Ben Travis

Ben is the Marketing Manager at Bonusly. With a passion for employee experience and a background in digital strategy, he uses data to drive organizational impact.

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It’s no coincidence that many of the world’s most successful organizations use employee recognition programs. As we covered in chapter 2 of The Guide to Modern Employee Recognition, when recognition programs are used correctly, they can enrich company culture, increase employee engagement, reduce turnover, and provide a fulfilling employee experience.

Sound good? Good. Now, where do you start?

Well, you’re in the right place! 🎉

We’re experts at helping organizations introduce recognition programs to their employees, and here are our tips for a seamless implementation process.

Develop a case for recognition

Start by establishing a business case for an employee recognition program, tying your expected project outcomes to desired business outcomes. Ask yourself what problems an employee recognition program might solve and how solving those problems contributes to business objectives. Show your leadership team that the benefits outweigh the costs.

Be sure to familiarize yourself with the research-based benefits of employee recognition and its effects on improved employee engagement, reduced turnover, increased productivity, boosted morale, and purpose. Then crunch some numbers! For example, you can use an employee turnover calculator to determine how much your business will save using an effective recognition program.

How much does a good recognition program cost to administer? It might surprise you to learn that recognition programs don’t have to be expensive to be effective. At Bonusly, we've been helping companies do employee recognition and engagement the right way with our top-rated solutions for over a decade. Including the cost of monetary rewards for employees, the typical budget based on our customer averages for employee recognition is $275 per employee per year or $23 per employee per month. You can get started with our free tool, the Rewards Budgeting Calculator to estimate the cost of a program at your organization.

You’ll also want to understand the hidden costs and logistics of homegrown programs. Running to the store every now and then to buy gift cards for your team of five and handwriting notes for each person might be relatively simple to start, but when your team grows to 50 or more, these manual programs can become unwieldy, requiring a whole new level of planning, oversight, and consistency.

Fortunately, rewards and recognition software can integrate with existing tools, automate rewards fulfillment, and even manage work anniversary bonuses.

Build a team of champions

Once you receive buy-in from leadership, your next step is to find your team of champions to help you implement the program. Seek out leaders who will help conceptualize, promote, communicate, implement, and reinforce your organization’s new recognition program.

When building your team, look for folks with the following characteristics:

  • Interest in the program
  • Positioned as a team leader
  • Knowledge of program benefits
  • Ability to prioritize the program
  • Positive track records

Program champions with these characteristics will be closest to the heartbeat of the organization and will provide the most helpful insights. They’ll also be in the best position to ensure program success.

Understand the characteristics of effective recognition

Before implementing any employee recognition program, it’s necessary for everyone involved to understand the characteristics of effective recognition:



Recognition is most effective when given in a timely manner. Unfortunately, the association between contribution and recognition weakens over time. Aim to give recognition as soon as possible to produce a clear connection to positive behavior.

Waiting to recognize a valuable contribution can result in a weakened impact of that recognition and lost opportunities to encourage the same kind of positive behavior. Too many employees only hear recognition at their annual review.


Frequent recognition translates into more engaged employees, stronger business results, and lower turnover. Employees make contributions every week, and failing to provide regular feedback about those contributions increases the likelihood of individuals feeling undervalued in their roles.

You don’t need to wait for a huge milestone or achievement to give recognition. It’s important to celebrate the small victories, and research backs that up. Take this stat into account: 71% of highly engaged employees work in organizations that recognize employees at least once per month.


Why is it important to call out and recognize specific contributions?

Specific recognition helps employees understand exactly which of their actions contributed to their team’s goal. Being specific means acknowledging the details and context of a task or project, not just a “Thanks, great job!”. When feedback isn’t specific, it risks coming across as insincere or unclear.

Naturally, this type of praise should occur soon after any contribution. Remember: a quick “great job last month” isn’t useless, but it denies the recipient some crucial feedback.


Private recognition can be effective, but public recognition offers several additional advantages. For one, being recognized publicly magnifies its impact. Sharing praise with a wider audience helps everyone learn about the work being done across the organization, facilitating collaboration and highlighting solutions that might otherwise go unnoticed. It also gives other colleagues the opportunity to join in the recognition, reinforcing positive behavior.

