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5 Employee Incentive Trends for 2021


Employee incentive trends can be tricky to navigate and organizations are developing strategies to engage employees in the new hybrid office.

Employee incentives have undergone some low-key radical transformations in the past year, as businesses continue the ever-evolving process of re-opening and adjusting to the “hybrid office” lifestyle while keeping their employees safe and motivated. In 2021, organizations are eager to develop up new incentive strategies to provide some consistent motivational touchpoints.

In the past, figuring out the types of awards and motivational appeals that employees will respond to could sometimes become a nebulous task, but ironically the chaos of 2020 may have helped paint a clearer picture of what employees need to thrive in 2021. Here are 5 trending incentives that are quickly becoming top motivators:

  • Vaccine Incentives – Many companies are doing what they can to provide meaningful incentives for employees who elect to get one of the three available COVID-19 vaccines. Typically, the rewards are related to wellness, and include incentives like extra PTO and paid leave for testing and recovery.
  • Volunteering Incentives – The events of the last year have sparked new wave of volunteerism across the nation, with LinkedIn data showing users in the US adding volunteering activities at twice the rate of pre-pandemic levels since late 2020. Volunteering was already a potent incentive and carries even more weight in 2021.
  • Swag Kits – With so many meetings and gatherings going virtual, swag kits allow a high level of flexibility and creativity when reaching a hybrid workforce. 2020 IRF Pulse Surveys showed a 68% increase in merchandise and a 23% increase in gift card usage since the pandemic started, reflecting this trend.
  • Personalized Rewards – The acceleration of remote work is driving incentives to become more customized to individuals and organizations, as companies do everything they can to maintain genuine connections across a new office landscape. Employees want a more complete at-home reward experience in 2021 with curated choices and thoughtful personalization. 
  • Travel Incentives – Even though the US remains the epicenter of the pandemic, many travel restrictions are being lifted or eased as the vaccination rollout picks up speed and cases begin to plateau. After a long year of quarantine, getting out of the house will be on many employees’ minds as the weather gets better, increasing the appeal of travel incentives.

Experience-Driven and Meaningful

Recognizing employees for their grit and resilience is more important than ever in 2021, and the right rewards now translates to more success later. These 5 trending employee incentives are poised to be the most reliable touchpoints in the foreseeable future. They indicate how incentives are shifting to be more experience-driven and perhaps more meaningful than before, which are always positive outcomes.