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Why it's time to make the shift from manual to digital reward and recognition programs

7 min read

With the onset of COVID-19 forcing the majority of the global workforce into remote work, companies are finding that their old methods of recognising, connecting and supporting employees are no longer effective. As morale waivers amidst the uncertainty in the world, it is more important than ever for employees to hear the words "I see you, and I appreciate the hard work you do" on a regular basis.

You might be skeptical about pushing recognition to the top of your agenda, but in fact, recognition can impact many areas of your business. Recognition not only improves employee morale and happiness, but also drives productivity and business results.

According to a recent study, non-financial recognition improves employees' work effectiveness by 20.4%, engagement by 55.1% and wellbeing by 49.3%. (McKinsey and Co).

As businesses change, recognition programs must adapt to meet the needs of employees, many of whom will continue to work remotely. 

While long-service awards, gift cards and simple thank-yous may have been worked in the past, in this new environment, manual and in-person recognition strategies are no longer reliable ways to keep our employees happy and engaged. 

Recognition programs are only effective if employees embrace them, so by making recognition digital and more accessible, you can reach more people and embed a culture of recognition throughout your company. While manual programs can seem like the "easier" solution to put in place, looking for a scalable digital solution that can expand and change as your company grows will eliminate the future headaches that time-consuming manual programs can create. 

Download our eBook to discover how to shift to digital employee recognition »

So what can we do to adapt and change employee recognition for a post-COVID-19 world? We can make our programs flexible, robust and above all digital. Here are five ways that digital employee recognition benefits your company:


1. It helps to connect your dispersed workforce 

Whether your workforce is dispersed because of remote work or different office locations, or whether you’re hoping to find new ways to spotlight important work that different teams are doing, a digital recognition platform is a great way to bring your organisation together.

While manual forms of recognition like employee-of-the-month posters are often not seen by most employees, embracing social recognition like what we offer on our reward and recognition platform allows people across the organisation to not only see, but also contribute to employee recognition through comments and reactions, regardless of geographic location.

Having a central, digital space where employees and managers can recognise other employees and see the recognition happening is key to creating a community and a culture of recognition within your organisation. 

A digital platform allows you to see the recognition happening not only within your team, but also across all teams and departments, improving employee collaboration and connection across your organisation.

Additionally, our integrations make it easy to build our program into what you already have. With integrations like Slack, RSS feeds and Microsoft Teams, you can instantly send your employees alerts for company updates and new blog posts to increase readership and improve company-wide communication.

See how easily Reward Gateway can integrate with your existing systems »

2. It makes recognition easy and immediate 

Whereas manual recognition can often delay the process until the recognition no longer feels timely or relevant, digital recognition allows for instant acknowledgement so that employees can be recognised for their praise-worthy actions or hard work in that moment.


PYBAR Mining Services, a Reward Gateway client with more than 800 employees, realised that its manual recognition process was cumbersome and that delayed recognition left employees feeling as though their moment had passed by the time they received their award. Working with Reward Gateway, PYBAR launched its own branded online recognition platform, "PYBAR Perks," where employees and employers could send eCards and "High Five A Mate" when they noticed someone demonstrating their company values.

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PYBAR’s digital platform successfully engaged employees and improved employee recognition across the board by encouraging both manager-led and peer-to-peer recognition. The platform also had a great impact on communications across a geographically-dispersed workforce – through the implementation of a newsletter and blog on PYBAR Perks, the company improved communication between management and employees that wouldn’t have been possible without a centralised digital platform.


3. It encourages transparency 

Digital recognition also allows for greater transparency than older, manual forms of recognition. In the past, when an employee was recognised for hard work and rewarded for it, the manager wouldn’t make a company-wide announcement saying "I’m recognising this person for doing this and giving them this award" – the manager would simply recognise the employee privately or with only minimal visibility.

This method of recognition falls short because it can be misinterpreted as favouritism, and doesn’t meet the modern workforce’s need for consistent and transparent recognition. 

