Awards Versus Rewards

Are You Using the Most Effective Recognition Method for Your Organization?

In many organizations, the terms “reward” and “award” are often mistaken to mean the same. Organizational leaders use them interchangeably when recognizing employees for a job well done. While both forms of recognition are an excellent way to show employee appreciation, we must decouple them and learn the pros and cons each brings to the table. You may be thinking, “What’s the difference?” Although reward and award sound the same, their meanings are actually quite different.

A reward is a compensation or incentive for doing or completing a task. These rewards are typically given in private and are usually of monetary value.

An award is recognition of personal achievement. It is a plaque or trophy (or other tangible symbol) given in front of peers to show appreciation for an employee’s incredible work and contribution to the organization.

Both types of recognition are valuable to any employee, as they give a sense of satisfaction and respect. When you consider the employee recognition process, you need to develop recognition that is equally powerful for both the organization and the employee. Many organizations find that using awards instead of rewards creates a stronger impact.

Receiving an award from an employer is an experience. When represented by a trophy or plaque, an award is a total immersion experience. The recipient, the employer and fellow employees become part of the personal encounter. This type of experience leaves a lasting impression on everyone. The symbolism of a trophy award gives everyone in the organization something to aspire to and work hard to achieve. An award focuses on the behaviors of your employees. It is a type of recognition that can happen anytime a supervisor or manager notices the positive behaviors of an employee. People want to know that what they are doing is appreciated. Giving an award celebrates people for who they are and what they do.

An award can be given for any number of reasons. Within the context of an employee appreciation program, the award ideally aligns with a company core value such as being a team player or excelling at customer service. However, there are a many reasons to recognize your employees. Recognition for milestones such as years of service or even birthdays are also worth awarding, as the employee simply receives them for achieving the longevity with the company or celebrating another year of life! Learning to recognize employees for any and all achievements builds a relationship between your organization and your employees. When people feel valued, they become loyal to their employers and continue to work hard at achieving the organization’s bigger picture.

In contrast, a reward is consumable. When employers give money as a gift it is spent until it is no more. This type of incentive is not always memorable, sometimes leaving no lasting impression on its recipient or fellow employees. A reward is often used to reinforce the occurrence of achieved results. They are outcome driven and given only when the desired outcome has been achieved.

Many employers are quick to believe monetary incentives, or rewards, are the best way to motivate their staff to achieve short-term goals. Often times, monetary rewards are given as part of an incentive program to achieve certain sales goals or exceeding quarterly earnings. Rewards tend to be more authoritarian in nature. They are granted to the recipient by a single supervisor or manager. These incentives are granted through the recipient’s paycheck (unless they are a gift card or cash), making the experience impersonal and hardly relationship building.

In some cases, employees work their entire career without ever qualifying for reward incentives. Think about your support staff, are they able to achieve sales goals in order to compete for monetary recognition. Does your organization offer personal recognition to employees who contribute to the organization’s big picture? If you answered, “No,” then it is possible that you have a lot of frustrated employees on your staff. It may also be time to rethink your employee recognition program.

Recognition programs should be structured to include your entire staff. Everyone from the employee sweeping the floor, to the employee answering customer phone calls, and the sales team member who is exceeding their goals, is working hard at their perspective position. Each one deserves recognition for the contributions they bring to your organization. Without it, many talented employees choose to leave their jobs and go to an organization that will recognize their hard work.

Many employers adopt recognition programs that offer both awards and rewards to employees. Establishing achievable criteria for what performance or contribution constitute as recognizable behavior or actions allows for all employees to be engaged in the recognition process. Your employees want to know what they contribute to the organization is of value. Recognition is not just a nice thing to do for your employees. Employee recognition is a communication tool that reinforces the most important outcomes people create for your business. Whether choosing an awards system or a rewards system, when you recognize people effectively, you reinforce the actions and behaviors you most want to see your employees repeat.

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