The Best Ways to Reward & Incentivize Employees


In an article for Incentive Magazine, author Bruce Shutan writes “Employee benefits glue people practices to profitability. This is a thesis supported by many compelling statistics and anecdotes. But an evolving workplace has seen the balance of that power shift from cookie-cutter insurance and retirement savings plans to a more tangible subset of service-oriented perks, each customized to address an individual employee’s unique everyday needs.”

Rewarding and incentivizing employees is crucial today to not only create a positive work environment, but to retain your talented staffers. Reputable shoe-retailer Zappos offers benefits like dry cleaning services, life coaching, happy hours, and snack stations to name a few. Google is highly commended for their unique employee perks – like testing cutting edge technology before it’s on the market, getting “massage credits” redeemable for free massages, and enjoying free commutes on a Wi-Fi-equipped Google bus for Mountain View employees.

Why Incentivizing Employees is Beneficial

In a U.S. Employee Benefit Trends study by Metlife, employers were asked to rank their objectives for providing benefits. They ranked their top motives for providing benefits as follows:

  1. Retaining Employees: 81%
  2. Controlling Health and Welfare Benefit Costs: 80%
  3. Increasing Employee Productivity: 78%
  4. Increasing Employee Satisfaction: 77%
  5. Increasing Employee Loyalty: 76%

While employee retention seems to be the greatest motivation for providing perks, the study suggests that many other positive motives (such as increasing employee satisfaction and loyalty) are also highly valued.

Although the power of incentives and rewards is highly recognized, Shutan continues to explain, “In a 2005 Maritz Poll, just 27 percent of employees who seek award merchandise or gift cards incentives receive such recognition”.

Despite this underwhelming statistic, there are fortunately a multitude of things that can be implemented to boost morale, incentivize employees and demonstrate that they are truly valued. Your options range from a structured benefits plan (necessities such as vacation time or sick days) to small favors (like happy hour or office contests) that can have a big impact. Here are our ideas on what you can do, both in and out of the office, to reward your employees.

Ideas to Implement in Your Workplace

  • Commuter benefits – while you don’t need to offer a company bus like Google, a simple commuter discount is a simple way to ease your employees’ commuting expenses. It shows that you care about the effort made to get to work each day, and want them to enjoy their hard-earned paycheck on products and experiences not related to their profession
  • Happy hour – taking your employees out to a bar or restaurant will help take their minds off of work-mode, allowing the opportunity for them to get to know one another on a more personal level. If you have a large office, consider delegating the responsibility of taking employees out to their department heads.
  • Regular lunch or breakfast – be it a weekly or monthly meal, catering a lunch or breakfast is a surefire way to get everyone together. Not only does it decrease time spent away from the office that day, it also helps to increase internal communications and comradery.
  • Lottery pool – a pool for the lottery is a great way to add a little fun and excitement to the office! Better yet, it requires little time and money on the part of the business owner.
  • Baking Contest – not only will this get employees into a little friendly competition, they get the extra bonus of free, delicious snacks! If your office is into healthy living, challenge them to crafting low-cal treats and more health-conscious goodies.
  • Outdoors – having an outdoor picnic or barbeque is always a crowd pleaser in the summertime, and it’s a natural way to boost your employees’ moods with a little help of Vitamin D.
  • Bring your pet to work – letting your employees being their furry friends to the office can help ease their wallets on doggy-daycare expenses, and will automatically boost morale at your workplace. Well-behaved pooches may be welcome to the office every day, but if you find productivity hindered, considered making an official doggy day once a month.
  • Birthdays & Anniversaries – employees deserve to also be recognized individually, so birthdays and anniversaries are a great time to take a breather and enjoy some cake. Collect birthdates and employee start dates for all coworkers and assign one or more people the task of planning and executing a little something special on those days.
  • Relaxation/breakout room – allow your employees a safe, quiet space for when they need a breather. Spending time in a different setting can help get those creative juices flowing and spark motivation. What’s more, sometimes a 10-minute stretch or break from projects is the best thing employees can do to keep productive and well-focused.
  • Casual dress Fridays – designating casual dress-down days will allow your employees a bit of freedom and self-expression through their wardrobe, and potentially cut down on their dry-cleaning bill.
  • Simply Say “Thank You” – whether it’s sending a Thank You card or simply saying it out loud, this is one of the easiest and sincerest ways to show gratitude!

To this end, gifts and other rewards should, if possible, be personalized. For example, buy the film buff of the office movie tickets to an upcoming premiere to commend them for a job well done. Purchase a gift card to the favorite store of an employee whose client recently paid him or her a nice compliment. Unique gifts go one step further than showing employees they are appreciated – it demonstrates that you know and care about their personal interests.

It’s important to remember that perks don’t just benefit the employee – employers benefit from things like higher moral, loyalty, and potentially better retention rates. So be sure to recognize and thank your employees in creative ways both in and out of the office – your employees will thank you right back.



About Author

Katie Salerno Avatar

Katie S.

Reviewed By: Kaite S. - Marketing Brand Specialist

Tenacious brand warrior who is laser-focused on boosting our brand through effective social media presence and multiple resources. Principal producer of marvelous messages and email exposés. Message + Creative maestro who has an opening for a puppy co-worker with the expectation they stay clear of her pommes frites.