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Loyalty · 

10 minutes

Employee Rewards and Recognition: A Full-Circle Guide to the Future of Work.

Cormac O'SullivanPiggy

First thing’s first - employee rewards and employee recognition shouldn’t be used interchangeably or as substitutes for each other. Employees deserve and appreciate both rewards and recognition. So, what exactly are employee rewards and employee recognition respectively?

What’s the Difference?

Employee Recognition

Employee recognition is all about the employee’s experience and intangible perks. A simple “Good job” or “Keep up the great work” is often sufficient in keeping your employees happy, but that’s just the employee recognition side of things.

Employee Rewards

Employee rewards are more tangible and easily valued. Think about customer rewards - exactly that, only for employees. Rewards can come in the form of points, discounts, or even gifts. However, don’t forget about rewards or perks such as extra time off, remote working, or flexible hour contracts.

What’s Changed?

For quite a while, businesses have focused on rewarding loyal customers using loyalty platforms and rewards programs. The focus is switching now, with businesses taking a full circle approach and recognizing that happy employees means happy customers.

It may have taken a pandemic for it to happen, but we’re now seeing a greater focus on employee welfare, with the rise of flexible contracts, remote working, wellness weeks, and some companies even setting up napping pods for employees - don’t mind if I do. These are but a few examples of how the world of work is changing.


So, why opt for an employee rewards and recognition program? First of all, things have changed. Employees have come to expect certain rewards and perks, which is enough of a reason in itself.

There has to be a more attractive reason to reward employees though, right?

Employee rewards and recognition programs have been proven to make huge differences to businesses of all sizes, with increased employee productivity, increased employee engagement, increased commitment, along with a jump in profits and a decrease in costs. Still need convincing?

Quick Fire Round

Let’s start with a quick fire round of reasons why you need an employee rewards and recognition program:

Below, you can find a more detailed explanation and description of the perks of employee rewards and recognition programs.

Increased Productivity

This is a win-win situation - essentially no business costs are involved in giving recognition, but the payoff can be great. Increasing your recognition of employee effort and giving subsequent rewards can significantly increase employee productivity.

What’s interesting about this is that offering rewards increases productivity even in employees that did not receive rewards. This doesn’t mean you should hold back with recognition or rewards - employees are 40% more likely to put effort into their work when they receive rewards and recognition.

This is a win-win situation - essentially no business costs are involved in given recognition, but the payoff can be great. Increasing your recognition of employee effort and giving subsequent rewards can significantly increase employee productivity.

Keep Employees in it for the Long Run

Everyone’s a sucker for some recognition and a reward. Retain the employees you’ve spent time training and developing by incorporating a rewards and recognition program and strategy. 67% of employees that receive rewards and recognition are unlikely to search for another job - why would they, after all?

At the other end of the spectrum, 43% of employees that don’t receive regular recognition or rewards are very likely to seek a job elsewhere. That’s almost half your employee base eyeing up opportunities elsewhere.

Cut Costs with Loyal Employees

Whoever said that saying “thank you” costs nothing was right, but they should’ve mentioned how much it costs to not thank your employees. Losing an employee can cost as much as 200% of their annual salary between hiring costs, training costs, along with the cost of lost productivity and engagement. Not to mention, high employee turnover can have terrible consequences for your company culture. 

Increase Profits with Employee Engagement

Giving employees the rewards and recognition they deserve causes them to buy into your business idea even more. Increased employee engagement leads to belief in the company culture and values, which, in turn, can be a huge driving force when it comes to sales and profits. An engaged workforce can increase sales by as much as 20% and profits as much as 21% - come on, a little recognition can’t hurt so much.

Employee-based Brand Equity

Whether it’s achievable or not, every business wants their employees to get on board with their mission and brand. With rewards and recognition on a regular basis, that’s possible. Rewarding your employees with your own products or services is a great way to increase their experience of and belief in your brand by showing them the fruits of their own labor. This increases brand citizenship behaviors, employee satisfaction, and positive employee word of mouth - you can’t put a price on that.

Starting to see the value of employee rewards and recognition programs? We thought so. Check out the list below of some examples of how companies of all sizes have mastered the art of getting the most out of their employees while keeping them happier than ever.

What are Some Simple Ways to Get Started?

Giving people a job is not enough. And it’s not all about money. A formal employee reward and recognition program, whereby employees can be rewarded, receive discounts, achieve badges and awards and receive celebration perks directly from management is what you need.

The goal is to make rewards unique and personalized to each respective employee. The delivery of your rewards can be a great alleviation of the tension that employees can often experience.


Ah, salary. It’s what everybody wants to talk about and something very few people know how to talk about. So, how do you determine salary? Many companies take the wrong approach - pay as little as possible and try to get as much as possible out of the employee.

Need we point out that’s the wrong way to go?

An important question to ask is how much the employee is worth to you. Not how little you can pay them while still just about holding on to them, but their worth. Salary is generally decided for a relatively long term, so beware - don’t offer a salary that your employee will outgrow.

A great way to figure out what to pay your employees is by determining what the general range of salaries is for a given position. A more expensive option is to use a salary consultancy firm, although this can rack up a large bill and is generally only an option for larger corporations.

Be aware that a salary decision is generally long-term - don’t pay as little as you can, but what you think that employee will really be worth within your business. Salaries should be a reflection of value, not a bargain.


Benefits can be anything from a free lunch to a free car. A great benefit that can give both your business and your employees a boost is employee discounts - get your brand out there while your employees enjoy some discounted treats.

Regardless of the benefits you offer, they’re a great way to boost your attractiveness to new employees and increase morale among existing employees - win-win!

Don’t mistake benefits for rewards - benefits are held constant and are part of a contract, while rewards are more spontaneous and performance based.

