There is no doubt that creating employee rewards programs can be a huge boon to businesses, but only if they are done well. There seem to be many misconceptions about what actually motivates employees to do more, give more or just be better employees. Rewards programs also don’t need to break the bank for businesses either. Here are 6 strategies to consider when creating a rewards program that will help you get the most out of your program without it costing an arm and a leg.

1.) Get input from your employees

Many times businesses attempt to implement awards programs without every consulting the very people they hope to reward. While it’s unlikely that everyone will agree 100%, you might be surprised at the level of agreement there actually is on what your employees really want. Sometimes, a big award for one employee - like an all expenses paid vacation - might be a huge incentive that the majority agrees upon. What is more likely, however, is that employees would like to see smaller, more frequent awards that are more evenly distributed, like a $100 gift card to a local grocery store or gas station. People are often more interested in something they can use to enhance their daily lives rather than a once-in-a-lifetime award or prize. In either case, however, it’s best to let your employees decide what they would prefer and therefore, what would actually motivate them.

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2.) Understand the differences between recognition and reward

In many cases, what employees really want most is simply to be recognized for the good work they do. Recognition awards may go far further toward motivating employees than cash or prize incentives ever will. Even better if the recognition awards are accompanied by a small reward like a small denomination gift card.

3.) Provide incentive for improvement at every level

When creating a reward program, many companies think only of rewarding top earners or top performers. But many of tomorrow’s top earners are today’s under-performers and underachievers. Getting them to that next level often involves making sure they are not discouraged at the level they are at. The point is not to award everyone just for showing up, but to be sure and award improvements, no matter how small they be. Keep in mind though, small improvements should receive small awards, while major improvements should be recognized with major awards.

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4.) Smaller, daily prizes, awards and incentives are often more effective than large “grand prizes”

While there is nothing wrong with a big “grand prize” for the completion of a big project or to encourage competition when meeting certain larger goals, the achievement of larger goals generally takes a long period of time and ultimately the “grand prize” will only go to one person or a few people. Incorporating small, daily prizes into your rewards program will help employees meet and exceed the smaller daily goals that help you get to the “big victories.” With enough smaller, daily incentives, you may not even need the Grand Prize to get you to your goals.

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5.) Let your employees participate in the awards process

Many times, what people crave the most is not recognition from their superiors, but from their peers. One of the best things you can do is allow employees to participate in the process of deciding who should be rewarded or recognized. Many times, you will recognize, appreciate or value your top performers, but your employees may recognize or value the person that inspires them to be a top earner or performer, even if that person is not a top earner or performer themselves.

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6.) Create a culture of praise and recognition and use rewards to enhance that

Again, what people often desire most is praise and recognition over financial incentives. On the whole, people tend to perform at their best when they feel valued and appreciated and simply giving them a monetary reward doesn’t always do that. Use every means available to you to not only recognize your own employee’s hard work and achievement but to allow them to recognize each other’s hard work and achievement.

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