We spoke to Colin Eglington, CEO at Simply Thank You to get his view on how you can future proof your rewards strategy, what the best employee rewards are for 2022, how the market is changing, where to invest your reward budget and other considerations.

The predicted trends in employee rewards

“The key principle for businesses looking at rewards is to say ‘we value you.’ Right now, the biggest threat to your business is comparison. Comparison is not only the thief of joy – but of your best employees. What makes your company better to work at than your next best competitor? Is your answer tangible or intangible? How does that translate to here and now – and what would it take to tempt them away? When a business changes, as many have in the last 2 years, it’s critical to reinvent the culture that led people to join you in the first place. Public recognition of achievement, human engagement, celebration, the small moments. We’re already seeing businesses do a total 180 on their people strategy, and we think it’s just the start.

I believe that there are 5 key areas that we will see coming through. Talking to various clients, we see common threads. At the moment, these are:

  1. An increased interest in wellness and people development
  2. Rewards that meet CSR needs and support smaller business
  3. An increase in micro rewards with increased frequency
  4. Greater interest in tying People Data with rewards to see total ROI
  5. More agility in reward and recognition strategies

It’s important to add that 2022 has to be about autonomy. Employees are demanding more flexibility and freedom, and reward and recognition should help meet those needs – from development or training through to better self-management and options for a truly flexible workplace. I believe tangible rewards can play their part too – while 47% of employees say new growth opportunities are a better way to reward them for their achievements – 47% also say they want spontaneous rewards. In a time when things may be a little tricky for employees, a great reward strategy that’s not prescriptive and lets them choose what they need fits perfectly with businesses who want to make autonomy their focus.

 There will still be businesses who are questioning the ROI on rewards, but in this new world, I think the biggest question is what is the cost of NOT offering both tangible and intangible rewards? 

Studies show that people who believe that their work matters are four times more likely to be engaged, learn faster, and feel more fulfilled. Those people stay by your side. Companies with the best employee experience scores also have 2 x the return on sales and a Glassdoor rating that doesn’t make them feel nauseous. Reward and recognition is not something to take lightly. This is the year to reinforce employees’ personal sense of purpose, and it;s critical if you’ve adapted to home working. Public recognition, relevant rewards, intangible and tangible recognition – these should all be top of mind for 2022.

Consistency is key

2021 saw companies investing at least 7% more in their incentive budget, with a keen focus on programme technology budgets, and this is great – but what about consistency? A survey by Authentic Recognition found when looking at the level of rewards:

  • 2% Received Daily recognition
  • 11% Received Weekly recognition
  • 20% Received Quarterly recognition
  • 17% Received Annual recognition
  • 29% Received No recognition of any kind.

Weekly, I feel is best – when tied in with the right data of course – so to see that the second highest is still quarterly feels out of step with employees and what they want.

Intangible are things like verbal and written praise, autonomy, work-life balance and professional training. Tangible are your trophies, lapel pins, certificates, gift cards, pay rises, boosted benefits and events. The ideal company is doing a blend of both – and that’s key. For 2022 we believe we will see incentive managers and employers managing rewards looking for a far broader portfolio of rewards to motivate, keeping an eye on unique ways to help accelerate overall recovery. We believe ultimately choice and customisability to react to change as it happens will continue to be key to the growth and success of many incentive programs.

Tech that blends and integrates HRMS

We are also likely to see a blend of rewards and incentives that meet the needs of multiple departments. One platform to manage incentives and rewards for customers and employees is the way forward. budgets may be under scrutiny so we see a real opportunity for savings with a platform that can make incentives and rewards sit not just in one department, but across marketing, sales, customer service and HR. Simply, if action needs recognition, apology or reward – why can’t it be done in one place? We believe that is where the market is heading. Incentive and rewards can come out from silo working and can have far more visibility in each business. Every company is unique, and how you recognise your team should be too. In 2022 it’s going to be far more important to be able to choose your own bespoke branding, layout, points and gift range, dashboards and reports. Our smart API’s and digital wallet capabilities mean you can customise your rewards for better engagement and total control and I do think that’s a piece that’s been missing. Rich People Data can sit within your reward platform and reward activities and give a more holistic overview.

A decade ago, data-driven employee rewards would mean detailed surveys and scorecards, infinite spreadsheets, and complex calculations. With new technology adoption, HR tech is being designed solely for reward and recognition. Getting your Human Resource Management Systems (HRMS) and benefits administration platforms tied together means ore insights and more automation, and of course, more choice.

The market seemed to be heading into auto-recommend employee rewards but we think ‘why guess what you can never know?’ Choice is unrivalled. It can never be beaten. The challenge has been in making that choice as easy to make as possible, so rewards are actually redeemed.

With spend on gift cards and merchandise up overall in the reward space, we predict that given the ever-changing landscape, most companies will continue to invest in this area, but this years’ dream team is tangible and intangible recognition – where best in class businesses will build a more positive organizational culture and cement the relationship with targeted specific awards and a proper platform to do that.

The onecode from simply thank you is designed to offer a data led platform for reward management, and then the super slick front end of reward selection and redemption. We are really proud of it.

You can reward and recognise staff and customers with onecode, a digital token that can be exchanged for gift cards and eGift cards for thousands of top retailers. It’s the ideal way to run a recognition program for employees, staff and customers alike, and to send business gifts.

As we have seen in 2022 trends, it’s all about choice. Employees don’t all like the same things. They want to be rewarded in a way that feels personal – and companies need to invest now in a way to do that in a way that’s ongoing. Micro rewards will be a huge trend, and while some of these amazing treats you see on LinkedIn are great – the chances of them being given every week, every month are really slim.

They are often more for the company to promote their amazing onboarding process or as a PR piece than for the benefit of the employee. The simply thank you onecode allows these companies to give rewards, big or small, that will matter to the recipients. Using a branded onecode platform, managers can send custom values and notes – tying back to one of the key principles of rewarding – explaining the ‘why’. When they know the why, other teammates can model the values of the business.

Instantly, the employee reward arrives to their inbox, delivered direct to mobile or through SMS. Then the fun begins! Logging on to a personalised platform greeting them by name, the recipient can choose from thousands of pre-selected rewards, or from our whole range. They might pick a big brand gift card, an instant eCode for their favourite retailer, a holiday, white goods, a new TV, clothes or make up! From theatre trips to days out, it’s a totally new way to offer rewards and it’s actually LESS effort internally but with a better result.

The onecode unlocks hundreds of brands through a personalised, branded reward platform and is ideal for employee reward and recognition, customer apology, new business incentives, and loyalty and retention. While there are similar systems out there, the onecode offers unique areas of difference – the ability to shop an online, virtual high street and to pick up physical treats.”