The Top 11 Best Employee Recognition Platforms in 2020

The best employee recognition software, pricing guidelines, benefits, pitfalls, and more

Are you looking to build a world class employee rewards program? Incentivizing your employees with the right perks increases retention, employee engagement, and can have amazing results for the culture of your organization. This is especially true in the age of COVID where engaging remote employees is so important!

We’ve researched dozens of employee rewards solutions so that you don’t have to.  We rely on the advice on unbiased HR experts to understand the hidden pitfalls you need to be aware of, the keys to a successful implementation, how to calculate ROI, and much more.

We hope this guide will save you hours of research, and allow you to purchase the right solution for your business!

We spend hundreds of hours researching the best HR and recruiting software so you don’t have to.  We never take money from vendors during our research phase and rely heavily on practitioners and experts to help us recommend the right software.  Most of the vendors featured on our site have no commercial relationship with us, we want to feature the best software for our readers regardless. Learn more

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Top Employee Reward Programs

We track thousands of HRTech solutions, these are the best employee reward programs per our research and expert council as of July 2020

Bonusly’s peer to peer employee recognition platform is designed to increase employee engagement and retention through employee shout outs that are tied to company values and redeemable for real-world rewards.

They’ve focused on allowing employees to access this solution from a plethora of integrations and apps which results in 75-90% of employees using the platform each month.

Worth Checking Out:

Bonusly has automated bots built in that will reward people for things like anniversaries and birthdays. Learn More about Bonusly

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With over 1,800 customers and over 5 million users, Reward Gateway is a leader in the rewards and recognition space. Their solution is built on an engaging peer to peer recognition platform that allows colleagues to recognize one another and turn that recognition into perks and rewards.

Worth Checking Out:

Reward Gateway has a very strong employee engagement tool that is focused around building culture and retaining employees.

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Reward Gateway

Bucketlist helps HR teams to engage employees through a customizable peer to peer recognition platform that easily integrates with the apps your employees already use like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Outlook, etc.  They also have a simple mobile and web interface.  Rewards in the system can be anything from gift cards to learning how to fly.  Their customers include RBC, Chic-fil-A, and 1-800-GOT-JUNK.

Worth Checking Out:

Bucketlist also provides an events platform where team members can setup in person or virtual events, invite co-workers, and see who's coming. These are great for anything from an office picnic to a brewery tour.

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Kazoo combines employee rewards and recognition with engagement and performance management into one platform.  This three pronged approach allows People teams to use one vendor that seamlessly shares data across all three modules.  On the rewards side of things, they see over 80% of employees engaging with their platform on a monthly basis.  They also have a customer retention rate over 90%.

Worth Checking Out:

If you’re in the market for employee rewards, and also thinking about performance management / employee engagement down the road, then Kazoo is definitely worth your time. Learn More About Kazoo

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Snappy believes in giving gifts to engage employees, versus points or dollars which they view as impersonal.  And, they’ve got lots of notes from employees to prove their approach has merit.  One nice part of their offering is that their team will spend time at the beginning of the implementation to make sure there are automated touch points built into your employee rewards and recognition program (birthdays, anniversaries, etc).  

Snappy counts IBM, Walmart, Coca-Colah and Uber as customers, and has a 99% customer retention rate, which we find very impressive.

Worth Checking Out:

Snappy raised $10 million in Fall of 2018 and is growing fast!

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Workvivo's enterprise social network is a great forum for employee recognition across a company.  Colleagues can give each other shoutouts for doing a great job, stay up to date on what's happening in the company, and link everything back to goals and values all through their app.

Worth Checking Out:

On average, 80% of employees log into WorkVivo each week to recognize co-workers, take pulse surveys, or simply get a sense for what's going on in the company.

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AwardCo has teamed up with Amazon in this space, meaning that your employees have access to redeeming their rewards for any product listed on Amazon.   Some of their marquee customers include Zillow, TaylorMade and Pepperdine University.

Worth Checking Out:

AwardCo does a lot to communicate the value to your managers to ensure a successful launch.

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Preciate's recognition platform gives employees an outlet to recognize and appreciate one another for doing great work, plus tie that recognition back to the core values of the organization.  Employees can add badges, stickers, photos, and of course, do this all from their phone or integrations like Slack, Teams, etc.  Over 1,000 companies use their platform to drive their culture forward including Tanium and CalPoly.

Worth Checking Out:

Preciate enables customers to showcase their culture through employer-branding "Portraits" that highlight the recognition happening in a company.

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Motivosity combines employee engagement and performance management with employee rewards to deliver a compelling platform used by companies like Instructure and WorkFront.  After launch, the system spreads virally throughout the organization as employees start to recognize one another.

Worth Checking Out:

95% of employees engage with Motivosity’s platform on a monthly basis, that is huge!

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Kudos’s platform is specifically designed to engage employees through peer to peer recognition, that can also lead to employee rewards.  Recognition sent within Kudos is tied to company values and qualities, reinforcing your culture and enabling deep data insights into the health of your workplace culture.  In addition to software, they offer consulting services.

