Difference between Employee Award and Reward

Difference between Employee Award and Reward

Employee award and reward truly count, and there’s data to prove it: 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. 75% of team workers believe that team recognition shows that their work is useful and valuable to their companies. 

That said, the key to achieving high employee satisfaction is to understand award vs. reward. While using these two words interchangeably is common, they’re quite different in business. 

Let’s discover what award vs. reward means for your employee recognition strategy.

Difference between Employee 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 is more flexible—it may be 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.

Employee 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 achievement 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. Getting some gift ideas for staff appreciation will enhance cooperation within the team and will develop need assessment processes.

You can receive an award in order to achieve business goals and accomplishments, while a reward is an incentive to increase performance. For example, season tickets to an employee’s triathlon coaching are an award. A congratulations e-card to an employee for completing an onboarding program counts as 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.

When to Give an Employee Award vs. Reward?

At its best, an employee recognition program matches the employee’s efforts with the perfect award vs. reward. 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 recognition?
An award should recognize the outcome of the 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 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.

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Why Does Employee 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: 

Why does Employee Award and Reward Matter?

Reduced turnover rates
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 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.

Examples of Employee Awards and Rewards 

Your company awards and rewards can be as creative as you wish. An employee award and 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 employee 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.

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Author Bio:

Sasi Dharan

Sasi Dharan, Marketing Manager, Profit.co. In his current role, he leads the Digital Marketing Team. He has a decade of experience in Project Management, Operation Excellence Consulting, and Digital Marketing. Sasi is passionate about learning new technologies, and strategies in marketing and deploying them in his organization. He is also an avid traveler and a biker who has traveled almost 7000miles in a year.
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