Aspirational Rewards vs. Easily Attainable Rewards: Why You Need Both

You’ve developed an outstanding employee recognition and points-based rewards program, set your budgets, and now it’s time to build your first curated rewards catalog. 

What goes in it? The obvious answer is that you want to include a selection of items and experiences your employees want. But that’s not as simple as it may sound. 

Some people would rather save up credits over some time to earn an exotic vacation or luxurious spa resort pampering experience. Some want name-brand sports equipment or the latest gadget, while others would choose passes to indoor airparks for entertaining their kids. Some prefer an e-gift card they can spend on a nice dinner out, a great pair of hiking boots, or new speakers for their car. Others would be thrilled with a rare variety of coffee beans for their espresso machine.

The point is that you want to include multiple options in your rewards catalog to meet the wants and needs of diverse employees. To help make the content as meaningful and individualized as possible, ask employees for feedback! Find out what interests them, where they like to shop, and where they’d like to travel.

Keeping Your Program Vibrant

It’s important to keep your recognition program vibrant, with employees regularly earning and redeeming rewards. 

There’s a science to mixing aspirational rewards with those that can be achieved more quickly. Recognition is more effective when it’s more immediate. And people love celebrating success with a “winner” (even if they are, perhaps, simultaneously envious).

Although some employees will doggedly work toward earning that exotic vacation despite knowing it could take them a year or longer, program vibrancy requires regular redemptions. If at least the lower-level rewards aren’t being claimed with some frequency, your rewards program can lose much of its value to employees.

Variety is the Spice …

Reward catalogs should contain a variety of merchandise products, e-gift cards, and experiential rewards. Plus, for many organizations, a selection of custom-branded items is a great addition. For each category, selections should include both aspirational choices and those at the “quick-win” level (starting at perhaps $25 in retail value, depending on employee interests and program budgets).

Merchandise Products

Merchandise products have long been a mainstay of reward programs. Depending on your employees, products might include some combination of sports gear, personal electronics, home office upgrades, gourmet snacks, tools, and the latest gadgets, among other options.

E-Gift Cards

E-gift cards are especially popular with younger employees, who typically are more focused on instant gratification and have substantially different wants than older colleagues. Physical gift cards make great rewards, as well, but the instant redemption factor of an e-gift goes a long way toward cementing the impact of an instance of recognition. There are great options out there for both single-merchant and multi-merchant gift cards, redeemable at specific brands of retailers, restaurants, music streaming platforms, and gaming servers.


Experiential rewards may include a combination of exotic or luxury vacations, adventure activities (e.g., driving a race car or skydiving), cruises, themed weekend getaways, and tickets to high-profile concerts and sporting events. Entry-level selections could include introductory gym memberships or local cooking classes, among other options.

Custom-Branded Items

These often range from jackets and travel mugs to backpacks, beverage coolers, and other items branded with your company’s logo. Some items may also include a departmental or work team identifier, which many employees will wear with pride and could even associate with a specific accomplishment.

Xceleration Can Help

Xceleration works hard to understand your business and helps build carefully curated reward catalogs that resonate with your team and help meet your company and team’s unique needs. 

RewardStation®, our flexible, web-based platform, offers a robust suite of features to help achieve your recognition and engagement goals. And with an expansive global network of fulfillment partners, Xceleration can provide rewards in over 90 countries.

Contact Xceleration today to learn how our expertise, experience, and our RewardStation® platform can equip your business with the tools for a meaningful employee recognition program.

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