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28 Ways to Reward (and Retain) Your Employees

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Employees crave recognition from you for milestones, birthdays, work anniversaries, and—more importantly—for contributions they make to your company.

Recognizing your employees is essential for keeping them engaged and motivated to do their best work, but it’s also mandatory if you want them to continue working for you at all (more on that in a moment).

That's why I’ve outlined 28 such rewards employees will actually appreciate that you can use to boost morale, productivity, and retention.

PC: Business 2 Community

How does engagement and recognition help retain your employees?

Millennial workers—a group that will comprise half of the workforce in 2020—cite dwindling engagement and recognition as key reasons for seeking employment elsewhere.

Disengaged workers cost U.S. businesses as much as $550 billion in lost productivity each year, and replacing a single departing employee can take almost two months and cost as much as 60% of his or her salary.

Related: 10 Common HR Problems (& How to Solve Them)

Engaged employees who feel valued are less likely to leave your company, and they’re more likely to boost your company’s productivity, too.

PC: BEE

Engaged employees are also more innovative and open to collaboration than other employees. They offer better customer service, and they’re almost 5X more likely to feel empowered to do their best work. When working alongside like-minded colleagues, their teams are 21% more productive than their less-engaged coworkers.

Companies with highly engaged workforces also outperform their less-engaged peers by 147% in earnings per share.

In other words, it's well within your interests to reward employees, especially if your main interest is the bottom line!

PC: Business 2 Community


Praise effort as much as achievement.

If you want to keep your employees engaged (or keep your employees, period) you should do these two things:

  • Provide practical training that can help them grow their careers.
  • Reward them.

Nearly nine in 10 of the Millennials we mentioned earlier cite career growth and development opportunities as crucial to their workplace satisfaction. 

As far as rewards are concerned, steer away from temporarily exciting perks, like all-you-can-eat food, valet parking, or on-site laundry service. Too often, companies offer these things to recruit new hires, or so their employees can spend more time at the office—including, unfortunately, more and more of their discretionary time.

Instead, offer incentives that serve to thank your people for their efforts and accomplishments, and motivate (not obligate) them to continue giving their best.

In addition to rewarding your team members for big achievements, like landing major accounts or meeting sales goals, you should also recognize them for less-obvious accomplishments, like putting forth maximum effort or contributing to a positive office culture.

The rewards should be a blend of big, annual items employees can look forward to and smaller, more frequent incentives that can help keep your team members engaged and motivated on a regular basis. 

There are 28 suggestions below. Do what you can to show employees you care!

PC: Snack Nation

28 Workplace Rewards You Should Give Your Employees 

1. Promotion: There is perhaps no more rewarding reward (pun intended) than a promotion, whether as part of an annual performance review or given spontaneously, simply because an employee deserves it.

2. New job title: A new or improved job title can be very appealing if there is no immediate opportunity for advancement for a current employee, or if that employee’s current job title falls short of recognizing the contributions he or she actually makes to the company.

3. Tuition reimbursement: Offering tuition reimbursement can help your current employees expand their skills without incurring additional expenses or debt, while helping to pay off their old student loans can make them feel like they have a new lease on life. This reward would be perfect for a team member who would be a great candidate for a promotion, but who can’t afford the degree needed to pursue it.

4. Schedule flexibility: Utilizing flexible work schedules, including allowing employees to work remotely, can boost their trust in your company and their productivity, as well as save them time, money, and hassle.

This reward can be especially appealing to employees with long daily commutes, employees who work in IT or customer service, employees who are active with their kids’ extracurricular activities, and younger employees who desire more autonomous work arrangements.

Allowing team members to work from home even one day a week can boost their morale and engagement tremendously without costing your company virtually anything.

5. Client flexibility: Let account managers or members of your sales team earn the right to “fire” clients they no longer want to work on or hand off problem projects to other members of the team.

6. Paid time off (PTO): Not only should you consider giving your workers birthday PTO each year, you should also consider giving them extra PTO or vacation days if they land new accounts, finish projects ahead of deadline, or exceed their sales goals—or if they need time to prepare for a big family trip or event.

7. Paid vacations: Award employees paid vacation time, which provides them with extra funds they can use while enjoying their paid vacation time.

PC: Snack Nation

8. Sick days: Everybody gets sick from time to time. Give employees unlimited sick days so they don’t have to worry about losing their jobs when they get sick, and so your other team members don’t have to worry about catching anything from them. If an employee is battling a serious illness, but is still able to work, consider allowing him or her to work from home, as well.

