That was a bit of a click-bait title, our apologies. Still, it’s important not to only think about the fun part of rewards- the ‘how’ – your reward platform, the gifts and incentives, the new strategies – but also the why. The why is important in anything you do. It makes it real. Miss out the ‘why’ of your rewards and you become like a machine, doing things ‘just because’.
Consider your initial objectives for creating a reward strategy. No doubt you wanted some tangible benefits – sales, awareness, knowledge – but you probably also wanted that unspoken ‘something special’. Perhaps you wanted to genuinely be a great place to work. To see someone quiet but hardworking get the recognition they deserve. To say thank you when someone least expected it.
Putting the human into the reward is the best way to bring your strategy to life, not only for the recipient, but for you.

What does that mean? 
This doesn’t mean more work on objectives and plans and schemes, but instead, communicating the why through your existing reward method.
If you send a newsletter promoting some great work – pick up the phone.
Give digital rewards? Leave a personalised note on their desk.
Allocate points, prizes or ratings? Take a moment to record a message about what each action has done. It sounds cheesy – but you probably have a 1080p HD video recorder in your pocket – as well as a photo editor, infographic design tool and a way to create fancy shareable pictures and posters – even if your ‘design skills’ would make a toddler chuckle.
You’ll hear the phrase ‘storytelling’ a lot if you read a lot of content marketing stuff. It sounds a bit woolly but it works – everyone wants to feel connected to the story behind a product, whether you’re a brand like Vanish who made a ‘tip exchange’ athat feels genuinely helpful and relevant or TOMS shoes who built a business around their charitable activity– there’s a story to be told everywhere. It’s why we all love those viral messages like this one from Sainsbury’s about ‘Tiger bread’ – it goes beyond the brand as a faceless entity and makes it personal.

Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going to fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why. – Eddie Cantor

Talk and listen  

When Heineken UK wanted to deliver their consumer brand and experience to their own employees, they gave their HR Director a mandate to develop a brand new reward strategy based on the insights and ideas that were discussed with employees. A case study on the change has shown that “their ability to hold a mirror up to the organisation and take a good look at what they needed to change…together with their understanding of what works well in other organisations allowed (them) to move away from anecdotal evidence and entrenched views.” It’s never too late to pivot your approach to rewards. As the CIPD reward management paper stated:

Today, then, the challenge for employers is to
create reward systems that are not only resilient
to pressure and are agile enough to adapt to
changing contexts, but are also fair, transparent,
are able to balance the needs of stakeholders,
reflect the true value of roles as well as individual
and collective achievements, are aligned to
organisational purpose and are supported by
an evidence base.

Make it personal 
So the next time you go to give you reward, think about the impact of the winner’s actions. Every action has an effect, so find yours. It could be a happy customer receiving their parcel on time. It could be the deal they have saved by staying late and fixing that niggling IT glitch. Don’t reward the ‘staying late’ or the ‘delivering on time’ – reward them by showing them how they’ve made a difference.
You can also make it personal to the recipient by going the extra mile yourself and digging around for the other ways they help.

Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble. – Yehuda Berg

Imagine the delight of not only being rewarded for staying late and fixing a server that then saved a big deal and meant that the IT manager caught his daughter’s first school play – but that you have also discovered that their peers also think they are bright, helpful, funny, great to work with or a real team player. It takes a reward from so-so to completely stunning and unforgettable – just what you set out to do, way back when you loved rewarding people!

We can’t wait for you to get your spark back – and to start to ignite passion in your employees.