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What are employee rewards and recognition programs?

Employee Benefits • April 26, 2023 at 8:30 AM • Written by: Holly Bengfort

We all like to feel appreciated for the work we're doing. Yet, many organizations miss the mark when it comes to recognizing their employees for a job well done. A 2022 Gallup and Workhuman1 study discovered that 81% of leaders say recognition isn't a priority for their organization. If you fail to praise your talented employees, don't be surprised when they look for work elsewhere.

You can avoid this dilemma by creating a rewards and recognition program that consistently gives your employees credit where credit's due. Acknowledging their achievements makes your employees feel valued at your organization. This builds brand loyalty and creates a positive company culture.

In this article, we'll explain why rewards and recognition programs are important, what they commonly consist of, and how you can offer one at your organization.

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Why are employee rewards and recognition programs important?

Employers use rewards and recognition programs to commemorate employee achievements. With rewards, you celebrate your employees who go the extra mile with tangible gifts. With recognition, you celebrate an employee's outstanding performance with praise. Rather than choosing one or the other, a mix of both creates a successful rewards and recognition program that leads to higher employee engagement, satisfaction, motivation, and retention.

Survey data shows that investing in an employee rewards and recognition program pays off for your organization. Results from the 2022 Gallup and Workhuman study also found that when employee recognition hits the mark, 73% of employees are less likely to feel burned out and 56% less likely to look for new job opportunities.

To sum it up, happy employees are good for your business. They stick around and stay engaged at work.

Now, let's go over some of your options for rewards and recognition that can serve as powerful motivators for your team.

Examples of rewards

If you'd like to reward your employee for achieving a certain goal, reaching a milestone, or completing a difficult project, you can thank them in several ways.

Here are some of the tangible rewards you can offer:

  • Monetary incentives. You could give your employees cash rewards, one-time spot bonuses, gift cards, or annual raises. You could also give them stock options or offer profit-sharing bonuses.
  • Non-monetary rewards. Instead of cash, you could offer your employees additional paid time off (PTO), flexible schedules, or paid leave for volunteering.
  • Employee experiences. You can give your employees the gift of experience with complimentary tickets to local events, going all out with free vacations, or offering lunch with the CEO. Additionally, you could pay for professional development opportunities such as conferences or training programs.
  • Company events. You can thank your team by getting them out of the office to have some fun. You can take your employees to a local sporting event or test their skills at an escape room. You could try group cooking classes, bike rides, or trivia nights.
  • Personalized gifts. You can create a gift basket filled with some of your employee's favorite things or give them a VIP parking spot for a month. You could also hook them up with company swag like hats, laptop cases, umbrellas, and more.

Examples of recognition

Employees appreciate the praise they receive for their efforts. When you want to acknowledge your employee's stellar performance, you have plenty of thoughtful ideas to choose from.

Here are some employee recognition ideas:

  • A "thank you" meeting. Call your employee into your office just so you can point out the great work they're doing.
  • Shout-outs. Make it a point to brag about your employee's achievements in a company meeting, newsletter, or over your company's instant messaging platform, such as Slack.
  • Jot it down. When you see an employee doing great work, send them an email or put a handwritten note on their desk to acknowledge it. Some employees prefer this form of private recognition.
  • Social media features. You could recognize your employee's achievements on company social media platforms with a weekly or monthly “employee spotlight.”
  • Anniversary celebrations. Having an employee anniversary recognition program is an easy way to make your dedicated employees feel appreciated. You can decorate their desk, bring in a cake, ask your team to sign a card, or present your employee with a service award commemorating the number of years they've worked at your company.
  • Praise wall. This is a fun way to share the positive difference people are making at your company. You can put sticky notes up on a wall, use a dry-erase board, or make it virtual. Encourage your employees to get involved and recognize each other for the work they do each day.

How to offer an employee rewards and recognition program

Creating a culture of recognition means rewarding your deserving employees on a regular basis. A rewards and recognition program can work with organizations of all sizes. You'll want to base yours on company values, goals, and budget.

If you're interested in developing your own employee rewards and recognition program, here are five steps to follow:

  1. Seek employee input. Give your employees a voice. If you want to know what your employees care about, just ask them. This can help you determine effective rewards and meaningful recognition that works best for your team.
  2. Define program objectives and criteria. Determine what success looks like at your organization. Ask yourself, “What is quality employee performance?” Consider what it takes for your employees to reach that standard.
  3. Specify your rewards and recognition. Will you use mostly monetary or non-monetary benefits? Could tickets to local events or team-building experiences work better? Remember to use a good mix of rewards and recognition to ensure your incentive program is well-rounded.
  4. Tell your employees about the program. Make sure you communicate your program clearly and effectively. This can be done through in-person meetings, emails, or instant messaging platforms. You want every employee to be aware of this new opportunity and understand how it works.
  5. Gather employee feedback and make adjustments regularly. You'll get a combination of negative and positive feedback. If your employees have helpful suggestions, implement them into your program. Do this regularly to keep your employees happy and engaged with the program.

You can also use employee recognition platforms or benefits administration software to simplify the process. With WorkPerks by PeopleKeep, you can offer your employees custom perks of any kind to reward them for their hard work. Our stipend administration platform allows business owners to provide custom benefits to better strengthen the employee experience.

For example, you can offer spot bonuses as a custom, one-time stipend. That stipend could be awarded to your employees as a reward for meeting specific goals, celebrating their anniversaries with your company, or recognizing team achievements.

You can also offer a stipend for gym memberships, wellness apps, mental health counseling, internet access, cell phone service, home office set-up, and more. This allows you to reimburse your employees for the expenses and activities that matter most to them.


When you recognize and reward an employee for their hard work, you let them know they're an important part of your company. Creating a culture of appreciation at your organization is the key to higher employee retention, satisfaction, and engagement.

From cash bonuses and unique experiences to thank-you notes and shout-outs on social media, you can show your appreciation to your employees in multiple ways. With a combination of praise and prizes, you can create a successful rewards and recognition program at your company.

If you'd like some help offering customized perks to your employees, PeopleKeep is ready to lend you a hand. Schedule a call now with one of our personalized benefits advisors!

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Holly Bengfort

Holly is a content marketing specialist for PeopleKeep. Before joining the team in 2023, Holly worked in television news as a broadcast journalist. As an anchor and reporter, she communicated complex stories to the vast communities she served on a daily basis. Her background has given her a greater understanding of people and the issues that affect our lives. When Holly isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, exercising, and spending time at the beach.