while still controlling the limits of what they can choose.
  • Offer tiers of rewards. Not every milestone or achievement deserves the same reward. Small things can be rewarded with small rewards, but large things should be rewarded accordingly. Create a tier system that organizes reward options into different categories, such as handout, gift, prize, honor, laurel, and jackpot, and list rewards that fit in each category. Then, let employees choose any reward from the tier that they’re being rewarded.
  • Keep things transparent. In the spirit of fairness, make sure everyone understands what rewards are available and how to earn them. This openness can increase employee motivation because they see what rewards they want and they know how they can earn them.

Real-Life Examples of the Impact of Choice-Based Rewards

Below are some real case studies of how employee choice has impacted Awardco clients.

Greater choice to take care of personal needs

WOW! mobile boutique offered prepaid Visa cards as rewards before Awardco, but their employees wanted more choice. After implementing Awardco, their HR team was shocked to see so many people choose things like toiletries and clothing for rewards, showing that people often would rather get things they need than rewards the company thinks they want.

More options to please a diverse employee base

When CBS and Viacom merged under the Paramount umbrella, they brought two different demographics and work cultures together. However, using the largest reward network on the planet with Awardco, they’ve been able to recognize and reward their people in meaningful ways, no matter their age, interests, or personalities.

Custom rewards to boost employee satisfaction

Before ARUP Laboratories switched to Awardco, they’re service anniversary program was 20 years old and only offered a few outdated reward options. After they switched, ARUP implemented custom reward options and recognition programs, and they saw an 18% jump in employee satisfaction in just the first year.

Illustration of a happy female employee sitting at her desk

Give Employees More Choice in Their Rewards

Rewarding employees for their hard work, their loyalty, and their personal and professional milestones is key to keeping them around and happy at your business. But one-size-fits-all rewards are the worst option you could provide. Instead, take the strategies and ideas from this blog and build out your own custom rewards program that gives your employees the freedom of choice they want.

If you need help building a custom reward catalog, managing diverse reward options, or handling reward fulfillment and shipping, schedule a demo with Awardco today. Our platform is built around making rewards and recognition easy for admins and impactful for employees.