Visible recognition provides examples of commendable behavior, actions, and contributions that others can repeat. Additionally, that visible recognition can bring to light innovations or challenges that spur valuable discussions within teams.


Inclusive recognition helps foster a sense of equity, belonging, and psychological safety for all employees. Showing employees they belong should be a top priority for leaders, and understanding the actions and people who are recognized means understanding what is really valued in your culture. Who is recognized most frequently and for what?

A powerful way to ensure more people are recognized is to diversify the parties responsible for giving recognition. Recognition from all levels provides more opportunities for contributions to be appreciated.

When employees are empowered to recognize peers, praise occurs more frequently while also carrying more context and nuance. A 360-degree recognition program with a foundation of peer recognition provides a better understanding of what a whole team and organization consider valuable while removing the bottlenecks imposed by top-down recognition and breaking down team siloes.


Values-based recognition encourages teams to work toward the same vision. When sharing positive feedback, think about how a contribution lines up with your values. If your company culture is really based on a shared set of values, reinforcing those values through praise should be a deep-rooted habit.

Recognition based on company core values ties tangible actions to the foundation of an organization. It becomes more meaningful and helps a team work toward the same goal, reinforcing positive activity. Can you recall your own organizational values?


Follow recognition program best practices

Define clear recognition program objectives and criteria

Employers should be clear about what behaviors or actions they’d like to see from recognition programs and how they impact business objectives. Whether you’re starting a new employee recognition program or updating an existing one, challenge your team to answer important questions.

What types of behaviors will be rewarded? Reference your business objectives and decide which behaviors to incentivize, and remember that effective recognition is tied to organizational values! Reward deliverables completed on time if lateness is a challenge, and applaud cross-departmental collaboration if your organization is stuck working in silos.

How should desired behaviors be rewarded? It’s important to know your team and reward behavior accordingly. In general, praise should be public and can be a great learning opportunity for the whole team. Tying that praise to a tangible reward or experience can remind employees of their achievements long after praise is given.

How often should recognition occur? Effective praise is frequent, so it’s important to regularly recognize your team. Giving recognition on the spot is a good habit, and reiterating that praise during team meetings, especially for special achievements, can amplify the effects of recognition. Don’t forget about milestone events, like birthdays, work anniversaries, and Employee Appreciation Day.

Where should recognition come from? Recognition has traditionally been given top-down by managers. However, 360-degree or peer-to-peer recognition, coming from all levels, is the most effective. In fact, peers are the top influence in driving colleagues to go the extra mile.

Use a multifaceted rewards and recognition program

Many employers assume that employees always want money instead of non-tangible rewards, but research suggests that’s not necessarily true. Research by Deloitte, for example, identified two different types of recognition:

  • Praise and emblematic recognition
  • Token and monetary rewards

They found that both types of recognition are important to employees, as “this varied approach helps to constantly and frequently reinforce desired employee behaviors.”

It might not seem intuitive at first, but imagine receiving a bonus without any note or explanation. How would you know how to replicate the behaviors that led to the bonus? You’d have no idea what you did correctly to earn it—and how to avoid doing something incorrectly. Remember to be specific!

Similarly, it’s beneficial to understand the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation in the workplace. Whether praise or monetary reward is the primary form of recognition, both approaches complement each other.

Give employees a voice and a choice

Make it fun! Don’t start with the assumption that you already know what everyone wants. Engage your employees to better understand the types of rewards they’re most interested in.

Once you’ve drafted ideas for creative rewards, it’s easy to get employee preferences by sending a survey and asking everyone to rank the options. Giving employees a say in rewards redemption can increase their personal investment in the program and make recognition even more enjoyable. Brainstorming unique rewards can also be a fun team activity!


Think about how rewards will be distributed, as well. If you offer gift cards as rewards, make sure employees will use and enjoy products or services from those businesses. Consider these custom reward best practices before committing items to your catalog.

Do your employees want to share their rewards with the world? Offering the right rewards can help you win employee advocates. It’s the transitive property of rewards: employees get something they want something they can leave the office with and share with their family and friends. The public recognition they received at work leaves the office with them in its own unique form.

