Non-traditional ways to reward innovative employees

There has been much written about bonuses and rewards in the press in recent years; mainly linked to the banking industry, people have been disgusted at the millions of pounds in bonuses that employees seem to have been ‘earning’ in recent years.

However, difficulties lie in the fact some employees and their performance are seen as ‘undeserving’, thus in the face of opposition, companies and businesses are deciding that the time has come to take a look at non-traditional ways to reward innovative employees, with corporate massage being top of the list!

Four approaches

There are 4 approaches you can take to such a reward programme, 4 of which are highlighted here:

  • Compensation

Simply handing out a cheque or a wad of cash is no longer the way to reward employees however, motivating employees in the short term usually falls to some form of financial compensation. Some large, global corporations have started to set the trend…

  • Peer-to-peer rewards – Zappos have started a scheme by which employees award cash bonuses to other colleagues
  • Incentive awards – some small businesses shirk away from giving cash rewards, but again some larger businesses have set the trend by setting a ceiling to the amount that they will award employees who go above and beyond. However, they also set what is considered ‘above and beyond’.


  • Gifting

The second approach that many companies take is the act of gifting, something that rewards employees in the short term but also evoke longer term loyalty too.

  • Experiential – most small businesses will struggle with this but larger companies have started to offer exotic holidays to employees who are innovative. If this sounds far too big an investment to make, some smaller businesses offer an extra day or two…
  • Prestige – these rewards are a ‘luxury’ item that employees may not necessarily buy themselves; one large global firm award employees with champagne etc. Is this something your business can do?
  • Points system – some companies have created a points system that employees amass as they create projects etc. Some companies have linked this creatively with their business, such as those in the gaming industry.


  • Recognition

Employees enjoy recognition but in this case, it may not always be the positive outcomes…

  • Failure – ‘celebrating’ failure may sound a bit odd but some of companies in the creative industry – technical innovation or advertising, for example – celebrate the demise of a project. Rather than seeing this as negative thing, they celebrate what they have learnt from the project and why it failed. In terms of awards, they celebrate the end with awards, along with champagne!
  • Recognition board – this is something that many companies can do; they choose employees at random and create a VIP board. This board, with photos of the employee, tells their story, listing their achievements. There are many different ways of displaying these too!

·        Perks

These are rewards that are built into the work environment and can make a huge impact on staff morale; even better there is no limit on how big the company needs to be…

  • Pets at work – some companies host ‘bring your pet to work’ day; many employees do this, with dogs being more than welcome in the office. The use of pets, especially dogs as therapy and service dogs, are being increasingly recognised as having positive benefits.
  • Corporate massage – many companies are realising the benefits of offering corporate massage, usually the chair massage. The company calls with the chair, and employees are invited to have a 20 minute massage over the top of clothes, focusing on the back, shoulders and neck. If your business cannot afford to pay for the whole thing, why not offer it as a subsidised rate.

There are many other examples of perks that can be offered to employees in a ways that award good behaviour, attendance and work in a non-traditional way. Anything from a massage to a complimentary car wash is always welcome!

Not only money

Although bonus cheque is a great way of rewarding people, there are many businesses in various sectors that are unable or unwilling to use cash as a reward, thus thinking of ways to recognition staff contributions outside of these parameters can be difficult.

However, there is one additional factor that must be remembered and that is communication. Simply plunging on in and starting to award employees in a random kind of way can actually create a huge amount of ill-feeling.

Like other schemes that you may run for time to time, you will need to communicate the award scheme to your employees. This way people can decide if they wish to partake and, if they do, alter their behaviour accordingly…