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Employee Recognition

Custom Rewards: How to Create a Tailored Employee Incentive Program


In the dynamic world of human resources and employee management, incentive programs have long been the linchpin of successful workforce engagement and productivity. These programs are meticulously crafted to reward and motivate employees, creating an environment where their best efforts shine. However, as the business landscape continues to evolve, so do the approaches to motivation and reward. A prime example of this evolution is the trending concept of custom rewards.

Custom rewards represent a paradigm shift in the realm of employee incentives, moving away from the traditional one-size-fits-all model. Furthermore, 38% of employees want to be rewarded for their good work, meaning the time is now to take action and implement an incentive program to offer unique and motivating custom rewards. These rewards take personalization and individual choice to the next level, allowing employees to have a say in the rewards that mean the most to them. This evolution in employee incentives is not merely a passing fad; it’s a response to the ever-changing expectations of the modern workforce.

But why are custom rewards gaining traction? What are they exactly, and what impact do they have on employee motivation and satisfaction? 

This blog post will explore these questions in detail, shedding light on how custom rewards are reshaping the way organizations motivate and retain their top talent.

custom rewards

Table of Contents

Why Custom Rewards Are Impactful

What Employees Want

What Motivates Employees The Most?

How Custom Rewards Drive Success

Examples of Custom Rewards to Offer and How to Tailor Them

Strategies to Implement an Effective Tailored Employee Incentive Program

The Bottom Line: Custom Rewards

Why Custom Rewards Are Impactful

Custom rewards are a groundbreaking approach to employee motivation and engagement for several compelling reasons. Their impact extends far beyond the initial enthusiasm they generate among employees. Here’s a closer look at why custom rewards are making a profound mark on the modern workplace:

1. Personalization: 

One of the primary reasons custom rewards are gaining traction is their ability to personalize the employee experience. Traditional, one-size-fits-all incentives may not resonate with everyone on the team. Custom rewards, however, empower employees to choose incentives that align with their individual interests, values, and life goals. This personal touch makes the rewards far more meaningful.

2. Higher Satisfaction: 

In an era where employee satisfaction and well-being are paramount, custom rewards play a pivotal role. When employees can select rewards that truly matter to them, they are more likely to feel valued, recognized, and appreciated. In fact, 46% of employees say that an unexpected reward like a snack, lunch, or thank you note from their bosses would make them feel more appreciated. Employees are not just seen as cogs in the machine but as individuals with unique needs and aspirations.

3. Improved Performance: 

Custom rewards act as powerful motivators. When employees have a stake in the rewards they receive, it ignites a sense of personal commitment to their work. They are not just meeting targets; they are actively striving to exceed them. This heightened motivation translates into improved performance and productivity, benefiting both employees and the organization.

4. Enhanced Retention: 

In an age when employee retention and talent acquisition are critical challenges with 93% of organizations concerned about employee retention, custom rewards offer a solution. They create an environment where employees feel appreciated and recognized as unique contributors. In fact, recognizing employees will make 37% of them more likely to stay with the company. This demonstrates that offering incentives means employees are more likely to stay in their roles for the long term, reducing costly turnover rates. Custom rewards, therefore, have a direct impact on retaining top talent and building a stable, committed workforce.

5. Increased Engagement: 

Employee engagement is the lifeblood of a productive organization. Custom rewards are a catalyst for boosting engagement levels. 37% of employees report that the best way to improve their engagement is for their superiors to give them recognition and rewards. When employees are personally invested in their incentives, they become more engaged in their work. They see their job as more than just a means to a paycheck; it becomes an arena for personal growth, achievement, and satisfaction. As a result, they bring their best selves to work, driving the success of the organization.

6. Flexibility and Adaptability: 

The business landscape is dynamic, and employee preferences are equally fluid. Custom rewards offer the flexibility and adaptability needed to keep up with these changes. Organizations can continually evolve their incentives to match shifting employee desires and market trends. This flexibility ensures that the rewards remain relevant and attractive to the workforce.

In sum, the impact of custom rewards is far-reaching. They enhance personalization, boost satisfaction, drive performance, improve retention, increase engagement, and offer the flexibility needed to stay in sync with the evolving expectations of the modern workforce. Custom rewards are not just a trend; they are a strategic approach to workforce motivation that organizations across industries are embracing for the lasting benefits they bring.

custom rewards

What Employees Want

Understanding what employees truly want is at the core of designing a successful tailored incentive program. In this section, we’ll delve deeper into the desires and motivations that shape modern employees’ preferences:

1. Flexible Work Arrangements: 

Modern employees are increasingly valuing flexibility in their work arrangements. They seek the autonomy to balance their professional and personal lives effectively. This may include options for remote work, flexible hours, compressed workweeks, or the ability to create a personalized work schedule. The desire for flexibility stems from the need to maintain a healthy work-life balance, reduce commuting stress, and better accommodate personal responsibilities.

