Let’s be real, who doesn’t love free stuff? Getting rewarded to do your job usually sounds good to just about anyone. But what’s the psychology behind it? How do I effectively incentivize my team? Cash or non-cash? 

Let’s explore the basics of engaging, rewarding, and incentivizing your employees! 

Why Show Your Appreciation in The First Place? 

Showing your employees, you appreciate the time and effort they put into your organization can go a long way. Not only for employee retention purposes, but also in terms of productivity and compliance.  

A study on How Gratitude Benefits Organizations and Employees conducted by the Academy of Management showed that expressions of gratitude by authority encouraged employees to see how their actions contribute to the big picture - which in turn encouraged them to become proactive and go beyond expectations.   

Creating a culture where your people are engaged and excited to perform and produce will do much more for your organization than you can imagine. Aside from the healthy and positive environment you’ll establish, companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%.  

Success Stories 

Regardless of industry, employee recognition programs always create for a stellar culture and contribute to an increase in employee engagement, loyalty, and satisfaction.  

Zappos, American online shoe, and clothing retailer is known for their incredible culture and their rewards and recognition program is a big part of that. In 2008, a year where the average turnover rate at call centers was 150 percent, Zappos’ was 39 percent. What type of experiences attributed to such a positive culture you may ask? A stellar reward program.  

When employees complete training or helpful surveys, they can earn “Zollars.” Employees can redeem these Zappos dollars for exclusive company-branded items such as water bottles and bags. They can also choose to donate their dollars to charities that Zappos are partnered with.  

Cash vs. Non-Cash Incentive 

Long story short, when it comes to incentivizing employees, cash is NOT king for several reasons.  

It’s no surprise that a company as successful as Google would have a solid employee engagement program, but it wasn’t always that way. They had to learn the hard way that non-cash award motivated people much more than cash rewards. Why is that? 

Non-cash rewards and more memorable and personal 

When you funnel some extra cash into people’s hands, it’ll probably end up somewhere sensible or insignificant like in their savings or paying off bills.  

Say you reward your employee with an experience or gift? They will forever remember the company when they recall their memories at that basketball game or their night at a fancy hotel, or every time they use their air fryer. It makes the incentive much more memorable and personal.  

Google ended up tossing their cash reward program and implemented a much richer rewards program that offered experiences such as dinners, international travel, and much more. Employees reported that the new program was much more meaningful and exciting than offering cash rewards.  

A lot of people feel the need to entice their employees with fancy, expensive rewards but in reality, they don’t need to be expensive or extravagant. Their reward is meant to be a token of your appreciation that they can remember for a really long time. That can be achieved by gifting them a blender they will use every morning for the next 10 years to make their smoothies, or a pair of engraved golf balls they can show off to their buddies on the course. Again, we’re going against our nature and saying expensive is NOT better in this situation.  

Where Do I Get Started? 

Start with your big ‘Why?’ 

Incentive programs are meant to inspire and encourage an engaged workforce. What area of your business do you think needs it most? What tasks may need some encouragement or motivation to be done? What are you trying to achieve? 

Determining what types of behaviors or tasks you want to reward makes it easier to understand how your points will be distributed. It’s important to outline your objectives when it comes to what actions you want to improve on in your organization. Want people to take more initiative? Award points for going above and beyond. Want more feedback from your teams? Award points for completing surveys and forms.  

Keep in mind, all your employees should have an equal chance at attaining the same number of points. That being said, awarding points for common activities such as onboarding activities, safety trainings, safe behavior, etc. allows everyone a chance to go the extra mile to earn that gym bag! 

Are you looking to incentivize your workers with no hassle?

Our Rewards program offers a massive selection of branded apparel & goodies to excite your team. You don't even have to worry about ordering or shipping - we take care of it.


Biggest takeaway: recognition programs work! Appreciating and rewarding your people goes a long way when it comes to employee engagement, retention, and satisfaction. Create a culture where your people are excited to go above and beyond and reward them for doing so.  

Still have questions?

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