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What happens when employee reward programs and recognition initiatives are inconsistent in a company with thousands of employees spread across the country, all wanting to feel valued and appreciated for their hard work? Some departments would celebrate achievements and others would fall short. This was the reality for Luminous Power Technologies, India's leading home electrical specialist. 

To fix the problem of inconsistency in distributing R&R and to beat the traditionalist approach of the initiative, Luminous collaborated with Empuls. After 25 years of managing a manual recognition and rewards (R&R) program, Luminous decided to modernize by implementing a digital solution.  

Empuls provided a comprehensive platform for employee recognition, rewards, and redemption, streamlining the entire process. They integrated Impulse with their current Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Information Management System and started the program. In a short period, Luminous noticed a 65% reduction in amin and HR error, engagement, and higher moral support within the team. 

Govind Bisht, the HR Manager at Luminous commented, "I would say that there has been a huge improvement in the recognition process, considering where we were earlier and where we are now. The fact that all this recognition can be done online and remotely with instant notifications to everyone involved, helps us build a culture of recognition at our firm a lot more seamlessly" 

It goes on to show how significant it is to build employee reward programs to contribute to a stronger organization. A robust R&R initiative promotes engagement and understanding between the team.  

In fact, a Gallup study has found that highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability, especially when the organizations provide them with the tools and support them by recognizing their work. Therefore, this blog will cover the basics of employee reward programs, how to create them, and more. 

What is an employee reward program? 

Employee reward programs are formally implemented initiatives within a company that let employees acknowledge their colleagues' achievements and contributions.

These programs can encompass celebrating daily efforts, significant milestones achieved, and even important personal events. So, in colloquial terms, it is a pat on the back (recognition) with a high five (reward). A reward program typically involves a combination of recognition and rewards. 

Here, recognition involves acknowledging achievements, big or small, and contributions made by employees. This can be public praise, a mention in a company newsletter, or a peer-to-peer recognition platform. 

On the other hand, rewards refer to tangible incentives given to employees for meeting goals, exceeding expectations, or demonstrating desired behaviors. These rewards can be monetary, which may be bonuses, gift cards, or non-monetary like extra time off, or professional development opportunities. If a well-structured employee reward program is run, HR reps can notice the employees with: 

  • Increased motivation 
  • Improved performance 
  • Reduced turnover 
  • and a sense of community and appreciation within a company. 

Let us go through the quantified study of why employee reward and recognition initiatives are needed. 

A quantified study of running an employee reward program:

- A Gallup study revealed very engaged Teams that are in the top 20% have recorded 41% less absenteeism and 50% are much less likely to leave their jobs.

- The same study showed that engaged employees are excited about their work and bring a positive attitude every day.

- The same Gallup report shows that businesses with happy and engaged employees have lower turnover rates. There can be an 18% difference in turnover between business units with high and low employee engagement.

- The report also shows the positive impact is even more dramatic in organizations with a low turnover rate. Highly engaged business units can see a 43% difference in turnover in these businesses.

- 89% HR leaders believe that regularly getting feedback from colleagues and having regular check-ins are important for success.

- According to a Salesforce study, employees who perceive their voices are valued 4.6 times more likely to be empowered to deliver their best work.

Now that we have gotten to understand the significance of creating a successful employee reward program, and how it is interlinked with the psychological being of the employees into retention, and less absenteeism, let us learn how to create an employee reward and recognition program. 

How to create an employee reward and recognition program? 

Here is a breakdown of the steps to create an employee reward and recognition program: 

1. Define program objectives: Conduct a needs assessment to identify the desired outcomes. Ask yourself questions like: Is the goal to enhance employee morale? Will it improve performance in a specific area, or reduce turnover? Setting clear objectives helps tailor the program for maximum impact. 

2. Understand your workforce: Conduct surveys or focus groups to understand employee motivators. Do they value public recognition, professional development opportunities, or flexible work arrangements? Aligning rewards with employee preferences increases program effectiveness. 

3. Establish recognition criteria: Develop a clear framework outlining what behaviors and achievements warrant recognition. Focus on actions that align with company values and strategic goals. 

4. Design a multifaceted recognition strategy: Offer a diverse range of rewards, both monetary (bonuses, gift cards) and non-monetary (additional paid time off, wellness programs, skills development courses). This caters to different preferences and fosters a sense of choice. 

5. Develop a sustainable budget: Allocate resources for the program based on your needs assessment and organizational budget. Consider offering tiered rewards with varying costs to optimize resource utilization. 

6. Implement a comprehensive communication plan: Communicate program guidelines, eligibility criteria, and participation methods through various channels (company newsletter, internal portal, team meetings). Consistent communication ensures program awareness and understanding. 

