October 7, 2022

One of the things that trip up a lot of businesses is understanding the difference between employee recognition and employee rewards. These are two separate concepts but are sometimes connected. It depends on the situation. In any case, let’s go over the differences and how each of these concepts should be used and when.

Employee Recognition

Employee recognition is when a business decides to recognize an employee for doing a good job. This is typically a formal recognition that’s done at very specific times and serves as a way to motivate employees to do their best. As you can imagine, this is a great way to improve worker productivity if done correctly.

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Sometimes there is a criterion that must be met for an employee to qualify for this kind of recognition. For example, an employee may have to not miss any days of work to qualify. Altnerly, they may be expected to meet some kind of quota or goal. It really just depends on the situation and what the business is trying to do to motivate its employees.

There are several examples of employee recognition, but the most well-known would be an employee of the month program. For a program like this, each month, an employee would be chosen based on predefined criteria and named the employee of the month. This honor would likely be accompanied by employee rewards that will serve to motivate employees to aim for becoming an employee of the month.

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Employee Rewards

Employee rewards are rewards that are given to employees in order to motivate them at work. Even so, many employers forget this, and their rewards become little more than a token effort that many employees don’t care much for.

For example, a good employee reward might be something like a short paid vacation given to the employee of the year. On the other hand, rewarding an employee of the year with a mug or pen with the company’s name on it can come across as not worth the effort, and it may not be taken seriously.

The key to getting employee rewards right is to match the reward to the amount of effort it took to get it. For example, a restaurant giving a free dinner (within reason) to the employee of the month and their family would be a good reward for that level of effort. On the other hand, giving an employee of the year extra paid vacation time is more suitable for a large goal such as that.

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It should also be mentioned that employee rewards are the most effective at motivating workers when they are pre-defined and not something a decision-maker comes up with randomly. Having a clear idea of the rewards they can expect is more motivation to workers than working for something that may or may not be worth it.

Combining Employee Recognition and Employee Rewards

First of all, you don’t always need to combine these two concepts. In many cases, employee of the month plaques as a form of employee recognition is good enough. However, if you have predefined goals that you’re trying to meet, such as hitting certain sales numbers, then recognizing and rewarding your employees is a good idea.

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Once again, the level of recognition and reward should be matched to the amount of effort that your employees must expend to meet your goals. You should also consider how beneficial these goals are to your business as a whole as well. The more critical these goals are, the more you should recognize and reward employees that meet them.


An xample of combining employee recognition and rewards would be having a wall of photos that show employees that have met the criteria to receive certain rewards. This gallery would serve to motivate other workers by showing them that meeting your goals isn’t impossible or unreasonable.

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Make Your Employees Proud to Work for You

Also, keep in mind how your employee recognition and reward plans impact your company culture. You want to create an environment in which your employees feel proud to work for you. This isn’t just about creating a carrot on a stick for them to chase; it is about reaffirming their value as a worker and making them feel appreciated.



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