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Innovative Employee Reward Ideas for 2024

Coming up with great employee recognition and reward ideas can be hard! No one team is the same, so that’s why we’re providing you with some inspiration to help you come up with ideas that will make a difference in your own organization and incentivize great work. These might spark a new idea or help you iterate on one you’ve been noodling on for a while, so let’s dive in!

wrapped presents and balloons

Care Packages

Sending personalized care packages to your team can be a great way to brighten their day and help them feel appreciated. These packages can be a great form of encouragement, especially when they're customized to the needs of your employees. You can give your employees a package that helps them feel good, or even just a little bit more energized. Giving them food, water, or even a gift card can help boost their spirits and make a big difference in their day.

Sending a package to your employees can also be a great, inexpensive way to celebrate your team's accomplishments. You can send a package to congratulate them on a successful quarter, or thank them for something they've worked hard on.

Seasonal packages can also be a great way to welcome back employees after a holiday weekend or celebrate upcoming festivities!

books with glasses on top

Professional Development Opportunities

Most employees love opportunities to hone their skills and advance their careers. The best employers and managers encourage that spirit through opportunities for employees to learn about new skills or gain more experience.

Offering your employees the chance to go to a conference or gain outside experience can be a great way to show them that you value their professional development. If you have employees who are interested in learning about new skills or putting themselves out there, consider offering them a ticket to an upcoming conference of their choice. 

You can also look at some lightweight options like gifting a Skillshare or Masterclass subscription or purchasing some books of their choice, and blocking off time for them to study without interruption.

Rewarding employees with opportunities for professional development is a great way to keep your employees engaged, show your employees that you value their career development, and make sure your team is on the cutting edge.

growing flower

Donation to a Preferred Nonprofit

Your team cares about more than just work, and they will be especially happy when you take time to support the nonprofits they care about. Whether your entire team is passionate about a charity, or it's just a few employees, encouraging them to support the charities they care about is a great way to show your care for them.

Impact and employee engagement go hand in hand. When employees feel like they're making a positive difference in their community, and that their employer is doing the same, it makes their work that much more meaningful.

Consider going a step further and bringing your team together to volunteer time for a great cause!

person leaving work

Time Off!

Giving your employees a day off encourages them to take care of themselves first. It also boosts creativity and can help teams come back with fresh eyes and new ideas. The past couple of years haven’t been easy on any of us, so any time off is something your team can look forward to. You might even learn a little more about one another by sharing what you did in your time off!

team video chat

Personalized Cameo Video

Getting praise from your peers is great. Getting praise from your manager is excellent. Getting praise from your favorite athlete or actor is phenomenal!

Cameo offers personalized videos from stars, and your employees will love getting a custom video from their favorites. This can be a great reward for a team that's been working hard lately, or for an employee who's going above and beyond the call of duty.

Who wouldn't want to see a video from Tony Hawk made just for them?

Custom Bobblehead

Alright, not everyone needs this one, but a custom bobblehead is pretty great, right? There are a few different services that will make bobble heads in the likeness of people with just a picture. Your employees will be delighted to receive a bobblehead of themselves (or their pets). Or, you can create a bobblehead of the company mascot.

If you order multiple bobble heads, you can create a fun bobblehead display. Either way, your employees might just remember that latest and greatest project when they see their bobble heads around the office or on their desk.

person in lotus position

Meditation or Yoga App Subscription

Taking time to reflect and focus on oneself is necessary to avoid burnout. Employees who are stressed and overworked are less engaged, more likely to leave, and are just less happy. One part of fostering your team's culture of wellness could include a subscription to a meditation or yoga app like Calm or Headspace. This kind of subscription can be a great way to help your employees feel better and help them recharge their batteries.

Don't forget to block off time for your employees to actually use those apps, too. Consider blocking morning meetings for a couple days of the week to allow employees to use the app instead of feeling the need to jump into work right away. Building a healthy culture will take some time, but steps like this can help you get started on the right path.

A Snail Mail Thank You Letter

Every employee wants to feel valued, and knowing how your efforts contributed to a positive outcome can be one of the most motivating parts of working. As a leader, you're responsible for crafting appreciation messages and encouraging others to do the same. A great way to do this is with a handwritten, mailed note.

These thank you letters don't need to be pages long, but there's something special about a thoughtful, hand-written, mail-delivered note, especially this year. Snail mail is making a comeback, and your employees will appreciate the gesture.

When it comes to thank you letters, a few words can go a long way. Keep your note short and sweet, and write about how the person's efforts impacted the team, the business, customers, and any other stakeholders involved.

For more on writing thank you letters, read our article on how to write messages of appreciation.

book with star cover and bookmark

Personalized Swag

Personalized swag is a great way to give something nice to your employees, as well as to create a strong culture. Sure, pens and water bottles are kind of useful, but going a step further and asking your team what they want and carving out a budget for quality items can make all the difference. Maybe that means ordering a set of custom sweatshirts for the holidays, treating your team to personalized, quality yoga mats for an upcoming retreat, or rewarding your team mixologist with a monogrammed cocktail kit. Swag can be good quality!

There’s a general excitement when your company gives out swag. There’s the “wow factor” when you see the new item that’s been created just for you. It’s a great way to create a sense of belonging for your employees, especially when the team is decked out in fresh gear.

Support a Local Business with Gift Cards

Whether it's your favorite watering hole, the store down the street, or the brunch place your team raves about on weekends, giving your employees a gift certificate will help you support a local business. Gift cards are a great way to give your employees a little something to get them through the work day, or to support your local community.

Ask your team which local businesses they love to support, and see if they offer gift cards. At the very least you'll make your team happier and learn more about your community along the way. Local businesses love being supported, and often will offer discounts for bulk gift card orders, which means you'll get more value for your gift.

party popper, party hat, and banner

Customize Rewards for Your Team

Your team is one of a kind! So treat them that way, and get to know them before rushing in on rewards. Remember, a great place to start is by asking your team what kind of rewards they prefer. And remember, bad rewards are worse than no rewards. Don't be the manager who rewards their team who spent weeks going above and beyond with a keychain.

Rewards at work aren't just a positive gesture, they encourage and guide culture. It's your job to align rewards, recognition, and company culture to reinforce strong values. Long-term success with employee rewards requires a thoughtful strategy and consistency.

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Alex Sumner