Ensure an effective launch and implementation

When introducing a new system or approach, it’s important that communication around the launch is clear and the implementation is as painless as possible. Any team participating in a new program should be clued in on that program’s purpose, how to use it, and when it will take effect. Think about the following factors when rolling out your program:

Align your organization on recognition

Leadership should be aligned on the program’s purpose, especially when rolling out the program. Teams and employees may start to feel jaded if no one is taking it seriously. Imagine being on a team where the manager withholds recognition and doesn’t think it’s important while watching the team next door receive reward after reward—it would be demoralizing.

Recognition should also be aligned with organizational objectives and goals; creating recognition programs around behaviors that the business doesn’t value leads to confusion and may have the negative impact of directing energy away from company goals. Consider it a reinforcement of existing priorities.

Make recognition programs visible

Recognition programs should be highly visible within organizations that truly value recognition, right? Employees should see when their peers are recognized, and data from that recognition should be visible to teams to help improve communication.

Note that different types of workforces may prefer different methods of communication. For example, front-line employees at a manufacturing plant may prefer to get important updates via specialized kiosks, administrative staff at an accounting firm might prefer email, and employees at a tech startup might prefer a collaboration tool like Slack.


Plan for a seamless, multi-pronged, and consistent delivery of your program

With current technology, how recognition is delivered is another critical element. How will recognition or rewards be delivered in your organization?

Embed it in your processes. If you regularly communicate through a collaboration tool like Slack, find a program that integrates with it. Use existing team meetings to reiterate recognition where appropriate, and consider using an automated system to fulfill rewards.

More than one method of communication should always be used to introduce the program. Thinking about announcing the program at an all-hands meeting to share a strategic overview followed by an organized team training session with practical guidance.

Managers should also communicate with their teams in smaller team meetings about the program and discuss the initiative. Since not all teams or individuals work in the same location, managers should include remote workers via video conferencing to share program information.

Measure your recognition program’s effectiveness

Recognition programs impact many different areas of an organization. Using a measurement system like the employee net promoter score can provide a useful framework to measure the effect of recognition on factors like employee engagement and morale.

Successful recognition programs should positively impact other factors like performance, productivity, and turnover. You can use a number of ways to analyze changes in those areas, like survey tools, brief interviews or feedback sessions, and performance management software. Gather feedback on a regular basis, and use it to adjust your program where necessary.

To take it one step further, use data from your recognition program to inform other business decisions. Research social connections to determine if any team or individual is isolated, review how teams are connected, and facilitate collaboration where needed. Are there teams with outstanding behavior? Study them to understand how to take those learnings to other departments.

Revisit and revise regularly

No program is perfect, and even excellent programs should be well-maintained to remain effective. Soliciting program feedback quarterly can help you determine whether or not employees still value the types of rewards they’re receiving. Leadership feedback will provide further insight into whether or not the program is impacting job performance and business outcomes in a positive way.

In addition to evaluating the program, you should understand which outcomes are needed most. An annual engagement survey will help you identify the company’s primary opportunities for improvement based on your company’s ever-changing employee population.

Once you’ve collected actionable data, make improvements where possible. For any desired improvements that you are unable to make, be sure to explain why (e.g. timing, cost, redundant to other initiatives, etc.). All organizations aren't the same, and recognition programs should be tailored to your team. As you develop your program, consider how much admin time is available to administer it and how your employees work.

Read more about employee recognition best practices in our article 5 Best Practices for Employee Recognition Programs.


Implementing a successful employee recognition program might seem imposing, but by following the above advice, you can simplify and streamline your efforts. In the next chapter, we'll discuss aspects of tools that can make implementation even better for your team.

Employee recognition is a powerful way for any organization to succeed, and using a specially-designed recognition program like Bonusly can be an extremely effective way for teams to feel valued, perform better, stay engaged, and more. 

Ready to test out the top-rated employee recognition program for your team? Try Bonusly for free or request a demo today to learn more! 

