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One of the best performances rewards would definitely be Target, their innovative approach to employee satisfaction is a key driver of their success. Instead of relying heavily on temporary hires during peak seasons, they're investing in their core workforce. This means more hours and higher pay for year-round staff, giving them financial security and flexibility. 

But Target's commitment goes beyond just compensation. Their debt-free education benefit is a game-changer, offering employees a clear path to career advancement and personal growth. This investment in their people fosters a positive and motivated work environment, and it's paying off. Target's focus on employee well-being is a major reason they climbed so high on the Forbes' World's Best Employers list. It's a win-win for both Target and its workforce! 

Effective rewards recognize and celebrate achievements, boost employee morale, and motivate them to strive for excellence. But with so many options available, how do you choose the right performance rewards?  

Understanding your employees' needs and preferences 

Before diving into specific rewards, it's essential to understand what motivates your workforce. Not everyone is driven by the same things. Some may value financial incentives like bonuses or raises, while others might prefer opportunities for professional development or flexible work arrangements. 

Here are some strategies to get a pulse on your employees' preferences: 

  • Surveys: Conduct anonymous surveys to gather feedback on preferred reward types. 
  • Focus Groups: Organize focus groups to have in-depth discussions about what motivates employees and their ideal recognition programs. 
  • Open-door Policy: Foster a culture of open communication where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and aspirations. 

By understanding what truly motivates your workforce, you can tailor your reward program to offer a mix of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards that cater to various needs. 

Intrinsic vs. extrinsic rewards 

Intrinsic rewards are those that come from within, such as a sense of accomplishment, mastery of a skill, or the satisfaction of a job well done. 

Extrinsic rewards are tangible or intangible benefits provided by the organization, such as bonuses, public recognition, or additional paid time off. 

An effective performance reward system incorporates both types of rewards.  Intrinsic rewards foster long-term engagement and job satisfaction, while extrinsic rewards provide a more immediate recognition of achievements. 

Aligning rewards with business goals 

Your performance reward system should be directly linked to your overall business goals and objectives. 

What are the key results you want to achieve? 

What behaviors and skills do you need to incentivize? 

For example, if you aim to boost sales, consider offering commission-based bonuses or sales incentives. If teamwork and collaboration are crucial for your success, rewarding successful team projects can be a better approach. 

Aligning rewards with business goals ensures that your program is driving the desired performance improvements. 

Variety is key! 

Don't fall into the trap of offering a one-size-fits-all reward. Employees have diverse preferences and providing a variety of reward options caters to these differences. 

Here are some examples to consider: 

  • Monetary rewards: Bonuses, profit-sharing, sales commissions. 

Example- Microsoft offers unique compensation with a focus on equity ownership and long-term rewards. Employees get stock options, aligning their success with the company's, and long-term benefits to foster loyalty.  

  • Time off: Additional paid time off, flexible work arrangements, compressed workweeks. 

Example- IBM, a tech leader, is known for both innovation and employee benefits. They offer flexible work options like remote work and flexible hours, empowering employees to manage work-life balance and contribute effectively.   

This trust in autonomy fosters a results-oriented environment where employees feel empowered and satisfied.  Their benefits extend beyond work hours, with programs focused on well-being and professional development. 

IBM's approach shows the power of flexible work and prioritizing employee well-being.  By creating a motivated workforce, they pave the way for a future of work that benefits both individuals and companies.  

  • Professional development: Training opportunities, conference registrations, tuition reimbursement, education and loan assistance. 

Example- Earn your bachelor's degree with Starbucks! Get 100% tuition coverage, coaching, and advisor support through Arizona State University's online programs.   

Student Loan Management Help: Starbucks offer resources and coaches through to navigate financing and manage student loan debt. 

  • Recognition: Public recognition programs, awards, employee of the month programs.  
  • Experiences: Tickets to sporting events, team outings, wellness programs. 
  • Work-life balance benefits: On-site childcare, gym memberships, telecommuting options. 

