How to create employee rewards programs: Types and benefits

Employee rewards programs help boost your team morale.

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If you want to create a positive workplace that motivates your team, implementing an employee rewards program is a great place to start. These programs go beyond simple recognition—they make employees feel valued, boost morale, and are crucial for attracting and retaining top talent. By acknowledging hard work and celebrating achievements, they foster a culture of appreciation and loyalty, driving better performance and long-term success for the organization.

In this guide, we'll explore the benefits of employee rewards programs, how to set one up, and tips for designing a program that excites your staff.

What is an employee rewards program? 

Employee rewards programs provide businesses a way to recognize and appreciate the contributions of both teams and individuals, whether it's putting in extra hours on a project or reaching a decade of service. By celebrating employees’ contributions and milestones, these programs foster an appreciative workplace culture. It’s no surprise that they’re a core element of many businesses’ global compensation strategies.

Benefits of employee recognition programs  

Companies that value the importance of employee recognition as part of their total compensation package have much to gain, from attracting top talent to reducing turnover. Here’s how implementing a rewards strategy helps drive employee and business success:  

Attract top talent 

Skilled, educated, and experienced professionals seek employers who value their knowledge and contributions. Employee rewards programs make companies more attractive to high-quality candidates. They showcase your commitment to employee recognition, which can be the deciding factor for potential employees when considering a job offer.

Promote health and wellness

Company wellness programs promote healthier lifestyles among employees. By incorporating health initiatives such as fitness challenges and mental health days into your employee rewards program, you demonstrate care for their well-being and work-life balance. This approach is mutually beneficial, as healthier, happier employees are often more productive and take fewer sick days.  

Increase productivity 

Including an employee rewards program in your total compensation package helps motivate staff to perform at their best. Recognition fosters enthusiasm, leading passionate employees to produce high-quality work efficiently. This results in improved outcomes and enhances your company's overall success.

Strengthen company culture 

Employee rewards programs foster a cohesive company culture. When team members celebrate each other's achievements, they build a sense of community at work. These bonds enhance teamwork, collaboration, and overall job satisfaction.

Boost reputation 

An attractive employee rewards program helps build a strong reputation for your business by demonstrating that you value your workforce. It's a valuable asset in today’s competitive market that helps attract top talent as well as partners and clients.

Enhance creativity and innovation 

Employee rewards programs help employees feel secure, making them more likely to collaborate, innovate, and share ideas. When staff know their contributions will be acknowledged, they're more likely to take creative risks, leading to breakthroughs that can establish their company as an industry leader.

Reduce turnover

Studies show up to 79% of people who quit a job cited a lack of appreciation as the cause. Valued employees are more likely to stay in their roles than seek opportunities elsewhere. Recognizing hard work and achievements throughout your organization fosters loyalty and reduces employee turnover, ultimately saving on recruitment, onboarding, benefits, and training costs.

8 employee rewards program ideas  

The sky’s the limit when it comes to impactful ways to celebrate your staff’s achievements, but here are eight of the most common examples of employee rewards: 

1. Monetary rewards 

Employee rewards can include financial incentives like employee bonuses, stock options, profit-sharing plans, and salary increases. They offer team members instant gratification and are usually highly effective, but it's important to balance them with other options for a well-rounded approach.

2. Nonmonetary rewards 

Nonmonetary gestures such as recognition certificates, anniversary plaques, “Employee of the Month” awards, and thank-you notes hold sentimental value that goes beyond financial rewards. These personalized tokens of appreciation can foster a deeper emotional connection and a sense of belonging among employees in a way money can’t buy. 

3. Professional development 

Another way to reward employees is by offering training opportunities, workshops, online courses, and trips to industry conferences. These incentives acknowledge their dedication and show your commitment to their growth. Professional development incentives help team members enhance their skills and knowledge, ultimately boosting your business.

4. Additional paid time off

Let's be honest: Who wouldn't love an extra day off (or two) with pay? Beyond the obvious perks, it promotes work-life balance and shows appreciation for workers, especially those who have put in long hours to meet project deadlines. Additional PTO allows employees to relax and recharge without worrying about lost income. You could offer a company-wide wellness day or reward select team members with a half-day Friday for hitting a sales milestone.

5. Experiential rewards

Experiential employee rewards create memorable experiences, such as tickets to sporting events, concerts, dining experiences, and travel. These rewards forge lasting memories in ways that tangible and monetary rewards cannot, fostering positive associations with your company. Including employees' families shows you also care about their personal lives.

6. Employee recognition

A sincere shoutout is sometimes all it takes to let someone know they're appreciated and valued. Whether formal or informal, this type of recognition can take many forms, such as peer-to-peer acknowledgment, praise during team meetings, or spotlights on the company website or social media pages. These simple yet powerful gestures foster a positive work environment and encourage continued excellence.

7. Charitable giving rewards  

As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Instead of traditional bonuses or experiences, consider donating to an employee’s chosen charity in their name. By supporting causes your employees care about, you honor their hard work and demonstrate your company’s values.

8. Custom rewards 

Custom rewards show your employees you understand and appreciate them and their unique tastes and interests. Whether cooking or art classes, gym memberships, monogrammed clothing, or personalized gift baskets, they're an excellent way to demonstrate that you know and value each individual on your team.

How to reward employees: 6 steps    

Ready to create and implement an effective employee rewards program? Here’s how:  

1. Define your goals 

First, think about what you want to achieve with your rewards program. Outline your objectives, such as encouraging employees to engage in more deep creative work or attracting top engineers to your business. Establish firm goals to guide the rest of the initiative.

2. Determine your budget 

Consider how much you can allocate to monetary and nonmonetary rewards, accounting for administrative costs. Use this figure to develop sustainable short- and long-term budgets, and balance cost with impact to maximize the value of your rewards program.

3. Brainstorm meaningful reward options 

Identify rewards you know your employees will love. Depending on your company and the people you employ, these could range from staff parties to luxurious team vacations. Meet with your employees to discuss their needs and wants to ensure that the rewards align with their interests.

4. Identify metrics

Establish clear criteria, such as specific behaviors or achievements, that qualify an employee for rewards. For example, a team member might be recognized for their 20th work anniversary or for earning $200,000 in sales in a year. Determine how to measure success and ensure that these metrics align with your company’s core values.

5. Communicate internally 

Now, it's time for the big reveal. Present the purpose and benefits of the new employee rewards program to your staff. Be enthusiastic as you explain how they can participate and what rewards they’re eligible for. Clear communication will get everyone excited and aligned with the program's goals.

6. Track results and improve 

Monitor the program’s effectiveness over time to make necessary adjustments. Gather participant feedback to determine if the rewards motivate them to perform better. Evaluate whether the program meets its objectives and make changes as needed.

Simplify your rewards strategy with Oyster  

When you look after your team, your business is sure to thrive—no matter where you operate. 

With Oyster, you can attract and engage top talent from more than 180 countries. Oyster’s global employment platform enables you to offer competitive compensation packages that comply with local regulations and effortlessly manage rewards. With Oyster Total Rewards, you can quickly and equitably address current employee compensation and benefits gaps.

Discover how Oyster can streamline your global hiring process and enhance your compensation strategies to attract and retain top talent worldwide.

About Oyster

Oyster is a global employment platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, engage, pay, manage, develop, and take care of a thriving distributed workforce. Oyster lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches and expense.

Oyster enables hiring anywhere in the world—with reliable, compliant payroll, and great local benefits and perks.

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