Your team is ready to work remotely or is even already doing it, and now it’s time to kick things into high gear. But where do you turn to pick up the right tools? We’ve got you covered!

Workforces are more distributed than ever. Whether you’re working from home, at a co-working space, or in a coffee shop, modern teams are made up of coworkers who are located in different places, keep different office schedules, and may not see each other in person all that often.

Fortunately, there’s a whole ecosystem of tools dedicated to making remote work run more smoothly and productively. It’s time to think differently about communication and collaboration, especially when your team relies on technology.

We’ve asked others in the industry for their favorite tips and are also tapping into our own experience after years of working across multiple offices and with remote team members. To make things easier, we’ve grouped them according to functionality:


If you're evaluating new HR software or vendor partnerships, be sure to check out our free HR Vendor Evaluation Scorecard to organize your search!


Without further ado, here are our top tool recommendations for remote teams!

Video conferencing tools

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Having a half dozen video calls a day is normal for our team, and we’ve found a few different solutions that work well. Nothing substitutes an in-person conversation, but video calls are about as close as we can get before we’re able to install head jacks into the Matrix.

While a conference call might be the default choice for some teams, audio-only communication can miss out on nonverbal social cues that come with visuals.


In a crowded market, Zoom stands out as a video solution that’s both intuitive and reliable. Its easy interface allows for screen sharing, and calling (if you need to dial a number), and also includes useful recording functionality. For some reason, I’ve found that video and audio quality is just better with Zoom

Other solutions

Zoom is fantastic for external calls and even webinars, though its full functionality requires a paid subscription. There are a few other solutions worth mentioning.

Google Hangouts is probably the most popular video conferencing app for good reason. While it’s not as full-featured (or reliable) as Zoom, it’s easy to use and integrates with other GSuite products. is great for screen sharing, and other solutions like team chat apps can be useful for quick team calls.

OpenPhone is the way to go if you're only looking for phone functionality without video. It's an internet phone that allows you to access your business calls and texts from anywhere (with a lightweight CRM included), enabling you to communicate easily and effectively with customers and teammates alike. 

Chat apps

Speaking of chat apps, they’ve revolutionized business in the past decade! Initially heralded as “email killers”, team chat apps have taken the spot as invaluable internal communication platforms.



The current gold standard, Slack, is a team chat app that boasts a huge number of integrations and a very simple setup. It can be scaled easily, so teams won’t need to switch products during high-growth phases.

The out-of-the-box offerings include channels and direct messages, file sharing, numerous integrations and bots, Do Not Disturb mode, and options for every type of communicator.

And if you need some guidance on Slack etiquette, we’d recommend reading this guide.

Other chat solutions

Quickly gaining market share, Microsoft Teams is used by millions of workers and integrates with Microsoft’s Office 365 suite. Other competitive alternatives are Google Hangouts Chat and Chanty.

As an alternative, check out the teamwork app Twist, which offers a calmer, more organized communication platform made with remote teams in mind. It combines email and chat into one platform for streamlined, asynchronous communication across time zones.

Project management platforms

As you can imagine, it can be difficult to keep track of goals and activities across remote teams. To keep everyone on the same page (and make standups run smoother!), project management platforms allow teams to view progress, assign tasks to individuals, send email alerts, and create checklists.


Wrike is a great project management tool for remote teams. It comes with a number of helpful features, including Gantt charts, custom dashboards, folders, tasking, and project analytics. It's secure, scalable, and intuitive, integrating with other tools like chat apps, file storage solutions, and CRMs.

Wrike helps teams maintain alignment with clear task assignments, shared timelines, and actionable conversations. It keeps everything you need to do your work in one place so you spend more time doing work you're proud of, and less time looking for information. It creates a culture in which everyone is on the same page and doing their best work, whether that's in the office or remotely.

–Brad Sanzenbacher, Senior Corporate Communications Manager at Wrike

Other project management platforms

There are also plenty of alternatives worth checking out in the project management space, including Asana, Trello, Monday, and Basecamp.

File storage solutions

Shipping a thumb drive isn’t going to cut it. Cloud file storage is a necessity for remote teams, and most solutions also offer high levels of security to keep your mind at ease.

