3 Employee Reward and Recognition Trends for 2024

Robust employee reward and recognition programs have always been crucial for attracting, retaining, and supporting high-quality talent and worker performance, but never more so than in wake of COVID-19-incited labor upheavals. Research from Gallup found that employees who receive great recognition are 20 times as likely to be engaged as those who receive poor recognition. While it’s obvious that companies must improve the quality of their employee reward and recognition systems to keep and support their talent, doing so isn’t as simple as it may seem.

What Is an Employee Reward and Recognition Program?

An employee reward and recognition program is a system implemented by an organization to acknowledge, appreciate, and spur on the contributions and achievements of its employees. It is a way to motivate and incentivize employees to perform better and improve their job performance, as well as recognizing their past performance milestones, like sales goals and achievements.

The program typically involves identifying specific behaviors or accomplishments that are desirable for the organization and rewarding employees who exhibit those behaviors or achieve those goals, often publicly. Rewards can take the form of bonuses, promotions, certificates, gifts, or other incentives that are meaningful and valuable to the employees. For instance, a company might offer a vacation package to one individual who places first for a sales contest, or a video game system.

Sometimes, a recognition program can focus on acknowledging employees’ hard work and achievements without necessarily providing a tangible reward. It’s the little things that count – it can be as simple as saying thank you or publicly acknowledging an individual’s accomplishment. However, in doing so, companies risk seeming ungrateful and out of touch. It is encouraged that companies provide some sort of material incentives in such programs.

Overall, a well-designed employee reward and recognition program can boost employee or workforce morale, increase workforce satisfaction, and ultimately lead to higher productivity and workforce performance. It can also boost retention, which is a must in the age of the “Great Resignation.”

Modernizing Employee Reward and Recognition Programs

Companies seeking to update their employee reward and recognition systems to retain their workforce and optimize their performance must think beyond antiquated notions of standardization. As described in a recent study from Deloitte about rethinking employee recognition, “When it comes to employee recognition programs, like many things at work, one size doesn’t fit all — and surprisingly, very few people want recognition that’s widely shared.”

The study goes on to describe the need for personalized, flexible, and custom reward and recognition systems aligned with individual goals. And while many companies continue to rely exclusively on monetary incentives to boost morale and performance, recent research suggests that symbolic awards can significantly increase intrinsic motivation, performance, and retention rates.

In the ongoing climate of high attrition and steep competition for qualified candidates across sectors — especially retail, franchise, and F&B — personalization is key and real-time, high-frequency recognition is paramount.

The good news for companies looking to improve talent retention and performance is rapid developments in harnessing the power of data have made smart employee reward and recognition more accessible than ever before. 

Industry-leading organizations are harnessing the power of data to invest in three trends leading reward and recognition into 2024: personalized rewards, gamified, high-frequency recognition, and real-time progress tracking to reward the right behaviors.

3 Reward and Recognition Trends to Watch in 2024

1. Personalized Rewards That Matter For Each Individual 

It goes without saying that the motivational efficacy of any reward is defined by individual values and preferences. To the detriment of both worker morale and performance, however, many companies ignore the reality of diverse values, preferences, and goals among their workforces, opting for standardized reward and recognition systems catering to an imagined average, leaving the workforce unengaged and anonymous in a one-size-fits-all system. 

The advent of data-driven employee reward and recognition makes personalized attention scalable. While managing the individual reward and recognition preferences for an entire company is manually untenable, data-driven performance enablement software makes it possible for workers to choose the rewards they’re most motivated by, increasing both engagement and productivity. 

For instance, Rallyware’s performance enablement platform allows the workforce to set their own goals and rewards — both physical and digital — ensuring they’re truly incentivized. In addition to offering personalized rewards, Rallyware’s performance enablement technology automatically incentivizes progress by triggering just the right action, supporting engagement and morale over the course of goal completion. 

Different individuals are motivated by different rewards; there’s simply no getting around it. Ignoring the diversity of the workforce is a sure path to low engagement and productivity. Thankfully, data-driven personalized rewards make it possible to accommodate individual preferences at scale.

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2. Gamified, High-Frequency Recognition

Ongoing management challenges include understanding how each person prefers to be recognized, making recognition objective and real by basing it on performance, and recognizing employees frequently. 

These challenges are exacerbated by high turnover — a documented consequence of insufficient recognition — in a self-perpetuating cycle reaching unprecedented peaks in the era of the Great Resignation. 

These challenges are solved by performance enablement technology which automates high-engagement, gamified, high-frequency recognition. One crucial distinction between data-driven recognition and the blanket approaches of yesteryear is the degree of meaningfulness to the worker. 

Most existing reward and recognition programs say nothing in particular about any individual’s contribution. A gamified approach to worker recognition takes it out of the realm of bureaucratic lip service and into the process of real-time learning and progress. Gamified, high-frequency recognition improves engagement not only by increasing the meaningfulness of recognition, but also by decreasing uncertainty by tying recognition to discrete, personalized goals. 

Elements like friendly leaderboards further increase engagement by strengthening the social culture of a workforce, while incremental rewards like prizes and gift cards keep momentum up. In fact, our research found that users of badges (see the example of the ‘sales pro’ badge featured above) experience an average sales growth of over 400%, compared to non-users.

3. Real-Time Progress Tracking to Reward the Right Behaviors 

Often when we think about engagement, we imagine a static metric for which the individual, not the company, is responsible — ‘X employee was Y% engaged during Z period of time.’ In fact, engagement is a fluid measure which changes constantly in response to any number of input factors, which are actually under a company’s control. Dated, legacy reward and recognition systems present a flashy incentive and leave workers to figure out how to earn it. Early enthusiasm among team members commonly peters out into indifference and disenchantment. Following this pattern, the incentive is itself disincentivizing. 

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Rallyware’s performance enablement platform grants workers total visibility into their progress and creates an automated pathway to success, generating smart activity recommendations for workers to stay on track.

This real-time progress tracking designed to generate effective behaviors deepens worker engagement by doubling the reward; the pursuit of the incentive is a learning experience filled with digestible, personalized upskilling and training.

Individuals and teams aren’t simply competing, they’re investing in their earning journeys by developing skills. An easy-to-read interface demonstrating where people are in their progress and what they need to do to stay on track keeps engagement at a steady high. 

Keeping the workforce engaged is crucial as competition for workers remains tight and consumers brace for a potential recession. High-frequency, personalized reward and recognition is a key element of Rallyware’s award-winning performance enablement platform. 

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