7. Ensure consistent program execution: Foster a culture of recognition by encouraging timely and frequent acknowledgment of achievements. Regular recognition reinforces positive behaviors and maintains program momentum. 

8. Continuously monitor and evaluate: Track program usage, employee sentiment, and the impact on key objectives. Conduct surveys and gather feedback to gauge program effectiveness and identify areas for improvement. 

9. Foster continuous improvement: Be prepared to adapt the program based on data and employee feedback. This could involve revising reward options, adjusting nomination processes, or incorporating new recognition methods. 

A list of 5 unique employee reward programs to implement: 

Following are the 5 unique employee reward programs that you can implement: 

1. Personalized recognition and rewards 

This program caters to individual preferences, moving beyond a one-size-fits-all approach. Employees might earn points through their performance or contributions, which they can then redeem for a variety of rewards on a personalized platform.  

These rewards could include gift cards to their favorite stores, additional vacation days to pursue hobbies or tickets to events they would enjoy. This level of customization fosters a sense of agency and allows employees to choose rewards that truly motivate them. 

Example: Southwest Airlines' SWAG (Southwest Airlines Gratitude) program is an excellent example of a personalized recognition and rewards program. Employees earn points for their performance and contributions, which they can then redeem for a variety of rewards on a central platform. These rewards cater to individual preferences and go beyond just travel incentives. Employees can choose from options like: 

- Rapid rewards points for personal travel,

- Guest passes to share the travel experience with loved ones,

- Fun merchandise like headphones or sunglasses,

- Gift cards to their favorite stores,

- Visa debit cards for added spending flexibility,

The program allows employees to save up points as they never expire. It also provides them with the freedom to choose rewards that truly motivate them. 

2. Peer-to-peer recognition and rewards 

This program fosters a collaborative and appreciative work environment. A platform might allow colleagues to nominate each other for awards, give points for outstanding contributions, or send personalized e-cards with messages of thanks.  

This fosters a sense of community and allows employees to feel valued not just by management, but also by their peers. Recognition from colleagues can be highly motivating and build stronger team bonds. 

Example: Online shoe and clothing retailer Zappos is famous for its peer-to-peer program. Employees can award each other colorful play money called "Zollars" for outstanding work or helpfulness. Recipients can use Zollars at the company store for fun branded merchandise or donate them to a local charity. 

3. Experience-based rewards 

This program goes beyond the traditional and offers unique experiences as incentives. Think beyond the standard bonus or gift card. Examples could include wellness retreats to promote work-life balance, cooking classes to encourage team building, or tickets to sporting events or concerts to create lasting memories. These types of rewards cater to a desire for new experiences and create a positive association with achieving goals. 

Example: According to Insider, Airbnb offers its employees a $2,000 annual travel stipend to stay in Airbnb listings anywhere in the world. With unique and diverse listings across 191 countries, this program allows employees to experience diverse cultures, immerse themselves in new locations, and truly live the Airbnb brand. This is quite different from a traditional bonus and creates a memorable reward that fosters a deeper connection to the company's mission. 

4. Flexible work arrangements and benefits 

This program recognizes the importance of work-life balance and empowers employees to manage their time effectively. It offers options like remote work schedules that allow for greater control over daily routines, compressed workweeks that condense the workweek into fewer days, or additional paid time off to recharge and pursue personal interests. This program demonstrates trust in employees and can significantly reduce stress, leading to increased productivity and satisfaction. 

Example: The technology giant Dell has emerged as a frontrunner in offering flexible work arrangements. Their innovative "Connected Workplace" program, launched in 2009, empowers employees to work remotely, either full-time or on a hybrid basis. This program prioritizes results over rigid schedules, allowing employees to structure their workdays in a way that best suits their needs and maximizes productivity. The program's success speaks for itself, with over 60% of Dell's global workforce now embracing flexible work options. 

5. Professional development opportunities

This program invests in the future of your employees and the company.  It provides opportunities for employees to learn new skills and enhance their expertise.   

This could include sponsoring employees to attend industry conferences, offering tuition reimbursement for relevant courses, or developing in-house training programs on emerging technologies or best practices. By investing in employee growth, companies not only retain valuable talent but also build a more skilled and adaptable workforce. 

Example: Palo Alto Networks offers a program called FLEXLearn, designed to equip employees with the skills and knowledge they need to achieve their professional goals. This program provides a structured and customizable learning experience, featuring courses on several topics like leadership development, conflict resolution, and communication. Additionally, employees can pursue certifications in the company's products and participate in mentoring programs for further guidance and support. 

Let us understand through case studies how reward programs drive engagement.  

Case studies 

The following are two case studies for a better understanding of reward programs. 

