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The worst employee rewards

Posted on: Wednesday August 30, 2017

First published in Incentive and Motivation  Feb 2016

Here are the biggest pitfalls to avoid when it comes to rewards and benefits

Unfortunately bad benefits and rewards do exist. People spend so much time trying to make sure that the perfect benefits programme is in place that managers may be making silly mistakes and offering rewards that staff don’t really want, or even worse, are counterproductive and are actually dis-incentivising staff. Here are the biggest pitfalls to avoid when it comes to rewards and benefits. Although you may be tempted to try some of these, they do nothing for employee engagement. Remember, it isn’t a box ticking exercise, benefits and rewards need to be well thought out to ensure you keep your staff happy and engaged at work.

  1. Rewards as a distraction

If you give rewards before bad news, your staff will notice. Ice creams for all before announcing budget cuts or announcing new bonus schemes at the same time as imminent redundancies will not be well received. All it will achieve is annoyance amongst your workforce. When times are tough, sugar-coating things with benefits will not work and the likelihood is that your employees will end up being actively dis-engaged.

  1. Rewards without research

As with all rewards and benefits, do your research. Don’t choose the rewards that you would like to receive personally, that will be worthless to your employees. Avoid arbitrary reward distribution too. Just handing out rewards to staff without any reasoning behind it devalues the reward and means that staff will not appreciate them- no matter how generous the manager think it makes them look. It should be clear what behaviour is being rewarded so that it can inspire others to replicate it.

  1. One size fits all rewards

Today, there are more generations at work than ever before, so it is unlikely that every member of staff will be thanking you when a fruit hamper appears at their desk. This doesn’t mean that you should offer rewards altogether. All it means is that you need to realise that every member of staff may not appreciate the same rewards and benefits so make sure that there is enough on offer to suit the preferences of your staff.

  1. Quirky rewards

Introducing quirky benefits so you look like a fun employer can work but often doesn’t. There is a fine line. Offering staff who work late free beer and takeaways might make you look cool but doing it too often might also look like you are working against your own wellness policies. Bring your pet to work day is all the rage now, but does that alienate those with allergies who will spend the day sneezing? Think about how these benefits will be perceived by others. Think about the motivations for providing the reward, will they really be valued by your staff in the long term or does it just serve as a nice bit of PR for the company?

  1. Only rewarding the big things

When devising a rewards scheme you need to think about how to engage all staff. If only sales people are constantly being recognised for their hard work, then a sense of apathy may plague the office, leaving the rest of the team reluctant to try. In the moment recognition is one way to avoid this. Thank those who go above and beyond in their role so they aren’t constantly competing against everyone in the business. Receiving a small thank you for doing a good job is sometimes all it takes to keep staff happy and engaged at work.

To discuss your employee benefits strategy, you can call Personal Group on 01908 605000 or email


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