2. Professional Development Opportunities: 

Many employees are motivated by a desire for continuous learning and professional growth. 47% of employees find that new growth opportunities are a better way to reward them for their achievements. They want opportunities to expand their skill sets, advance their careers, and take on new challenges. These opportunities can come in the form of workshops, training programs, seminars, or access to educational resources. Providing avenues for skill development aligns with their personal aspirations and fosters a sense of progress and achievement.

3. Wellness and Health Initiatives: 

Employee well-being is a top priority for many individuals. Wellness programs that promote physical health, mental well-being, and stress management are highly appealing. This includes fitness challenges, mindfulness activities, access to wellness resources, and initiatives that support a healthy lifestyle. Such offerings help employees stay physically and mentally fit, reduce workplace stress, and maintain a positive work-life balance. In fact, employees in organizations with well-structured rewards programs are 82% happier. And this happiness can drive success with employee productivity levels increasing by as much as 31%.

4. Recognition and Appreciation: 

Recognition is a universal desire among employees. They want to feel valued and appreciated for their contributions. Recognition can take various forms, including verbal appreciation, awards, certificates, or public acknowledgments. Feeling recognized not only boosts self-esteem but also motivates employees to excel in their roles and remain committed to the organization. Reward and recognition software like Bucketlist can also help! Bucketlist offers an easy to use platform that helps organizations retain talent and inspire employees to bring their best everyday and effortlessly celebrate each employee’s special milestones, great work and achievements with automated recognition and rewards. 

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5. Financial Security and Benefits: 

Financial security remains a fundamental aspect of what employees want. They desire competitive compensation, performance-based bonuses, and benefits such as healthcare, retirement plans, and stock options. These financial incentives provide a sense of stability and long-term security, which is crucial for their overall well-being.

6. Work-Life Balance: 

Achieving a harmonious work-life balance is a paramount goal for many employees and yet 40% of employees do not believe they have a good work life balance. They seek benefits and programs that help them balance the demands of their careers with personal and family commitments. Family-oriented benefits, flexible leave policies, and childcare support are among the elements that contribute to a balanced and fulfilling life outside of work.

Modern employees are seeking rewards that extend beyond the traditional financial incentives. While monetary compensation remains significant, employees are increasingly drawn to non-monetary incentives, experiences, and personal development opportunities. These are the types of rewards that resonate with the current workforce.

What Motivates Employees The Most?

To motivate employees effectively, it’s essential to tap into their intrinsic motivations. While financial incentives continue to be important, there’s a growing appreciation for the following motivators:


Employees crave recognition for their contributions. In fact, 78% of workers work harder and with more drive when their efforts are being rewarded.  Feeling appreciated and acknowledged for their work is a powerful intrinsic motivator. Recognition can be formal or informal, with even a simple expression of thanks by someone in authority leading people to be 50% more productive. Recognition is truly a driving force behind employee engagement and it’s more important than ever for organizations to prioritize it. 

Professional Growth: 

Opportunities for skill development, career advancement, and personal growth are significant motivators. Employees aspire to grow within the organization, and providing pathways for their development encourages commitment and motivation.

Work-Life Balance: 

Benefits that improve overall quality of life, such as flexible work arrangements, wellness programs, and family-oriented perks, are increasingly appealing to employees. Achieving a balance between work and personal life is a powerful intrinsic motivator that fosters loyalty and commitment.

Understanding and aligning with these current preferences and intrinsic motivators empowers organizations to design tailored incentive programs that truly resonate with their workforce. By doing so, organizations unlock the potential for enhanced motivation, engagement, and overall job satisfaction. Custom rewards are not just a trend; they represent a strategic response to the evolving desires of the modern workforce.

custom rewards

How Custom Rewards Drive Success

The impact of custom rewards on employee success within an organization is profound. When employees are genuinely motivated and satisfied with their incentives, it ignites a ripple effect that leads to greater success. Here’s a closer look at how this success unfolds:

1. Increased Productivity: 

Motivated employees are naturally more productive. They are not merely going through the motions but are actively engaged in their work. The personal investment they have in their chosen rewards creates a drive to excel, leading to higher output and efficiency.

2. Quality of Work: 

Custom rewards encourage employees to take pride in their work. They aim for excellence and continuously seek opportunities for improvement. Their work quality becomes a point of personal pride, which benefits both the individual and the organization.

3. Employee Innovation: 

An engaged and motivated workforce is more likely to bring innovative ideas to the table. These employees are driven to find creative solutions and contribute to the organization’s growth. They are more likely to go the extra mile, resulting in a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.

4. Enhanced Employee Retention: 

With their personal motivations aligned with their workplace experience, employees are less likely to seek opportunities elsewhere. This commitment to the organization’s long-term success not only reduces costly turnover but also fosters stability, enabling the organization to thrive.

