The Difference Between Reward and Recognition - EmployeeConnect HRIS
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reward and recognition

The Difference Between Reward and Recognition

In today’s business culture, one of the conundrums, semantically created is the interchange of the terms reward and recognition. Both are extremely important and work together to attract and retain high performance employees.  To comprehend the meaning of both these terms, they need to be de-coupled, and their differences, as well as their benefits, need to be listed. This article aims to do precisely that.

  1. Rewards fall under the tangible category, while recognition falls under the intangible category. Rewards are usually something which you can touch, feel, and experience. Rewards can also be of a specific amount. Recognition, on the other hand, is invisible in nature and it is priceless in terms of value. An individual can be recognised without giving a reward. However, a reward should never be given without giving recognition.
  2. Rewards are transactional; recognition is relational.  Rewards are always conferred in the context that if you do ‘X’ only then, you will get ‘Y’ in return. Recognition, on the other hand, is more to do with relational exchange between individuals. While rewards may be great for attracting people towards an organisation, recognition is considered mandatory for retaining people.
  3. Rewards are consumed; recognition is experienced. When an individual receives an award, it is spent or consumed. When an individual is recognised, it is more of a personal experience of the best form which tends to last forever in memory. Through careful balance of the two, you will be able to address the unique differences and application.
  4. You can transfer rewards, unlike recognition which is non-transferable. Rewards are usually temporary in nature, and you can pass them off from one person to another. Recognition, on the other hand, is permanent in nature and you cannot take it away from one individual and pass it on to another. You must learn to strike a balance between the two by focusing on recognition and teaming it with a tangible reward.
  5. Rewards are conditional; recognition is unconditional. Rewards are dependent on certain terms and conditions and are ruled by consequences. Recognition is independent in nature, and it is not a part of a fixed outcome derived from specific actions or behaviour. The key is to learn to blend rigidity with flexibility and to use discretion while using one over the other.
  6. Rewards are usually expected by people, while recognition comes as a surprise. When an individual performs well, he or she gets into an expectation mode that an award may be lined up. With recognition, an individual has no clue till he or she receives it unexpectedly. You should never let anyone down by depriving them of a well-deserved reward. In fact, you must be spontaneous in your attitude and celebrate and appreciate people every day.
  7. Rewards are economical; recognition is emotional. In this entire economy of consumption, reward offers a discreet and targeted use of resources. Recognition, on the other hand, is more of psychological and emotional in nature. You need to understand that while performance may seem to reign, it is feelings that rule.
  8. Rewards are driven by outcome; recognition is focused on behaviors. Rewards are used as means to highlight achievement and results. Recognition has no fixed time of occurrence. It can take place anytime a peer recognises another peer’s positive behaviours.
  9. Rewards are fixed; recognition is free flowing. Rewards are determined and fixed based on the desired performance and the expected outcome. Recognition, on the other hand, is quite free flowing in nature. It flows from peer to peer and expands when shared and commented by others.
  10. Rewards are impersonal; recognition is personal. Based on the tangible nature and documented performance indicators, rewards have little human dimension, even when given to someone. Recognition, on the other hand, has a purely human connection, as it celebrates people for who they are and what they do. You can make rewards personal in nature by combining it with recognition.
Byron Conway

Content Coordinator at EmployeeConnect