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Thinking outside the paycheck: 16 creative employee rewards ideas
Employee Centricity

Thinking outside the paycheck: 16 creative employee rewards ideas

July 17, 2024

"Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person—not just an employee—are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability." - Anne M. Mulcahy, Former CEO of Xerox

What if employee rewards went beyond the usual bonuses and salary bumps? Think about it: your employees aren't just there for a paycheck. They crave recognition, fulfillment, and a sense of belonging.

What if you could build a workplace where motivation doesn't hinge solely on monetary compensation but thrives on creativity, personal growth, and genuine appreciation? 

Big names like Google and Meta have already cracked the code. Take Google’s “Take a Break” program, for instance. This initiative encourages employees to recharge by using nap pods and visiting recharge rooms. These specialized spaces are designed to help employees unwind and boost their productivity through short, restful breaks. Additionally, Google offers on-site massage services to reduce stress and promote well-being. It's a unique way of saying, “We care about your health and happiness,” and it shows in their employees' performance and satisfaction.

Meta (formerly Facebook) offers perks like free laundry services, on-site health and dental care, and even egg-freezing benefits for future family planning. These employee rewards aren't just about convenience—they're about showing employees they matter in every aspect of their lives.

16 Creative Employee Rewards Ideas

Here are 16 creative employee rewards ideas that can truly make a difference in your workplace. These ideas will not only enhance employee satisfaction and retention but also help you build a more motivated and cohesive team.

1. Personal development allowance

Give your team the opportunity to grow by offering a personal development allowance. Employees can use this for activities like cooking classes, language courses, or coding bootcamps. This investment shows you care about their personal and professional growth, making them feel valued beyond their current roles.

2. Recognize their achievements publicly

Create an employee appreciation board to showcase your team’s accomplishments. Publicly recognizing their hard work and achievements encourages a culture of appreciation and peer recognition, boosting morale and motivation.

3. Health club memberships

Provide health club memberships to employees who are interested in fitness and health. Gym memberships and workout classes can get expensive, so offering to pay for a month or two of health club classes can be an exciting reward. Tailor this to their interests, such as yoga, spinning, or kickboxing classes.

4. Give them remote work days

Let your employees skip the morning commute and work from home for a day. This can help break up the monotony of the week and serves as a great motivator for continued performance and productivity. Ensure everyone has the proper resources to make this effective .

5. Plan adventure activities

Send your employees on adventurous outings like kayaking, zip-lining, or rock climbing. These activities are not only thrilling but also serve as excellent team-building experiences. Adventure activities encourage teamwork, communication, and trust among team members. They can also be a refreshing break from the routine, helping employees to return to work rejuvenated and more connected with their colleagues. 

6. Gift event or festival tickets

Give your employees tickets to special events or festivals. Personalized tickets based on their interests, such as concerts, sports games, or theater shows, can create memorable experiences they will appreciate. By offering tickets to events they are passionate about, you show that you understand and value their individual preferences. This personal touch can make employees feel recognized and valued on a deeper level, enhancing their overall job satisfaction and loyalty to the company.

7. Distribute cool branded swag

Utilize your company’s branded swag like custom t-shirts, water bottles, and other items. Consider crowdsourcing swag designs to involve employees and showcase their creativity. Distributing cool and well-designed swag can foster a sense of belonging and pride.

8. Celebrate each other with peer recognition programs

Peer recognition programs empower employees to acknowledge and appreciate each other's efforts and achievements. This can be implemented through a simple system where employees can nominate their peers for recognition or through a more structured platform like Bonusly or Kudos. Such programs foster a culture of appreciation and teamwork, making employees feel valued by their colleagues. Peer recognition can be done through shout-outs in team meetings, a dedicated bulletin board, or an online platform where everyone can see and celebrate each other's contributions. 

9. Amplify Charitable Giving

Amplify the impact of your employees' charitable donations by matching their contributions or making donations on their behalf. This meaningful reward can enhance their sense of purpose and fulfillment, showing that you support their values and causes. For instance, if an employee is passionate about environmental conservation, matching their donation to a related charity can boost their morale and engagement. 

10. Celebrate important milestones like birthdays and work anniversaries

Make birthdays and work anniversaries special by organizing a small office celebration with cake, balloons, and a card signed by the team. Personalize the celebration by giving the honoree a small gift, like a gift card to their favorite store or restaurant. Another fun idea is to allow employees to take a half-day off on their birthday or work anniversary or give them a "celebration coupon" they can use later. 

11. Get the competition going with healthy challenges

Encourage engagement and teamwork with fun competitions. Try organizing internal hackathons where employees can work on innovative projects or solve problems. Host fitness challenges like step-count contests, or create friendly sales competitions with small prizes. 

12. Offer a book of the month

For the book lovers on your team, offer a subscription to Book of the Month. This provides readers with their pick from five buzz-worthy new novels each month and can even create a built-in book club at work, fostering a love of reading and discussion. Employees can share their thoughts on the monthly selection, encouraging intellectual engagement and camaraderie.

13. Give office plants

Provide low-maintenance plants like succulents or cacti for their desks. Plants can create a better work environment and increase engagement by making people more involved in their jobs, contributing to a healthier and more pleasant workspace. Research has shown that greenery in the office can improve mood and productivity, making this a simple yet effective reward.

14. Bring-your-pet-to-work days

Designate specific days when employees can bring their pets to work. This can boost morale and reduce stress, creating a more relaxed and enjoyable work environment. Be sure to have policies in place for those with allergies or who are uncomfortable around animals. Pets in the office can promote interaction and a friendly atmosphere.

15. Employee pitch night

Organize an employee pitch night where team members can present their innovative ideas and projects. This can be a great way to foster creativity and give employees a platform to share their visions. Offering rewards for the best pitches, such as funding for their project or a special recognition, can encourage participation and innovation.

16. Ease the commute with transportation reimbursement

Help reduce the stress of commuting by offering transportation reimbursement. Cover costs for public transportation, provide parking subsidies, or organize a carpool program. By alleviating some of the financial burdens associated with commuting, you can reduce stress and increase job satisfaction among your employees.

To sum it up…

Rethinking employee rewards is crucial if you want to boost engagement and retention. Traditional raises and bonuses aren't enough to keep your team motivated anymore. Creative rewards like hackathons and friendly competitions can stimulate innovation and teamwork, while pet-friendly office days reduce stress and enhance morale. Investing in ergonomic office gear shows you care about their health and comfort, which boosts productivity and job satisfaction. These thoughtful rewards build a culture of appreciation, leading to higher loyalty, satisfaction, and performance, ultimately driving your organization forward.

People also ask

What are Recognition and Reward (R&R) activities?

Recognition and Reward (R&R) activities are programs designed to acknowledge and appreciate employees' hard work and achievements. These activities can range from formal awards and bonuses to informal thank-you notes and team celebrations. The goal is to motivate employees, boost morale, and foster a positive work environment.

What strategies can HR use to motivate employees?

HR can motivate employees by implementing various strategies such as offering professional development opportunities, providing competitive benefits, recognizing and rewarding achievements, fostering a positive work culture, and ensuring clear communication and support. Tailoring motivation techniques to meet the diverse needs of employees can significantly enhance their engagement and productivity.

What are experiential employee rewards?

Experiential rewards are incentives that provide employees with memorable experiences rather than monetary or material benefits. Examples include travel vouchers, tickets to events, wellness retreats, or adventure activities. These rewards can enhance employee satisfaction and loyalty by creating lasting positive memories.

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