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Recognition in The Real World
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How Top Companies Reward Employees

Posted By Ava Ewald, Thursday, March 26, 2020
RPI developed its 7 Best Practice Standards® to help your organization recognize your employees and increase overall engagement. Standard 1 is recognition strategy and standard 2 is recognition training. Learn how to reward your employees in the best way possible — read on to see how some of the top companies are doing it so that you can implement it into your training process.



Apple is said to reward independent thinking. They routinely reward employees with stock, product discounts and volunteering incentives. Additionally, they throw parties for their employees such as the annual Apple Beer Bash which has featured Weezer and Falloutboy.



Zappos is well-known for their recognition programs. There is the “Zollar” program, where employees can earn Zollars by helping others or doing particularly good work. Employees redeem them at a little store with company swag. They also have employee-to-employee rewarding where co-workers can give each other $50. They definitely top the list of creative rewards.



Google has their “gThanks” program, where employees are encouraged to shout-out other employees when they have done something great. There is also a peer bonus program, where co-workers can nominate each other for cash bonuses. Google has a wide variety of awards, big and small, to help motivate their employees.


O.C. Tanner

O.C. Tanner creates employee recognition software, so it makes sense that they made Fortune 100’s “Best to Work For” list. According to Life Hack, they use a lot of fun rewards such as merchandise, gift cards and trophies. They also lean hard into employee-to-employee recognition.



In his first letter to shareholders, CEO Jeff Bezos explained that employees should act like owners. He also outlined a long-term strategy for keeping talent. “Amazonians,” as employees are called, receive long-term stock options. Additionally, after one year at the company, Amazon will pay 95% of the tuition for courses that teach skills that are in-demand, even if they are not relevant to Amazon.


Become an RPI member! Learn how here.


To learn more about RPI’s 7 Best Practice Standards, click here.


Tags:  recognition  rewards  RPI 7 Best Practices 

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How Rewards Build Company Culture

Posted By Ava Ewald, Tuesday, March 24, 2020
 RPI strives to help build and refine recognition programs to help employees become more engaged at your organization. They have developed the 7 Best Practice Standards® to guide this process. Standard 3 is recognition program measurement, which is key to the success of your program.


Rewards can make individuals feel valued, but how does it impact the larger company culture?


1)      They reinforce good qualities

Writing for Forbes, William Craig explained that when you recognize something an employee has done well, you are showing the rest of the company what behavior you like to see. This is a much more positive approach than condemning someone for something they have done wrong. Consistent rewards will make it clear what employees can do to help the company.

2)      They make work enjoyable

According to Fast Company, rewards simply make work fun. If employees come in every day knowing there is a potential for a pizza party or a happy hour, it makes the work more fun. A balance between hard work and fun is key to a great company culture.

3)      They serve as an opportunity to show company values

The prior Forbes article explained that rewards can be used to promote company values. If your company values health, create a reward for those who hit the gym the most that month, for example. Rewards are a great way to show what your company thinks is important.

4)      They make individuals feel important

Fast Company also explained that rewards emphasize everyone’s place in the company. By rewarding one person’s strengths, you are validating them as an individual. This is especially important with bigger companies where it is easy for individuals to go unnoticed. Pulling people into the spotlight with rewards shows everyone that they are valued and important to the company’s mission.


Become a Certified Recognition Professional! Learn more here.


To learn more about RPI’s 7 Best Practice Standards, click here.


Tags:  culture  rewards  RPI 7 Best Practices 

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How to Reward Consistently

Posted By Ava Ewald, Thursday, March 19, 2020
RPI developed its 7 Best Practice Standards® based on academic research, academic knowledge and years of experience in the field. These standards will help you develop and refine your recognition program. Standard 1 is recognition strategy and standard 2 is management responsibility. These standards are very important when developing your program. Read below to find out how you can make rewarding employees a consistent habit.


In Harvard Business Review’s podcast, IdeaCast, Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, explained the importance of habits in the workplace. “About 40% to 45% of what we do every day sort of feels like a decision, but it’s actually habit,” he said.


