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Rewards and Incentives to Motivate Employees

Billy Haynes is a content writer and founder of HD Writing Co. He has an interest in many things and experience in writing about even more.


You want to motivate employees for their effort, hard work, and long-term dedication. To do this, you need to offer employee rewards and incentives. This will reward your employees and giving them a reason to continue working hard.

Your employees deserve rewards for working hard all the time. Their dedication and effort shouldn't go unnoticed. But how do you reward them for all the work?

The employee of the month program is outdated. The following are some better incentives that your employees will love.

1HUDDLE's Employee Reward Training Platform

The CEO of 1HUDDLE, Sam Caucci, runs a training platform that is based on games. Different companies, such as the San Francisco 49ers, Audible, and ESPN convert their boring training resources into a competition. These games will help to increase the performance and engagement of employees. Daily training games that can be played in under five minutes engage the companies employees. Most of the time, these games are customized to the brand of the company.

Sam’s View on Rewards and Incentives

There is a force in your business, negative energy that is lurking around every corner to corrupt the motivation, productivity, and work ethic of your team.

Yes, you can lavish them with fancy perks, bonuses, and other incentives, but this evil force can overpower these incentives and drain your employees of what they are capable of doing. The name of this evil force? Boredom.

Documented from exit interviews, millennial workers discuss why they are leaving. There is an absence of recognition in the work that they do, with no engagement. This group of workers will equal out to almost 50% of the 2020 workforce.

You may be thinking that this is an issue with the simple solution of hiring new employees. However, that isn't a solution at all. It is a band-aid to a more significant problem. The damage caused to the business due to loss of productivity. Billions of dollars of productivity at that.

So how do you help those employees who drag through their days, unmotivated and zombie-like? I will tell you now; it isn't by throwing your hands into the air in defeat.

Rewards help motivate employees

Rewards help motivate employees

Employees do care about more than their paychecks. They want to grow and learn. Millennials in the workforce expect development opportunities and growth.

Who wouldn't want the recognition and success and everything else that comes along with doing their best? These millennials understand that these factors come with better education and continued growth. They know that they need to perform well, be prepared, and strive for that promotion.

It is up to you to give them these opportunities for growth and stability.

Offering Encouragement to Employees

You are the captain of the ship, team coach, and sometimes, you are the pom-pom shaking cheerleader who offers encouragement to your employees. Your goal is to get the top performance out of your workforce while leading them to victory in their career goals. Pete Carroll, Head Coach of the Seattle Seahawks, spoke with Caucci in a private session for training. He said it perfectly when he stated:

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"I spend 98% of my day sitting in my office and thinking about what I can do to get my team to play just 1% better."

It is common knowledge that seminars and boring materials for training are ineffective. The past has shown us that it isn't interactive enough to hold interest. And since there has been a change in the workforce, this calls for a change in methods. Providing them with videos and training resources that are basic at best doesn't do much good if they are falling asleep during it.

Challenging the Millennial Workforce

This disassociated workplace needs to change. It has to become something that challenges these millennial workers. They consider themselves competitive, hungry, and ready for more. In fact, the number one reason this workforce is leaving their current positions is a lack of interaction, competition, interest, and boredom. There was a study performed that shows most millennials consider themselves to be better employees than some of their co-workers.

So the question changes. It becomes the inquiry of how to make work exciting, engaging, and motivating. It is as simple as two facts:

  1. Training needs to turn into something that is exciting, practical, and engaging. Competition is key.
  2. Reward incentives that will spark their fire.

Let's divert our focus to step-by-step directions in order to craft a training program that caters to the current workforce. This training needs to be employee-focused. After these steps, I will discuss the rewards that inspire the motivation of thousands of teams.

3 Steps to Launching an Employee Competition for a Reward

Training needs to be engaging. It has to be practical, fun, and it also needs to work around the schedule of the team as well.

