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6 Employee Rewards That They'll Actually Want

Young man holding opened book with glass glowing light bulbs flying outThe business world is competitive, and in order to be inspired to do their best work, many employees nowadays want to feel confident that their contributions are valued and making an impact. In the workplace, rewards and incentives are a great way to thank your high performers and motivate the entire team to reach their goals.

Whether it’s a cash prize, a family vacation, or a pair of funny socks, here are six employee rewards that they’ll actually want.


Company Swag and Team Perks

In organizations where working together is essential to the overall success of the business, consider office-related perks and prizes to inspire camaraderie and teamwork. Incentives that are visible throughout the office can be displayed with pride as a sort of “badge of honor” that other employees could aspire to obtain.


1. Offer an option for an office space upgrade.

Whether the company has an open floor plan, cubicles or individual offices with doors, odds are that many of your employees’ spaces could benefit from a bit of a refresh. If you can’t afford a full office update, incentivizing minor upgrades is a great motivator. For example:

  • New or additional light fixtures give the space a cozy atmosphere.
  • A special, ergonomic chair could help make long workdays fly by.
  • The newest computer model or a fancy mouse are enviable office space additions.
  • A fresh coat of paint or a collage of favorite posters add a touch of personality.

If you have relationships with particular vendors, you might be able to save on materials for an employee office upgrade; otherwise, you can incentivize a budget and let the winning employee customize to their heart’s desire!


2. Gift a free lunch to the entire team.

You really can’t go wrong by offering up a free team meal as a prize. This is a fantastic opportunity to incentivize group performance and encourage employees to work together in support of a greater goal.

In addition to letting the goal-hitting teams pick their lunch spot, you can go one step further by offering additional learning or networking opportunities as part of the lunch program:

  • Invite the CEO to participate in a Q&A session with the team.
  • Have a seasoned leadership coach come in and share some insights.
  • Screen a webinar or exclusive training video to help the team unlock new learnings.


3. Give away some awesome company swag.

Imagine being the only employee who didn’t earn that company track jacket or cool pair of funny socks. When you see everyone else wearing their winnings, odds are you’ll be feeling pretty left out — –and inspired to hit your goals next time!

What’s great about swag is that it can be used to create tiered rewards programs that get progressively larger and larger. The bigger the goal, the bigger the prize. Achieving goals can unlock pieces of customized company swag (like a bottle opener with the company logo) or a collection of items that winners can choose their favorites from.


Fun OOO Experiences

Some employees work their hardest during the day so that they can use their well-earned salary for time and experiences with the people they care about outside of the office. When exploring rewards that will incentivize these types of employees, consider including some perks that are meant to be enjoyed outside of work hours.


4. Incentivize a cruise or vacation getaway for top performers and their families.

Taking vacations has been associated with not just increased well-being, but also improved job performance after returning to work. While employees don’t always feel as though they are able to take time off work, offering a paid vacation as an incentive for competitive performance demonstrates just how highly your organization values the benefits of taking time off.

  • Send a parent with young children off to Disney World for a week of family fun.
  • Offer up a resort-style weekend getaway, complete with spa day packages.
  • Incentivize a full adventure experience for the daredevil competitors on the team.
  • Secure a trip for a few days of wine tasting or fine dining, complete with reservations.

When incentivizing an out of office experience, remember to not just offer up the vacation itself, but also be sure to give winners the extra vacation days to take it!


5. Give away tickets to the big game or that concert the whole team’s been talking about.

Is there a major musical artist performing nearby next month? A big sports game coming up in the area? If you have the connections to secure a few tickets, use them and offer up an enviable prize for your employees to work hard for!


Gifts of Their Choice

Employees work hard to support the company’s goals, so sometimes it’s nice to be able to gift them with the luxury of deciding where and how they’ll use their earnings.


6. Cold, hard cash (or gift cards) that can be used for anything, anywhere.

Sometimes, it pays to pay. By offering up a cash incentive, you give your employees the flexibility to make their prize whatever they want it to be. If cash is difficult to offer, cash-like gift cards (Amazon, Visa, etc.) still offer winners the luxury of having the choice in how they use their prize.


Building an Employee Rewards Program

In order for an employee rewards program to be successful, it should benefit both the workers and the business as a whole. To thrive, a business needs to grow just as much as its employees do. After all, you’re all on the same team.

When designing your own rewards program, it’s important to structure both your goals and rewards based on:

  • How they will inspire and motivate your employees to grow and develop in the workplace
  • How they will support the overarching goals you’ve defined for your business

Are you looking to get your best sales quarter ever? Increase the percentage of closed customer care tickets? How about limiting the number of time-wasting activities that occur on the company’s watch? Base your incentives on the goals you want to achieve so that your team knows what they’re working toward. That way, when they win, everybody wins.


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About the Author: Josette is the Marketing & E-Commerce Associate at The Sock Drawer. She is known as the person you want to help you, who approaches each little detail thoughtfully but also has a strong sense of humor and a whip-smart attitude. Outside of work, she loves to dance, hang out with her cool husband and kids, and inject her upbeat energy everywhere she goes!


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