by Roy Saunderson, MA, CRP | July 17, 2018
Choosing the right awards for your various incentive and recognition programs is never an easy task. You want to show employees that their contributions are valued and appreciated. Awards should match your program's goals and celebrate employee achievements. Today's employees want more than the traditional award items. So here are the Top 10 Ways to Select the Right Incentive or Recognition Award to help you.

1. Clearly spell out your program purpose. Is this award for a sales campaign? Do you want to get people enlisted in your health and wellness platform? Or is this a prestigious award for the president's excellence program? Awards must always fit the program purpose and performance level.

2. Have employees involved and ask them. Use an employee survey to get the big picture view of employee input. Ask them to prioritize on criteria such as the meaningfulness and perception of various award options. Draw upon focus groups too, so you can dig deeper. Solicit the why behind each employee idea.

3. Focus on the meaningfulness factor. Employees are very clear on whether an award item is meaningful or not. Always add onto the award presentation. For example, who's presenting the award? How have you orchestrated the total award celebration experience? What elements can you make even better?

4. Inspire and excite award recipients. Does the incentive or recognition award inspire the recipient to do, and be, better? As you explore award items -- whether tangible gifts or symbolic awards -- find out how excited employees are to receive them. Evaluate the emotional appeal of the awards you're thinking about.

5. Provide choice wherever you can. Giving people exciting options to choose from is a great way to create motivation. Whether the awards are lifestyle, health and fitness, electronics, outdoor, experiential items, charitable donations or gift cards, think choice! This factor can be especially critical with incentives.

6. Always use quality, name brand products. It can be a real let down when an award gift breaks or stops functioning shortly after receiving it. Stick with brand name items that are top quality. Ensure your award vendor is reputable and has a great exchange and replacement policy. Your award speaks for you.

7. Put symbolic awards on a pedestal. Trophies and medals must be totally representative of your organization. Look at Olympic medals and the Oscars for what they mean to recipients. Whatever symbolic awards you design must be an extension of the company and your brand. They will become a treasured prize.

8. Think outside of the box for novel ideas. No need to stay with the tried and true award selections. Dabble in creativity such as a customized portrait painting from a family photo of a recipient. Provide an opportunity to learn something new from an expert that the employee has mentioned such as painting or music.

9. Move from tangible to experiential. Corporate volunteer trips to destinations around the world appeal to younger generation employees. They can build schools or set up wells with water access. This is a fully immersive cultural and teambuilding experience that leaves a legacy associated with your company.

10. Choose your own adventure. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman made famous the idea of doing things before you "kick the bucket". Have employees choose experiences that bring joy. It could be skydiving, an amazing destination experience like whale watching in Patagonia, or cooking with a chef in Paris.

Incentive columnist Roy Saunderson is the author of "Giving the Real Recognition Way." The Vistance Institute chief learning officer at Rideau Inc., Saunderson provides consulting, learning, and thought leadership services focused on helping leaders and managers give real recognition the right way. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter (@RoySaunderson) and at his AuthenticRecognition.com blog.