However, before you can learn how you are doing this, you need to ask yourself the right questions to learn why you need to do this. These fundamental questions should always be kept in mind:

  1. What are your team's skill gaps, or put simply, where is there room for improvement?
  2. What are the production, initiatives, and goals of your business over the next 90 days?
  3. What behaviors need to be altered on your team?

Once you have asked yourself these questions, and hopefully answered them, it is time to focus on building a rewards and incentives program that motivates your team, challenging them to competition that pays off.

1. Create a Competition

It has been shown in studies that the modern-day worker, of the younger generation, have an attention span of eight seconds. What this means is that you have a short window to capture their attention. Your presentation must be quick, quantifiable, and engaging. Your competition needs to have a playing field that is very clear. Below is just a few ideas of what your team can compete on:

  • The number of outbound calls
  • The number of meetings that are booked
  • How many new clients have been closed

Be creative, with both your competition and your prizes. Have clear goals.

2. Pick a Date Range

The second step is to determine how long the competition will run, as well as how often you will hold it.

This step is dependent on many factors, such as time of year, competition complexity, and reward budget (more on the reward budget later). Most importantly, this step is entirely your responsibility.

The ideal program design is a monthly competition. However, a weekly and quarterly game is good as well. With any time period of the competition(s), it creates a goal for the team. It also gives them something to get excited about month-to-month. Keep the competitions focused on important information.

Consistency is critical, and when you make a schedule for the competitions, you make a promise to your employees. Don't break their trust.

3. Choose Rewards

Vital to the success of the competition's goal, you have to consider the rewards. You need to offer a set of prizes that spark that competitiveness naturally, gets them excited, and be engaged in the competition.

There are three classifications of rewards. (This is covered further below)

  • Experiences
  • Cash
  • Gifts

You need to determine your rewards based on the information you have of your employees, as well as your budget for rewards.

While you may want to reward your team with unrealistic goals of lavishing them in champagne and free nights in a hotel room, sometimes that is just not financially doable. The idea is to create rewards that can be repeated and still spark that 'Wow' feeling among your employees.

Don't be cheap and lazy. You need to amp your team up, not fail as a leader. They have a competitive nature that you can take advantage of to get them going. They need to be focused on the goal and ready to do the best they can to get that prize.

Yes, it is a lot to do. However, it is part of your job. In order to find it easier to pick the right prizes, we've provided a few reward ideas to consider.

20 Ideas for Rewards and Incentives to Motivate Employees (Not Just Cash)

The idea is to find the right reward that will light the fires of motivation and excitement. While money talks and you-know-what walks, money isn't the ideal reward in all situations. Instead, here are some ideas of awesome prizes for your employees.


1. A Dinner

While dinner may not seem like a grand prize, dinner with the head honcho of the company can, in fact, be a reward all on its own. Many companies, depending on the size, often have limited access to the president, CEO, or founder. Granting a dinner with the man who makes the final decisions can be seen as more than just a chance to pitch different ideas or products. It is a representation of respect. It also humbles the employer to connect with a workforce they often do not interact with. This is a great way to build a sense of culture and community in the workplace.

2. Corner-Office Camp-Out

Though it may not seem like much, many workplaces associate the corner office as a luxury. The corner office can be rewarded for a day or even a week. Not only is it a great way to show your humility, but to reward your workers with a well-earned prize. It transfers a level of respect to your employees. More importantly, it shows that you recognize and respect their workplace achievements.

3. Perks at the Office

The workforce nowadays is very competitive. There are employees that enjoy showing off their achievements to their co-workers. That is what makes workplace perks perfect for rewards. Not only are they budget efficient, but they also show your team that their hard work is recognized. They also create a kind of camaraderie that is friendly and grows companies successfully.

4. Special Parking

Every company has one parking spot everyone wishes they had. Whether it is closer to the building, or in the shade, it is desired by other employees and often fought over. Using it as a reward works well, granting a sense of accomplishment to the employee as they are able to lavish themselves in front row parking for a week. You could even go as far as having a sign made that signifies the significance of the spot to the employee. Maybe you could also put their name on it temporarily to give them bragging rights.