So how can we harness the power of habits to help reward employees? Here are a few thoughts:


Understand how a habit is formed

Duhigg explains that there are three parts to a habit. First, the cue that initiates the action, then a routine and finally a reward for the action. In the context of rewarding employees, for example, this might be wanting to start or improve your recognition program, rewarding an employee every week, and then seeing your employee(s) become more engaged with their work.


Make a plan

It is far easier to achieve something if you have an end-goal in mind. Think through what changes you would like to see as a result of rewards in your organization. This will help you develop a plan. The Hartford encourages tying company goals into this plan so that you can reward behavior you would like to continue to see in the organization.



Incentive Magazine explains that you need to be consistent in order to measure progress. Measurement is part of every step in RPI’s 7 Best Practice Standards to ensure that the process can be refined to be even more successful.



·         Get employees involved in rewarding their peers. This takes some of the heavy lifting off of you and it can add more passion into the program.

·         Make rewards personal. Involve family or friends if you can and/or keep track of your employees’ likes and dislikes so you can reward them with something they will truly appreciate.


Become a Certified Recognition Professional! Learn more here.


To learn more about RPI’s 7 Best Practice Standards, click here.


Register for RPI’s Annual Conference here.



Tags:  engagement  rewards  RPI 7 Best Practices 

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A Simple Breakdown Of Rewards

Posted By Ava Ewald, Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, March 18, 2020

RPI is a thought leader in recognition practices. Its 7 Best Practice Standards® provide guidelines to help you build and sustain a great recognition program. When starting your recognition program, it can be overwhelming to even think about where to start. In this post, we will go over rewards, which falls under Standard 1: recognition strategy.


There are a few different ways you can recognize employees. Awards, rewards and incentives are all wonderful ways to show your employees that you care. According to Merriam-Webster, rewards are “something that is given in return for good or evil done or received or that is offered or given for some service or attainment.” This is different than incentives (which are things given once a specified goal is met) and awards (which are not given in response to one particular action).


How do I start?

According to Entrepreneur, the best way to approach rewards is to identify behaviors you want to see in your organization. Do you want employees to come in late less often? Improve customer relationships? Innovate?  Your answers will serve as a great jumping-off point for rewarding. However, it is also important to consider the strengths and areas of improvement for each individual. Consider discussing goals with them to see where they want to improve and allow that to inform when and how you recognize them.


What can rewards do?

If you know about RPI, you are surely aware of the great benefit of awards, rewards and incentives. A recent Cornell study echoed much of the research and content in RPI’s Resource Hub. It stated that recognition practices increase job satisfaction and productivity in the workplace. Overall, recognizing employees makes them feel valued and part of the larger mission of the organization.


How are rewards different from incentives?

It is important to know the purpose of each recognition method, and that each has its own role in building a culture of recognition in your organization. Ovation Incentives’ blog gives a great explanation of the difference. Both reinforce behavior you like to see, but because incentives are given once a goal you set is met, rewards are a great way to recognize ideas that are not your own.

Hopefully this quick explanation of rewards can help you better implement them into your organization. Comment below with any questions or ideas you have for rewards!


Become an RPI member! Learn how here.


To learn more about RPI’s 7 Best Practice Standards, click here.




Tags:  incentives  recognition  rewards  RPI 7 Best Practices 

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How to Measure the Effectiveness of an Incentive Program

Posted By Ava Ewald, Friday, March 6, 2020

RPI has drawn from its expertise, academic resources, conferences and more to develop its 7 Best Practice Standards®. Standard 3 is recognition program measurement and Standard 4 is about developing a communication plan. These two standards are essential in refining your recognition program. Here a few thoughts on how to measure the effectiveness of your incentive program.


When implementing an incentive program, you want to make sure that you are investing your time and resources well. According to Standard 3, measurement is paramount to a successful program. Roy Saunderson, a columnist for Incentive Magazine, explained what he believes are the best ways to measure your incentive program.