Employee recognition day

Every month, quarter or year, try having an employee recognition day. Buy your employees a lunch, give them some of your branded items to make it memorable.

The goal is to give them something that will give back to your practice and enable your employees to market your business to the general public. Branded utility items that you can give your employees are a fantastic way to reward while also marketing cleverly - think of coffee cups, laptop cases, clothing, you name it.


Everyone loves a promotion. Promotions are great for self actualization, while also cutting costs with internal recruitment. The problem is that promotions or salary raises aren't exactly an everyday thing.

When promotions are not available, consider title changes or inclusion in new projects - this gives employees the feeling of recognition at no cost to you. Plus, if employees deserve to be included in more projects, better still.

Again, title changes aren’t exactly a frequent thing either, although free - and it shouldn’t be a frequent thing. When promotions and title changes aren’t available, consider something as simple as a company or department wide email giving recognition to a certain employee - something as small as this can go a long way.

What Can I Do with an Employee Rewards and Recognition Program?

Company Values

If there’s one thing that binds a workforce together, it’s shared values and a common, well understood mission. Use your rewards in the best way possible by tying them to your organizational values.

Rewarding employees for exhibiting or supporting your company or brand values is a great way to strengthen your organizational culture. Not only this, but it avoids one main problem - employees have a clear idea of what is a ‘rewardable’ behavior and what isn’t.


If things are going well, you should have reason to celebrate. So, why not? With your own program, you’ll be able to automatically send celebratory rewards or messages to your employees.

Hit a milestone like a promotion? Send a reward to celebrate. Integrate your program with your existing systems to automatically send celebratory rewards on birthdays, anniversaries and more.

Achievements and Awards

Have an employee that deserves recognition for something? Give them a digital badge or award within your rewards and recognition program to let them know you appreciate them.
Reward, for example, for (extra) hours worked, easily logged with Shiftbase.

Use your awards and badges for anything - from being a rewards champion to being employee of the month, the possibilities are endless. The best part? This recognition can mean a great deal to employees, but costs your business essentially nothing.

Pick and Choose

Don’t be boring. Use your program to switch up the rewards you send - think of discounts, points, coupons, gift cards, even badges or awards. With endless possibilities, it’s easy to keep your employees engaged.

Even better, you can use the data you’ve collected on previously redeemed rewards to see what your employees like as a reward and what they don’t - no more unwanted surprises.


Game on! Use gamification within your rewards and recognition program to take it to the next level. Incorporate rules for users to navigate around, create levels for loyalty members to climb to the top of, introduce point multipliers and more.

With gamification, your engagement and participation rates will soar - and engagement and participation is the lifeblood of any rewards program. Be careful, though - you should make sure you have a solid foundation for your program before incorporating too many rules or too much gamification.

The Dos and Don'ts of Employee Rewards and Recognition

Now that you’ve seen what an employee rewards and recognition program can do, it’s time to think about how you want to tackle your very own employee rewards and recognition program. We’ve created a list of the dos and don’ts of employee rewards and recognition programs to help you get started.

  • Do Make it Personal

Anyone can send every employee a reward for X amount, but that’s not the name of the game. You know your employees better than anyone, so don’t just give them the rewards or recognition they deserve - give them what they want. Once you get started with your rewards program, your data will start to speak for itself in this sense.

  • Do Make it Regular

Consistency is key when it comes to rewards and recognition. Optimal timing for rewards and recognition is at least once every month. Remember that you don’t have to gift them a trip to the moon - a little can go a long way here.

  • Do Make it Matter

Employees are human just like you and we all have our bad days. Remember that recognition is not always about gold stars - use your recognition or rewards strategy to give your employees the pick-me-up they need every now and then. This doesn’t mean rewarding employees for poor performance, but do stick with them through the highs and lows.

  • Do Give Freedom

This can be for rewards, non-monetary perks, you name it. Giving points rather than fixed rewards gives your employees the freedom to choose for themselves. In a more literal sense, give your employees rewards in the form of time to unplug, flexible hours, or remote working options. 57% of HR professionals see choice, or lack of choice, as their main issue when rewarding employees.

  • Do Invest in the Best

You’ve spent time and energy on finding the best employees, so make the most of them. Give your employees perks in the form of learning and development budgets, fun team building events, or other (mental) health initiatives. 63% of working professionals surveyed mentioned education and development as one of their preferred high value rewards.

  • Do Find your Formula

There is no ‘one size fits all’ here. Each company has different employees, and so requires a different approach or program. Finding the right platform for your employee reward or recognition program can mean that a lot of the work is done for you, but you still have full control over who gets what, and when.

  • Don’t Wing it

Before doing anything, it’s best to define what you want to put into your employee rewards or recognition program, along with what you expect from it. This is an investment, so you need to calculate what you want to put into it, as well as what you want to get out of it. Your strategy should be set and planned, but don’t forget to be natural and keep your program in line with your greater organizational culture.

  • Don’t Overthink it

Like we said, a little can go a long way. Don’t just give random rewards and hope for the best, but don’t forget that the simplest of rewards can make a big difference. Once you have your employee rewards or recognition plan up and running, the key is to maintain it at first and slowly increase it performance dependent - over time.

  • Don’t Fake it

Offering an employee rewards and recognition program is a great way to bring your company values and culture to life, but make sure that it fits you. Incorporating recognition practices or rewards programs that don’t fit your company culture could be more harm than good. Remember: your actions as a business should be consistent, non-contradictory, and not conflict with your culture.

  • Don’t Forget to Measure

We’re sure you’re convinced by now that an employee rewards and recognition program is a good idea, but don’t forget to double check. Run analyses on how your program is doing in order to assess whether or not it’s a success, and what changes you can make to improve. Another great way to make sure that the program is a success is through surveying your employees.

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