Worth Checking Out:

Many Kudos clients run their recognition programs successfully without needing to spend anything on rewards.

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Over 4,000 companies use Gifted to power their rewards and recognition program.  We always think customers vote with their dollars and so it’s worth noting they are profitable, with over 90% client retention.

Worth Checking Out:

Gifted is rolling out a self serve product, great for smaller companies who want to get started with employee rewards on a budget.

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Employee Rewards and Recognition Best Practices

Chances are, implementing an employee rewards and recognition program isn’t the only thing going on in your job.  It’s easy to stumble into the various pitfalls when buying and starting one of these programs.  Here are the best practices we’ve collected from talking to a few dozen HR professionals about their employee rewards initiatives.

  • More Than Money: Something we found somewhat counterintuitive is that these programs are not all about money.  In fact, there is very little correlation between the dollar value offered to employees and the impact of the program on retention and engagement.
  • Make Time: HR is busy.  Plain and simple.  Most days involve some sort of fire drill.  Plus, as a cost center, HR tends to be understaffed and overworked.  What we’ve noticed is that even an employee rewards program that starts off strong can die over time.  It’s essential to build in time on a monthly/quarterly basis to make sure your program is healthy (put a calendar invite to block off one hour per month).  It’s also a best practice to build automation into your rewards program - like people getting rewards at birthdays, anniversaries, etc.  This means things will work even when you’re too busy to check in.
  • Manager Buy In: We’ve seen cases where managers are getting $1,000 or more to give away per month to their employees, but they are too busy to do it.  Most people just need a gentle nudge.  You’ll be able to see in your vendor dashboard who needs that nudge.  But, the most important piece of advice here is to lay out why this program is so important at the get-go.  Show some research on how this will impact productivity, retention, and engagement.  Getting managers to see how this will allow them to accomplish their goals is key.
  • HRIS Integration: If your vendor doesn’t integrate with your solution, be very weary.  When your rewards platform doesn’t talk to the HRIS in a seamless way (.csv’s don’t count!), it means a lot more manual work for you to continually update it.  And, we all get busy…so sometimes this work doesn’t get done, which endangers the health of your program.
  • Check for Hidden Fees: Some vendors offer free programs.  However, you may be paying for it through markups to the products your employees get.  For example, your employee gets $20 worth of rewards, and ends up with a coffee mug that retails for $5.99.  If a vendor’s model seems too good to be true, make sure there aren’t hidden costs.
  • Budgeting: The “best practice” is to allocate 1-3% of a person’s salary annually to non-cash rewards.  Some of this budget is going to be eaten up by company wide things like outings, kombucha  on tap, etc.  $100-$250/employee/quarter on rewards is what we’ve seen as a best practice for rewards and recognition programs.
  • Breakage: When budgeting your rewards spend, realize that some of the rewards will never be allocated (remember the manager who gets $1,000/mo and only allocates $500), and some will not be redeemed (an employee gets $100 in points, but only gets a gift worth $50).  Make sure to ask your vendor of choice how much you should expect to actually pay out relative to the total rewards you’ll be offering employees.
  • Pre-existing Communication Channels: If your employees have another app they need to log into, the program will have a smaller chance of success.  Look for vendors that communicate with employees through pre-existing channels like Slack and email.
  • Not Just Managers: Make sure your managers AND employees are able to recognize other people in the organization.  Otherwise, it’s a slap in the face to employees who feel as though their opinion doesn’t matter.
  • Culture Matters: Many companies look at employee rewards and recognition platforms as a way to fix issues with their culture.  These programs can enhance your culture.  But, if you are getting daily negative Glassdoor reviews and generally are in the bottom quartile of companies in terms of culture, you may need more drastic measures before implementing this sort of program.
  • Align With Values: Make sure your vendor of choice allows for employees to be recognized along your company values.  For example, when someone gets a reward, they are getting it for moving the mission of your business forward, or for helping a colleague/customer in a way that aligns with what your organization stands for.
  • Focused Rewards: Don’t fall into the trap of offering 30,000 different options as rewards.  Stick to 200-300 that you feel good about.  too much choice can lead to employee indecision.
  • Don’t Overthink: We’ve all been there.  There’s a new project we want to run with, but we’re not sure how to get started, what to measure, etc (hopefully this page will help you with that!).  So many “strategy meetings” are spent trying to solve these issues…but the best advice is to simply follow the playbook your chosen vendor lays out for you.  They have all the best practices and want you to succeed in a pilot.  You can spend a lot of time and effort worrying about which perks to offer, for whom, etc.  Our advice, just do it!

That's it! If you enjoyed this guide and got value out of it, please give us a shoutout on Twitter, or LinkedIn -we'd love to hear from you. And, if you think we're missing something on this page, let us know and we’ll research it for you!

If you're a TA or HR pro, think about joining our expert council and lend your expertise!  We rely heavily on the thoughts on forward thinking People professionals to help us put together useful and unbiased research.

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