Category: BLOG, Employee Engagement.

Employee recognition truly counts, and there’s data to prove it. Research shows that 82% of employees feel happier at work when their contributions are recognized, 69% of employees are less likely to change jobs if their managers offer more recognition and rewards, and 75% of team workers believe that team recognition shows that their work is useful and valuable to their companies.

Understanding award vs. reward is key to achieving high employee satisfaction. While using these two words interchangeably is expected, they’re quite different in business. Let’s discover what award vs. reward means for your employee recognition strategy.

Difference between Award and Reward

The Oxford Languages definition of award and reward is similar: this is a prize or any mark of recognition given to honor achievement, effort, or service. However, a key difference between these terms is where this recognition lies. You can get an award in a public setting, while you can get a reward in private or in front of others. Other differences between award vs. reward include:

  • An award recognizes someone’s exceptional or rare achievement, like breaking a record. A reward may be recognizing someone’s effort, like endurance through hardships.
  • An award takes the form of a medal, trophy, certificate, or a combination of these objects with cash. A reward may be more flexible— tangible or intangible, financial or symbolic. It can be anything that shows gratitude, such as a thoughtful gift.
  • An award is at the discretion of an expert or a panel with knowledge in their field. An individual, like a manager or colleague, can decide what a reward is.

Award vs. Reward in the Workplace

In an organizational context, awards and rewards take different forms too. The three main differences between these terms in the workplace are:

  • An award is a gift, while an achieved reward is praise: A custom plaque for an outstanding employee is an award. For example, a personal, sincere thank-you email from a manager to an employee counts as a reward.
  • You can receive an award according to achieved business goals and accomplishments, while a reward is an incentive to increase performance. For example, season tickets to an employee’s favorite sport are an award. A congratulations e-card to an employee for completing an onboarding program is a reward.
  • An award takes planning, but a reward can be spontaneous. An annual company-wide or industry-wide ceremony exists to give awards. Grabbing lunch with the CEO is a reward for an employee seeking a mentor.

People work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise and rewards.

Dale Carnegie

When to Give an Award vs. Reward

At its best, an employee recognition program matches the employee’s efforts with a perfect award vs. reward recognition. Unfortunately, an inappropriate recognition can feel awkward, dampen morale, or waste precious resources. However, when employees familiarize themselves with company performance review phrases, they can learn to take every feedback with a positive mindset.

The factors below explain the best way to know which type of recognition to give:

  • Why give the recognition
    An award should recognize the outcome of work done. A reward recognizes a positive, noteworthy behavior or action.
  • Who gives the recognition
    53% of employees prefer to receive recognition from their immediate manager. However, peer-to-peer recognition also has its place in an organization. C-suite managers best give an award, while a reward can be for across levels and departments in any direction.
  • When to give the recognition
    Awards are typically formal events at the end of the year, but rewards can happen anytime, even as soon as you spot the positive behavior or action.
  • What to give as recognition
    Awards are often tangible or financial, but rewards can be as simple as heartfelt thumbs-up.

Once you figure out the who, where, and when you can then match the type of award or recognition to the proper context.


Why Does Award vs. Reward Matter?

An HR manager’s job, among other things, includes maintaining morale and productivity. Recognition awards are a great tool to create incentives for employee engagement.

A good employee recognition strategy has numerous benefits for an organization, including

  • Reduced turnover rates
    A good 66% of employees would leave their jobs if they felt unappreciated. From a management perspective, it’s much easier to design an employee recognition program than to recover turnover losses.
  • Reduced absenteeism
    Employees awarded or rewarded regularly are more motivated to show up to work.
  • Improved safety record
    Employees who feel valued in their organization are more likely to look out for their colleagues. This, in turn, reduces the chances of workplace safety-related incidents.
  • Improved product quality
    In manufacturing industries, in particular, employee rewards and awards lead to better end products. Highly engaged employees can reduce the number of defects in the company products.
  • Improved customer satisfaction
    Highly engaged teams offer better customer service, which increases your bottom line through higher productivity and sales. Subsequently, the company can regularly dish out reviews and assess performance review comments to gauge employee satisfaction. You can try Profit.co’s employee engagement module free for 30 days.

Examples of Awards and Rewards

Your company awards and rewards can be as creative as you wish. An award vs. reward strategy can take many forms, such as rewards for good AARP if they are reasonable, genuine, and worthwhile. Here are some examples of awards and enterprise rewards to get you started.

  • Annual monetary bonuses
  • A trophy or medal
  • Additional vacation days
  • Valuable gift cards
  • Workplace equipment upgrades like new laptops, ergonomic chairs, or standing desks
  • Reserved parking spots
  • A plaque placed in a visible location at the workplace
  • High-quality consumer products like electronics, clothing, or jewelry
  • Tickets to sporting events
  • Mentorship and training opportunities
  • Premium memberships to clubs and associations
  • 5-star dining experience or gourmet treat
  • A wall of thanks for personalized thank-you notes between employees
  • Post-it notes for spontaneous appreciation around the office


An award vs. reward program is a great way to build a healthy organizational culture. When your team feels like they’re a valuable part of the organization, they become happier, work harder, and prefer to build their careers in your company.

Of course, it takes time to create and polish your employee recognition scheme. Always consider the employees’ individual needs alongside the company’s mission and objectives. Ask for creative awards and reward ideas, and deliver on your team’s feedback. This way, you can create one of the best workplaces in your industry today. For an OKR software that helps you reach your goals and recognize your employees’ efforts, look no further than Profit.co. Book a free demo with our experts today!

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