1.      Identify your goals

You can not measure your program without an end goal you want to achieve. Think through the results you would like to see from a successful incentive program. Do you want to increase sales? Improve customer service? Make sure this stays at the center of your incentive program.

2.      Look into the costs of what you are trying to avoid

Saunderson gives the example of accidents in a workplace. If your goal is to decrease accidents, analyze the cost of lost time due to an injury for an employee. If you want to decrease turnover, analyze the cost of hiring a new employee. Putting a price on the program will emphasize the need for your incentive program.

3.      Set smaller, achievable goals

Within your incentive program, set smaller goals to keep track of progress. This will keep you more tuned-in to the end goal.

4.      Make sure you are consistently gathering data

This applies to before, during and after your incentive program. If you are trying to boost sales, for example, make sure you collect the current sales data. During the program, it is even more important to gather data on a regular basis so you can continuously measure the progress.

5.      After your program, calculate the ROI

Was the program effective? Work out the data after the program concludes to see how successful your program was and find areas where it can be improved.


Become a Certified Recognition Professional! Learn more here.


To learn more about RPI’s 7 Best Practice Standards, click here.




Tags:  incentives  rewards  RPI 7 Best Practices 

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3 Takeaways: Culture By Design

Posted By Ava Ewald, Friday, March 6, 2020
Updated: Thursday, March 12, 2020

This post covers some brief takeaways from the RPI February 2020 webinar presented by Alexander Lovell, Director of the O.C. Tanner Institute.


1.      Focus on talent magnets

Modern employees can research your organization online via platforms such as Glassdoor. Because of this, Lovell stressed the importance of organizations having “talent magnets.” These include possessing great leadership, a defined purpose, clear opportunities for growth, success, employee appreciation and a focus on wellbeing. He stated that these are all things that attract top talent to your organization when achieved well.

-          Companies with these factors are 4 times more likely to have engaged employees.

-          They are also 7 times more likely to have employees who innovate.


2.      Consider any burnout in your organization

According to Lovell, burnout is an issue that cannot be ignored. In fact, in May 2019, the World Health Organization classified burnout as a serious syndrome tied to workplace stress. Lovell said to watch out for a few indicators of burnout in your employees: exhaustion, futility or cynicism, and avoidance of workplace activities and culture.

-          Organizations that make it a goal to provide regular positive experiences to their employees are 13 times more likely to have engaged employees.


3.      Old leadership methods are dead

Lovell stated that old ways of leadership are not effective anymore. No longer can leaders expect success by gatekeeping, directing and evaluating. Leaders today need to act as mentors to their employees, help them develop professionally and make professional connections. Regular one-on-one meetings with employees are a crucial aspect of modern leadership as they give you the opportunity to check in with employees and see how you can best support them.

-          33% of employees dread meeting with their leaders

-          One-on-one meetings should happen monthly at the very least

-          These meetings have shown an 84% reduction in burnout


RPI Practitioner members and Business Partners get complimentary access to this webinar on-demand in the Learning Center along with 50+ other webinars and assets to drive your recognition strategy.
Read more about RPI's 7 Best Practice Standards® here.

Register for upcoming webinars here.



Tags:  recognition  RPI 7 Best Practices  webinar 

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Mistakes To Avoid In Your Incentive Program

Posted By Ava Ewald, Tuesday, March 3, 2020
 RPI is at the forefront of recognition program development. They have developed their 7 Best Practice Standards ® to help you develop a great recognition program for your organization. Standard 5 is recognition training and Standard 7 is recognition change and flexibility. Both are important when creating and refining your program. Below are mistakes to avoid when implementing an incentive program.


Incentive programs are a great way to motivate you employees and boost morale. However, there are some things that can prevent your program from succeeding. Forbes contributors Bill Fotsch and John Case described asking a group of conference attendees if they felt their company’s incentive program was effective and only a few hands were raised. Fotsch and Case detailed what to avoid to have the most successful program.


