How To Set A Non-Traditional Employee Reward System

Customize your own reward system for your company

Corporate reward systems typically combine monetary bonuses along with longer-term health or retirement benefits. Of course, every company should be able to offer well-rounded compensation packages to its entire workforce, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take things a step further. Non-traditional incentive and perk systems are popular among startups aiming to cultivate a truly people-first corporate culture. If you’re ready to go the extra mile for your people, this is a great place to start. This guide details how to build your own system to reward your employees and some fun incentives to include if you’re the non-traditional type.

The Why: Reasons for introducing a non-traditional reward system

Companies are starting to change things. A few decades ago, we wouldn’t even consider how to reward workers for their work—let alone find creative ways to do it. As our conception of corporate reality is changing, finding new ways to reward high performers is a must. Showing appreciation in practical ways is an important step in maintaining a satisfied, productive workforce. In addition, well-rounded benefits plans ensure better retention rates and longer tenures within your company; the quality of the compensation packages is ultimately the deciding factor among prospective departures. Not to mention, creating a customized reward system can help establish good leadership practices and foster positive connections between upper management and employees.

How: 4 steps to get started

1. Research model companies

If there are any organizations out there whose culture and structure you admire, it’s not a bad idea to get some inspiration. Research the employee reward systems your model companies offer, or ask around and find out through your network. Alternatively, you can explore the market to discover what companies of similar size are offering their workforce. Not only can you come up with some fresh ideas about your rewards system – you can also find out what your competitors are lacking. This is a great way to ensure that your benefits package stands out from what other companies offer, as generous compensation plans provide a competitive advantage and eliminate chances of turnover among your employees.

2. Discover the needs and wants of your people

Consulting your people to find out what they really need from an employee reward system should be part of the planning process. Your employees know what they want better than anyone else. If you don’t want to make someone uncomfortable by asking directly, you can create an anonymous survey or poll in which employees outline what they want to see in their benefits plan. Of course, not everything will be feasible, but it’s a good starting point to gather some initial ideas of what will increase your employee satisfaction rates.

3. Allocate the budget

As mentioned above, not every idea can become a reality; it will depend on your company’s resources, size and available budget. Allocating a budget range is a crucial step. So gather your advisors to discuss your ideas and work together to find ways to make them happen. Be sure to leave some wiggle room in your estimated expense plan for unexpected costs.

4. Discuss with Culture Specialists

People and culture specialists are tasked with establishing and maintaining a close-knit, healthy workplace culture to ensure the well-being of the workforce and the well-being of the company. Consult your culture experts on how to proceed with your planning and what to include in your new employee reward system. Through their participation, your benefits plan can truly reflect the identity of your company and will be able to target and improve the employee experience and engagement.

The What: 4 Incentives to Include in Your Reward System

1. Work from home bonus

Companies that offer hybrid work environments often have a competitive advantage over those that work strictly in the office. Even if your company isn’t ready to transition to a more flexible work model, you can offer remote working days as part of your reward system. Employees can choose a number of days per month to work remotely and get a break from the long hours spent in traffic. This will particularly benefit younger employees who like the freedom to structure their week more flexibly. In the end, though, it all depends on the nature of each job and whether your workforce has the equipment they need to work outside the office.

2. Counseling programs

Counseling programs should be incorporated into the company’s long-term L&D practices. If your organization cannot offer a permanent counseling program, consider incorporating it into your employee rewards system. You can combine this with a mentorship initiative or a series of workshops spanning the whole year. Programs of this nature can provide advice on career development and personal growth or tackle everyday issues such as how to deal with stress at work and how to establish a healthy work-life balance.

3. Commuting privileges

It is not uncommon for people to need at least two hours a day to drive or commute to and from the office. Gas or transportation expenses pile up at the end of the month. Reimbursing your employees’ monthly transportation expenses can go a long way. In addition, rewarding employees who use public transport encourages a more environmentally friendly approach to transport. If providing transportation tickets is way beyond your company’s budget, consider offering a more flexible working model.

4. Mental Health Day

This can take the form of an extra day off that employees can take when things get overwhelming. Alternatively, it could be a special day that focuses on their well-being by taking on tasks that won’t strain their mental health or working on their own creative projects. Even if it means your employees are less productive one day per quarter, it’s still a worthwhile initiative to ensure your workforce can take a break from their daily routine. This can have a tremendous impact on your employees’ overall well-being and productivity levels. It is also an excellent preventative measure against silent quitting and helps employees achieve a better work-life balance.


Creating a customized rewards system for your organization requires a significant amount of work and planning. Every company is different; this guide is just a starting point to help you create a reward system that better reflects the identity of your organization and the needs of your people. Be sure to consult your experts, advisors and your workforce when it comes to rethinking your benefits and compensation packages. If you’re still struggling to work out your non-traditional reward system, you can always look through our online guide and find a culture expert to help you along the way.

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