Having easy access to information and visibility of why certain employees are recognised is essential to building employees’ trust and avoiding the perception of favouritism at work. Employees want to see what’s going on behind the scenes – whether it’s changes to company policy or the decision to reward an employee – and having this information visible on an online platform can greatly improve employee-employer trust and build a culture of recognition.

Our eCards allow for this visibility as they are displayed on the “Wow Wall,” a social recognition feature that hosts all company-wide eCards that are sent so employees can see who is being recognised and why they have earned the recognition.

In addition to our eCards, our blog functionality can bring even greater visibility to your recognition, as leaders can highlight a person’s contribution to the business in a weekly blog update. See how our CEO uses his weekly blog to recognise employees who have gone above and beyond below:


4. It anchors employees to company values 

Digital recognition is also a great way to reinforce and embed company values into everyday routines. While manual strategies can make it difficult to continually promote your company values, leading to "pockets of recognition" among teams or offices and inconsistent recognition tactics, centralising your recognition moments in a digital platform allows for consistency on recognising employees that live company values through values-based eCards.

Our eCards are tailored to reflect your brand, culture and goals, and many of our employees use values-based eCards so every time someone sends an eCard, employees are reminded of the behaviours embedded into each and every one of the company values.

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A great example of a Reward Gateway client who uses the platform and tailored eCards to reinforce company values is Digestive Health Associates of Texas (DHAT). A healthcare company with around 500 employees, DHAT used its platform to create a culture of appreciation and improve employee morale across the business.

With its values prominently displayed on the home page of its branded hub, "Digest This," and with eCards that show off company values, like the "Deliver an exceptional patient experience" eCard, DHAT successfully created a platform centred on its values and its people.


5. It makes your business flexible and future-proof

The recent, sudden changes in our world have made one thing very clear – we need to be flexible and ready to adapt. Manual recognition programs offer little flexibility, as most rely on people working in the same location for employees’ actions to be seen and acknowledged.

Digital reward and recognition programs are essential today because they allow you this flexibility – whether you’re looking to boost employee morale through recognition or whether an employee does something noteworthy and you want to reward them, digital reward and recognition programs allow you to do this immediately from anywhere.

Our platform allows you to build a recognition program that works for your business and follow a framework that aligns with your company values and business goals. 

For instance, companies can choose to have tailored eCards, manager-led monetary awards and special custom awards, or just one or two of these reward and recognition elements. 


Heineken, a consumer goods and services organisation, knew it needed to develop a new modern, flexible and innovative employee recognition program to better engage its people. 

Previously, the organisation was only reaching and rewarding a small percentage of staff. Working with Reward Gateway, Heineken rebranded its employee recognition program, "BREWards," to create a seamless user journey and add a diverse range of awards to encourage values-led behavior.

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Insightful employee feedback and leadership buy-in helped Heineken introduce a multi-layered approach and modernise the entire experience, which was felt across the organisation. In fact, the organisation saw a 50% increase in employees receiving recognition through the program within the first five months of launching the platform and this number continues to increase. 

As our businesses and our employees’ needs evolve, our recognition programs must be able to adjust to remain effective.  If your recognition program is flexible, it can support your company well into the future. As you make the transition from a manual to a digital recognition program, keep these things in mind:

  • Recognition should be easy – not difficult and time-consuming
  • Recognition should reinforce your existing values
  • Recognition should be flexible 

Digital reward and recognition programs make it easy to support, recognise and connect with your employees.

What will your digital reward and recognition program look like? Get in touch with us, and we’ll show you how we can help you build a tailored, future-proof reward and recognition program. 

Talk to an Engagement Consultant »

Kylie Terrell

Kylie Terrell is our Australia Director of Consultancy and is RG’s resident advocate for employee recognition. She loves creating “wow” moments and looking for creative ways to make her coworkers and clients feel special.

Australia Director of Consultancy

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