Designing Effective Employee Reward Programs

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Designing Effective Employee Reward Programs | HRDQU Webinar

Designing Effective Employee Reward Programs

This On-Demand event was originally presented on January 26, 2022 (60 min)


Designing Effective Employee Reward Programs is based on the premise that when it comes to rewards, one size doesn’t fit all. Reward programs need to be tailored to meet the specific needs of the recipients. What might be rewarding to one person may seem like punishment to another. Therefore, it is very important to understand what is reinforcing or not to the employees you want to reward. A classic ABC (Antecedent-Behavior-Consequences) Behavioral Model will be presented, reviewing different types of consequences as they relate to rewards, including positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, punishment, and schedules of reinforcement. Specific examples will be presented illustrating why the reward sponsor’s goals failed to reach their intended objectives and how the situation could be corrected.

Topics covered during the webinar will include Setting Reward Goals, Finding the Right Measures for Rewards, Rewards Not Meeting Expectations, Reward Design Factors, Managing Reward Programs, Measuring the Effectiveness of your Current Reward Programs, The Value of your Reward Programs, and Understanding the Potential Consequences of the Reward not Given.

A matrix of Nine Types of Rewards will be presented during the program, illustrating how different types of rewards achieve different results. A common problem with many employee reward programs today is a lack of understanding of these differences. For example, an organization may sponsor an annual holiday party, expecting a certain amount of employee appreciation as a result. However, it is important to understand that this type of reward will most likely not motivate employees to work harder or be less likely to leave the company. This is not to say that a holiday party isn’t important, as it provides a maintenance reward factor that employees learn to expect to be provided by their employer, and without this form of reward, they would feel a sense of loss. The matrix provides examples of other types of rewards, some of which are designed to directly motivate employees or recognize their significant achievements. Understanding these distinctions and applications of these nine types of rewards can help organizations more effectively design and balance their overall employee reward programs with better results in the future. The concept of developing a Reward Score Card is introduced, and an example is presented to help organizations understand how to achieve this balance.

The program concludes with a list of 47 Unconventional Ways to Reward Employees to help organizations think more creatively about providing rewards. Often, it is the most unexpected reward that can be the most effective.


Attendees will learn

  • To understand that reward programs need to be designed to meet the specific needs of the individuals you plan to reward.
  • How to have a greater awareness of employee reward program potential pitfalls and how to avoid them.
  • How to gain an appreciation of how to better balance their reward programs to meet the expectations of their employees.
  • How to better understand if their current reward programs are working as expected.
  • How to design reward programs that can meet their expectations in the future.


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Designing Effective Employee Reward Programs


Peter R. Garber is a retired Human Resource Professional with over 35 years of experience working for a Fortune 200 corporation. During his career, he held a variety of HR roles, including assignments at manufacturing facilities across the country, and later spent twenty years at the company’s corporate headquarters. He is the author of over 50 books and learning activities on HR and business-related topics. He has been invited to present seminars and webinars on numerous occasions based on his works and has made presentations at international conferences and colleges. Mr. Garber was also an adjunct instructor at the University of Pittsburgh Business School.

Mr. Garber became interested in the topic of employee reward programs as a result of observing firsthand just how difficult it was to get them right. He noticed that many of the organization’s efforts to provide employees with meaningful rewards often failed to meet this objective. He realized that there needed to be greater thought and analysis given to designing employee reward programs to ensure their effectiveness. This program is a result of his research and experience designing more effective employee reward programs.

Connect with Peter through email at



Training Tools for Developing Great People Skills

This event is sponsored by HRDQ. For 45 years HRDQ has provided research-based, off-the-shelf soft-skills training resources for classroom, virtual, and online training. From assessments and workshops to experiential hands-on games, HRDQ helps organizations improve performance, increase job satisfaction, and more.

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Designing Effective Employee Reward Programs

“It was great to have extra examples and ideas to consider from an HR perspective.”

– Maria G.

