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Award vs. Reward: Which One Do You Really Want?

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Do you ever find yourself using the terms “award” and “reward” interchangeably? While they may seem similar, there is actually a significant difference between the two.

An award is a recognition or prize given to someone for their achievements or excellence in a particular field, while a reward is something given to someone in return for their efforts or accomplishments.

Award vs. Reward

An award is a recognition or honor given to someone in acknowledgement of their achievements, accomplishments, or contributions. It is typically based on merit or excellence in a particular field or domain.A reward is a tangible or intangible benefit or incentive given to someone as a result of their positive behavior, performance, or effort. It is often used as a means to motivate and reinforce desired actions or outcomes.
They are bestowed to recognize and celebrate outstanding achievements, talents, or significant contributions. They serve as a form of public acknowledgment and can enhance an individual’s reputation or standing in their respective field.They are used to incentivize and reinforce positive behavior, performance, or outcomes. They provide individuals with a sense of accomplishment, motivation, and satisfaction for their efforts or achievements.
Awards are typically granted based on specific criteria, such as excellence, innovation, leadership, or significant impact in a particular domain. They often involve a selection process or evaluation by a panel of judges or experts.Rewards are based on predefined criteria or objectives set by an authority or organization. They are often linked to specific goals, targets, or performance metrics, and individuals receive rewards when they meet or exceed those expectations.
They are usually granted infrequently and are considered prestigious or rare achievements. They may be given annually, biennially, or on special occasions, and recipients may receive them only once or a limited number of times in their lifetime.They can be given more frequently and can be ongoing or recurring in nature. They are often used as a regular practice to encourage and reinforce positive behavior, performance, or results on a more immediate or frequent basis.
Awards can come in various forms, including trophies, certificates, plaques, medals, or titles. They may also include monetary prizes or grants. The specific form and nature of the award depend on the context and purpose of the recognition.Rewards can be diverse and may include tangible items, such as bonuses, gifts, or privileges, as well as intangible benefits, such as public recognition, praise, additional responsibilities, or opportunities for growth and advancement.
They can have a broader scope and recognition beyond a specific organization or context. They may have regional, national, or international significance and can impact an individual’s reputation or standing within their professional community or industry.They typically have a narrower scope and are specific to a particular context or organization. They are designed to motivate and incentivize individuals within the scope of that organization or system, focusing on desired behaviors or outcomes within that context.

What is an award?

An award is defined as something given to someone in recognition of their excellence, achievement, or service. An award is usually given in the form of a trophy, plaque, certificate, or medal.

Awards are often given out at ceremonies or events such as conferences, sports competitions, or school graduations. While awards are generally seen as positive things, there can be some drawbacks.

For example, awards can create feelings of jealousy and rivalry among peers. They can also put pressure on individuals to maintain a certain level of performance in order to continue receiving recognition.

What is a reward?

A reward is something given or received in recognition of one’s efforts, achievements, or positive behavior. It serves as an incentive or motivation to encourage specific actions or outcomes.

Rewards can take various forms, such as money, gifts, privileges, and recognition, or even intangible benefits like praise or increased status. They are used to reinforce desired behaviors and provide a sense of satisfaction or gratification for the individual receiving them.

Rewards play a significant role in shaping behavior, promoting productivity, and fostering motivation in various contexts, including education, business, and personal development.

Benefits of using awards and rewards in the workplace

  1. Recognition and Motivation: Awards and rewards provide employees with recognition for their hard work, achievements, and contributions. This recognition can boost employee morale, motivation, and job satisfaction.
  2. Performance Enhancement: Rewards and incentives can serve as powerful motivators to encourage improved performance and productivity among employees. They create a sense of competition and drive individuals to strive for excellence.
  3. Goal Alignment: Awards and rewards can be tied to specific goals, targets, or desired behaviors, aligning employees’ efforts with organizational objectives. This helps to focus and direct employee actions toward desired outcomes.
  4. Retention and Engagement: Recognizing and rewarding employees for their efforts and accomplishments can increase employee loyalty and job satisfaction. It fosters a positive work environment and enhances employee engagement, which in turn can reduce turnover rates.
  5. Team Building: Awards and rewards can promote a sense of camaraderie and healthy competition among employees, fostering a positive team spirit. They encourage collaboration, cooperation, and the sharing of best practices.
  6. Employee Development: Awards and rewards can be used to promote continuous learning and skill development. By incentivizing employees to improve their skills or achieve certain milestones, organizations can foster a culture of ongoing growth and development.

Examples of awards and rewards


  • Employee of the Month
  • Salesperson of the Year
  • Customer Service Representative of the Quarter
  • Perfect Attendance Award


  • Gift cards
  • Extra vacation days
  • Bonuses
  • Merchandise

Tips for implementing an effective rewards program

  • Define your company’s goals and objectives for the program. What do you want to achieve with the program? Make sure that the goals of the program are aligned with your company’s overall mission and values.
  • Keep the program simple and easy to understand. Employees should be able to easily participate in the program without feeling like they need to jump through hoops.
  • Offer rewards that are meaningful and valuable to employees. The best way to do this is to ask employees what types of rewards they would find most motivating. Then, design the program accordingly.

Key differences between award and reward

  1. Purpose: An award is typically given as a form of recognition or honor for achievements or excellence in a specific field, while a reward is given in return for desired behavior, efforts, or accomplishments.
  2. Intent: Awards are intended to acknowledge and celebrate individual or collective accomplishments, whereas rewards are designed to incentivize and motivate certain behaviors or outcomes.
  3. Criteria: Awards are often based on specific criteria, such as performance, talent, innovation, or merit, and are typically given to a select few individuals or groups. Rewards, on the other hand, can be more broadly distributed based on meeting predetermined objectives or targets.
  4. Tangibility: Awards are often tangible symbols of recognition, such as trophies, certificates, or plaques, while rewards can take various forms, including monetary incentives, gifts, privileges, or intangible benefits like recognition or increased status.
differences between Award and Reward


Awards focus on acknowledging achievements and excellence, often with tangible symbols of recognition. They celebrate past accomplishments and honor individuals or groups. While rewards are intended to incentivize and reinforce desired behaviors or outcomes, often through tangible or intangible incentives. They aim to drive future performance and motivate individuals to continue their efforts.

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