Employee Recognition & Rewards Buyer’s Guide

Table of Contents

Recognition and rewards are an integral part of your company’s employee experience. It’s critical to get a platform that fits your company culture on the first try. Which is why we wrote this employee recognition and rewards buyer’s guide to help you out.

The purpose of this buyer’s guide is to simplify the process of researching, finding, and choosing an employee recognition and rewards platform that works for your specific company needs.

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Getting started

There are five major steps to finding the right program for your company:

1. Know why you’re investing
2. ID the need
3. Show me the money (or, look at your budget and shop for value)
4. Compare as much as you dare (or, evaluating value and cost)
5. Ready, set, decide!

Kazoo Employee Recognition and Rewards Buyers Guide -- 5 Major Steps graph, reading Know Why You're Investing, ID the Need, Show Me the Money, Compare as Much as You Dare, and Ready, Set, Decide

We’ll break each of these down into easy-to-navigate sections, including clear directions, action items, and easy-to-use guidance to help your search move forward. In short, this recognition and rewards buyer’s guide gives you the tools to save time and make an educated decision.

It’s also set up to help you get your whole internal team on board with this decision. It should give you the power to do the following three things:

  • Educate effectively. We’ll give you the data to make a clear business case for your investment —whether you’re talking to the CEO, CTO, CFO, or your HR team.
  • Budget bravely. We’ll help you look at your existing budget to see how it supports a comprehensive employee recognition and rewards program.
  • Shop savvy. You’ll get guidance on your shopping strategy with a step-by-step guide to the buying and evaluation process.

Kazoo's Employee Recognition and Rewards Buyer's Guide -- Educate, Budget, Shop graphic, explaining how the guide will help you educate effectively, examine your budget, and make the right purchase decision

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Part 1: Know why you’re investing in employee recognition & rewards

The need to invest in the employee experience is at an all-time high, and employee recognition and rewards platforms are a key part of that investment.

Most companies are competing for a limited talent pool. Millennials and Gen Z make up more than half that talent, and they engage differently than their Gen X or Boomer managers. Plus, employee engagement is at an all-time low (only 33% according to Gallup). Those stats combine to make retention and recruitment an ongoing challenge.

According to Jacob Morgan in the Harvard Business Review’s survey of employee engagement stats at more than 250 companies, the most profitable and successful companies are all investing in employee experience. That means they’re making their employees “want, not just need” to work every day. We’re talking
leaders like Adobe, Accenture, Facebook, Microsoft, and others.

Recognition is a key part of building the employee experience. Glassdoor ran a survey of employees and found that appreciation is the single most effective motivator in day-to-day work. And when you combined that appreciation with a small reward — it’s even more impactful.

The tl;dr: Investing in the right platform is an investment in your company’s performance.

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Part 2: Identifying the need for an employee recognition & rewards program

Prioritizing the employee experience isn’t just about building happiness. It’s about getting a measurable but achievable boost to employee performance or motivation. Sometimes it’s about solving a problem. Sometimes it’s about preventing one.

Before you start evaluating different recognition and rewards options, it’s important to understand your company’s true goals and use them to fuel your search.

Knowing what you really want is going to help you get it right the first time. You want your solution to address your real, root goals.

Here are some key questions you can use to get to the core of your company’s goals. The answers can give you a clear set of metrics to use, both to evaluate each program — and to show your management if the platform is successful:

  • What are some of your corporate challenges that are affected by your employee experience?
  • Which performance metrics would you change in your company? And by how much?
  • What matters most to your employees? What gets them excited about work or life?

Kazoo's Employee Recognition & Rewards Buyer's Guide -- Questions graphic, which includes, What are some of your corporate challenges related to employee experience, which performance metrics would you change in your company, and what matters most to my employees?

Part 3a: Examine your employee recognition and rewards budget

Now that you’ve read the stats on employee experience and clearly laid out the core reasons why your company needs to invest in rewards and recognition, it’s time to look at the budget.

We have two quick budgeting exercises to help you find your budget, calculate your ROI, and get the numbers you need to justify your decision to your executives.

There is, understandably, confusion about deploying a rewards and recognition platform. You’re going to get questions about cost, terms, budget, and ROI. Your management will likely want to know three things:

  • Which plans did you consider (and why?)
  • How will you fund your plan?
  • What metrics will you use to know if your plan is successful?

Kazoo's Employee Recognition & Rewards Buyer's Guide Question bullets -- asking which plans did you consider and why, how did you fund your plan, and which metrics will you use to know it's a success?The questions from the last section should help with your success metrics. Now, here are the basics on terms and pricing. All vendors are different, so make sure you ask each question every time you interview a new one.

To save you time, we’ve created a decision checklist in our downloadable guide on that summarizes the key questions to ask and makes it easy to do side-by-side vendor comparisons.

Part 3b. Evaluating value and cost

In this section, we’ll walk you through two exercises. The first is a list of questions to ask each vendor to ensure you’re getting the best value as you determine the right choice for your company. The second helps you evaluate the resources you have available to fund a new program.

Questions to ask each vendor

Terms of use

  • What functionality is included in the contract? What’s not included?
  • Is there a contract period? If so, how long are the commitments?
  • Is there a minimum reward spend per month, quarter, or year?


  • What is the fee structure? What functionality is included? What’s not included?
  • Does the fee structure include things like software licensing fees, support fees, or convenience fees?
  • What is the markup structure for employee rewards?
  • Do the markups diminish the value of the rewards for your employees, or put a cost on non-monetary rewards?
  • Is there an extra fee for customization, like adding your own swag or changing your logo?