9. Stock programs: Issuing company stock allows your employees to be more invested in your company, while also showing that you are invested in them. For example, the Clif Bar and Co.’s staggering 97% employee retention rate is due, in large part, to the company instituting an employee stock option program.

10. Cause support: Employees often give time and money to causes they believe in. You can help their efforts by donating to a charity of their choice.

11. Bonuses: Many companies give out cash bonuses before the holidays or to reward employees for specific accomplishments. While employees always like to get cash, employees who receive regular, smaller monetary rewards like raises and other bonuses are 8X more engaged than employees who only receive rewards once a year.

Note: Make sure your employees are aware of any payroll tax implications of monetary gifts.

PC: Forbes

Team-Focused Rewards

12. Dinners: Your employees—especially your youngest ones—crave facetime with leadership. If your team closes a new account or wows a client with a project, treat them to a team happy hour or dinner.

13. Trips: An off-site team retreat or activity is a great way to thank your team for their work on a specific project or all of their contributions for the year. If some employees have difficulty attending off-site activities (due to childcare or other issues), consider using the funds you would have spent on trips and buy property that employees and their families can take turns using throughout the year.

One business owner who bought six lakefront homes in a Minnesota resort area says the move has helped his company see a turnover rate that is one-third the industry average.

14. Parties: An end-of-year party with specific awards ceremony can not only be a great way for you to recognize your team members in front of their peers, but it can also be a great way for your team to recognize each other. It can also be a great opportunity for your creative teams to show off their chops by creating a fun event that everyone looks forward to each year.

15. Development conferences: Giving your employees paid trips to development conferences will not only help them bond as a team, but can also help them grow their skills.

Lifestyle Rewards

16. Spa days: Has your team just completed an especially exhausting project? Pamper them by treating them to office massages or a spa day.

17. Cleaning service: Your employees lead busy lives (especially if they have kids, are active in the community, or still attend school). The last thing they likely want to do when they get home from work is clean. Just as you pampered them at the office or the spa, consider helping relax at home by hiring a cleaning service.

18. Health club memberships: Healthy employees are more productive employees. Adding an on-site gym or giving your team members health club memberships can help them do better work while missing work less often.

Note: Despite all the benefits to your people and your company, employee exercise should never be mandatory. Making it so can actually harm your engagement and retention efforts.

PC: THE GYM

19. Uber or Lyft credits: Whether they want to relax a bit during their commute or not have to worry about how they’re going to get from place to place while they’re out of town, your people will likely appreciate Uber or Lyft credits.

20. Airbnb credits: These can come in handy when your employees visit another city, or if they want friends or family to come visit them.

Other Rewards

21. FitBits: Encourage your team members to pursue their fitness goals with FitBits. These can also promote healthy competition across your organization.

22. Headphones: Whether your team members are working out or working at their desks, there’s a really good chance most of them—especially those who have to spend long periods of time copywriting, doing research, or working on graphic design projects—would appreciate a really good set of headphones.

23. Technology: When in doubt, other pieces of technology, like phones, tablets, televisions, cameras, or even robot vacuum cleaners, are always appreciated.

24. Subscriptions: It’s safe to say that most of your employees pay for one or more streaming service subscriptions each month. It’s also safe to say that they wouldn’t mind if you covered their subscriptions for a month (or more).

25. Tickets: Whether you are treating employees to seats at a ballgame or getting them in to see that sold-out concert everybody is talking about, event tickets are always a popular gift.

26. Memberships: Museum and theme park memberships are gifts that can keep giving to your employees and their families.

27. Gift cards: Your team members will always get excited about gift cards or gift certificates to their favorite restaurants or stores.

Remember the Most Important Reward

28. Say thanks: While gifts and awards are great, employees really want to know that you actually recognize and appreciate their specific contributions to the team.

No matter what other rewards you give your employees, also be sure to thank them—either in person, in writing, or in front of their peers.

PC: Deloitte

Seven in 10 employees say their motivation and morale would improve drastically if managers said “thank you” more often. Employees largely prefer a verbal thanks for their day-to-day accomplishments, while they would prefer to be recognized by members of leadership above their direct supervisors slightly more than being thanked by their direct supervisors or colleagues.

Related: 10 Common HR Problems (& How to Solve Them)