Non-monetary or monetary incentives: what employees really want

What do you think works best when it comes to incentives: anything cash-related or non-monetary items?

Your first thought is likely cash incentives.

However, you might be wrong… Studies have shown that cash bonuses for top employees only really make a difference about half of the time.

So that means that there are a number of different incentives you can choose from that may even be easier to implement that will deliver a greater outcome for you, your employees and your business. 


Does a cash value really matter that much?

Sure does. 

According to a study by the Incentive Research Federation for the Incentive Marketing Association, 65% of employees prefer non-monetary incentives instead of monetary rewards.

One reason for this could be that cash rewards really can get lost in the shuffle of things.

It’s an instant gratification which, yes, it feels great in the moment. However, that feeling tends to leave quite quickly. 

Non-monetary incentives leave a more emotional impression on employees and they feel more recognized and engaged. 


  • Non-monetary incentives have separability. In other words, anything cash-related gets lumped into that category or hourly pay or salary while something non-monetary fits into a different category and thus is remembered and/or enjoyed more.
  • Gen-Z and millennials are more attracted to fringe benefits. Entry-level employees may value cash more but as they continue to work, recognition, flexibility, company culture, and anything that fits into the “wellness” category becomes more appealing. 
  • Non-cash rewards are more memorable and have an emotional value.  When employees receive something which they can keep and show or experience, it adds more emotional value to the reward.
  • Non-cash rewards are easier to talk about and share with others. While talking about money doesn’t have to be a faux-pas in the office, many still find it harder to talk about to share. Non-monetary incentives are easier for employees to be proud of and share with others making them feel special.


What are some non-monetary incentives?

Some non-monetary incentives that actually work could include:

  • More flexibility
    • Hybrid-work options
    • Telecommuting
    • Work from home 1x/week
  • Rewards and recognition
    • Send a thank-you email or a handwritten note
    • Reward with gift cards
    • Praise and mention their success at a meeting or in front of colleagues
    • Recognize them on social media
  • Provide an extra day off
  • Provide time built into their schedule for volunteering
  • Offer extensive training plans
    • Leadership courses
    • Extended learning
    • Courses they can take on company time
  • One-on-one lunches
  • Experiential rewards
    • Free lunch out
    • Spa day
    • Activity with colleagues (bowling, golf, movie afternoon, etc.)
  • Offer to provide more mentorship
  • Let employees have more autonomy at work (more freedom, less micromanaging)
  • Provide more wellness options
    • Mental health programs (free counseling, counseling while at work, etc.)
    • Physical health programs (stipends for gyms, time for midday walks, etc.)
    • Financial health programs (emergency savings, loan programs, financial rewards, free financial counseling, etc.)

Do any of these incentives sound appealing to you? What would you provide to your employees?


What can I do now?

Start by evaluating your incentives program. Are you providing the right incentives? Are you providing incentives at all? 

Most people think they have to offer financial incentives to employees and they really don’t. However, if you want some financial incentive suggestions, read this blog here.

So many options for your employees.

Where will you start?









To learn more about TrueConnect’s Financial Wellness Platform, with access to financial advisors, emergency savings plans and loan options for your employees, click here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts