Key Employee Rewards and Recognition Trends in 2021 and Beyond

2020 was a year that pushed organizations to adopt new operating models overnight and learn important lessons for the future. One of the key lessons was understanding the significance of the digital workplace as an integral part of the organization’s operating strategy. Employee rewards and recognition too is likely to see big changes. In this context, let’s take a look at the key employee rewards and recognition trends in 2021 and beyond.

Also read about the Key Trends in HR for 2021 and Beyond

What are the key factors that will impact Employee Recognition in 2021?


The year 2020 proved to be tumultuous for almost every organization irrespective of its size and industry segment. Organizations were forced to adopt new methods of working to keep operating and also to make changes in the way they keep their workforce engaged and motivated.

Here are the key factors that will impact employee rewards and recognition:

1.     Rise and Growth of Digital Workplaces

The COVID-19 pandemic forced most organizations to switch to the digital mode of working. Though several organizations had been investing in digital tools over the years, the pandemic has made them accelerate the process of driving their usage. Other organizations that have been slow to adopt these tools have started adopting them faster.

The large-scale adoption of the digital workplace is going to make a significant impact on employee rewards and recognition practices. Organizations would need to modify their policies and practices to match the needs and challenges of a changing work environment.

2.     Focus on Employee Wellness

The health crisis resulting from the pandemic has highlighted the need for organizations to focus on the health and well-being of their employees more than ever.

Organizations have started focusing on the holistic wellness of employees including physical, mental, and psychological wellbeing to ensure productivity and retention.
Organizations need to evolve their employee rewards and recognition policies to drive wellness initiatives.

3.     Need to Stay Connected

In 2020, the need to stay connected and in continuous communication with the employees has been felt more than ever. With most employees working in isolation, the fear of being left out is adding to their stress levels.

That is why organizations need to ensure that their rewards and recognition programs help is creating a sense of inclusion among the employees by acknowledging and appreciating their efforts in a timely and appropriate manner.   

4.     Build Engagement and Loyalty

The pandemic has triggered large scale job losses and pay cuts across organizations. This, coupled with the growing isolation of working remotely can breed disengagement among the employees. Finally, this might result in attrition as the economic growth picks up and the job market opens up.

Hence, organizations need to drive higher engagement through their reward and recognition programs and create greater confidence and loyalty towards the organization. 


What will be the Key Employee Rewards and Recognition Trends in 2021?


The outbreak of the pandemic in 2020 is driving large-scale and permanent changes in the way organizations operate. Organizations need to realign their rewards and recognition programs to ensure that their employees feel accepted, included, and appreciated, no matter where they are working from.

Here’s a look at the key trends in employee rewards and recognition in 2021:

1.     Digital and Platform-driven

With most organizations planning to have a significant segment of their workforce operating from home in 2021 and beyond, it will not be surprising that organizations will invest in technology platforms for employee recognition in a big way.

These recognition platforms will enable organizations to deliver digital programs that can cater to the needs of a virtual and distributed workforce in terms of timeliness, frequency, and social visibility, with minimal administrative overheads.

Organizations will need to choose the end-to-end recognition platforms that can help digitize and automate their programs, are cost-effective, simple to manage, and can ensure a high level of end-user experience for the employees.

Take a look at the Features and Functionalities of the HiFives Platform

2.     Integrated with Other Digital Platforms

In 2021, recognition platforms will rarely operate in a stand-alone mode but in an integrated way with other digital platforms and work tools. This will ensure a better alignment of employee recognition with the business goals and drive higher productivity.

Integration of employee recognition platforms is likely to happen with platforms such as HRMS, work collaboration tools (like Slack and Teams), customer management systems and learning management systems. This will create a seamless experience for the employees while driving better business results.

Take a look at 3rd Party Integration Options of the HiFives Platform

3.     Focus on Peer Recognition

Peer-to-peer recognition has already come to be acknowledged as one of the most effective ways of appreciating employees for their good work and keeping them motivated.

In 2021, peer recognition will move in the mainstream of employee recognition as organizations will look at it as an effective way to drive collaboration among remote-working employees, and creating a positive work culture.

Read about Peer-to-Peer Recognition – Understanding the Nuts and Bolts

4.     Recognition for Culture-building

In the absence of other levers that are available in a physical work environment, employee recognition will play an important role in creating a positive work culture in 2021.

Supervisors and peers should be encouraged to recognize behaviours that are in alignment with the organization’s core values and help in building a great work environment.

Read about Employee Recognition Program can drive Cultural Change

5.     Gamification of Work

To address the challenges of working remotely, organizations are likely to turn towards gamification of work for driving a higher level of motivation among the employees.

Digital recognition platforms will enable organizations to implement gamification practices such as challenges, contests, reward points, and digital leaderboards. This will increase employee participation and interest in the recognition programs and make them more fun-filled and exciting.

Read about Gamification as a means of Enhancing Employee Engagement

6.     Informal or Fun Awards for Engagement
With many critical levers of employee engagement unavailable in the digital workplace, organizations can look at informal or fun awards to drive greater engagement among remote working employees.

These fun awards could be given for appreciating positive attributes, interests, and hobbies of co-workers; ranging from sports, adventure, fitness, music, fashion, food, gaming, gadgets, etc. These can be implemented through some variant of an online nomination and polling process.

Informal or fun rewards can not only break the monotony of working alone but also creating greater bonding between team members, and overall, fostering a positive work environment.


7.     Rewards for Learning and Development Activities

With organizations looking to invest in learning and development for upgrading employee skills to stay competitive, they need to ensure a high level of interest and participation from employees.

Rewarding employees for learning and development activities can ensure that employees are motivated to not just participate in such programs but also put in their best efforts to learn and upgrade their skills, which are important to the organization in the long run.

Read about Learning and Development can promote Employee Engagement

8.     Rewards for Employee Wellness

As organizations focus on employee wellness initiatives to keep their employees healthy, motivated and productive, wellness rewards are likely to become an important tool for driving participation and interest in such activities.

The organization should reward employees for improving awareness, participating in various wellness activities, and encouraging healthy competition between co-workers.

This could be achieved by integrating various fitness devices used by the employees, displaying individual and group performance through digital leaderboards, creating challenges and contests, and giving reward points for winners.

Read about Employee Wellness Ideas for Work from Home

Understanding the key employee rewards and recognition trends in 2021 and beyond can help organizations put in place the right policies, processes, and systems to develop a highly motivated and committed workforce going forward.

Organizations that do so can reap business benefits not just in the near future but also in the long run.

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