Types of Rewards for Employees: Rethinking Cash

When your CEO asks your staff what types of rewards for employees are their favorite, they’ll probably say “CASH!”

While you want to believe your employees, recent studies say you should question their choice. Showing appreciation, leadership opportunities, or letting employees give back to each other can all be more effective for boosting engagement – while using less cash. As a result, it might be time rethink the types of rewards for employees you’re using.

Our new guide, Reward and Recognition Systems that Work gives science-based tips for rewards programs that boost engagement.

Types of Rewards for Employees

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What the studies say about types of rewards for employees

A recent McKinsey study shows that employees value a thank-you from their manager, attention from leadership, and a chance to have a voice in projects as much or more than a cash bonus.

And here’s a surprise: A global study of bankers, sales teams and sports teams found that giving well-paid employees a $20 bonus can have a negative impact on teamwork and job performance. But giving them the chance to give back? Totally different results. The same amount used as a charitable donation or given to coworkers led to stronger teamwork, better job performance, and a higher ROI for their companies.

Finally, this Fast Company article shows that showing appreciation may be the biggest motivator of all.

As a result, you can get more from your reward investment by using different types of rewards than cash.

Here are some non-cash reward strategies that we’ve seen make a huge difference our customers’ engagement levels:

  • Public recognition.
  • Team experiences (like volunteering or even a 10-minute dance party!)
  • Mentoring time with managers or senior executives.
  • Involve employees in decision-making.
  • Donations to the charity of your employee’s choice.
  • The chance to reward co-workers.
  • Time-saving ‘favors’ or time off.

For more ideas on boosting the effectiveness of different types of rewards for employees, you can download our guide: Reward and Recognition Systems that Work.