evolution-of-modern-employee-rewards

5 min read

The way we reward employees has evolved significantly in the last decade. Despite a rise in pay across the UK, the average worker in Britain still earns less than they did a decade ago after inflation, according to a recent study.

The issue with pay means employers have had to find more innovative ways to build a strong Employee Value Proposition and set themselves apart as preferred employers. It is also because employee behaviours and expectations have evolved – instead of staying in an organisation for decades, the average length of tenure in the UK is between 2-5 years. 

This means spending the majority of our reward budget on long service or tenure awards doesn’t make sense; most of the talent in your organisation is likely to have moved on before hitting a 5-year, let alone 10-year, service milestone.

Our experience working with over 1,800 organisations has proved that the most impactful modern reward and recognition programmes focus on recognition first. But that doesn’t mean the “reward” part of R&R doesn’t matter at all.

Why is reward an important component of modern reward and recognition programmes?

The programmes that successfully improve culture and engagement and deliver a valuable ROI actually pair strategic recognition with well-considered and seamlessly delivered rewards. Research from Josh Bersin on High Impact Performance Management showed that:

Of the organisations that delivered strong financial performance, 57% had a programme that contained both a reward and recognition component, compared to 38% of organisations that had recognition-only programmes.

This shows us that having some sort of strategic recognition programme improves business performance, but you’re more likely to make an impact if you combine reward with recognition.

Download our eBook to discover the elements of a modern employee reward and  recognition program»

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Diving into different types of reward for employees

If rewarding employees is something new for your organisation, you’re not alone. To help, let’s take a look at some common reward ideas that you could provide for employees:

Non-Monetary

Monetary

  • Praise
  • Opportunities to complete special projects
  • Time with the CEO or leaders
  • Celebratory lunch/dinner with colleagues or with family/friends
  • Certificates
  • Trophies
  • Plaques
  • Cards
  • Flowers


  • Gift cards
  • Catalogues
  • Extra paid time off
  • Learning/conference
  • Special trips
  • Charity giving

But before you decide what’s best for your business, we recommend two things:

  • Consider the timing and relevance of rewards. Research proves that the carrot and stick approach to employee motivation isn’t always best. For more complex or creative tasks, rewards are more impactful if they are unexpected. A “now that that you’ve done this, we’d like to give you….” approach will drive motivation and innovation than the “if you complete X, then you’ll be rewarded with Y” approach. 

  • Ask your people what they want. Verbal praise, a lunch with the CEO or opportunities for learning and development will land differently for the different people in your organisation, so it’s best to survey your employees, and, based on their response, offer a variety of different options your people can choose from. 

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1. Modern employee reward programmes offer employees choice

Providing choice is important because giving a reward that doesn’t resonate with the individual can sometimes have the opposite effect on engagement – it can even be seen as insulting or disrespectful. It might be a shirt that’s several sizes too big (or too small!), a bottle of wine for a person who doesn’t drink alcohol, or dinner at a seafood restaurant for someone allergic to shellfish. Too often we hear stories of employees who are on the receiving end of a reward that is impersonal or impractical, and they don’t feel great after the experience!

Modern programmes provide rewards that are relevant to the individual. How, when and what we reward our employees with should be respectful and focus on what they value.

Keeping a record of personal preferences isn’t always practical or scalable for large organisations. Many of our clients allocate a dollar value for different company awards in their employee recognition formula or strategy, then give employees the flexibility to redeem those rewards on hundreds of online or physical retailers.

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If an employee wants to use their reward to purchase a special outfit, affordable technology, or book a weekend getaway, they have the freedom and flexibility to do so. They can also choose to use it to decrease the cost of their weekly grocery or petrol bill.

Giving them the freedom to choose how they spend their financial reward not only gives them complete autonomy, it also ensures the reward is relevant and valuable for the individual, without the costs of maintaining reward options or stock in-house.

modern-rewards-choice

2. Modern rewards can be delivered immediately

Modern employee reward systems are designed to mirror the on-the-go demands of the modern employee. That means they provide real-time, meaningful and positive recognition of employees who have lived your company values and contributed to achieving your mission. It also means providing immediate, on-the-go redemption of rewards.

When employees have to wait for a reward to be ordered, processed or delivered, you risk losing the shine of the moment. Worse, if the reward is a physical item like a trophy or a toaster, you risk losing the item itself!

Modern reward programmes leverage the power of technology to provide instant access to rewards that are relevant, valuable and meaningful.

3. Modern rewards are transparent and true-to-value, and drive a culture of recognition

One of the biggest barriers to implementing a successful modern rewards programme is the risk associated with the reward and recognition budget – employers don’t want to see their investment eroded by fees and charges.

Modern rewards programmes provide rewards at full face value, giving managers complete visibility and control over the reward budget and the freedom to reward employees whenever they deserve it.

When reward providers involve a commercial model that requires a minimum spend or charges administration, processing or delivery fees each time a reward is given, managers are less driven to give employees timely rewards that they deserve in the moment. This hinders the appetite for timely, on-the-spot reward and recognition.

True-to-value rewards are helpful for two reasons:

  1. Managers have full visibility of their reward budget: Instead of wondering what reward points translate to in pounds, or whether a £50 reward will actually cost the business £65 after “admin” or “processing” fees, rewards are invoiced as you see them.
  2. No one’s getting a clip of the ticket: The value of each reward isn’t diluted. If your employees get a £50 reward, it costs your organisation £50 and importantly, the employee receives the full £50.

Having a transparent, easy-to-understand system for managers means they have full control over the costs, so it’s easier to build a culture of reward and recognition.

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Has your reward and recognition programme evolved to meet the needs and expectations for your modern workforce? Which of the areas above would you work on to drive change and create the positive impact you want for your organisation?

If you’d like to learn more about how to design and implement an impactful reward and recognition strategy, contact my team for a chat.

Talk to an Engagement Consultant »

Author

James Wigley

James Wigley
Reward Gateway

James is an Employee Engagement Consultant who works with companies of all sizes to make their worlds a better place to work. An avid music lover, James is hoping this excitement is passed along to his two young children.

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