1.      Avoid isolating individuals as much as you can

Fotsch and Case explained that incentive programs have the potential to garner resentment among employees who may feel left out. They explained that giving a bonus to sales staff could make those in the customer service department feel unappreciated.

-          Harvard Business Review stated that incentives have the capacity to make others feel punished if they do not receive a reward.

-          Incentives within specific departments are great, but make the goals as specific to the department as you can.


2.      Make sure employees are involved in creating the program

The article warns against creating a program without input from those who will participate. Fotsch and Case said that many incentive programs come from companies’ human resources departments. While well-intentioned, programs created by another department can fail to reflect the needs and culture of that team.

-          When creating an incentive program, invite a few employees from the team you want to motivate to give their thoughts.


3.      Do not let it disappear

Fotsch and Case warned against letting your program disappear. Too many programs are announced with excitement only to not be mentioned again within a month. If employees are not assured that the program is still happening, motivation will disappear.

-          Add check-ins into your regular company newsletter or mention it at meetings to remind employees that the program is still going on and to keep them informed on its progress.


4.      Make sure you actually have the budget to implement the program.

At the end of the program, everyone meets the goal and you need to hand out the rewards. It may be easy to plan a 6-month-long incentive program and assume that you will have the budget by the time you reach the end, but Fotsch and Case argued that this is where many plans fall through. Factor recognition and incentives into your budget so that there are fiscal barriers at the end of your program.

-          When creating and budgeting for your program, assume that your whole team will hit their goal.

-          Showing that incentive programs do provide benefits will set a precedent for future programs.


5.      Make sure the program will not promote bad behavior.

We saw this with Wells Fargo in 2016 when employees received a benefit for each new account they opened. The incentive was so motivating that many employees engaged in unethical behavior to receive their rewards.

-          Be there to support those in the program. Ask how they are doing and keep track of their progress.


Become an RPI member! Learn how here.


To learn more about RPI’s 7 Best Practice Standards, click here.



Tags:  awards  incentives  rewards  RPI 7 Best Practices 

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A Simple Breakdown of Incentives

Posted By Ava Ewald, Friday, February 28, 2020
 RPI is a leader in recognition program development, creating 7 Best Practice Standards® to help your organization successfully build its own recognition program. Standard 1 is recognition strategy. Incentives are a great way to recognize your employees. We will break down what this looks like below.


According to Business News Daily, incentives are more important than ever in today’s competitive job market. Motivating your employees can help you retain them and create a lasting impression for your company.


What they are:

An important thing to remember is that incentives are not rewards. Incentives are bonuses, prizes or experiences that are given on the condition that an employee or team meets a goal, while rewards are given to someone who has achieved something without a prize motivating them. Incentives can be implemented based on a point system, customer feedback, sales or something else. There are many creative incentive programs out there to help you motivate your employees.


What they do:

Incentives are an extremely powerful motivator for employees. Introducing a fun competition invites employees to be more engaged and go the extra mile. A 2018 Cornell University study demonstrated that these programs also significantly improve job satisfaction.


Ideas to get started:

Identify goals for your employees. Once you know what changes you would like to see, you can start building your incentive program. Fast Company gives some excellent examples of incentive programs you can use for your employees. There is a lot of room for creativity in these programs. Make them fun!


Want to learn more about recognition programs? Become an RPI member today!

Learn more about RPI’s 7 Best Practice Standards here.



Tags:  incentives  recognition  RPI 7 Best Practices 

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Rewards Versus Incentives: How Are They Different?

Posted By Ava Ewald, Thursday, February 27, 2020

 RPI created its 7 Best Practice Standards® based on a wealth of knowledge and research in order to help you build or better your recognition program. Standard 1 is recognition strategy and Standard 2 is management responsibility. Both are key to carrying out a successful recognition program. Below you will learn more about the differences between rewards and incentives.


The terms “incentive” and “reward” are often mistakenly used interchangeably, and it is crucial to understand the difference between them when crafting a successful recognition program. Here, we will break down both.