1. H&M records 52% of employees receiving nominations in the last fiscal year with Xoxoday integration 

H&M is a multinational clothing company based in Sweden that focuses on fast fashion clothing, employing over 171,000 individuals worldwide They are a major player in the fashion industry. They have a vast retail network strategically located across over 73 countries, with 4,900 stores. However, their employee rewards program encountered several challenges. 


H&M had a well-managed, internally developed HRMS in place. However, they faced the following issues in the distribution of rewards to employees worldwide.  

The initial reward system solely offered cash incentives distributed with employee salaries. This method resulted in a diminished perceived value due to flat tax rates applied to the reward amount. 

They distributed rewards within the payroll process. It created logistical complexities. Rewarding employees led to communicational exhaustion between logistics and HR teams, and awardees. 

For on-site employees specifically, reward value was further diminished due to currency conversion rates and applicable taxes upon receipt. 


To understand employee needs, H&M's HR team conducted biannual surveys. Employee feedback indicated a desire for a more robust reward system. In response, the HR team implemented a point-based reward program for Xoxoday. They,

  • Placed a point-based system that offers a wider range of reward categories, including performance-based awards, tenure recognition, and both team and manager accolades.  
  • Noticed a reduction in the value of rewards due to a flat tax structure. Xoxoday's solution offers a predefined tax exemption limit and ensures employees receive and redeem the full value of their earned points. 
  • Started on-site reward distribution through a customizable point system. 


After Xoxoday's integration with H&M's HRMS, they noticed, 

  • An increased peer-to-peer and manager nominations, with 52% of employees receiving nominations in the last fiscal year.  
  • 10% of the workforce was awarded 
  • Reduction in the need for extensive interdepartmental coordination by the HR team 
  • Strong employee support for the Xoxoday program, with many employees providing direct feedback on its advantages. 

2. Prodevans records a 70% employee engagement rate after Empuls integration 

Prodevans is a leading technology solutions provider that specializes in streamlining and automating IT delivery through end-to-end DevOps services. Sushma Shriram serves as the Human Resources Manager at Prodevans Technologies. Her primary focus lies in establishing and leading a variety of human resource initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion. Therefore, to ensure a prominent level of employee engagement, encompassing both Prodevans' office staff and those stationed at client locations, Prodevans integrated its service with Empuls.  


The HR team was keen on streamlining the existing R&R process. Moreover, they wanted to make a fun and frictionless experience for everyone. Their challenges included: 

  • Purchasing gift vouchers and distributing cash incentives was a hassle for HR. 
  • Gift voucher choices were restricted and expired. Apart from Amazon vouchers, Prodevans also distributed cash incentives for employee performance. 
  • This was creating inconvenience for employees. 
  • Employees could not easily express gratitude to colleagues. 
  • Remote work hampered communication and connection within the company. 
  • The team faced challenges with survey participation and submission rates. 


Empuls became the perfect solution for driving R&R effectively. Empuls: 

  • Streamlined the reward and recognition process for both HR and employees. HR could easily create and manage fun R&R initiatives with Empuls' monthly employee engagement calendars. 
  • Let employees accumulate points and redeem them at their convenience from a wide selection of reward options. 
  • Facilitated easy and visible recognition between colleagues. 
  • Helped foster communication and connection among the geographically dispersed workforce. 
  • Intranet feature that solved the issue of intercommunication 
  • Helped Prodevans organize Saturday team meetings called "How are we doing?" every week as a peer-bonding meeting.  


For Prodevans, Empuls has become the single point for everything employee engagement. The integration helped Prodevans record: 

  • 70% of Prodevans' employees actively participate and engage with peers on Empuls. 
  • Significant increase in survey submission rates. 
  • Foster communication. 


Employee reward programs are important because they address fundamental human needs in the workplace. By acknowledging and rewarding employees, you create a more motivated, productive, and loyal team. To run a seamless employee reward initiative, consider integrating Empuls. It is an employee rewards platform designed to elevate motivation and engagement within organizations. Moreover, it offers: 

  • The flexibility to choose rewards that resonate with them. 
  • A vast catalog of over 1mn+ reward options across 20+ categories, including brand vouchers, experiences, e-gift cards, wellness, merchandise, subscriptions, and more. 
  • Detailed financial reports for organizations to analyze the success of their recognition programs. 
  • Integration with everyday collaboration, HRIS/HRMS/HCM, and single sign-on tools to make it easy for employees to navigate and use the platform.  

Make your employees feel valued and motivated for higher employee engagement. Create robust employee reward programs to foster productivity and satisfaction. 

Motivate Employees through an Effective Rewards and Recognition Programs.
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Nagma Nasim

Nagma Nasim

Nagma is a content writer who creates informative articles, blogs & other engaging content. In her free time, you can find her immersed in academic papers, novels, or movie marathons.