Recognition – it’s more than just Rewards and Awards

November 22, 2013 Deb Broderson

rewards and recognition

It’s a fact. In our incentive industry, we use words during our daily communications which we think mean the same thing but in reality, they just don’t.  I too have fallen victim to this and typically catch myself, after the fact!  Let me share with you, the one I hear most often and that is, the misuse of the words: rewards, recognition and awards.   We should make an effort to understand the true differences because the impact on a company’s management, employees and channel partners is real.

So to begin, I conferred with my trusted source of Merriam-Webster  and this is how they clarify the meanings of the words:


  • Noun- something offered or given in return for a service performed;
  • Verb- to give money or another kind of payment to (someone or something) for something good that has been done


  • Noun- the act of accepting that something or someone is important or true or that it exists


  • Noun- something (such as a prize) that is given to someone or something for being excellent or for doing something that is admired
  • Verb- to give (a reward or prize) to someone or something;   to officially decide that someone should get (something)

Now think about the meanings.  When you are in a discussion about an employee recognition or sales incentive program, does everyone truly understanding the impact and end results these words have on their employees?  Incentive guru Roy Sanderson has broken down the top 10 differences for us, in a recent article for Incentive Magazine.

  1. Rewards are tangible. Recognition is intangible.
  2. Rewards will always be transactional. Recognition should always be relational.
  3. Rewards are simply consumed. Recognition is mostly experienced.
  4. Rewards are transferable. Recognition is non-transferable.
  5. Rewards are certainly conditional. Recognition happens to be unconditional.
  6. Rewards are expected. Recognition is a surprise.
  7. Rewards are economical. Recognition is emotional.
  8. Rewards are outcome driven. Recognition is focused on behaviors.
  9. Rewards are fixed. Recognition is flowing.
  10. Rewards are impersonal. Recognition is personal.

Creating an atmosphere in a company where everyone gets to experience the feeling of recognition, keeps your team highly engaged, emotionally connected and appreciated should be the goal.

Have you felt recognized lately?  Tell us about the effect it has on you.  Are you motivated to do more?

I'd love to chat!
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