Get Up to Date with the Latest Research on Teams and Incentives

BY Lucy Fang
Sep 24, 2021
blog image All Digital Rewards - Get Up to Date with the Latest Research on Teams and Incentives

Incentives are a popular way to motivate workers and teams. The question is, how do incentives benefit team dynamics? The Incentive Research Foundation recently released an article addressing this very question.

When asked whether they’d rather work on a team or as an individual, ¾ of workers surveyed said that they preferred to work as individuals. Despite these preferences, the majority of workers also acknowledged that teamwork is important to their company’s success. If used strategically, incentives can have a positive effect on team performance. 

Team Vs. Individual

Most leaders tend to choose to recognize individuals over the team as a whole. The IRF postulates that this may be a result of individual successes being easier to observe and measure, rather than team performance. However, rewarding individuals doesn’t do a lot to improve the team’s performance, and there is a risk of creating jealousy or resentment. 

How Effective are Team Incentives?

Rewarding an entire team can be tricky, but it can also be very beneficial to your organization. According to the IRF, team rewards tend to do a better job of improving performance than individual rewards. Many researchers have found that the best results come from a hybrid model of individual and group rewards, particularly when you have smaller interdependent teams. This makes a lot of sense as you get dual motivating factors.

What Kinds of Rewards Work For Teams

Rewarding teams requires you to find rewards that will work well for everyone on the team. You have to be very selective about what kind of rewards will work best for your teams. Keep in mind some of the different categories of rewards you can consider using. These include digital rewards, merchandise, experiential rewards, and cash equivalents.

Digital Rewards

Digital rewards can be a good choice if you have a remote team and want to be able to provide them with instant rewards. These can include giving every team member access to a free month of a subscription service like Spotify, Blue Apron, or Hulu, digital gift cards, and movie tickets, either for streaming or theater access. You should make sure that you have a well-functioning redemption system for digital rewards so that you don’t frustrate your team when they go to redeem their rewards. 


Merchandise can range from an ability for team members to select merchandise from a rewards marketplace to custom branded company swag. Reward marketplaces allow for self-selection, which can be very appealing and it allows each team member to pick something that is a good fit for them. If you go with company swag, try and choose something that will be valued by the entire team – if you pick something that will be viewed as cheap or irrelevant, the reward may prove demotivational. 

Experiential Rewards

Experiential Rewards can be a higher-priced item, but they can create some amazing opportunities for team bonding and motivation. For example, if you offer a free cruise to the highest performing sales team for the year, you give them all something to strive for throughout the year and you give them the opportunity to bond while on the cruise as a group. Additionally, big rewards like this that are worked towards throughout the year may improve retention – after all who wants to quit right before their team wins the big cruise?

Cash Equivalents

Cash equivalents can include things like gift cards and prepaid cards. These are commonly high valued incentives for both individuals and teams. You could also consider offering paid time off as an incentive as well. 

How to create a successful team rewards program

Whether you’re planning on individual rewards or team rewards, All Digital Rewards has the technology, experience, and reward offerings to make your program a success. With well over a decade of proven rewards programs success, ADR is your one-stop shop for the perfect reward program. If you would like to learn more, contact our reward program experts by calling 866-415-7703 or click the “Schedule a Demo” button below!