5. Team Cohesion: 

Employees motivated by custom rewards are often more engaged in their team’s success. Offering peer to peer recognition and leveraging custom rewards will inspire teams to collaborate, share insights, and support each other, contributing to a harmonious and high-performing team. This collective effort drives success on a departmental and organizational level.

Examples of Custom Rewards to Offer and How to Tailor Them

Creating a tailored employee incentive program involves carefully selecting and personalizing rewards that resonate with your workforce. Here are some examples of custom rewards and insights on how to tailor them effectively:

Professional Development Opportunities: 

Offer employees the chance to attend workshops, seminars, or courses aligned with their career goals. Tailor the choices based on individual career aspirations and the skills needed for their role.

Travel Experiences: 

For employees with a passion for travel, offer experiential rewards such as tailored travel experiences or vacation packages that cater to their interests and preferences.

Cultural Experiences: 

Offer customized cultural experiences, such as cooking classes, language courses, or art workshops, based on individual interests and aspirations.

Volunteer and Philanthropic Opportunities: 

Tailor opportunities for employees to engage in volunteer or philanthropic work related to their personal causes or interests.

Mentorship Programs: 

Create personalized mentorship programs that pair employees with mentors who can guide them in areas of professional or personal interest.

Recognition and Awards: 

Tailor recognition efforts by understanding each employee’s preferred mode of recognition, whether it’s public acknowledgment, one-on-one praise, or written appreciation.

Financial Perks: 

Customize financial incentives based on individual financial goals, such as bonus structures, profit-sharing, or stock options.

Workplace Customization: 

Allow employees to personalize their workspaces, from desk setups to decor, fostering a sense of ownership and comfort.

To effectively tailor these rewards, organizations need to gather insights about employee preferences through surveys, one-on-one discussions, and regular feedback mechanisms. By understanding the unique aspirations and interests of their workforce, organizations can create custom rewards that drive motivation and success effectively. This tailored approach not only improves individual employee experiences but also contributes to the overall growth and prosperity of the organization.

custom rewards

Strategies to Implement an Effective Tailored Employee Incentive Program

Implementing a tailored employee incentive program requires a well-thought-out strategy that encompasses both design and execution. To ensure its success, here are some comprehensive strategies that organizations can adopt:

1. Understand Employee Preferences: 

Start by conducting comprehensive surveys, one-on-one discussions, and feedback mechanisms to understand the unique preferences, aspirations, and motivations of your workforce. This data will be the foundation for designing customized rewards that resonate with individual employees.

2. Set Clear Objectives: 

Clearly define the objectives of your incentive program. What do you aim to achieve through tailored rewards? Whether it’s increased productivity, higher retention, or enhanced engagement, having well-defined goals will guide your program’s design and execution.

3. Customization Options: 

Offer a variety of reward options for employees to choose from. Ensure these options align with their interests and goals. Choices can range from professional development opportunities and flexible work arrangements to wellness programs and cultural experiences.

4. Communication and Transparency: 

Keep employees informed about the incentive program and its benefits. Transparency about how the program works, the criteria for earning rewards, and the process for selection is crucial for employee buy-in.

5. Continuous Feedback: 

Establish a feedback loop where employees can provide ongoing input about the program. Regularly seek their opinions and make adjustments based on their feedback. This not only shows that their voices matter but also helps keep the program relevant.

6. Recognition and Celebration: 

Incentive programs should be celebrated and recognized. Acknowledge and celebrate the achievements and successes of employees who have benefited from the program. This recognition serves as motivation for others to participate and excel.

7. Budget and Resource Allocation: 

Allocate a budget and necessary resources to ensure the effective implementation of the program. This includes resources for personalization tools, rewards, and administrative support.

8. Measurement and Evaluation: 

Continuously measure and evaluate the impact of your tailored incentive program. Analyze its effect on motivation, performance, retention, and other key metrics. Use this data to make improvements and refinements.

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9. Benchmarking: 

Compare your program to industry best practices and competitors. Stay informed about emerging trends in custom rewards to remain competitive and attractive to top talent.

10. Flexibility and Adaptability: 

Recognize that employee preferences change over time. Keep the program flexible and adaptable to meet evolving needs and desires.

By implementing these strategies, organizations can ensure that their tailored employee incentive program not only meets the unique needs of their workforce but also aligns with their business objectives. A well-executed program can lead to higher motivation, improved performance, and a more engaged and satisfied workforce, ultimately driving success within the organization.

The Bottom Line: Custom Rewards

In today’s competitive job market, attracting and retaining top talent requires innovative approaches. Custom rewards, driven by personalization and individual choice, offer a unique solution to motivate and engage employees. 

By understanding what employees want, tailoring rewards, and implementing effective strategies, organizations can create a workplace that fosters motivation, satisfaction, and long-term commitment. In this era of personalized incentives, custom rewards are the key to a brighter and more productive future for your organization.

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