The Research Confirms It: Awards Matter

executives shaking hands

Intuition and common sense are enough to tell us that we human beings seem to greatly enjoy and value the experience of giving and receiving awards. But it’s always nice when our informal day-to-day observations are endorsed by academic studies, and as luck would have it, in this instance they are.

In a paper published in 2006 in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, a Swiss researcher observes that “If an alien were ever to look at the social life of people here on earth, it would be stunned by the enormous number of awards… It would be hard pressed to find any area of society in which awards are not used.”

In the article, “Giving and Receiving Awards,” author Bruno S. Frey goes on to note that bestowing symbols of recognition is as popular with monarchies as it is with democratic governments; and those countless honors, medals and decorations are also given out within the military, the arts, sports, culture and the media.

Frey adds that while we might expect academia, with its solemn focus on intellectual matters, to be immune to the lure of award-giving, in fact “The opposite is true: Academia has an elaborate and extensive system of awards.”

Can’t dispute the data

So, what’s the attraction? Frey’s conclusion can hardly come as a surprise to anyone who’s ever been named employee of the month or most valuable player. “The demand for awards relies on an individual’s desire for distinction, and the supply of awards is governed by the desire to motivate,” he writes. And such “empirically testable propositions about awards,” he assures the reader, “are consistent with observable data.”

Well, glad we cleared that up. To recap in plain English: An award makes the person getting it feel proud and singled out as someone exceptional, and also motivates them to keep doing their best. So, remember, the next time you thrill to the sight of a valued colleague walking across stage to receive a trophy or plaque honoring their stellar accomplishments – it’s not just a really good feeling. It’s science.

Finding The Right Awards

If science tells us that giving awards results in a good feeling, is there a science to finding the right awards? As experts on corporate gift giving, we can suggest that it’s important to deliver awards that fit the occasion. A gift card works well for a top sales award as it has resulted in a monetary incentive, but it would look poorly if given to a retiree. When it comes to sending away a beloved employee, personalized retirement gifts are a must. A retirement gift should aptly reflect the amount of service put on, as well as contributions and dedication as a whole. If a retiree has dedicated over a decade to your organization, it would be foolish to leave them with the memory of a cheap trinket on their way out. Thanks to the art of engraving, we now have the ability to making trophies and awards completely personal. Engraved retirement gifts should feature a message noting the employee’s hard work, years at the company, and other pleasantries that make them feel grateful and excited for their twilight years.

Intention is the most important gift you can give to your employees. In a society that largely feels disconnected, it’s key that an award or trophy creates a meaningful connection. While luxury corporate gifts are always great, it’s more important that the intention behind the gift is honest, and the engraving should reflect that. Employees enjoy it when gifts cater to their personalities, no matter the cost attached to the award. If someone is an avid enjoyer of sports, they should receive an engraved plaque or trophy that features a design that reflects their favorite game. The more attached an employee is to their recognition award, the more attached they will be to your organization as it continues to grow.

Workers will know when the gifts they receive are homogenous and generic, especially when others receive the same thing. Take some extra time to personally pick out corporate gifts that speak to individuals on a personal level, not as a cog in the machine.

And on that note, if awards matter, how often should they be given? Selectivity is key to preserving the impact of your awards. By giving a gift, you give an employee your stamp of approval. Take note of important milestones in each individual’s career. Gifts are great to give out when individuals meet sales goals, or when they close important clients. Awards should be delivered when employees are celebrating work anniversaries or are being promoted. Simply giving out awards without reason can confuse employees. Employees should recognize why they’re being rewarded, and it’s important that you deliver the goods with trophies and plaques that fit the occasion.