“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle.

Reward and recognition have changed immensely over the last 20 or so years. As the Baby Boomers and Generation X begin leaving the workforce, special considerations need to be taken into account to accommodate Generation Y otherwise known as the Millennials.

Recognition can be seen as the acknowledgement of an employee for behaviours, effort and high quality deliverables. It can be viewed as a feeling or a sense of pride. Reward on the other hand is much more tangible.

There are some major changes in the workforce that necessitates reward and recognition being a core business functions. Examples are the need to retain talent within a company, recruiting top-performing employees and emerging technologies.

Reward and recognition programmes have been linked to increases in engagement, productivity, retention, customer service and morale.

Some of the major trends, in the changing world of reward and recognition are:

  • Peer-to-peer recognition is on the rise: Although all praise is valued, it is not necessarily created equal. Peer recognition can be viewed as the ultimate recognition and leads to a more cohesive and high-achieving team. Technology has created the perfect platform for this to increasingly occur. Peer-to-peer recognition can occur through acts as simple as status updates or words of praise on social media (LinkedIn, Facebook). Forty-one percent of companies that employ peer-to-peer recognition strategies have seen positive increases in customer satisfaction.
  • Recognition is becoming more specific, personal and varied: According to the IRF 2017 Trends Study’s results, the number of US businesses using non-cash rewards has risen from 26% in 1996 to 84% in 2016. In the past, employees received generic recognition, such as a Gold watch for your 10th year of service in a company. Employers are now assessing what employees find valuable and is offering a choice of a wide variety of rewards. This is likely to increase motivation, because a reward to one person might not mean the same as another. Examples of these types of rewards are incentive travel (nearly 40% of US businesses now use incentive travel to reward and recognise employees); training & development; lifestyle rewards and time off.
  • Employee Recognition & Rewards are becoming more continuous, spontaneous and informal: Previously, employers dedicated a specific event to the recognition of employees. This would typically occur once or twice a year. By engaging in a formal recognition event, fewer employees are recognised due to the very strict requirements. It is now understood that frequent recognition is more effective than intermittent recognition. Continuous recognition is provided in order to continuously reinforce desired behaviours. Employees are now being acknowledged on a day-to-day basis by their managers. This type of immediate recognition is important to consider in a world where changes are rapid and always happening.
  • The New Role of Technology: Emerging technologies are being integrated into recognition and incentive programmes to keep pace with the technologies that employees utilise in their day-to-day lives. This has become a result of the fact that Millenials are very engaged with technology and expect to find it in the workplace. With increasing accessibility, devices such as Google Cardboard Virtual Reality is becoming a platform for communication in reward and recognition programmes. The use of social media, as discussed previously, is expanding reward and recognition programmes immensely. These programmes are increasingly using technology tools to personalise employee experiences by creating profiles.
  • The changing face of gamification: Gamification is not a new phenomenon in reward and recognition programmes, however it is being increasingly utilised. The main reason for this is the evolution of technology and the availability of new platforms of showcasing game mechanics. Previously, gamification was used to motivate employees through competitiveness. Now it is understood that when gamification is implemented correctly it can substantially increase employee engagement. Gamification makes employee recognition programs more engaging because it taps into the drivers of human behaviour. Gamification provides employees with motivation, ability to carry out a task and a driver for completion. It provides real-time instantaneous feedback and progress of goals. Gamification has been likened to a Fitbit for work. The worldwide gamification market grew from $242 million in 2012 to $2.8 billion in 2016.

Janko A. Kotzé
Organisational Psychologist
M: +27 (0)83 233 7147
E: janko@humaninterest.co.za

About the author

Janko is an Industrial and Organisational (IO) Psychologist and holds a Master’s Degree in IO Psychology at Unisa (Cum Laude). He has extensive consulting experience and has designed and delivered Talent Management solutions to over 30 clients across various industries.

He is the Founder and Director of Human Interest Consulting. A boutique talent management consulting firm that partners with organisations to create high-performing, integrated Talent Ecosystems that allow people to prosper. He is a skilled people strategist and facilitator and likes to embed new strategies through individual and group coaching engagements.

Janko has written numerous articles and is a sought after conference speaker. He has represented South Africa in the 110m hurdles at Youth, Junior and Senior National level and has aided international athletes and sport teams in the art of Mental Excellence.

Janko’s qualifications include a BCom Sport Management, BCom Hons Industrial Psychology, Certificate in Marketing & Customer Centricity (Cum Laude) and an Intensive Coaching Training Accreditation (Cum Laude). He is a member of Coaches and Mentors of South Africa (COMENSA), Society for Industrial and Organisational Psychologists of South Africa (SIOPSA), Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) and the South African Board for People Practices (SABPP).

Lara Bloch
Intern Organisational Psychologist

About the author

Lara holds a Master’s Degree in Industrial/Organisational Psychology from the University of the Witwatersrand. Lara’s qualifications include a BA (Psychology & Linguistics) (Cum Laude), in which she received a University Council Member Scholarship, eight Certificates of First Class and two Certificates of Merit, a BA Honours Psychology (Cum Laude), in which she received the Postgraduate Honours Merit Award, a BA Honours Industrial/Organisational Psychology (Cum Laude), in which she received a Certificate of First Class for her Research titled “Absenteeism and presenteeism as proxies of productivity change pre and post-occupancy in a Green building in South Africa”. For her Master’s year in Industrial/Organisational Psychology she received the Postgraduate Masters Merit Award. She also received the National Research Foundation’s Innovation Masters Scholarship for her research titled “Impact of indoor plants on work engagement and well-being perceptions”, which is awarded to those at the frontier of knowledge in innovation areas, as well as for academic merit.

Lara is a qualified Psychometrist and registered with the Health Professional Council of South Africa, after completing her degree at the University of Johannesburg. She is accredited in using the following psychometric assessments: 16PF, Giotto Integrity Test, the Work-related Risk and Integrity Scale (WRISc), MBTI and the Saville WAVE Assessment. Lara was inducted into the Golden Key International Honour Society in 2011, which recognises the Top 15% of students per field of study for outstanding academic performance. Lara holds the following certificates: Divorce and Family Mediation, Law for Mediators and Psychology for Lawyers. Lara is part of the Johannesburg’s Society for Industrial and Organisational Psychology of South Africa (SIOPSA) branch committee.

Lara prides herself in ensuring her work is completed efficiently with careful attention to detail, to produce the highest quality output. Lara is able to tackle complex situations with consistency and perseverance. She will take initiative, in order to learn and grow professionally. Lara lives by the following quote, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do”.


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