Rewarding your top performing employees isn’t just a good idea: it’s a no-brainer. Incentivising performance encourages people to be at their best and also helps to create a culture of friendly competition in which each employee pushes each other employee to try to maximize their performance.
Perhaps that’s why almost 90% of organizations have some sort of rewards program in place, while 88% of employees say that it’s important to be rewarded for great work. At the same time, though, people are increasingly turning away from cash incentives, preferring other types of rewards like travel experiences, days off in lieu or simply company-wide recognition for the work that they’ve done. And so with that in mind, the question changes from “should we launch an employee rewards program?” to “what should our employee rewards scheme look like?”. That’s what this article aims to address. Let’s dive on in and take a look.
Creative Ways to Reward Employees
1. Acknowledge their work
This might not sound particularly creative or innovative, but you’d be surprised by how often companies fail to give credit to individual employees for their contributions. We’re not saying you need to give them a trophy, but it is a good idea to shout them out if you send a weekly update email or have an all-hands meeting. When people do something exceptional, they deserve to be publically acknowledged. Note, though, that different employees have different needs, and not everyone enjoys having the spotlight thrown upon them.
2. Ask their colleagues for recommendations
If you decide to give employees physical gifts, don’t just give them a bundle of cash inside a thank you card. Instead, take the time to get to know the employee and to figure out what makes them tick so that you can give them a gift that’s more personal to them. It can help to ask the people that they work most closely with, as it’s these people who will know the employee the most and who can provide the most tailored suggestions. The ideal gift is something that the employee has always wanted but which they would have never bought for themselves.
3. Give them a day off
There’s actually a little bit of reverse psychology behind this one. Some studies show that by giving employees more time off, we can actually make them more productive. Giving your top performing employees a day off every now and then as a reward for their hard work could actually make them even better employees in the long term. Plus you’ll be giving them the only gift that money can’t buy: time.
4. Put it to the vote
Employees tend to appreciate having more control over their destinies, and so when it comes to rewarding a group of employees at the same time, it can be a good idea to ask them for reward suggestions and then to put those submissions to the vote. Better still, give employees a choice of different rewards and give each employee the reward that they specifically voted for.
5. Send them to a different office
If you’re lucky enough to work for a company with offices around the world in different locations, you can use this to your advantage. Consider sending top performers on a trip to one of your other offices on a working holiday. This will help to facilitate communication between different teams in different places, and who doesn’t love to travel?
6. Go on a cruise
Taking your team on a private cruise can be a great way to reward key employees while fostering a sense of belonging and encouraging people to develop friendships as opposed to acquaintanceships. It doesn’t have to be a months-long cruise around the world and even a single day cruise or a short weekend away can get the job done. It’s all about providing them with an experience that they’ll remember.
Let’s end on a word of warning. A rewards program can be a great way to improve employee engagement, but only if you’re measuring the right metrics. For example, if you’re measuring your sales team on the number of calls made instead of on the number of leads that they convert or the revenue they’re bringing in, you could be rewarding people based on a false metric. They could game the system by deliberately keeping calls to a terse minimum while other employees spend time on their leads and bring in more customers as a consequence.
The good news is that in the overwhelming majority of cases, employee rewards programs are worth their weight in gold. They typically pay for themselves by increasing employee loyalty and encouraging people to stay at the company for longer, cutting down on training and recruitment costs. Better still, engaged employees perform at higher levels, ultimately making you more profitable and improving customer happiness.