Considerations for Creating a Rewards & Recognition Program

by Katie Hudman, Esq. SPHR

HR Expertise and Support,  Member Matters

Reward and recognition programs are not one size fits all. You can create an informal or a formal program. What’s important is that your program is linked meaningfully to your company’s strategy.

Basics to consider:

  1. Provide Immediate Recognition: Recognize and praise the employee as soon as the task is completed. Employees may feel unappreciated if they are not recognized in a timely manner, which may decrease their motivation.
  2. Recognize Small Improvements: Even though a manager may view an employee’s improvement as a small accomplishment, the employee might view the same improvement as a significant accomplishment. All accomplishments, no matter how large or how small, should not go without some form of positive recognition.
  3. Provide Incentives: Always provide some form of incentive, which does not always mean a monetary reward. There are many non-monetary incentives you can use to show employees they are appreciated and respected (i.e. verbal or written thank-you, recognition in staff meeting, etc.).
  4. Recognize What Is Important to Employees: Employees should feel that their managers care about them as human beings. Make sure that recognition is on a personal level and is sincere. Employees need to feel appreciated and respected. Show employees that they are valuable assets to the company and worthy of praise.


For a formal program follow these steps:

  1. Determine who the program is intended to motivate
  2. Determine why and how this program will benefit your organization – what is the goal?
  3. Establish a budget
  4. Determine who is eligible for recognition
  5. Define performance measures that trigger an award
  6. Identify who are the decision makers in approving rewards
  7. Choose the awards – employees are motivated by different things and it may be most effective to offer both cash and noncash incentives to make the program meaningful to all participants
  8. Communicate the program
  9. Present the awards
  10. Continuously evaluate the program’s effectiveness – be prepared to change and modify the program


Customize your rewards and recognition to align with what motivates your employees:

  • Do they want to be involved in work decisions?
  • Do they want to have fun?
  • Do they want to have variety?
  • Do they want to know their opinions matter?
  • Do they feel empowered to make their own decisions?
  • Do they enjoy being part of a team?
  • Are their strengths being used?
  • Are they being encouraged?
  • Do they feel part of your overall company strategy and goals? Are they connected to your mission?


Things that will de-motivate your employees:

  • Violating trust
  • Inconsistency and playing favorites
  • Dishonesty
  • Unclear expectations
  • Micro-management
  • Being taken for granted


About the author
Katie Hudman, Esq. SPHR

Katie Hudman is an attorney with Employers Council. For nearly two decades, she has focused her practice on employment law. She has trained company leaders and HR professionals on effective employee discipline and documentation, discrimination, harassment, family and medical leave, overtime pay, drug testing, and disability accommodations. She currently advises employers on employee situations from hiring to termination, prepares education publications, and reviews employee handbooks. She also has experience with internal investigations, severance agreements, and claims filed with/investigations by government agencies. Katie joined Employers Council in 2004. Prior to joining Employers Council, Katie worked as an associate attorney at the Utah law firm Kirton & McConkie. Prior to working at Kirton & McConkie, Katie was a law clerk for the Utah Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel and Justice Christine M. Durham of the Utah Supreme Court.