A guide to rewarding employees, plus recognition ideas for your business

Two colleagues working together

If your people are telling you that they’re burned out, bored or otherwise losing interest in their work, you could research whether you’re rewarding employees properly.

But employee rewards aren’t a substitute for treating staff as people first and employees second. This means analysing your culture is a good place to start when considering employee rewards

Employee rewards and your business’s culture

Every business is different, so it’s important to get data from your own people before trying to problem solve and introduce employee rewards programs.

If your staff are telling you they’re not paid enough and you introduce employee incentives that don’t address that core issue, negative feelings could become more entrenched.

A culture where people are empowered to give feedback goes a long way in helping you retain employees, because they can influence (and even change) the direction of the business.

It also helps you improve business performance by practising continuous improvement.

What’s more, if your people are empowered to give feedback about the business, they’re also empowered to recognise and reward their colleagues for a job well done.

Our article on employee retention strategies has more on how to gather data from staff and build a culture that makes sure employees have their voices heard.

With all this in mind, are there employee rewards strategies you can introduce? Some of these you implement today, while others require time and investment. As always, be sure to think about what works best for your business.

Two colleagues working on a laptop


Rewarding employees – 5 ideas

Rewarding employees is closely linked to employee recognition, which we’ll go into later. Employee rewards programs help your people feel recognised and can often be financial-based incentives like pay rises, bonuses and gift vouchers.

Pay – do you have a pay structure that explains what employees need to do to get to the next level? And are you looking at how much salaries should increase to reflect inflation and earnings growth? It’s vital to get feedback from employees on pay, as well as research what other employers in the same sector or industry are paying their staff.

Bonuses – there’s no one-size-fits all approach to bonuses. For example, in sales, someone might be rewarded with a bonus for bringing in lots of business. Other businesses might have a bonus that’s standardised across the whole team, for example a percentage of salary. Again, work out whether bonuses make sense at your business and if they do, consider ways to standardise the scheme so everyone knows where they stand.

Charitable giving – many employees now expect their employers to be purpose-driven. Showing a commitment to charity can help employees feel rewarded, especially if you match donations they make to their favourite causes.

Flexible benefits – letting your employees choose their benefits helps make sure they’re getting perks that suit them most. It also means you don’t have waste, with perks going unused (and keep in mind that some benefits can bring you National Insurance savings). Is there anything your employees are saying they’d like to see beyond gym memberships and other subscriptions? Research how to make it happen.

Incentives for performance and milestones – these might be vouchers, gift boxes sent to an employee’s home, or even lunches out with the CEO. While these can be top-down and given by managers and other senior figures in your business, you can also empower colleagues to give incentives to others for a job well done.

There’s lots more ideas that could suit your business, from training schemes to days out. Your people know best, so make sure you’re talking to them to inform your employee rewards ideas.

Employee recognition – ideas and inspiration

Employee recognition and rewards are closely tied. For the purposes of this article, recognition is more about setting up structures in your culture to make sure employees get business-wide feedback.

Some people do great work but shy away from self-promotion, so encouragement through employee recognition can go a long way.

Here are three ideas that your business leaders can start implementing:

Recognition in business-wide meetings – starting meetings with reasons to celebrate and championing work on brilliant projects helps break the ice (especially at 9am on Monday). This should be soon after the work is complete and specific, so employees see that leaders recognise their actual contribution.

Regular feedback – encourage your business’s leaders to offer unprompted feedback on specific work and to specific employees, which helps them feel appreciated. Work with leaders to set up a system that encourages regular feedback. An agile approach, including regular retrospectives, can help here.

Values-based recognition – which employees live your business’s values? Your leaders can reward those employees (for example, with the vouchers and gift boxes described above), which will help solidify how your people can live the business’s culture.

Here are three recognition ideas that you can encourage among colleagues in general:

Space in newsletters and other communications – creating spaces to highlight work empowers your staff. If you have a regular internal newsletter, call for updates on work to include, or add a section that lets people show gratitude. If you use communication tools like Slack, encourage celebrating people’s contributions in business-wide channels.

Private words of encouragement – conversely, some staff might not enjoy being recognised in such a public way. So, you’ll want to make sure that employees are recognised regularly in 1-2-1s, appraisals, or other smaller meetings. It’s about doing what’s best for each employee, making open lines of communication (and feedback) all the more important.

Autonomy to share learnings – most people have hobbies and interests that aren’t related to their career. Understanding these hobbies and skills can help you recognise the whole person, rather than just their work skills. And going further, are there ways you can encourage people to integrate their personal interests into their work? One method is creating a weekly business-wide slot that any employee can fill to present on a topic close to their heart. This helps with learning and development, too.

Are there any other employee rewards and recognition ideas that you’ve put into place at your business? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sam Bromley

Sam has more than 10 years of experience in writing for financial services. He specialises in illuminating complicated topics, from IR35 to ISAs, and identifying emerging trends that audiences want to know about. Sam spent five years at Simply Business, where he was Senior Copywriter.

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