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Motivate Employees with 5 Rewards You Probably Haven't Thought Of

employee rewardsTHERESA DEW
HNI Human Resources Manager

Employees who feel valued will work harder for your business. It's time to recognize those people who bring their "A" game with a reward that feels personal and sincere.

If you've struggled with how to say thanks to performers who've really saved your bacon, this list is for you. These rewards pack a big punch and come with a small price tag.

Consider partnering your employee recognition program with the following rewards:

Career Opportunities

This could involve an invitation to a board meeting, attendance at the town hall meeting with your organization's president, or presence at an industry conference. Professional opportunities make your talent feel important and get them thinking about advancing their career. The result: increased desire to work even harder.


If you have multiple locations or a significant regional presence, help your top performers get exposure in all corners of your firm beyond their home office. An example of great exposure is being named top sales manager of the month. This publicly makes others aware that this particular employee is doing a great job. It identifies them as a leader in their field.


We all do things for others that we don’t receive praise for, and we all know that doesn’t feel very good.  If Jenny brings a printed copy of her report to your office every Friday to save you from printing it yourself, tell her how much you appreciate her saving you that extra 2 minutes of travel to the printer and back. Bonus points for sharing your gratitude in writing; she can file your accolade for her next review or when see needs a confidence boost!

Flexible Schedules

Allow your top employee a day to work from home. Or, depending on the level of performance, consider allowing this employee to come in late or leave early for an entire week to give them extra personal time. Giving someone time is a powerful gesture of appreciation, and it could help your rising star to recharge and return with more ideas!

Gift Cards

With a tight budget, big bonuses can be hard to issue. Gift cards ($5-$10) at popular places around town (coffee shops, gas stations, movie theaters, hardware stores, etc.) are perfect for recognizing small behaviors that have a positive impact on co-workers. The bonus for employers are the warm fuzzies an employee will feel for your company when she uses the card during a run-of-the-mill errand. Maybe a gift card isn't that unique, but you have an opportunity to give a gift card at a unique moment. For instance, reward the best moment of levity during a tough project or acknowledge the most useful computer hack. Get creative!

Keep in mind there's a wrong way to dole out awards. Don't turn awards into a popularity contest or a means of showing who the favorites are. The idea is to spread the joy and gratitude as far and wide as you can to ensure no one is feeling left out or undervalued.

And finally, when you set up an award program, clearly communicate the rules and your intentions to employees. Be transparent about "the why" of your program to make your talent feel looped in and to increase engagement.

What awards have turned heads at your firm? Please share in comments!

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Topics: Construction Transportation Manufacturing HR / Employee Benefits