Persona-driven Employee Rewards Boost Engagement

Attracting, retaining, and motivating employees is a moving target in today’s competitive talent landscape. More and more companies are adding employee recognition programs to their HR strategies. But is your employee reward program missing the mark regarding engagement? It may be time for persona-driven employee rewards rooted in offering a mix of rewards and redemption methods.

After years in the incentives industry, Alex Rogow, Employee Engagement Practice Lead at Virtual Incentives, says it’s time to create persona-driven employee reward catalogs and user journeys to ensure you’re providing attractive rewards and multiple redemption options to motivate employees.

The question to ask, Alex says, is “How are you structuring your reward catalogs? We know that merchandise has always been the primary option in any reward program because it conveys trophy value right to the reward recipient.”

Alex says there are three personas of employee reward redemption that can help you create more personalized, meaningful, and engaging reward experiences that drive positive behaviors, foster a sense of appreciation, and ultimately boost employee satisfaction and retention.

Cash incentives may be what businesses first think of when it comes to employee rewards, but there are plenty of other rewards that employees value. According to the 2022 Incentive Marketplace Estimate Research Study, the use of non-cash incentives within companies with $5M in revenues or greater is 92%.

“Whether it’s peer recognition platforms or sales and channel incentive programs, at the end of the day, participants are people,” Alex says. “They exhibit different behaviors. So these personas mimic human behavior–and it all comes back to providing choice.”

In this article, we’ll explore:

The Benefits of Adopting a Persona-Driven Employee Rewards

A persona-driven employee rewards strategy can be a powerful motivator and unifier for employee recognition.

When employees feel that their unique preferences and aspirations are understood and accommodated within a rewards program, they’re more likely to engage with the program. Personalized rewards that align with their values and desires are also powerful motivators, inspiring employees to strive for excellence and contribute their best efforts to the organization.

They’re also more likely to find value and meaning in the incentives offered, maximizing the return on their rewards investment. Finally, a persona-based approach can instill a sense of loyalty and commitment to the company and help employees connect more deeply with the company’s mission and goals.

Persona driven employee rewards

The 3 Personas of Employee Reward Redemption

While employee preferences and behaviors can vary widely, Alex says there are three main personas that capture the primary motivations and redemption tendencies within an employee reward program.


Convenience Chloe: The Convenience Shopper Persona


Meet Chloe, the convenience shopper. Chloe prioritizes simplicity and ease when redeeming rewards. She’s attracted to the convenience of browsing a well-curated catalog, quickly identifying desired merchandise, and completing the redemption process with minimal effort. Convenience Chloe values a seamless, hassle-free experience and the ability to receive their reward promptly.

For Convenience Chloe, the rewards catalog should be user-friendly, with clear categorization and search functionality. Offering a diverse selection of popular merchandise items, from electronics and home goods to apparel and accessories, caters to her desire for variety while maintaining an effortless redemption journey.

Convenience Chloe’s Redemption Style

As a dedicated sales professional, Chloe has accumulated many points through her company’s incentive program. During a rare moment of downtime, she decides to browse the rewards catalog on her mobile app. Within minutes, she spots a high-end blender she’s been eyeing for her kitchen. With a few taps, Chloe redeems her points and arranges for the blender to be shipped directly to her home, a simple and gratifying experience that reinforces her motivation to excel.


Loyal Logan: The Brand and Retail Loyalist Persona


Now, meet retail and brand loyalist, Logan. This persona is characterized by a strong affinity for specific retailers or brands. Loyal Logan values the ability to redeem rewards through gift cards or vouchers used at preferred stores or e-commerce platforms. Loyal Logan often belongs to multiple loyalty programs and appreciates the opportunity to earn additional loyalty-based rewards or through redemptions.

“At the end of the day, participants are people. They exhibit different behaviors. So these personas mimic human behavior–and it all comes back to providing choice.” – Alex Rogow


Offering a diverse selection of popular retail gift cards is essential for Loyal Logan. Partnerships with major retailers across various categories, such as apparel, home goods, electronics, and dining, can cater to his preferences. Additionally, providing the loyalist the option to combine rewards with existing loyalty programs can enhance the perceived value and appeal of the incentives.

Loyal Logan’s Redemption Style

Logan is a tech-savvy marketing professional, a self-proclaimed “gearhead” and a loyal customer of a popular electronics retailer. When his company’s quarterly sales incentive program concludes, Logan eagerly redeems his points for a gift card to his favorite store. Not only does he get to indulge in his passion for the latest gadgets, but he also enjoys the added benefit of earning loyalty points on his purchase, stretching the value of his reward even further.


Flexible Frankie: The Ultimate Flexibility Seeker


Alex says Flexible Frankie brings a little bit of Convenience Chloe and Loyal Logan to the table. But above all, Frankie wants freedom of choice and the ability to redeem rewards that best suit their needs and preferences at any given time. They gravitate towards open-loop gift cards that can be used across a wide range of merchants and online platforms, offering maximum flexibility in how they spend their rewards.

Providing options such as Visa or Mastercard prepaid cards is crucial for the Flexible Frankie because open-loop solutions allow them to make purchases wherever they desire, whether at a specific retailer brick-and-mortar shop, online, or even for travel or experiences. These cards can easily be added to mobile wallets such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay so they can be easily accessible.

Personalization and branding opportunities further enhance the appeal of these rewards for the employer, reinforcing the connection between the employee’s achievements and the company’s recognition all the way through checkout.

Flexible Frankie’s Redemption Style

Frankie has diligently accumulated points as a high-performing project manager through their company’s peer recognition program. As they contemplate how to redeem their rewards, they opt for a company-branded open-loop prepaid card, appreciating the freedom it affords them. Frankie envisions using a portion of the card for a weekend getaway with their partner. The remaining balance will be reserved for a future indulgence, like investing in a new hobby. The flexibility of the prepaid card empowers Flexible Frankie to tailor their reward experience to evolving needs and desires.

How to Implement a Persona-driven Employee Reward Redemption Program

Implementing a persona-driven rewards strategy requires a thoughtful and data-driven approach. Here are some key steps you can take.

Conduct Employee Surveys and Focus Groups

Gather insights directly from your employees to better understand their preferences, motivations, and redemption behaviors. Employee surveys and focus groups can provide valuable qualitative and quantitative data to inform the development of accurate personas.

Analyze Redemption Data and Purchase Patterns

All in all, leverage existing data from your rewards program. That includes redemption histories, purchase patterns, and feedback, to identify trends and the leading personas within your employee base.

Collaborate with Rewards Program Providers

Partner with experienced rewards program providers who can offer guidance and best practices for persona development and implementation. Their industry knowledge and data analytics capabilities can be invaluable assets in this process.

Continuously Refine and Optimize

Alex’s persona-driven employee rewards approach is not static. Personas will evolve as employee demographics continue to shift and preferences and behaviors change. Regularly review and refine your persona definitions based on ongoing data analysis and employee feedback to ensure your rewards program remains relevant and appealing.

Alex says the goal is to “develop a catalog that feels special, delivers value, and reinforces the program and its objectives.” Providing options for merchandise, experiential rewards, and gift cards allows employees to have a sense of agency and choice in their reward experience.

By embracing persona-driven employee rewards, organizations can unlock a powerful tool for driving engagement, motivation, and retention. By understanding and catering to your workforce’s diverse preferences and aspirations, you can create meaningful and impactful employee reward programs that foster a culture of recognition, appreciation, and success.