Example- Tech titan Apple sets itself apart not just for groundbreaking products but also for its progressive approach to employee well-being. Recognizing that a healthy workforce is a happy and productive workforce, Apple offers a comprehensive suite of wellness programs designed to nurture employees' physical and mental health.  These initiatives range from fitness programs and on-site gyms to mental health resources and access to specialists. 

Apple fosters a company culture that prioritizes well-being.  The company actively promotes a healthy work-life balance and encourages employees to make self-care a priority. This cultural emphasis on well-being translates into a more engaged and satisfied workforce, ultimately benefiting both employees and the company itself. 

By offering a mix of reward categories, you ensure there's something for everyone, making your program more inclusive and appealing. 

Case study- Cisco Connected Recognition Program 


Cisco's Connected Recognition program is an employee recognition program that allows employees to nominate their peers and managers for various awards. Employees who are nominated receive points that can be redeemed for a variety of rewards, including gift cards, home goods, furniture, sports equipment, and tech gear. 

Value proposition 

The Connected Recognition program is designed to achieve a number of objectives, including: 

  • Highlighting Cisco's core values 
  • Making employees feel appreciated 
  • Increasing employee engagement 
  • Boosting morale 

Employee story 

David Faik, one of the employees at Cisco was able to use points he earned through the program to help fund a seven-day stay at a luxury resort in Thailand. Faik's experience highlights the fact that the Connected Recognition program can provide employees with significant rewards. 

Cisco's Connected Recognition program is a successful employee recognition program that has a number of benefits for both employees and the company. The program is a great way to show employees that their hard work is appreciated, and it can also help to boost morale and engagement. 

Did you know about Unilever's Award-Winning Recognition? 

Unilever has a very strong approach to motivating, recognizing, and rewarding employees for their hard work. 

Here’s how they did it: 

Global Recognition: Unilever, a major consumer goods company operating in over 190 countries, has a global program called the Unilever Heroes Award. This program honors employees who have made outstanding contributions throughout the year. 

Local Recognition: While the Heroes Award is global, Unilever also implements different employee recognition strategies in each country to complement local preferences. 

Reward Development: All countries have a reward development plan to ensure employees are recognized for their achievements. 

Transparency and clear communication 

For an effective performance reward system, transparency is paramount.  Clearly communicate the following elements to your employees: 

Eligibility criteria: Who is eligible for performance rewards? 

Performance expectations: What behaviors and achievements will be rewarded? 

Evaluation process: How will performance be measured and evaluated? 

Reward options: What types of rewards are available? 

Redemption process: How can employees claim their rewards? 

Transparency builds trust and ensures everyone understands the program's guidelines. 

Regular and timely recognition 

Timely recognition holds immense power. Don't wait for annual reviews to acknowledge achievements. Celebrate successes throughout the year – big or small. 

A quick shout-out in a team meeting, a handwritten note of appreciation, or a same-day bonus for exceeding a sales target can significantly boost employee morale and reinforce desired behaviors.   

Celebrating team achievements 

While individual performance is important, teamwork is often the driving force behind organizational success.  Recognize and reward outstanding team projects that demonstrate collaboration, problem-solving skills, and achieving shared goals.  This fosters camaraderie and encourages a collaborative work environment. 

Continually evaluate and adapt   

Your performance reward system shouldn't be static.  Schedule regular reviews to assess its effectiveness.  Gather feedback from employees through surveys or focus groups to understand if the program is meeting their needs and driving desired results. 

Here are some key questions to ask during your evaluation: 

Are the rewards motivating employees? 

Is the program aligned with current business goals? 

Are there any gaps in the reward options? 

Is the program clear, fair, and easy to understand? 

Based on your findings, be prepared to adapt the program to ensure it remains relevant and effective. 


Designing a performance reward program that truly resonates with your employees requires careful planning and consideration. By understanding their needs, aligning rewards with business goals, offering a variety of options, and fostering a culture of transparency and recognition, you can create a program that motivates top talent, improves performance, and strengthens your organization's overall success. 


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Kirti Kautalaya

Kirti Kautalaya LinkedIn