Meeting Diverse Employee Preferences: Tailoring Rewards to Resonate with Different Tastes

employee recognition methods

The need for employee recognition is no longer up for debate. It has become a necessity in today’s world of conscious choices and focus on a user-friendly working environment. Plus, fierce competition in the market seems to favor employees, who are faced with a wide choice of jobs and equipped with high awareness of their own competencies. For companies who want to attract and retain talents, and motivate employees to become more engaged and productive, a well-devised employee recognition program is a must.

But a program is designed for people, not the other way around, therefore it must acknowledge diverse needs and values in order to be effective. There are different employee types, and to motivate each of them you need a different set of incentives. Contemporary employers realize the need to choose personality awards for their employees – after all, if you choose to spend money on a recognition program, you want it to be targeted.

In this article, we present a choice of employee recognition methods to match the most popular employee profiles.

Depending on the preferences and expectations of your team, you may want to explore various incentive groups and pick those that fulfill the goals of your recognition program. All the time you have to bear in mind the balance between meeting the employees’ expectations and linking the recognition process to your company’s values and culture.

Types of Recognition

The list of methods and tools you can choose from is long, so to make it easier, we will start by grouping them into the four most conspicuous categories. The first, and probably most popular one, includes tangible rewards. They include anything the employees can use to their benefit. Popular tangible rewards may include vouchers, tickets to events, bonuses, and pay raises, but also a choice of company merchandise, which usually comes in the form of apparel, household items, office gadgets, personalized gifts or items for children. 

Another category is verbal recognition. This one serves to build a positive workplace culture and boost the morale of your team. Praise doesn’t cost you a thing, and appreciation from the manager is usually a great motivator, especially in long-term projects or those where the results are not immediately visible. This is also a great opportunity to encourage peer-to-peer recognition. The thing is, verbal recognition works best when it’s specific and timely – you are not advised to wait too long before you compliment your employees on doing a good job. 

The third method is public acknowledgment. This one may be a bit tricky and requires tact and consideration. You have to keep in mind that not everyone is comfortable with public expressions of appreciation, especially when this is done verbally, during a meeting. Sometimes a better idea might be to include a formal notice on the company intranet or office board – the written medium offers some safe distance.

The last type of recognition includes career development opportunities. These benefits may include subsidies to university courses or training sessions, paid time off to complete a valuable course or access to training materials. Also, you could include a peer/manager referral program, where people could be put up for promotion.

Tailoring Rewards to Different Employee Types

Before you plan and implement a selection of employee recognition methods, though, the first thing is to know your employees. You need to explore what they find valuable and worth the effort. You can start with a survey, where you ask your team how they would like to be recognized. Generally speaking, people are different and you need to know the profile of your employees to be able to offer something of value based on their personality and preferences.

Recognition Methods for Achievement-Oriented Employees

The employees who prioritize their own accomplishments and want to see they are making progress, usually want to be recognized for specific milestones. To motivate them, you could offer performance-based incentives. Such programs are usually targeted, and as opposed to one-size-fits-all solutions, they can be used to reinforce certain instances of behavior, in line with company values. You also need a specific system for measuring employee performance, which could be linked to assigning points that can be redeemed for rewards. 

And when speaking of rewards, they could include certificates and trophies granted for achieving a milestone or a predefined target. Employees could also be shortlisted for special project assignments, which is also a way to further their career. In this case, as in many others, the role of manager engagement is crucial, since you need to reward those accomplishments that are in line with company values and goals and offer related rewards. You could come up with a system where you score points from the managers and peers, and reaching a certain threshold can unlock a certificate. 

Recognition Methods for Socially Driven Employees

This group of employees may not appreciate rewards linked to corporate hierarchy and promotion. Some people like to celebrate their success with the team and enjoy the sense of being in it together. This category of rewards can also be used for recognizing the accomplishments of an entire team rather than individuals.

Socially driven employees will appreciate all kinds of celebrations and company events, which can be linked to a public display of recognition. It is important that the events are attended and duly communicated by managers, to give them the proper corporate rank and make them a valuable reward. Communication itself is of importance – a relevant event should be communicated in various company channels well before its scheduled date, to build excitement and anticipation.

To foster this kind of encouragement, you could also implement peer-to-peer recognition programs, which are a great opportunity to build team spirit and a sense of belonging. This also makes people feel heard, because they are more likely to voice their opinion if they know it makes a change.

