Top 3 Employee Rewards and Recognition Trends for 2014

Low levels of employee engagement are plaguing companies today and improved rewards and recognition programs are the solution, according to Accelir’s recent Rewards & Recognition: 2014 Trends Report.

Company cuts and cost reductions, technology advances and a rapidly changing global marketplace have led to employees’ job security concerns, elevated stress levels and a lesser sense of company and job loyalty. As a result, HR professionals are challenged with low productivity, negative attitudes, increased absenteeism and reduced employee retention rates in the workplace.

Accelir’s report examines future trends in strategic employee rewards and recognition programs. The company’s summer 2013 survey showed that “less than half of companies have programs that reward workers based on performance indicators.”

However, employers that do have formal programs see tangible benefits, including increased employee productivity and engagement as well as higher organizational and financial performance.

3 major trends

The report points to three major trends:

  1. Service awards moving towards early recognition. Rather than traditional service anniversary awards, companies are implementing early recognition programs that reward employees as soon as one year of employment. When combined with engagement, rewards, acknowledgement and a positive work culture, companies are able to improve employee retention, resulting in decreased turnover and recruiting costs and increased productivity.
  2. Creating a culture of recognition. While developing a positive culture focusing on recognition may be difficult and take time to implement, it represents a large area of growth and tangible benefits for a company and its employees. Executive leadership buy-in, training of managers, and support and involvement of everyone throughout the organization is critical. Performance-based rewards, consistency and a clear tie to core values are also important components.
  3. Rewards and recognition with social media. The study found that more than 82 percent of companies do not currently include social media in their programs, and 55 percent of them are not planning to add it to future reward and recognition initiatives. Accelir estimates it will take another three years for adoption and integration of social media. One reason cited is employees’ discomfort with employers sharing to their personal social media networks.

The Rewards & Recognition: 2014 Trends Report also addresses selection of rewards and recognition program vendors. Companies evaluate sources based on technology, innovation, user experience and cost. Interestingly, analytics is not considered an important feature, though measurement and tracking are critical to gauging success.

Key takeaways

The report concludes with key takeaways and recommendations.

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First, HR managers who implement strategic, performance-based rewards programs create a competitive advantage for their companies.

Second, senior leaders are starting to realize rewards and recognition programs can benefit both employees and their organizations.

Third, companies rebuilding or growing their programs need to take into consideration the key trends identified in the study: early recognition, a culture of recognition and social media integration. By doing so, companies can increase productivity and return on investment as well as decrease employee turnover.

The full Rewards & Recognition: 2014 Trends Report is available here.

Sarah White ( has spent her career aligning talent strategies with business strategies. As the Recruiting Solutions Group Director at MRA (, the second largest employer's association in the nation, she works with companies of all sizes on recruitment strategy design, recruitment process optimization, online recruiting, employment branding, college recruitment and internship program development, and applicant tracking software selection. In addition, she runs more than 20 training events each year and has served as keynote speaker and guest lecturer for business groups and university classes on topics related to recruitment and selection, applicant tracking systems and professional development. She is frequently interviewed as a recruiting expert, recently by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News.