The “Wow” Factor: Why Cash is Runner-up as a Reward Incentive

September 19, 2013
Let’s face it: it’s tough to compete with great memories. Which is why the seemingly slam-dunk, no-doubt-about-it, obvious reward favorite – cash – is often a less effective incentive reward option. Here’s why. Think back for a moment to a few special memories. Perhaps it was the romantic trip you took to a foreign city with a girlfriend or a fiancée. Or maybe you achieved a target goal for a sales incentive program, and you were rewarded with a thrilling group travel adventure in exotic St Thomas. Or perhaps you won orchestra-row tickets to a first-class Broadway show featuring your favorite, critically-acclaimed movie star. The memories are rich and stay with you for a long, long time.

What do your Remember of the Cash Reward?

Now, contrast these emotions with a time when you won a cash reward. You probably were thrilled when first notified. Perhaps, even exhilarated. But what is the lasting memory? If you’re like most people with bills to pay or perhaps retirement plans to feed, you used the cash for these pressing needs. Or you contributed more to the downpayment for the home you wanted to buy in the next year. So when you look back, what’s your recollection of that cash reward? Does it bring back fond memories? Did you brag about it to your friends or your co-workers? Do you even remember it at all? Cash is a great motivator, and is usually “king.” But as an incentive reward, where effectiveness is measured by how the reward impacts both the recipient and the organization, non-cash rewards provide greater lasting results.

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