Research has shown that when trying to motivate staff, non-cash items can bring bigger rewards. When asked about their biggest motivators, Generation Z are driven by more than just money. An effective reward is one that increases employee effort, drives their performance and encourages repeat behaviour to earn more rewards.

The key to a successful incentive programme is to truly understand the types of reward that will appeal to your employees and motivate them to stay at your company.

Here are some of the pros and cons of both types of incentive:

Cash rewards

  • This is a more straight forward way to reward ALL employees in one go.
  • Staff are free to choose how and where they spend the reward.
  • You will not discriminate against staff and their beliefs by offering a cash reward to all.


  • If staff get used to receiving a bonus / cash reward then this can lose its novelty factor and become an expected perk.
  • It could be seen as a ‘non-memorable’ reward or motivator.
  • For the generation Z, it doesn’t drive brand loyalty.

Non-cash benefits

  • They are always more memorable and will help to build loyalty.
  • Rewards can be tailored to individual staff members.
  • Memorable experiences will help to retain staff and boost morale.
  • However they can require a lot of time to organise and set up.

Types of perks

  • Awards: these are ideal for those who are motivated by recognition and achievement. For example, ‘star employee’ programmes or staff awards recognising the successes of staff in particular areas.
  • Learning and development: these include conference passes or tickets to events. Ideal for those who want to further their career or personal development.
  • Time off: days off for special occasions (such as birthdays) or dedicated days for specific tasks (such as Christmas shopping).
  • Volunteering: ideal for staff who want to be able give back. Can be motivating for an entire team to take part in a volunteering day and work together.
  • Social events: including team building days, lunches or even overnight stays can help bond employees.

What to consider

  • Take into consideration your employees’ culture. What are they motivated by? Are there common themes or will you need to devise rewards individually for staff?
  • Make sure your rewards scheme is in alignment with your company’s ethos and values.
  • Ask employees what they want. Consider a staff survey to find out what motivates them.
  • Understand what you’re trying to achieve, and what you want the outcome to be.
  • Communicate clearly with staff about rewards, why you’re awarding them and what they will need to do.
  • Do not replace bonuses or cash incentives with non-cash rewards.
  • Continually refine and gain feedback on how staff feel so you can adjust if necessary.

Looking for more staff incentive ideas? Read our ideas for incentives on a budget or get in touch with our team for advice on how we can help.