  • What reporting structures or analytics are included in this contract?
  • How much staff time will it take to administer this platform?
  • How easy is it to pull reports from this product?
  • Can you give me examples of how this product has helped others with my core needs? (e.g., retention, customer service scores, attendance, safety, etc.)

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Exercise: Funding your program

When looking for funds to support an employee recognition and rewards platform,
most companies can use money they’re already spending on less formal engagement activities.

Here’s an exercise for you to assess what you are currently spending on engagement, and see how you can redirect those efforts into a comprehensive program.

Start by making an inventory of any of the initiatives listed below and their associated costs (think money, time, and energy). Then add them up. The total will tell you how much you can pool to fund a new platform.

Kazoo's Employee Recognition & Rewards Initiatives exercise table -- a list of employee engagement initiatives you may already be spending on. Refer to the article for the full text, which is reproduced there

Example initiatives

  • Service awards: 1, 5, and 10-year anniversary rewards
  • Birthdays: Presents, meals, cakes
  • Ad hoc recognition, employee rewards, and bonuses: Sales incentives, safety, KPIs, attendance, positive customer feedback, contests
  • Wellness: Gym fees, doctor visits, health initiatives and accessories
  • Professional learning and development: Modules, courses, certifications
  • Recruiting and referrals: Rewards, incentives, new hire welcome perks
  • Gift card programs: Does someone in your office have a drawer full?
  • Work/life balance: Time off, working from home opportunities
  • Community involvement and CSR: Local efforts, programs
  • Tuition reimbursement and discounts: Raw dollars, advancement
  • Team building/social: Lunches, happy hours, offsites

Part 4: Comparison shopping

When you’re looking for the right platform for your company, you’ll come across a lot of options. To save you time in choosing the right platform, we’ve put a detailed question list into a comparison checklist in our downloadable guide.

Or, read the questions below:

Questions about the vendors

  • Do you offer a full-service platform, or are there hidden costs for features, support, or employee rewards?
  • How can you demonstrate commitment to reinforcing our unique and specific corporate goals and company values?
  • Do you encourage meaningful or culture-specific rewards that our employees will care about, even if they are non-monetary?
  • Do you offer value-added coaching and ongoing support for using rewards as part of a greater employee experience?
  • What is your customer retention rate?

Questions about the platform

  • Is the platform intuitive and easy to use? What’s the average end-user experience with your platform?
  • How much employee training and hands-on-administration does your employee recognition and rewards platform require, if any?
  • Does your employee recognition platform offer an API to easily integrate with other platforms/HRIS?
  • What does the implementation process for your employee recognition platform look like? Will we get any support from you, like launch communication or training kits?
  • Does your platform automate any of our existing programs, like birthdays, anniversaries, and KPIs?
  • Does your platform allow for a top-down or peer-to-peer employee recognition approach to engagement, or both?
  • Can your platform be customized? If so, how?
  • What sort of reporting metrics and analytics does your platform offer? Can it help you gauge engagement? Is the reporting data actionable?
  • Does your platform support language translations for global teams?
  • What are the tax implications for your employee rewards and rewards points structure?

(Note: If you must pre-buy points, it means your employees will be taxed whenever they receive recognition. If you do not pre-buy points, this is not the case.)

Questions about employee recognition and rewards

  • Do you offer global fulfillment?
  • Do your rewards have markups? If so, are they at or above cost?
  • How much variety is included in your reward options? (e.g., products, gift cards, experiences, charitable donations, and more)
  • Can rewards be customized to fit our company values and culture? (e.g., team rewards, local merchants, training and mentoring)
  • Do you offer charitable opportunities that matter to our organization and employees?
  • Do you encourage non-monetary rewards even if it means you don’t earn a markup?

Using these questions to assess potential engagement programs will help you make an informed choice and communicate it to your management team.

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Employee Recognition & Rewards Buyer’s Guide

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Part 5: Making the decision

Once you get down to the final step of choosing an employee experience partner, you’re going to want assurance from your partner, precision from their product, and proven results from their platform.

Before you decide to buy, here are a few key do’s and don’ts.

Kazoo Employee Recognition and Rewards Buyer's Guide Dos vs. Don'ts table -- visit the article for complete text, which is contained in the body of the article


  • Make sure you’re getting transparent pricing before you buy.
  • Look for testimonials, case studies, quotes, and awards. After all, experience matters.
  • Look for a long-term partner who offers valuable analytics and ongoing coaching.


  • Get lured into a low-cost solution, only to discover hidden service fees, reward markups, or other budget-derailing surprises.
  • Rely solely on the salesperson to assess the long-term viability of a program.
  • Pick a standalone product that won’t help you launch your initiative, grow with your company, adapt to your needs, or clearly reinforce your company values.

These final steps are crucial to a smooth platform introduction and a successful long-term investment. Once you walk through our five steps, you’ll have all the tools you need to make the best decision possible for your company, and make the best case for your decision internally.

When you’re ready to dive in and begin your search, we hope you’ll consider Kazoo. But either way, this process should help you get the right partner for your engagement.

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Kazoo for  employee recognition and rewards

We hope this guide has helped equip you to select the employee recognition and rewards program that’s right for your company. At Kazoo, we’re serious about building world-class employee experiences — for everyone. Ready to join us?

Because at Kazoo, we’re passionate about bringing together all the tools you need to make work work better for everyone. That’s why the Kazoo Employee Experience Platform brings performance management and recognition and rewards — including Goals, Feedback, Conversations, Recognition, Incentives, and more — into one simple, easy-to-use platform.

If you’re ready to align, connect, and engage your workplace, check out our Kazoo overview. Or, schedule a personalized demo today.

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