How to tailor your employee reward and recognition program for retention


How to tailor your employee reward and recognition program for retention

How to tailor your employee reward and recognition program for retention

Are your employee recognition and reward programs paying off? Is it helping to motivate staff and supporting your retention efforts? Do they seem to be effective with some employees but not others?

If you’re not getting a return from your recognition efforts, it might be time to revisit and question whether these programs are tailored enough. After all, the same formats of recognition or reward do not appeal to everyone. i.e.

  • Some staff will be more motivated by monetary rewards, while others will find such targets daunting.
  • Some may crave to be publicly recognized for their contributions in front of the whole organization, while others would prefer a direct one-on-one thank you from their manager.

People are different, and so are their motivations.

So it’s only logical that the same recognition systems won’t work for every employee.

In this post, we’ll break down the differences between recognition vs rewards, we’ll share six fresh ideas for recognizing and rewarding your staff, and delve into how to deliver these programs successfully.

The difference between recognition and reward

Recognition and reward are often lumped together or used as terms interchangeably, but it’s important to make the distinction between each and when they should be used.

Are tangible benefits like pay rises, bonuses or gifts.Is intangible and comes in the form of feedback or praise.
Should always be accompanied by recognitionCan be given on its own
Are less personalIs more personal
Are limitedIs unlimited
Often have a costCan be given for free

Why recognition and reward need to be tailored

Ultimately, recognition is all about encouraging positive behavior, boosting performance and retaining the right people, but the thing about changing behavior is, the same approach won’t be effective for every person.

Depending on personal attitudes, values and beliefs, certain forms of reward or recognition will have varying levels of effectiveness. In some cases, the wrong choice of recognition or reward could even be detrimental to performance.

The effectiveness of monetary incentives, for example, can be dependant on the nature of work your employees are doing.

Research from economics shows that significant monetary incentives or time pressures often result in decreased performance when it comes to tasks that require creativity or strategic thinking. Conversely, these incentives can work well to encourage performance in roles that are largely based on manual tasks.

Delayed forms of recognition like showcasing great work in quarterly company meetings, or delivering a pay rise in annual reviews, can also diminish effectiveness.

Recognition or reward works best when it’s delivered immediately, or as soon as possible after an achievement is made.

In this way, you can keep the momentum going and motivate employees to continue on their performance trajectory. Leaving recognition or reward too late risks employees becoming disheartened if they feel their efforts are going unnoticed, and hence productivity could fall again or even drop lower than before.

Different forms of reward or recognition


1. Monetary

Bonuses pay rises, gifts… traditional forms of reward most of us will be familiar with.

2. Flexibility

People who value work-life balance or family can be motivated by the option of greater flexibility as a reward for good work. This could be given in the form of work from home days or extra time off.

3. Responsibility

Another form of reward that will appeal to certain team members, especially those in the early stage of their career, can be allocating new role responsibilities that give them more autonomy or an opportunity to extend their skills and gain experience. Depending on the degree of increased responsibility, this may also need to be accompanied by a remuneration increase.

4. Professional development

Professional development or training opportunities can appeal to staff at all levels of seniority, especially if it involves helping people gain an additional qualification.


To have its full effect, rewards should be matched with some form of recognition. This is where employees get to feel appreciated for their efforts.

Employees celebrate with fist bump in team meeting 5. Personal

Don’t underestimate the value in managers giving personal feedback or congratulating their direct reports for their efforts one-on-one. For some employees, this recognition is the most valuable and sincere, especially for those who may not enjoy being in the spotlight.

6. Public praise

Some staff will find being publicly recognized more meaningful and want to have their achievements shared in team meetings or other public forums.

How to tailor your reward and recognition program

Get feedback

Want to know what type of recognition matters to each of your people? Ask them.

Work questions on recognition into your employee engagement or continuous feedback process so employees get the opportunity to signal what type of reward may be most meaningful to them.

It’s important for individuals to know that different preferences are welcomed and accepted. You may find you get more honest answers by asking employees to select an option from a multiple-choice list, rather than providing a free text form.

Ideally, this information should be gathered as part of the onboarding process, so preferences are ready on file when it comes time to provide recognition to an employee for the first time. Established companies with existing staff could also simply send out a check-in pulse asking the same question to ensure equal details are available for every employee.

Do personality testing

Working personality testing into the recruitment process can provide valuable insights into the motivations and values of individual employees. While it’s still important to directly ask people what forms of reward or recognition they prefer, aggregating this data can provide insights into what options you may want to make available to your workforce.

Ways to deliver recognition

Okay so you’ve got some ideas for your reward and recognition program and how to tailor it to your people. Knowing all of this, what are some tactics we can use to make recognition and reward more successful?

Monetary reward

  • Awarding annual or quarterly bonuses
  • Pay rises to accompany changes in role responsibilities
  • Use a tool like team recognition tool like Bonusly to help staff get rewarded over time through peer to peer recognition.

RELATED: Salary reviews are not the way to reward high performers

Flexibility rewards

  • Offer a shorter workweek or flexibility in hours
  • Offer more opportunity to work from home or provide resources to enable it (a take home laptop, headsets etc).

Responsibility rewards

  • Allow staff to work in another department that interests them one day a week to explore their interests and talents
  • Have managers delegate one part of their role to a direct report (something the direct report wants to do).
  • For staff with no direct reports, assign a newer staff member in their team for them to train or manage.

Professional development reward

  • Send high performing staff to a desired conference or training opportunity
  • Fund a relevant qualification that an employee wants to gain for their role
  • Offer an increased training budget for employees who prove an increase in performance after partaking in training.

Personal recognition

  • Have managers complete monthly feedback that is automatically sent out to their direct reports via email. This can include positive feedback and acknowledgment as well as constructive feedback on areas for improvement.
  • Where physically possible, set a process for managers to meet one-on-one with each of their direct reports to extrapolate on this feedback. This adds a layer of authenticity to the comments and enables two-way dialogue.
  • Ask managers to add recognition diary notes into intelliHR when a staff member does something commendable. These are recorded for future reference and would be drawn into the performance summary report and shared with staff at review time.

Public recognition

  • Mention achievements in weekly stand-up meetings
  • Share staff wins on the company intranet, Slack channel, or similar
  • Hold a company awards night, summarising achievements that have happened over the last year (just ensure recognition is also provided on-the-spot when achievements are made as well).
  • A recognition tool like Bonusly also allows for 360 degree recognition where supervisors and coworkers celebrate good work and give thanks to each other. It also allows others in the business to see who is receiving (and giving) recognition and celebrates work anniversaries (so you’ll never forget another birthday). This can be taken a step further by integrating it into a Slack feed for everyone to see in real-time.

Implementing rewards and recognition

All-too-often we find ourselves focusing on the negative, and what needs to be fixed or improved rather than the positive (don’t beat yourself up though, it’s actually human nature). It’s easy to miss the wins, or to forget to celebrate the positives. The solution is simple – set and track employee goals in your HR software or system. That way you can monitor progress towards them and remove barriers or provide any support that’s needed along the way, and you’ll be automatically notified once they’ve been completed so that you can roll out the most suitable option above.

We hope these tips to have inspired you to reinvigorate your employee reward and recognition program. Need some guidance? Get in touch with our team to see how intelliHR could help you tailor your recognition.


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