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How On-The-Spot Rewards Motivate Employees

Employee Appreciation Rewards

This is our second installment of our two-part series on the effectiveness of different employee reward and recognition programs. 

How you recognize your employees can make or break your workforce. According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, one in five workers intends to find a new job in 2014, and more than two-thirds say it’s because they do not feel valued. While quarterly/annual recognition programs and points-based reward programs are effective for different purposes, there is another effective program that many employers use to reward employees and improve retention.

As Employee Appreciation Day approaches, we examine the effectiveness of on-the-spot employee rewards.

What Are On-The-Spot Employee Rewards?

On-the-spot employee recognition programs are planned by Human Resources and typically administered by managers.  These programs empower managers to reward team members at their discretion based on pre-determined goals and achievements.  These achievements are typically project based and rewards are correspondingly smaller than in quarterly/annual recognition programs. However, the rewards must still mark an above-and-beyond behavior that is tied to overall business goals.

What Types of Rewards Are Effective?

As simple as it sounds, an in-person thank you is probably one of the most appreciated on-the-spot tactics. An acknowledgement of the individual at the beginning of a staff meeting, or arranging for a more senior executive in the chain of command to give a personal acknowledgement, are also easy, low-cost ways to show appreciation.

Gift card values are commensurate with the achievement being recognized, and range anywhere from $5 – $25. Many companies will purchase a bulk amount of gift cards from retailers that are then allocated to managers for on-the-spot recognition any time of the year. The important thing to consider is that gift cards of lower value can be redeemed without the recipient having to spend any or much more than the face value. This ability to immediately use the gift cards makes them effective for on-the-spot rewarding.

Examples of On-The-Spot Rewards

Retail Category Consultants has instituted a program where the store managers, district managers, and above were provided with $25 gift cards and encouraged to catch an employee doing something right every week. While this recognition strategy was not standard for the culture, it made a great impact once it was rolled out. Additional rewards included:

  • Holding monthly lunches with the employees’ favourite food and discussing the teams’ impact on the company and how they can improve
  • Giving store managers the opportunity to lead meetings instead of being lectured to, which improved accountability and engagement

Measuring On-The-Spot Rewards

On-the-spot programs are not easy to measure in a quantifiable way. Human Resources can look at continued retention rate of the rewarded employees and managers need to anecdotally assess continued engagement.

However, the challenge of measurement can be outweighed by the benefits: on-the-spot recognition programs are easy to administer, and are effective at team building and empowering managers. In the end, a leadership culture built on positive reinforcement instead of rule enforcement is important. If an employee respects and trusts their leader, the rewards and gift cards will mean so much more.


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