5. Office Redecoration Budget

There are many rewards that you can give a winner of a contest that last for a day or a week. But maybe you should consider one that will last longer. Granting a budget for office renovations or redecorating gives a sense of accomplishment like no other. It will provide the employee with a reminder of their hard work while inspiring other employees to work harder to get that prize at the end of the month. This prize can also increase morale, granting comfort to the employee at the office, making it easier to come into work.

6. A Weekly Assistant

This reward is a special one. When you grant an assistant to someone for a week to commend their accomplishments in the workplace, you are showing them more than respect for their hard work. You are granting them the ability to focus on the big picture at work, freeing them of the menial tasks that usually bog them down. This is a beneficial reward to you as the boss, primarily because you will see an increase in productivity.

7. Team Lunch

It isn't a secret that almost everyone loves to eat. Lunch breaks at work are often the golden hour in many workplaces. It is a time to unwind, refuel, and communicate with fellow workers in a sense that is outside of office work. It is a breakaway. Simply offer the prize of a favorite dish for lunch, or even ordering food for the whole team as a reward. This will give everyone a feeling of accomplishment.

8. Special Event Tickets

Special events create memories and inspire fun. Giving tickets to a special event as a reward is a way to connect with someone and learn their likes. This also provides the winner with an opportunity to show off through social media and pictures at the office. Just make sure they have the day off for the event.


9. Brewery/Wine Tasting

Some people like to unwind with a drink after a long day of work. Using a brewery tour or wine tasting event as a reward is a great way to help your employees de-stress from work. It is advised that this kind of prize is best left for a weekend, so the winner can really take a load off and find enjoyment in the experience.

10. Vacation Time

You can't precisely grant unlimited vacations. However, you can give vacation days, or even a week, as a reward. Why is this a good thing for the company? Aside from inspiring people to work hard for the prize, it also gives the winner a well-needed rest, which will spark a fire of productivity when they come back. Again, it is also a chance to gather bragging rights that inspire the whole team.

11. Time With the Band

Everyone wants to go backstage to see their favorite band. Giving away tickets, with VIP access to the band, is a great way to show appreciation. A true music lover will aspire significantly to achieve their goals for this prize. Make sure to book the tickets in advance.

12. Spa Time

Gift your employee with some well-deserved 'me time.' A lovely spa day, with some smooth jazz, cucumber water, and some special attention will greatly decrease stress and pamper your employee's personal needs.

13. Day of Adventure

There are studies that show exercising is a great way to boost performance in the workplace. However, you can't exactly give someone a Stairmaster and say congratulations. You can get them a better gift that inspires some exercise, though. Think about extreme events like rock climbing, kayaking, or maybe ziplining. This will grant an unforgettable experience while creating a euphoric escape for the employee.

14. Treat Them Special

Though giving them a gift or an experience is a sufficient reward, sometimes singling out a winner and giving them special recognition is just as effective. Also, it helps with a low budget.

Do not show favoritism, instead use special treatment as a reward for hard work. It inspires the team and empowers the winner.

15. Early Out

Inspiring workers to be more productive, granting a Friday afternoon off is a great way to express your gratitude for the hard work. Sure, the office will get a bit jealous when the winner gets off early, giving them a head start on a weekend, but that is where the inspiration comes from. They have earned the time off.

16. A Cruise

The University of Michigan did a study that shows the more time we spend with those we love, the less depressed we feel when we are at home or work. Most of the time, jobs and careers are demanding, and take away from time with our families. Book a cruise for two to help your employee decompress with a loved one, without wasting time in front of the television watching Netflix.

17. Working From Home

One of the worst experiences of the workday is the commute to and from work. You deal with crowded buses, heavy traffic, and sometimes traffic jams that take a long time to clear. Giving them a chance to work from home allows them to be more productive in a comfortable environment. Give the winner an opportunity to avoid their daily commute and work from home.

