Imagine you have a problem setting up a wedding registry. Two days after it’s resolved, a personalized package arrives with a gift card for the registry. How would you feel if, after meeting a tough deadline, your boss personally gave you a carefully wrapped iPad she knew you wanted with a personal thank-you note. What would be the impact if that steak package you redeemed from a loyalty program came gift wrapped with a personal letter of thanks?

An emotional impact

The answer for most is astonishment and joy. Over 10 years of research conducted by multiple organizations has confirmed the importance of the award experience. In particular, a landmark 2015 study by the Incentive Research Foundation, “Participant Award Experience Preferences,” found that it’s the way awards are selected and presented that have the most impact.

Are they given for a definable reason the recipient and his or her colleagues clearly understand? Were they selected with the individual in mind? Did they maximize the reward experience so that the recipient, colleagues or significant others share the excitement?

“Surprise people. Look for creative ways to present awards or offer unforgettable experiences such as getaways ...”

Maximizing the effect

According to the Incentive Federation, companies spend over $77 billion on awards, yet a recent survey of master fulfillment companies — the firms that ship out the awards — found that less than 15 percent are personalized, customized, or otherwise selected to maximize the award experience.                                                                           

So, what can organizations do? Make sure rewards reflect appreciation of an accomplishment, contribution, feedback or loyalty. Select rewards that show consideration of the recipient’s personality, interests or situation. Consider letting customers, employees or others create wish lists.

Surprise people. Look for creative ways to present awards or offer unforgettable experiences such as getaways or warehouse run-throughs to create buzz.

The bottom line: Rewards that address intrinsic and extrinsic motivation help reinforce the actions that, if done more of, will help your organization achieve ongoing goals.