Another method of social recognition is social media shout-outs. This is a relatively cost-effective and convenient tool: social media are a safe place for acknowledgment, especially if you feel some of your team don’t appreciate being called out in public. It is also a perfect solution for dispersed teams and those who are into hybrid work.

Recognition Methods for Growth-Minded Employees

Some of your employees prioritize their personal and professional development. To offer something valuable to them, you need to focus on training and growth opportunities. Think of subsidies for university courses or workshops, and if you can’t afford to transfer funds, you could give your employees some time off, so they could complete a course of studies.

Another way to express your appreciation is to offer mentoring programs or organize workshops with external experts. Mentoring programs are a good idea because they serve as a recognition of both the mentor and the mentee. Also, they strengthen team spirit and promote a sense of working towards a common goal. After all, sharing your knowledge is valuable when it comes to improving company resources.

Recognition Methods for Autonomy-Seeking Employees

The last category includes incentives for those who value the opportunity to make their own career decisions while working towards the company’s goals. While you may not always be able to grant the people the entire independence they crave, you could meet them halfway and offer some degree of autonomy, for example, flexible work arrangements. These methods will appeal not only to creative spirits who resent restrictions but also to young parents or people who still study. 

Another way is to offer people some autonomy in decision-making. This way, in recognition of their efforts you ‘unlock’ a higher level of freedom for the people to organize their own work. Or, if you want to go one step further and let them assume responsibility for others, you can assign project ownership in recognition of outstanding performance. 

Such employee recognition methods serve as a great confidence booster and can be a perfect tool for talent retention. People with a lot of drive, energy and ideas will appreciate being put in charge of things.

Implementing a Flexible Recognition Program

If you come up with a flexible, effective and customized employee recognition program, which takes into account different employee types, you know your money was well-spent and the scheme serves its purpose. To make it worth your while, though, you need to make sure all the steps are completed, starting with the preparation stage.

Assessing Employee Preferences

Before you choose specific tools from the wide range of available types of recognition, you are well advised to organize a survey or a committee to probe your employees’ preferences, so that your program offers rewards they can use and appreciate. If you need to know what behavior you want to reinforce, you will need some employee engagement data analysis to identify the crucial areas and see where your recognition program could make a real difference. If you need reliable metrics and reporting, you can always use the support of third-party experts, such as Brandscape, to help you monitor the performance of your scheme.

Designing a Customized Recognition Program

With the data obtained from individual meetings, surveys and reporting, you can establish a reward selection menu, where your employees know exactly what they can obtain for their efforts. The menu needs to come with a clear set of criteria. Everybody needs to know what they have to do to collect points and how often they can expect recognition. Once successfully implemented, the program needs to be regularly reviewed and updated. You can tweak your initial assumptions if you notice that the choice of rewards is not as popular as you previously envisaged.

Ensuring Fairness and Inclusivity

A well-designed recognition plan eliminates any possibility of bias or favoritism by defining clear criteria. It is largely up to the managers to make sure nobody has been skipped in the recognition scheme. That’s why it’s good to set specific expectations in such areas as attendance, accuracy, productivity and performance so that personal factors don’t stand in the way of making objective decisions. 

An employee recognition program must be available to all employees, be it front-desk or back-office, blue or white collars. This is how you encourage people to go the extra mile and feel accountable for the company’s results, without building any resentment between individual teams. 


We have described a few approaches to rewarding your employees. Some of them involve considerable funds or a reorganization of the working hours, but others are fairly simple and cost-effective. One of the better types of recognition is branded merch, which can be presented as personalized gifts or souvenirs to mark important events, such as work anniversaries, promotions or a new baby. Such rewards can be obtained at a relatively low cost, especially if you rely on a reputable provider, and offer an additional benefit in that they promote the company image in and outside the workplace. 

You can choose from among a variety of personality awards for employees, big and small, including apparel, electronic gadgets and small household equipment. When coupled with a clearly defined point system, this recognition method appeals to most employees, and its effectiveness can be easily measured. 

A properly implemented recognition program may include company merch on top of other types of recognition. After all, you can offer a company tee alongside verbal praise, just to make the moment last. And since recognition is all about emotions and feeling good, even a small branded gift may reinforce the sense of being appreciated.