A study by economist Alan Krueger and psychologist Daniel Kahneman indicated that the commute to work was ranked lower than household chores.

18. Casual Friday

Casual Friday is often something people look forward to. They are able to feel comfortable in their own skin, which is proven to increase productivity. Give the winner of your contest a chance to choose to be casual whenever they want. It allows them to stand out and gives them a reminder of their accomplishments for an entire day.

19. Choose a Conference

Millennials are always looking for that edge at work, helping them move forward in a company. Therefore, giving them the choice of attending a conference to increase their value to the company. You are giving them more than a leg-up at work, but you are granting them the chance to learn from experienced individuals in their field. Covering the expenses of the conference trip will show them you care about them while giving them a chance to move forward with their careers.

20. Late Start

Having the same effect of an early release on a Friday, letting your employees come in late on Monday, allows for a day-long reminder of their achievements. It gives them a chance to make extended weekend plans, sleep in one more day, spend extra time with a loved one, and even avoiding rush hour traffic.

21. Electronic Accessories

Everyone uses electronics, and what goes better with those electronics than their accessories. Headphones, speakers, and smartwatches are popular gifts that can be useful to anyone who receives them. Pick something top of the line, or current, and make sure they work hard for it.

22. Team Building Activities

Team-building activities can result in higher productivity. A special event for the team is a great way to create an influential culture. However, you want the main focus of this event to be on the winner. You want them to be recognized for their work, making them empowered. They will feel like a king/queen among their co-workers in this wonderful reward.

23. Office Movie Day

You can help build a stronger bond among your employees by giving them a special afternoon to watch a movie together. Allowing the winner to pick the movie will provide them with a sense of accomplishment while still rewarding the whole team for their effort. This bond is strengthened by an emotional experience that is shared as a group.

Small gestures help motivate employees

Small gestures help motivate employees

While gifts with monetary value are nice, sometimes the rewards that are intangible can still carry inspiration to your employees. These small gestures will inspire pride to the winner, showing them a sense of respect that they, and the entire team, deserve.

24. An Awesome High-Five From Someone of Importance

Nothing beats a good old fashioned high five. When that high five comes from someone of importance. Imagine someone higher up in the company or someone who is connected to the company that has built a positive reputation among the people, showing up at your office to give you credit where it is due. This is a free gift that can still inspire the feeling of accomplishment.

25. Sincere Gestures

Sometimes the best reward to give a winner is appreciation. Having a well-designed, as well as a thoughtful note thanking them for hard work, will propel and motivate your workers to always give it their best. The idea is to show your gratitude to your workers. The ideal note will be generous, prompt, personal, specific, and succinct.

About Cash-Based Rewards and Incentives

Nothing beats a few hundred bucks in hand when being rewarded for a month of hard work. Everyone is happy when they have a little extra money to help them out or allow them to pamper themselves. This is an easy go-to if you find yourself without a good prize idea.

Consistency is the key to making a solid reward system work. It is a way to promote positive workflow and inspire a team to push themselves further. Give them a goal to work towards that is beneficial to them, as well as the company. There is no need to push out an enormous effort. Sometimes the thought is what counts when giving a reward. As long as it inspires, drives, and motivates your team, that is all that matters.

Making rewards a part of the workplace is essential to building a workforce that is educated and emotionally connected to the job. You want it to stay with them, and you, for a long time. Their achievements, hard work, and accomplishments should not go unnoticed.

Employee Motivation Q & A

Are there low-budget ways to reward employees?

Yes! While employees would enjoy receiving large cash bonuses, employee reward systems do not have to be expensive. An employee reward program works by providing recognition, therefore motivating employees to continue doing their best. Thus, increasing overall performance and hitting goals more often.

According to NXL Performance, the average cost of an employee reward program ranges from $15 to $65 annually.

Check out my other article for more ways to reward employees on a low budget.

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