Tips on How to Reward Hard Work

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Wondering how to recognize staff who go the extra mile? Here are some ideas to help you reward hard work.

It's true some people work harder than others. As a leader of a small or midsize business, you'll want to recognize employees who go above and beyond in the workplace. So, how should you reward hard work? Here are some points to consider and a few ideas for compensating your top performers.

First: Define Hard Work

Before rewarding staff for performance, think carefully about what "hard work" means in your particular organization and in each specific role. A clear and consistent definition helps you identify who merits reward for their efforts. Then consider these questions: Who demonstrates commitment to producing outstanding results? Who jumps in to help others who are stretched thin? Who regularly and successfully performs tasks outside of their defined roles?

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Work

First determine whether the increased workload is temporary or permanent. Did the employee's workload increase because of a one-off project during a specified time frame, or have they taken on ongoing duties? A one-time cash bonus, or spot bonus, to recognize the employee's efforts and achieved results may be appropriate after successful completion of short-term projects. If the work resulted from increased responsibilities given in recognition of talent, a raise or promotion may be warranted.


Employers should be mindful of the legal requirements around payment of bonuses, such as ensuring applicable deductions and withholdings are applied, and how they impact overtime calculations. Prior to rewarding an employee with a bonus, determine whether the employee worked additional hours and whether the employee's position is classified as exempt or nonexempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). If the individual is nonexempt and qualifies for overtime, for example, you'll need to compensate the employee overtime for hours worked over 40 hours per workweek based on their regular rate of pay, which may include certain types of bonuses. If you reward an employee with a spot bonus, make sure to fully explain why they're receiving the one-time reward.

Non-Cash Compensation

Though your first instinct may be to provide cash rewards, money isn't the only way to compensate or motivate employees. Other methods include distributing a weekly recognition email, presenting awards and certificates at meetings or even giving a gift for a non-work-related hobby.

Connected Employees

With today's mobile technology, anyone with a mobile device can essentially be "on call" every hour of every day of every week. Employees will be entitled to monetary compensation for hours worked while on call under the FLSA; however, you may also want to consider providing weekend and evening on-call and all other mobile-connected employees with a variety of non-cash compensation rewards in addition to their salary:

  • Host a yearly company retreat such as a golf game, fishing expedition, spa afternoon or dinner.
  • Bring in lunch on a regular basis.
  • Extend the lunch hour.
  • Allow employees to leave early one day a week to show them appreciation for time spent on after-hours work communications.

Remember, making an effort to reward hard work can benefit everyone. Employees notice when their efforts are recognized and appreciated, which incentivizes them to continue working hard.