Fun and unique employee rewards for a global team

Picture this: your remote team members work in different states, different time zones, and oftentimes different continents. You want to send them something fun to celebrate their birthdays, to say thank you, or congratulate them for hitting an important milestone. Regardless of the occasion, sending something to people all over the world is such a pain that the to-do item rolls over into the next week, week after week. If we just painted your picture, then rest assured you are not alone. Coming up with ideas for and sending employee rewards to a global team is a costly and difficult task for the majority of organizations. 

Why send rewards to employees in the first place?

Rewarding employees is a great way to express appreciation and recognize people for the work they are doing, and to show care for them (in big and small life moments). For example, lots of organizations choose to reward employees who achieve their annual goals and who consistently live their company values (whether nominated by managers or their colleagues). They also choose to reward employees for milestones that are important in their personal lives - a birthday, wedding, birth of a child, retirement, and number of years spent with the company. Rewarding your team is another way for them to feel seen, appreciated, and supported. It is not surprising that organizations around the world understand the importance of rewards and invest hundreds of dollars per employee per year in all sorts of rewards.

What makes sending employee rewards to a global team so difficult? 

Logistics and associated costs are mainly why sending employee rewards to a global team is difficult. By logistics, we refer to the cost of shipping a physical good to a separate country, the additional customs requirements, and the time required for the gift to arrive.  You might only want to send someone a company t-shirt, but the $20 gift easily turns into (at least) $40 when you add shipping. And not to mention the time required for the gift to arrive. By the time your team member receives their gift, their birthday has long passed and the moment to celebrate is gone. 

To combat the delays and shipping costs, organizations opt for virtual rewards, like tried and true gift cards, only to run into additional obstacles. Turns out, lots of gift cards can’t be redeemed in other countries, your accounting team now might need to add payroll tax to each gift card sent, and the costs of tens or hundreds of gift cards easily add up. To make it easier to send money, some might decide to add the gift card amount to everyone’s payroll, but now what was supposed to be a (fun) reward becomes associated with performance and the employment terms an employee has with the company. The meaning of the reward is then lost. 

What to do instead?

To combat the logistical and financial issues with sending physical and monetary rewards around the globe, we recommend creating rewards that fall into two buckets: experiences and nonmonetary rewards. Those rewards are unique but can also be scaled for a larger team; they create moments people remember and can help reinforce the culture and values of your company. 

What is different about experiential rewards is that they can’t be mass-produced, they are unique and can be tailored to an individual and/or a group of people. Experiential rewards can be experienced in any geography and remove the friction of thinking about how a certain reward can travel across thousands of miles. And what is most important - experiential rewards are remembered! People will forget what they used their $10 Amazing gift card for (do you remember what you used your last gift card for?! Exactly), but they will never forget a tour of a local bakery where they learned to make croissants. Experiences create moments, and one of the main purposes of employee rewards is to help create moments of appreciation. 

Experiential employee rewards for a global team include: 

  • AirBnB experiences: AirBnB offers a variety of in-person and online experiences across the world that can easily be purchased with your corporate credit card, and used in the country where the experience is located.
  • Giftory: an online marketplace of unique experiences, such as this mystery picnic scavenger hunt. Right now, Giftory’s gift options are only extended to the US.  
  • Take a (half) day off one of the most popular rewards amongst HeyTaco users is time off. Who doesn’t like to take some time off on a Friday to spend doing whatever they’d like? It is an experience that doesn’t happen often, and that is guaranteed to make the person feel taken care of. 
  • Yoga class pack: allow employees to choose a yoga studio near them and expense a set of classes to the company. Alternatively, a Peloton (or similar) online workout subscription is a fun reward for the (aspiring) fitness aficionado on your team. 

Nonmonetary rewards are oftentimes experiences, but the main distinguishing factor is that they don’t cost the company any money directly. Some fun and unique nonmonetary rewards for a global team include: 

  • Coffee with the CEO or someone else on the leadership team 
  • Game night: assemble a group of people on a team to play their favorite online game for an hour 
  • Guitar/painting/cooking/language class from someone on the team: you most likely have team members with all sorts of talents and hobbies they like to do in their free time. A fun reward is for a person to ‘purchase’ a 1hr lesson with their colleague on a topic they are interested in learning more about. This reward is unique, it costs you no money, and it brings colleagues together. 
  • Volunteer for a cause: a person or the whole team takes a (half) day off to volunteer for a charity in their area. Everyone shares photos with the team and describes what they did for the day. 

For some additional employee reward ideas for your global team, check out our list of the most popular reward ideas as crowdsourced by our customers. 

Rewards are even more fun when bought with tacos!

At HeyTaco, people send digital tacos to each other to express appreciation and recognize their teammate’s work. People accumulate tacos they can use for custom rewards in the Taco Shop, and rewards people work hard for feeling different. If you want to get your team started on a journey of gratitude and appreciation, download the app to your Slack or Microsoft Teams and watch the gratitude flow.

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