3 Tips for Using Rewards and Recognition to Connect With Your Workforce

  • Author: Meghan Stewart

Employee rewards and recognition aren’t just great vehicles for attracting and retaining talent. They can also help you offer a better employee experience. With a well-crafted rewards and recognition strategy, you can help employees develop meaningful connections with their work, coworkers, and the broader organization.

Even if you already have a rewards and recognition program, there may be even more you can do to engage employees and drive deeper employee connections. 

How Rewards and Recognition Impact Employee Connections at Work

In our recent Employee Connections Study, we asked over 400 employees which aspects of their employee experience helped them feel more connected at work. Total rewards ranked second on the list, with 57% saying it helped them feel connected. Only team meetings ranked higher. 

Of course, there are many components of total rewards, including compensation and benefits, flexibility, opportunities for career growth, and recognition. A wealth of research highlights the importance of recognition, in particular, in boosting employee connections. A recent O.C. Tanner study found that employees are eleven times more likely to have stronger connections when they celebrate each other’s milestones and achievements. The study also found that when employees are routinely recognized by company leaders, they are twenty-five times more likely to feel connected to those leaders. 

Tips for Improving Employee Connections With Rewards and Recognition

To attract talent and limit turnover, it’s essential to cover the total rewards “basics,” including competitive pay and benefits. But, as we noted in our Connections Study, you can also use rewards and recognition to help employees become more connected to their coworkers and leaders. Here are three things you can do to improve those connections through rewards and recognition:

Personalize It

An authentic, personalized reward is always better than a generic one. In addition to personalized feedback and recognition of achievements, you can address employees’ changing health and wellness needs with personalized benefits. For example, you can consider:

  • Wellness stipends
  • Financial planning services employees can adjust based on their retirement goals
  • Options for supplemental benefits, such as eldercare, pet insurance, and others
  • Caregiving benefits that flex to cover diverse eldercare and childcare needs

Recognize Employees Frequently

Whether through regular salary increases or team meeting shout-outs, rewards and recognition should occur frequently. But for some employees, it doesn’t happen often enough. A recent Gallup/WorkHuman study found that four in ten employees said they received recognition at work a few times a year or less. As a result, those employees were more likely to say they didn’t plan to be at their organization in one year. Conversely, if you provide rewards and recognition frequently, then you allow employees to develop deeper bonds with the organization that may make it less likely for them to leave.

Peer recognition is also powerful, as it empowers employees to celebrate each other’s successes in formal or informal ways. Over the years, we’ve helped our clients produce employee communications and implement programs that encourage employees to nominate each other for awards. For another client, we designed a digital postcard program that enabled employees to send messages celebrating each other’s accomplishments.

Balance Monetary and Non-monetary Rewards

Everybody likes monetary gifts, whether it’s a salary increase, a bonus, and gift cards. But many other forms of recognition cost little or nothing. In addition to forms of social recognition, like sending an employee a thoughtful note or taking the team for lunch after completing a challenging project, give the following a try:

  • Offer employees time off for volunteer work and/or time during the workday to spend on personal projects
  • Recognize employees and teams on social media and your company intranet
  • Hand out “funny” or themed awards at team events. At Ingenuity, we award employees “Ingenuitly Awards” to highlight funny quirks about each employee. It’s a fun and lighthearted way to celebrate the uniqueness of everyone on our team. (Yes, the award name is misspelled, as “Ingenuity Design” is consistently misspelled by companies who send us marketing materials. You never forget when someone misspells your name, just like we never forget when an employee does something funny.)

Harness the Power of Total Rewards 

As employee preferences and needs continue to evolve, there will also be new ways to build more meaningful connections with your workforce through rewards and recognition. With personalized benefits and a range of monetary and non-monetary rewards, you can help employees feel truly valued, appreciated, and wanted. For additional insights to help you build a more connected workforce, read our 2022 Employee Connections Study.

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