11 Top Non-Monetary Incentives to Reward Your Employees
Cash isn’t the only way to reward employees. Non-monetary incentives help you keep your people enthusiastic, motivated, and engaged. Let’s dive into the benefits of non-monetary incentives in more detail and explore the top non-monetary rewards your organization can offer.
What are non-monetary incentives?
Non-monetary incentives are, as the term suggests, non-cash benefits that employers offer to their employees. They are a way of rewarding people outside of the regular, monetary compensation and benefits package.
Examples of non-monetary compensation include work flexibility, experiential rewards, and additional time off, but more on that later.
What are the benefits of non-monetary incentives?
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of non-monetary rewards before we dive into our list of examples.
- You can reward people (almost) immediately. Unlike a cash bonus or pay rise where you have to wait until the next payday, most non-monetary benefits can be given straight away. This means that people get recognition exactly when they should, pretty much in real-time.
- They are memorable. Being recognized in the workplace with, for instance, a reward, a lunch or a short trip leaves a lasting, more positive impact with employees than receiving extra cash. It will make their journey with your company a memorable one.
- They provide great value for money. With non-monetary rewards, you can create a lot of impact without breaking the bank. A good example of this is a peer recognition program.
Financially speaking you don’t need a lot of money to set up such an initiative while the benefits are countless: from better employee relationships and a lasting boost in engagement, to increasing trust, productivity, performance and much more.
Non-cash incentives that do require a financial investment, by the way, can often be deducted as a business expense.
- They spark intrinsic motivation. They make people feel valued, give them room to grow, and show them the impact they make on the organization.
- They help engage employees. Non-monetary incentives like time off for volunteering, tangible rewards, or team outings make for great talking points. They can be an excellent way for people to start a conversation and ‘break the ice’.
- They can help with attraction and retention. Money is important because let’s be honest, at the end of the day – or should I say month – we all need to pay our fair share of bills. But often money isn’t the main reason we stay at a company or join one.
The people we work with, our manager, the job itself – and yes, the non-monetary rewards, they are the reason we stay (or go).
As such, non-cash incentives can be a part of your employer branding strategy and be the deciding factor that makes candidates choose you over a competitor.
Best non-monetary incentives for employees
1. Time to work on their own projects
This is one of my favorite non-monetary incentives. The idea behind it is very simple: people are motivated by the things they are passionate about and (hugely) appreciate it when the company they work for stimulates this.
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Probably the best-known example of a company giving its employees time to work on their personal projects is Google. There exists, however, some debate as to whether or not this so-called 20% Time scheme is still in place – or ever really was.
Let me give you the details anyway. At Google, employees are (were) encouraged to spend 20% of their time on their own projects. Interestingly, many successful Google products such as Google Maps, Gmail, and AdSense, started as 20% time projects.
In other words, these ‘personal’ projects turned into some of Google’s most profitable products. This is a good example of how a non-monetary benefit can lead to innovation, highly engaged employees, and great business results.
Another example of a company that gives its people time to work on personal projects on company time is Myplanet. The company-wide benefit is called Awesome Time and employees can use 5% of their working time to spend on their own projects. By choosing 5% instead of 20%, Myplanet can ensure the sustainability of the program.
2. Flexible working
Unsurprisingly, this is one of the most popular non-cash benefits among employees. Even before covid, people already attached great importance to flexible working.
However, not everyone wants to work from home a couple of days a week or switch their working hours.
Some people much rather spend their working day in the office, for instance, because they don’t have a suitable space at home to work, or because they prefer having colleagues around to talk with and learn from.
I believe that the key here is to look at flexible working in the broadest sense of the term. This means that, as much as possible, employees get to choose what they prefer.
At Salesforce, for example, this is what they decided to do. Employees in roles that allow them to work remotely can choose to 1) work remotely 2) come to the office a few days a week 3) work from the office full time.
Other companies, such as Eventbrite, give candidates the option to choose between roles that are fully remote or (partially) office-based when they apply.
