by Caryn Smith © 2007

A recent survey from reports that when employees are asked, “What could your company do to help make your work more meaningful?" 14% responded, "Improve recognition and rewards."  Only one answer ranked higher (more perks and incentives) with an 18% average.  Here’s an interesting point: goes on to state that, while employees may routinely comment that cash is their preferred reward, they also say they feel better about receiving merchandise of some sort as opposed to cash. 

If you don’t give cash, what do you give, when do you give it and how much do you spend?  Asking a few questions can help you choose a meaningful, affordable employee recognition reward.

Who Gets the Reward?

Will everyone get the same reward?  If not, you’ll need to look for an incentive that’s flexible and allows you to change designs or wording as needed. 

Is the Reward to Commemorate an Event or Accomplishment?

If so, you’ll want something that is long-lasting and tangible.  While everyone loves restaurant gift certificates, travel vouchers and other rewards, they lack the trophy factor.  There is nothing to show for the accomplishment after the dinner or trip has been consumed.  By all means, if these types of rewards fit the achievement, give them.  But consider also offering something such as a nice lapel pin that your employee can wear with pride to commemorate his/her accomplishment.

What Is Your Reward Budget?

It is possible to give rewards that cost from a few cents up to thousands of dollars.  When working on a budget, it’s advisable to go for gifts that stand the test of time rather than ones that are just a flash in the pan.

What Types of Rewards Will Be Given?

Generally, employee rewards fall into three categories: Spontaneous, Planned/Program and Progressive. 

Spontaneous rewards are those given for unexpected reasons such as going above and beyond in a pinch.  They are generally considered "attaboy" rewards to show recognition and appreciation.

Planned/Program rewards include meeting or exceeding goals such as projected sales, reduction of customer complaints, decreased production errors and the like.  These rewards typically require working toward a goal for a given period of time.

Progressive rewards are those that follow a series.  For instance, an employee who hopes to work his/her way up to manager may receive a reward for each promotion along the way.  Someone in training to achieve certification might get progressive rewards.  These are meant to recognize accomplishments and offer congratulations as an employee follows a path toward some long-term goal. 

Types of Memorable and Affordable Rewards

As mentioned earlier, something an employee can wear or take with him/her wherever s/he goes is always appreciated even if other, more expensive rewards are given.  Some memorable, affordable ideas include certificates of award, plaques, trophies and lapel pins.  When you line up these options to the questions asked previously, you find that plaques and trophies are not easily changed for different employees and that they remain in the office rather.  Only people who visit the employee at work will see the recognition they’ve received.  Certificates are very flexible and are easily changed, but lack the perceived value lapels pins and other rewards have.  

Lapel pins are customizable in their designs, are easily and affordably changed from reward to reward, are wearable, have a high perceived value much like that of jewelry and are affordable for the company.  This makes them a superior option for rewards by themselves or in addition to other gifts. 

Take your time and evaluate several options.  Once you answer all the questions above, you’ll have a clear idea of which rewards are best suited for your particular needs.

Caryn Smith is Manager of Signature Pins. When you need affordable, memorable employee rewards with a high perceived value, lapel pins are an excellent option.  Visit today for custom lapel pins in just 10 days, guaranteed!


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