Cash Bonuses Vs. Rewards: Which Is Better?

Does money make the world go round? Does money equal more problems? Is more money what people really want?

There are plenty of pop classics that have mused over the duality of money’s appeal, and it’s safe to say they’ve all raised their fair share of good points, too (well, mostly); but away from the glitz and glamour of showbiz, and in the real world of the workplace, is cold-hard cash really what everyone wants?


We’ve all been in the position of looking for a new job – be it out of choice or necessity – and you can bet a pretty penny that the annual salary will be a priority for many people.

But, whilst finding a job that covers all your regular expenditures (and a bit more) is a big factor, money isn’t always the key to happiness, productivity or satisfaction in a role. This is where the prospect of bonuses - whilst a short term fix and no-doubt a welcome boost to the recipient - start to lose their appeal in the long term.

This is creating a problem for employers, both large and small, when it comes to retaining their best staff and attracting top talent. How can they keep the most valuable employees and entice the best new talent when money isn’t always the driving factor?

The past decade has seen a huge shift in how the world of work is viewed by both the employer and employee. Thanks to factors such as global economic uncertainties, low productivity and a ‘Brexit fog’, many people are now working longer and harder than ever before.

Also, with the average worker now more nomadic and more likely to consider jumping between jobs than ever before, staff retention can be an ongoing battle for employers.

Cash bonuses may seem like the answer to this problem, but in truth, they're expensive, impersonal and for businesses needing to watch the pennies, potentially unsustainable long-term.

This is where a company’s culture really comes into play and can help retain those talented employees

A good company culture not only rewards and recognises the hard work and efforts of its employees, but also helps improve their quality of life too. And when we say, ‘quality of life’, we mean the stuff that makes life that little more enjoyable for everyone.


Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love time away from work? The kind of days you can lie-in bed that extra hour (or two), mooch around the house in a onesie or catch up on your latest boxset binge-fest – all with that little sense of ‘I should be in work right now’. But you’re not, and that’s what makes these kinds of days so enjoyable!

Whilst free time to burn is obviously an asset for most people, the benefits are more than just superficial. For your employees, being allowed time away from work can spark renewed productivity when they return and also reduce the stresses and strains of the everyday grind.

Plus, consider the employees who may commute long distances every day or spend much of their week away from family or friends. They’re the ones who’ll really appreciate the gift of time from an employer and be more likely to go above and beyond to be rewarded with time off as a result.

When it should be offered

Time off from work can be used as an incentive to reach goals or as a reward for employees who have given up their own free time to stay late or come in early. Time is something you can’t buy with a cash bonus; so, its effect on the workforce as a reward can hold a far deeper value.


The workplace is a sociable environment which works best when people collaborate, help and contribute as a team for a shared goal. But the sociable element shouldn’t just be confined to the workplace.

Offering a day out for team building or putting on a social event a couple of times a year gives your employees the opportunity to mix, bond and really get to know each other outside the more formal setting of the workplace. And a social event doesn’t have to be a grand gesture; heading out for a team meal or day out to a theme park are relatively inexpensive alternatives to cash bonuses or incentives, but will still be valued and enjoyed.

When your employees start to get to know each other better, they’ll be more inclined to collaborate with each other and discover what motivates and inspires them too.

When it should be offered

If you have a relatively new or inexperienced team, a team building day together is a brilliant way to spark collaboration, creativity and – obviously – teamwork! A day or evening out is a fantastic way to say thank you and acknowledge the hard work of employees who’ve been going all out to meet deadlines, smash targets or drive a business forward.

Free downloadable resource: Employee Motivation Cheat Sheet  Are you struggling to keep your workforce motivated throughout the year?  Download our free Employee Motivation Cheat Sheetand see how you can reduce the  slump! 


As a physical asset, money is brilliant – you buy stuff, pay your bills and get access to goods and services (thanks to Homer J Simpson for pointing that out); but it’s something of a one-hit wonder. You’ve got it, then inevitably, it’s gone again.

As a reward or incentive, it does make sense on the face of it (after all, we could all do with a bit more money), but when compared to an experience, the appeal of cash doesn’t stack up.

Don Rheem, author of "Thrive By Design: The Neuroscience That Drives High-Performance Cultures" perhaps said it best when he observed: "Money satisfies, but it has very little impact on daily behaviour. Far more impactful are things that money can't buy – things a responsive employer should be providing every day."

Don’s thoughts are echoed by our own research, which has found that 1-in-5 employees are more receptive to experiential rewards as opposed to cash. This is especially so when it comes to the Millennial & Gen Z generations, who are now making up a larger proportion of the workforce than ever before.

Experiential rewards give the recipient the chance to make memories doing something they’ll really enjoy – be it a trip to the cinema with their friends or having a meal with their families or loved ones. Plus, an experiential reward also links nicely back to time away from work and encouraging a healthy work-life balance.

When  they should be offered

An experiential reward is a great way to motivate and encourage standout performances at work – be it hitting a sales target or simply delivering great service to a client time and time again.

The prospect of a fun and enjoyable experience without the financial hit will resonate with employees on a much deeper level and help that all-important company culture too.


Lastly, a fleeting cash bonus may bulk out a bank account for a short period of time, but being able to help your employees stretch their money further can be far more beneficial in the long-term.

This is where prepaid cards can really make a difference. Prepaid incentive and recognition Visa cards make it simple, convenient and safe to reward employees again and again, and give the recipients the freedom to spend anywhere on stuff which they really want.

If your workplace is a sales or commission-based environment, they also make a fantastic alternative to simply lumping cash into bank accounts where it can be easily lost to regular outgoings like bills or fuel.

Loading any commission-based rewards onto a prepaid card will give the recipient access to exclusive retailer deals and also earn cashback whilst they spend too.

So, not only are you helping to save money on the stuff they may need regularly, but you’re helping them earn more money as they do it. Now that’s something we could all do with…

Another great thing about a prepaid card is the fact that it can be branded with your own company logo or brand identity. This might seem like a small thing, but it acts as a constant and welcome reminder that the employer is helping their employees save and earn money every time they use it.

When it should be offered

A prepaid card doesn’t just have to be part of just an incentive or reward strategy. It’s a mechanism that can be used to help an employee’s quality of life and can form the foundation of a workplace culture that puts the wellbeing of its employees front and centre.




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