3. Public recognition
As cliché as it may sound, when it comes to non-monetary incentives, a simple (public) thank you can go such a long way.
Creating a culture of recognition that is embraced by everyone in the organization (from top to bottom and vice versa) supported by a successful peer recognition program is an excellent way to ensure that people hear ‘thank you’ right when they need it.
Peer recognition can come in many shapes and sizes; from simply saying thank you and post-it notes to custom emojis on Slack to (virtual) points or badges and so much more. As an added bonus, it’s also a great way to encourage people to live the company’s values.
4. Additional time off
Offering an extra day or a birthday off, a longer lunch break, an early finish on Friday or a later start on Monday are all examples of rewarding employees with additional time off.
Many employers have also established so-called Mental Health days to encourage their people to unplug, a development that only accelerated during and after covid.
Caller ID startup Hiya, for example, declared every last Friday of the month a holiday, and at Eventbrite, they launched Britecamps and Britebreaks where the whole company takes off the first Friday of every month.
5. Extra opportunities for professional and personal development
Randstad’s Employer Brand Research 2020 showed that 49% of candidates find career progression opportunities an important factor when they choose an employer.
One way to offer your people these opportunities is by helping them to upskill or reskill. There are, of course, various ways to go about this. The good news is that this doesn’t necessarily require a big budget.
Think for instance of setting up a peer mentoring and/or peer coaching program. Both can be great ways for employees to learn from each other, expand their skill sets, and build stronger relationships.
6. Experiential rewards
Experiential rewards have the benefit of being more memorable than transactional rewards. They also allow you to make an emotional connection between your people and your brand.
The sky literally is the limit here with some companies offering their people a once-in-a-lifetime trip when they’ve achieved a certain milestone.
The nice thing about experiential rewards though is that you can tailor them into something that makes sense for your brand, your employees, and your budget.
Other examples of experiential rewards include taking your employees to a local sporting event, a pottery class, or a celebratory night out with one of the company’s founders.
7. Time for volunteering
In a way, you could say that ‘Volunteer Time Off’ or VTO is also a type of experiential reward. After all, working for a charity is for most of us an entirely different experience from what we are used to.
In any case, giving your employees time to volunteer for a charity of their choice is a non-monetary incentive that many of them appreciate and that also gives back (to the community, the world, etc.).
8. Fringe benefits
Fringe benefits are another type of non-monetary incentive. Basically, they are additional perks provided to your employees.
There are heaps of different fringe benefits that you can offer people, including wellness programs, free meals at work or restaurant vouchers, commuter incentives, cinema tickets, traveler cheques, etc.
One-on-one time with their manager can be super valuable for people. Especially for managers who lead a relatively small team, scheduling either a weekly or bi-weekly meeting with each of their team members is something to seriously consider.
Having one-on-ones makes people feel included and gives them a set time to discuss whatever it is that’s on their mind with their manager. These kinds of meetings create a more continuous dialogue and are a good way to build trust between employees and managers.
A regular 1-on-1 between a manager and their employees can also be an ideal moment to ask people for their feedback, discuss performance and projects.
10. Ask your people!
Think about it, who better to ask about non-monetary incentives examples than your own employees? They may have great ideas you hadn’t even thought about.
Besides, if you end up implementing one (or more) of the benefits your employees suggested, the fact that you listened to them will positively affect their engagement and job satisfaction: win-win!
11. Tangible rewards and gifts
A tangible gift is, just like an experiential award, more memorable than a cash incentive. They are also easy to personalize according to your employees’ preferences.
Tangible rewards and gifts can also come in the form of company swag; t-shirts, mugs, pens, water bottles, hoodies, you name it. Branded swag is often given to new hires during their onboarding period or during a company offsite in the form of a goodie bag, but it can boost employee morale at any time.
Non-monetary incentives can be a good way to reward your employees for a job well done. However, they will only work in combination with a reasonable compensation package. That way, a variety of non-monetary incentives can help turn a good team into a great one.