Doling out cash bonuses is a popular incentive and motivation practice by many companies. Unfortunately, research continues to show that it isn’t the best approach to rewarding employees and fostering the engagement we so desire from our teams. When thinking about employee rewards, the mistake often made is twofold: the assumption that cash is the best motivator to performance and satisfaction, and the other is focusing solely on meaningless extrinsic rewards or tchotchkes.

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article titled Forget About That Cash Bonus, a series of research studies prove that a reward that was thoughtful and meaningful from the company, yet minimal in terms of cash value, compared to a larger cash bonus boosted performance by at least 25%.  Not any reward will do, however. Choosing rewards that are meaningful to your workforce is an important piece of the recipe to a happier, more engaged workforce. Gifting something that was thoughtful and unique, “we seek to understand what is motivating to you, and we want to provide.”

As the article points out, “Many employees….are desperate for a sense of meaning in their work lives. Even the smallest gesture of kindness that shows they’re part of an organization that actually cares can give them purpose — and that leads to motivation.”