Employee Rewards Ideas That Aren’t Cutting It (And What to Give Instead)

  • author

    Hannah Prince

  • posted

    Mar 14, 2023

  • topic

    Employee Rewards

Employee Rewards Ideas That Aren’t Cutting It (And What to Give Instead)

While the importance of recognizing team members has been well documented in the past few years, the employee rewards ideas that used to be successful just aren’t effective anymore. Before the days of widespread remote work, the Great Resignation, and “quiet quitting,” employees were often happy with whatever they got. And what they got was often — well, it was bad.

Blackhawk Network asked to hear about the worst rewards people had received from their employer as a holiday gift, and the answers weren’t encouraging. Among them:

  • An award with my boss’s name.
  • An award with the name of the company misspelled.
  • A desk organizer that was too large for my desk area.
  • A set of Disney DVDs.
  • A fruitcake and a bottle of water in a basket.

Whether it’s for the holidays, a big achievement, or a work anniversary, team rewards are successful only if they’re something that the recipients actually want. Here are some common employee rewards ideas that have run their course, along with replacement suggestions.

READ MORE: Empower Every Department to Reward Employees With Gift Card Incentives

A Pizza Party

Pizza parties may be a great prize for high schoolers who did well on a test or beat another class in a fundraiser, but they aren’t sufficient to reward grown adults in the workplace. Yes, there are always people who appreciate free food, but regardless, just ordering a few pizzas is taking the easy way out. The idea of the pizza party — or even a catered office lunch — has gotten especially antiquated given today’s post-pandemic office dynamics. With so many companies allowing remote work or hybrid schedules, you’re bound to exclude someone who earned a reward.

What to give instead: Employee rewards ideas that offer flexibility and don’t exclude remote team members are much more effective. Try sending everyone a gift card for a meal delivery service like DoorDash or Uber Eats. That way, they can order the lunch they want, when they want, wherever they are. Still want the bonding experience of the pizza party? Have in-person team members gather to eat their individually selected lunches in a conference room and dial in remote workers who are enjoying theirs at home.

Yet Another Branded Swag Item

How many water bottles and tote bags with company logos have you thrown out or donated over your career? Your employees have done the same. Branded apparel and tchotchkes may serve a purpose as a nice welcome gift for new employees. Beyond that, they are neither what your team members want as rewards nor enough to show appropriate appreciation for their contributions.

What to give instead: According to Blackhawk Network research, 90% of employees prefer to receive gift cards or prepaid cards as rewards. Especially given current economic concerns, a virtual prepaid Mastercard or Visa will give your team members the flexibility to use their reward how they want, whether it’s for something fun or to help offset day-to-day expenses.

One-Size-Fits-All Gift Cards

Even if you have already embraced the fact that gift cards are the best employee rewards ideas, based on ease of distribution and team member preference, there are additional factors to consider. What if you give a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse gift card to an employee who’s a vegetarian or a remote team member who doesn’t live near a Ruth’s Chris? What if you give a Starbucks gift card to someone who doesn’t drink coffee? What if you give an iTunes gift card to a Samsung user? Those are just as useless as another branded mug.

What to give instead: In a word, choice. There’s no reason to pick what gift card to give as an employee reward when you can let your employees decide for themselves. By distributing gift cards through the right rewards tool, you can give team members the opportunity to redeem one that they actually want and will use, making it that much more attractive and effective.

Need more employee rewards ideas? Here are creative options for every season!

about the author
Hannah Prince

Hannah is a reformed journalist who has more than 15 years of experience and now focuses on content marketing for innovative tech companies.

Hannah is a reformed journalist who has more than 15 years of experience and now focuses on content marketing for innovative tech companies.