For decades, cash has been the go to award for employers wanting to give their hard working employees a well-deserved gift. However, in recent years the tides have been changing and employers are starting to become more intuitive about the kinds of gifts they are giving. Cash is losing its hold in the recognition department as employers are turning their gift choices to more personal, well thought out gifts that make employees feel appreciated.

The Numbers

In recently conducted studies, results showed the employees were more likely to choose a non-cash incentive over a cash incentive for their hard work. The number breakdown is as follows:

  • In large reward scenarios, 80% of employees selected noncash incentives
  • In small reward scenarios, 40% of employees selected noncash incentives

This shows that the larger the value of the award, the more likely the employee was to forgo the cash option and choose a non-cash reward.


So what is the biggest motivational factor in a reward program? Studies have shown that employees place a great deal of their intrinsic motivation when presented with the opportunity for professional development. Regardless of age, approximately 1/3 of respondents valued professional development in terms of a reward program.

Mix and Match

Overall, it is a good idea to try and mix cash and non-cash incentives when you are formulating your reward program. Combining vacation time, gift cards, trophies, and plaques, with cash based incentives is a wonderful way to tell employees you value their business and encourage them to stay motivated at work. Nearly all surveyed employees, 99%, said that they would prefer a reward experience that was unique. This goes to show that employees not only prefer non-cash based incentives, but they want to see their employer putting in a good amount of thought and mix and match when it comes to their awards.

While many employers may have different opinions on award systems, and each employer has a system that works well for them, the numbers don’t lie. More and more employees are proving to be more motivated by non-cash incentives: professional development, gift cards, trophies, and more. Employers who want to continuously motivate their employees should put in the time and effort to create a good combination of both cash and non-cash incentives as well as a unique award system to help drive their employees, increase loyalty, and create a positive and happy work environment within the company.

About Bruce Munro:

Bruce is the President of Able Recognition Ltd, one of the largest employee recognition and branding product providers in North America.