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When's the Best Time to Reward Employees?

  • Jul 15, 2015
  • Customer Appreciation, Employee Engagement, Gift Card Rewards, Performance Recognition

So true. Timing is Everything.

Managers and Comedians

Imagine sitting in a comedy club watching a comedian bomb. It’s painful. People feel uncomfortable. Most likely, his timing is waaaay-way off.

In the workplace, managers aren’t comedians (generally), but they need to share a critical trait with comedians to keep things rolling in a manner that keeps everyone happy and engaged. They need: Great Timing.

What is Great Timing?

Great Timing is everything. And it’s simple. But first, here’s what Great Timing in the workplace is not: It’s not quarterly, bi-annually, or end-of-year. And it’s not silent.

On the other hand, here’s what it is: Great Timing is recognizing, rewarding and celebrating successes as they occur, even if it’s a verbal “thank you” from the manager to the employee (even better when amplified in front of peers).


In IMARC’s ( Incentive Marketing Association’s Recognition Council) published white paper, 2010 Recognition RX: Engaging Employees For Economic Recovery, employers and managers are advised to:

  • Appreciate people for their individual talents, skills and diversity of thought.
  • Recognize accomplishments with timely recognition—even if it’s only a “thank you.”
  • Outline clear performance expectations.
  • Celebrate successes as they occur.

Now is Better than Later

According to a published study in The Royal Society Publishing, Timing in Reward and Decision Processes, “The time of reward has several important influences on reward processing. The economic value of reward decreases with increasing delays. This temporal discounting may lead to the preference of sooner smaller rewards over larger later rewards.”

With that in mind, a manager or employer doesn’t need to wait for one “big reward”, in fact, quite the opposite is actually more effective. In other words, smaller rewards—provided immediately—create bigger impact.

Polish your Act

The lesson? It’s all about timing. Recognizing and rewarding great behaviors, successes, and achievements when they occur is more effective than waiting. Rewards don’t need to be huge. In fact, smaller rewards will do—as long as the timing of the reward closely follows the event or behavior it’s rewarding. Good managers or employers will consider keeping reward items on hand—ready to recognize employees on the spot.

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