The Rewards Genius Employee Rewards Handbook

An overview of modern employee rewards, recognition, and engagement programs.

Intro to Employee Rewards

Why do people give employee rewards? There are many answers: employee recognition, appreciation, achievement, life events, referrals, safety, wellness, advocacy, feedback… the list is long. No matter your reason for giving employee rewards, it’s all about happy, healthy, productive, and engaged employees. Throughout this Employee Rewards Handbook, we’re going to touch on the why, when, what and how of employee rewards.

Why do Employee Reward Programs work?

The answer to this question goes to the core concept of any employee reward program: employee engagement. You might think, “wait a second, what about employee productivity?” People get hired because they are productive while employee reward programs are important because they are meant to foster employee engagement, which, according to the Harvard Business Review, does more than boost productivity. Focusing on employee engagement with programs that focus on things like safety, wellness, and recognition pays off big time when it comes to employee productivity, safety and turnover. Not to mention the real world feeling of having happy, healthy, engaged people around you at work – you can feel the payoff as much as measure it.



Reward associates who have identified a problem with a current process and offered an improved solution.



Motivate behavior by sending out rewards to employees for completing tasks and making healthier choices.



Recognize an employee who is going above and beyond their role. Or reward employees for surpassing goals.



Reward employees for referring candidates qualified for available positions to reduce recruiting costs and efforts.

Types of Employee Rewards


CustomInk – We enjoy Custom Ink for our basic company t-shirts, sweatshirts and other apparel. They do a great job, have great apparel options, and have the best prices around.

RainCity – RainCity Promotions has an extensive product catalog and they do a great job.

4Imprint – 4impirnt is a lovely company that has been in the swag and promotional product game a while. We love working with them.

T-shirts, mugs, sunglasses and many other items can be custom branded with your company logo and handed out to employees as a reward. This is a great way to build company morale while also increasing brand awareness.

Vacation Time

Paid time off is a great reward option for today’s overstimulated employees who often work from the moment they wake up to the minute they fall asleep with email and other app capabilities in the palm of their hands. The constant availability of technology makes it hard for people to power down, which is why vacation time in the form of reward is a wonderful incentive to treat themselves and hit the snooze button.



Team Lunch and Happy Hour

Team and cross department collaboration is important no matter what function the employee plays. Show appreciation for a job well done with a company-sponsored lunch or happy hour event at a local spot where employees can mingle and decompress with each other – on the company’s dime of course!

E-Gift Cards

Our personal favorite employee reward option is e-gift cards. They help keep costs low with instant email delivery, customizable email templates and white labeling, plus a variety of flexible choices employees love. Giving employees the option to pick their own reward allows them to treat themselves or even their loved ones to a special experience, purchase, or nonprofit donation they will remember. Check out our own catalog of e-gift card options here, we can guarantee there’s something for everyone.


How to Implement an Employee Reward Program

✓ Determine why and when rewards are given

The why and when of employee rewards are the most important parts. Giving a reward is a great way to reinforce positive or helpful behaviors. Giving rewards at the right time maximizes the impact of the rewards. Here are some common situations in which people give rewards:


✓ Determine who rewards and gets rewarded

How do you want to structure your program? Is it manager-to-peer, peer-to-peer, open ended? Knowing this will determine how you set up budgets and choose your rewards.

✓ Determine employee reward options

Choosing rewards that are meaningful and have real value to your employees will be more effective in motivating employees and/or making them feel good. Also, bear in mind feasibility of sourcing and delivering rewards for an ongoing program.
We outlined several rewards in the Types of Employee Rewards section and we encourage incorporating company specific or employee-requested rewards when appropriate. However, our go-to is always the e-gift card – specifically the Reward Link. Rewards like this allow the recipient to choose their own reward! Plus, they are cost effective, easy to add custom branding and messaging, and quick to send.

Why E-Gift Cards Make Great Employee Rewards

There is no question that rewarding employees is a great way to drive results. But how can you ensure the types of rewards your offering make sense? Rewards are not one size fit all. That’s why engagement strategies need to be individualized around personal motivations – not universal motivations.
Did you know that gift cards have been the #1 wished for holiday gift 9 years in a row and still running? E-gift cards help take the question mark out of your engagement strategy by providing the flexibility of choice. More options equal enhanced incentive, because what’s motivating to one employee may have no meaning to another. Let your employees select their own reward from over 250 options that range from a spa and travel experiences to their favorite online retailer or restaurant – the choice is theirs.


Another big part of a successful engagement program is timing. Timing is important because the employee must obtain their reward timely enough for them to remember why they received it in the first place. E-gift cards are delivered immediately to the employee’s email address which results in instant gratification and satisfaction. Whatever the employee did to receive the reward will trigger a shot of dopamine in the brain; which in turn creates a happy memory that bonds to the specific behavior that resulted in the reward.
E-gift cards keep timing in mind with instant email delivery to the employee’s inbox. With a few easy clicks, they can redeem the reward of their choice and start shopping – instantly.

 Platforms for Employee Rewards, Recognition, and Engagement

Here are some of our favorite employee engagement and employee recognition platforms:

TinyPulse – “Measure how happy, frustrated, or burnt-out your employees are, and gain real time employee feedback to create a company culture you can be proud of.”

Engagedly – “Performance Reviews, Real-Time Feedback, Ongoing Check-Ins, Goals, 360 Feedback, Recognition, Social Learning”

Fond – “Attract, Retain, and Motivate Your Employees – The Employee Engagement Suite.”

HighGround – “Successful businesses need high-performing workforces. HighGround is a real-time performance management and recognition platform.”

YouEarnedit – “Total employee engagement. One powerful platform. People. Performance. Amplified.”

Bonusly – “Make recognition fun. Love your work. Bonusly is an engaging recognition and rewards platform that enriches your company culture.”

Awardco – “Eliminate unnecessary costs, redirect rewards budgets back to employees, and simplify the recognition process altogether with Awardco.”

Referral Rock – “Best referral software for maximizing your referrals and aligning with your business. More referrals for any business.”

Motivosity – “Points & prizes are for clowns and carnivals. Motivosity is a social platform where employees can give each other small monetary bonuses for doing great things.”

Kudos – Robust recognition meets full social engagement.



Employee Rewards FAQs

A: Great question! We’ve found that employees respond well to rewards for a variety of reasons. From recognition for hitting a certain milestone to saying, “thank you” for going above and beyond on a certain project, it’s important to take the time to reward them for something positive. You can read more about why rewarding employees is beneficial here.

A: Of course, we have tons of great examples. One of our customers rewards employees for making healthy choices, which then keeps health costs down. Speaking of, did you know 2.2 trillion dollars are spent annually on unhealthy workers in the United States? Another customer uses employee rewards to incentivize safety awareness in a predominantly factory-based workplace where accidents happen but can be avoided with new procedures. Those are just a couple examples but check out the Use Case page for more examples.

A: We get asked this a lot. The answer is easy – it’s up to you! We suggest attaching a higher value to bigger tasks (i.e. $50 reward for creating and implementing a new operation procedure) and a lower value for smaller tasks (i.e. $5 for staying late in order to meet a deadline). We offer a variety of rewards ranging from brand name retailers to groceries, gas, restaurants, spa treatments, hotels, airlines, the list goes on and on. We also offer a handful of non-profit donations if you prefer a more philanthropy-focused approach to your reward program. If you’re not sure how what kind of rewards to send or how much, reach out to for guidance.

A: One great feature of Rewards Genius is that you have the option of re-sending rewards if something happens. If you’d like to take a less hands-on approach or have a bigger problem, we have a team of real people who are happy to help with any reward issues that may occur. They can be reached Monday – Friday from 7:30 am – 5:00 pm PST via email at or by telephone (877)558-2646.

A: We’re glad you asked! Please fill out this form to get started and someone from our team will be in touch with you shortly.