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When we recognize employees for their hard work and successes both large and small, it’s great to attach a reward, as well. But... what makes a good employee reward?

The possibilities are nearly endless – so today we’re going to focus on experiences. “Experience” gifting has been increasing in popularity over the past several years, and for a lot of reasons. Whether someone is embracing minimalism, managing tight living space or simply prefers “doing” over “having,”  giving people experiences creates a memory that can last a lifetime. 

Whether it’s a cooking course, a travel adventure or any of the ideas we list below, your employees are sure to appreciate unique opportunities and personalized fun. As the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words,” so show your employees you appreciate them by choosing an experience that aligns with their interests. A 2017 study even found that an “experiential” gift can bring people closer together than a tangible one.


Nothing says ‘thanks for all your hard work’ quite like offering employees a day to enjoy themselves. 

Employee recognition and reward go hand-in-hand, but it’s important we highlight the difference between the two before we dive into our 10 low-cost employee reward ideas. Keep in mind that recognition should always come before the reward, but both are valuable when it comes to helping employees feel appreciated and valued at your organization. Plus, fun experiences used as rewards are a great way to deepen connections and improve employee collaboration.

When you’re thinking about ways to recognize your employees, it can be difficult to narrow down your options – as we’re showing here, they’re endless! To help, here’s how I like to think of my MUSTs for employee recognition success: Make sure it’s Meaningful, Unified, shines a Spotlight on achievements and is Timely.


When employees are recognized for their efforts, a great low-cost way to reward them can be with an exciting experience. 

While free ideas are great, low-cost ideas are the next best thing, and we promise none of these will break the bank. Below are 10 low-cost ways to offer experiences to say thank you by rewarding employees either as a team or individually, depending on the activity. 

piggy-bank-icon= individual recognition

piggy-bank-icon= team-based recognition

piggy-bank-icon Movie night

low-cost-employee-reward-movieThere’s nothing like experiencing the latest box-office hit movie in theaters, while enjoying some buttered popcorn and your favorite candy or an oversized soft drink. Or maybe employees would rather a Netflix or Hulu voucher so they can have a cozy movie night on their couch. Whichever they fancy, offer them a cinematic experience like no other by rewarding their outstanding behavior.

piggy-bank-icon Trip to brewery/ bar

When employees go above and beyond to help the team out and move the needle, celebrate the team’s achievements at a happy hour. Managers can take a trip to the local brewery or pub and share some laughs and stories over drinks and appetizers as a low-cost way to reward employees.

piggy-bank-icon Sporting event ticketsmobile_event_ticket-min

Whether employees like baseball, football, hockey, soccer, or anything else, bringing them to a sports game is a surefire way to promote team-building. And for non sports-lovers, the people watching is always worth the experience! Sporting event tickets are a low-cost way to reward employees for their continuous efforts and share a fun experience outside the office.

piggy-bank-iconCoffee time

When employees have the chance to step out of the office for a few minutes, get some fresh air and have a conversation over a good cup of coffee, they’re likely to come back into the office feeling refreshed and re-energized. Brew connections over a latte, instead of a whiteboard and get outside the confines of your office building.


Concert ticketslow-cost-employee-reward-concert

Music is a huge part of employees’ lives. Recognize an employee’s passion for music by rewarding them with concert tickets as a low-cost way to say “keep up the great work” and deliver them an experience they won’t forget – maybe they’ll even get the chance to see one of their all-time favorite artists!

piggy-bank-icon Bowling night

A good way to escape the summer heat and work on team-building is to take a trip to the local bowling alley. Plus, a little competition can be inspiring. As a bonus, promise the winner their very own custom bowling jersey! 

individual-recognitionCooking or cocktail-making classcocktail-class-min

Find out what employees like to eat or drink and reward top performers with a voucher to a local cooking class, cocktail-making class, pastry-making class or even a cheese-making class. Employees will not only get to learn something new that aligns with their interests, but will always remember the reward for their hard work, which reinforces that desired behavior.

piggy-bank-icon Time to explore

Discover what employees have always wanted to try in their area. Managers can then get team members a voucher for the activity at hand – whether it’s bungee jumping or sky diving (for the more adventurous employees), a guided food tour or a trip to the aquarium or museum. 

individual-recognitionSpa voucher

Everyone knows you need to unplug to recharge sometimes. Reward employees with a voucher to a spa so they can get a massage, or service of their choice, in order to regroup and come back to the office feeling refreshed. It’s an easy way to improve employee wellbeing with a great reward.


individual-recognitionTime to learn

Demonstrate you’re an employer that genuinely cares about work-life balance (or work-life integration, as we like to say). Find out what employees are passionate about outside of work or have always wanted to learn – whether it’s a glass-blowing class, an improvisational acting class or a photography class.

Let your actions speak louder than your words. Whichever experiences is right for your employees, make sure to try new activities throughout the year to continuously recognize and reward employees. Whether you focus on rewarding teams or individual achievements, these low-cost employee reward ideas are guaranteed to leave your employees feeling appreciated and valued for the months to come.

Our world-class employee recognition solutions can help you attract, retain and engage top talent to make your organization stand out amongst the competition. Reach out to us for more ideas on how to recognize and reward your employees and get started on your journey to employee engagement success.

Talk to an Engagement Consultant »

Debra Corey

Debra Corey is an author, world-class speaker and HR consultant, paying it forward by inspiring and helping others around the world to bring out their inner rebel and drive strategic and meaningful people and business change as the Chief Pay it Forward Officer at DebCo HR. Her career spans 20+ years developing and delivering HR strategies in a rebellious way, pushing the boundaries and challenging the status quo to truly drive employee engagement.

Reward Gateway Advisor

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