Designing Effective Employee Reward Programs

“It was great to hear someone else’s perspective on how employees may interpret something as a reward and others may interpret that same action as a form of punishment.”

– Abby P.

Designing Effective Employee Reward Programs

“He did an excellent job. Thanks!”

– Hero G.

One Response

  1. Q&A from the webinar.

    Question: What about reward design factors for volunteers who have been with us for years? Is this the same with regular employees?

    Answer: Yeah, I think all of the principles that we talked about are important. I don’t know about some of the financial aspects, you know in a volunteer setting like that, but that doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be some kind of a reward, even if it costs some money to be given to them. And probably very important. I think, you know, again, expressing gratitude and thanks, and recognition volunteer of the year, or volunteer of the month, or something like that would be extremely important. Because they have really less reinforcers in their life than we have as we work.

    Question: When you talk about employee rewards, does this include bonus programs that some employees receive as part of their overall compensation package?

    Answer: Yeah I mentioned that, that was talking about really wasn’t about benefits and compensation, but you know, there is some spillover to that. So it’s a little bit hard to avoid that. I think, you know, many of the same principles that we just talked about, you know, are important. You know, even when it’s part of the compensation. And probably even more important, that the measures for compensation and compensation design could be things that the employees, you know, feel like they have control over, that feel reinforcing and things like that. So, yes, I think that just about everything that we’ve talked about here, you know, also does apply to that as well.

    Question: How would you know that a reward might be punishing to an employer before you present the reward?

    Answer: That’s a good question. And sometimes you don’t, sometimes experiences, is the best is the best teacher, you know. It would be nothing wrong with sending out an opinion survey. You know, about asking employees, you know, what, what they would find reinforcing, what kind of rewards they would like to see. You could even have a list of things that say, you know, would you like to be recognized publicly or in front of your co-workers, in which you know, things like that and you can get feedback from them that way, and you could also just talk to them, you know, and just ask them, you know, hey, we’re thinking about doing this, just like I say, Henderson Electronics Company had done. What if they’ve gone out and they had asked employees, hey, we’re thinking about doing these things. What do you think? They probably would’ve gotten the feedback from employees that, you know, listed the what went wrong here so that people should have a better understanding what they should include in there in the program.

    Question: What can you say to those employees who didn’t qualify for a competitive reward that would make them feel better, than better luck next time?

    Answer: Yeah. That’d probably be the worst thing to say, better luck next time. That’s for sure. I think, you know, really talk about, what do you think happened? You know, why do you think that you weren’t able to achieve that? You, know, maybe, as a supervisor, what can I help you with? What kinds of, you know, maybe training or resources do you think that you would need? How can I help support you in the future?

    Question: You talked about process variation and provided an example of employees working in a production environment. Does this concept apply in any other situations?

    Answer: Yeah, I tried to address that, and also after I say it like that, it’s a little bit hard to envision. You know, but, again, it may be, you know, for example, might be in real estate when the real estate market is so hot as it is right now. You know, employees are going to be receiving awards, you know, in a way that’s a process variation. Isn’t a really hot market or economy, you know, really booming and everybody buying things or changes caused by even a pandemic may make certain industries, you know, more successful than others. And it’s really, what I’m really talking about, process variation of the things that are not in the employee’s control, things that are controlling the outcome, that, you know, that they have no control over. So, I think, if you think about it, there’s lots of process variations, maybe stated a different way than that, that come into play, but should be understood, if you’re going to design an employee reward program for people in those types of industries. Needs to be understood.

    Question: When you were discussing the nine types of rewards, it seemed like you weren’t really in favor of holiday parties as an effective type of reward. Are you really against holiday parties?

    Answer: You know, every time I’ve done this presentation, I’ve been asked that same question. No, I like holiday parties. I think they’re great, I think that you just have to be realistic about them. They’re not gonna motivate people to work harder. Or to stay with the company. But they are enjoyed, and they’re important for lots of other reasons, you know, for people, getting a chance to, you know, to interact and socialize with each other and see people in an environment other than the workplace, and those are good things.


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