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Employee Recognition: Why One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Cindy Mielke | June 14, 2018

The science of biometrics can measure how people want to be recognized. You may be surprised at what the researchers found.

How do employees, consciously as well as subconsciously, want to be recognized for their accomplishments? The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) commissioned a neuroscience expert to conduct a first-of-a-kind experiment in the field of rewards and recognition. It was designed to gain additional insight into how people prefer to receive rewards.

From that study came a 2017 report, “Reward Presentation and Attraction: A Biometric Experiment.” The report confirmed the importance of reward choice and individualization. It also offers a warning against taking a one-size-fits-all approach to rewards and recognition.

The report, based on biometric studies of 42 participants of varying age, gender and profession, found that some individuals prefer a great deal of pomp and ceremony when they are recognized, while others dislike the stage and would prefer a reserved and intimate presentation in front of their closest colleagues. Still others prefer no show at all, just a verbal note of appreciation along with whatever tangible reward accompanies it.

Some other findings: A large ceremony setting was less appealing to salespeople and women than to non-salespeople and men. It was the most disliked setting for millennials, who are more drawn to “peer-to-peer” presentations than other options.

The IRF report found that overall, a smaller, more reserved presentation was the highest consciously-rated preference by study participants, while all the scenarios rated relatively well.

“The most compelling indicator from this experiment,” says the IRF report, “may be that reward presentation preferences cannot be closely predicted on the basis of gender, role, age, or even the combination of the three.”

Further studies may be conducted with larger sample sizes, in which researchers hope to gain a greater understanding of attitudes toward reward type and presentation. Read the full IRF report.

At GC Incentives, our approach to incentives and rewards, and the way in which they are presented, is defined by creating a memorable experience for clients and recipients, supporting corporate culture, rewarding performance, increasing sales, celebrating milestones, and more. To learn more about us, please visit