According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of incentive is “something that incites or has a tendency to incite to determination or action.”


Incentives are set in the hopes of motivating employees to achieve something rather than giving them a reward after they have already done something. These programs are great ways to boost morale, teamwork and job satisfaction because they set a goal. Fast Company gives a few great examples of ways you can incentivize your employees.

·         Offer a monetary bonus for anyone who can produce a well-thought-out plan to grow or better the company.

·         Adjust employees’ schedules so that their workday is based on how long it takes them to complete tasks, not a set 9 am-5 pm window. This has the potential to make employees much more efficient.

·         Rethink how you offer equity. The article suggests giving more equity based on the worth of the company rather than how long the employee has been there. This incentivizes everyone to work toward bettering the company.



According to Oxford Dictionary, the definition of reward is “a thing given in recognition of one's service, effort or achievement.”


Rewards are a great way to recognize an employee who has already done something great. They can make your employees feel appreciated and build a positive workplace community. Forbes suggests a few ways you can do this.

·         Giving a sincere “thank you” is so simple, yet so effective. Taking the time to tell an employee how much you appreciate them in person can go a long way.

·         Recognize an employee in front of their coworkers via email, in a meeting or at a company event. This not only instills a sense of pride but also demonstrates what behavior you want to see.

·         Pay attention to their interests and give them rewards you know they will like. For example, if they love baseball, leave a few tickets on their desk.


Want to learn more about recognition programs? Become an RPI member today!

Learn more about RPI’s 7 Best Practice Standards here.

Tags:  incentives  recognition  rewards  RPI 7 Best Practices 

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Why Recognizing Employees on Social Media is so Important

Posted By Ava Ewald, Thursday, February 20, 2020

RPI’s 7 Best Practice Standards® were developed based on a wealth of knowledge, experience and academic sources. These practices were designed to help you build a successful recognition program. The first standard is recognition strategy and the second standard is management responsibility. You have the power to create a culture of recognition. Here is why you should include social media in your strategy:


1.       It is a natural environment for millennial and gen-z employees

Incentive Magazine wrote in an article about the prevalence of social media among millennials. In fact, three-quarters of them spend 1.8 hours on social media every day. Millennials have made their way into the workforce and gen-z is arriving. These generations have grown up using the internet and are thus accustomed to interacting online. While sending out a tweet or Facebook post thanking an employee for their good work may seem impersonal, it is actually a highly effective way to meet employees where they are.

2.       It is convenient

A lot of us have either a smartphone or a laptop in front of us at any given time. All it takes is a minute or two to send out a tweet. This can go a long way coming from the official company social media accounts. Remember to make your recognition as specific as you can with the character limit. The clearer you are about what you are recognizing, the better. The employee feels like you have paid attention to their work and you further your standards and values for your company.

3.       It helps your brand

Mashable highlighted an example of how social media can help a brand. A Best Western hotel created a Facebook page “Wallace Should Win” for an employee who was nominated for an industry award. A great number of their guests visited the page. This not only helped Wallace’s campaign, but also brought positive publicity to the hotel. Obviously, this is an extreme example, but using social media to show how much you value your employees will help your brand be seen as positive and collaborative.

4.       It builds community

One of Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Reports found that 92% of people trust earned media, meaning recommendations and information from their peers. Social media has proven to be a powerful tool for building community. By harnessing the power of social media to recognize and encourage employees, you are building your community.


Tips from Incentive Magazine:

-          Be consistent. Recognizing employees on a regular basis via social platforms can show that recognition is something employees should expect. It can be a great motivator.

-          Use pictures. If you have a recognition event or an awesome conference — share it!

-          Make posts searchable with a unique hashtag so you can keep a record of your recognition online.

-          Start discussions on social platforms. Engagement is key to a successful social media strategy.


To learn more about RPI’s 7 Best Practices click here.

Check out our new resource hub here!


Tags:  recognition  RPI 7 Best Practices  social media 

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