Google Drive

Google Drive is a simple file storage solution that we use for sharing and storing all documents. Collaboration is easy no matter where our teammates are located, and permissions allow us to default to transparency. With the ability to edit in real-time, it’s a powerful tool that’s integral to our success.

Other file storage solutions

That said, there are many other file storage solutions worth taking a look at. Consider the industry you work in, your tech stack, and company size when choosing. Honorable mentions include Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, and Box.

Brainstorming and collaboration tools

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In-person whiteboarding sessions can be some of the most fruitful ways to collaborate as teams. So what do you do when you can’t be in the same room together?

Brainstorming and collaboration tools give teams the next-best experience by bringing that collaboration into your browser!


Built by a team very familiar with remote work, Whimsical includes collaborative flow charts, wireframes, sticky notes, and mind maps. It’s geared towards user experience teams and really shines in transforming ideas into something tangible. Great design.

"Whimsical empowers all team members to participate in early brainstorming and ideation. It’s simple enough that anyone in the company can contribute meaningfully and allows remote teams to collaborate on their ideas together, providing an infinite canvas for flowcharts, wireframes, sticky notes, and mind maps."

-Steve Schoeffel, Co-Founder at Whimsical

Other brainstorming and collaboration tools

Other solutions include MURAL, Miro, and InVision. Many of these tools also offer templates to help your team get started with the right framework!

Employee engagement and recognition tools

Employee engagement and recognition are extremely close to our hearts!

Employee engagement is one of the most important organizational focuses for successful organizations. Similarly, recognition is a key part of the employee experience that impacts many other factors including turnover and productivity.

Fortunately, there are helpful engagement and recognition tools created with remote teams in mind.


Bonusly is a fun, personal recognition and rewards program that enriches company culture and improves employee engagement. With Bonusly, everyone in an organization can publicly recognize everyone else by giving small bonuses that add up to meaningful rewards.

bonusly interface

When employees recognize each other in Bonusly, their bonuses appear in their company’s Bonusly feed for everyone to see. By amplifying the visibility of team members’ contributions, Bonusly helps remote employees feel that their work is meaningful. Bonusly also integrates with team chat apps to increase recognition in Microsoft Teams, Slack, Hangouts Chat.

Some of them are only here two days a week and some of them work remotely, but Bonusly gives them that sense of togetherness and belonging that I think is extremely important in maintaining a healthy corporate culture.
–Matthew Lane, Senior Project Manager at Levels Beyond

Other employee engagement and recognition tools

How else can you promote engagement on your team? Employee feedback platforms like Culture Amp as well as performance management software like Lattice and Small Improvements can help! Employee communication platform Smarp empowers teams to send other employees messages on their preferred channels and devices.

Click here for a bigger list of employee engagement tools and resources.

Productivity apps


Are you as productive as you should be? One common complaint from remote workers is the distractions from home, coworking spaces, or coffee shops. That’s a big reason why a whole slew of productivity apps have been created in the past decade!


Todoist is a fan favorite with a minimal interface and strong integrations. Useful for task entry, tracking progress, and even natural language processing, Todoist also syncs tasks across smartphones, tablets, and computers.

When it comes to collaboration across remote teams, users are able to share projects, assign tasks, and discuss details with coworkers. You’ll be notified whenever important changes happen in your shared projects.

Other productivity apps

Want to see options? Between SavvyCal, Google Keep, and Evernote, you’re bound to find something that fits your needs.

Password managers

If you’re not already using a password manager, you’re likely vulnerable to a number of security risks.

Password managers can be used both personally and professionally, though in this context, we’ll focus on remote teams. They provide a secure way to generate, retrieve, and even share strong, unique passwords. Many times, these passwords are stored in an encrypted database. Password managers can be used on a variety of devices, from personal smartphones to company computers.


One of the first-movers in this space, 1Password has maintained a high quality and secure password managers for both personal and professional uses. After rolling out its Teams feature, 1Password is extremely useful for organizations of all sizes.

It includes two-factor authentication, autofill, and very interestingly, its “Watchtower” feature. “Watchtower” looks for vulnerable passwords, reused passwords, and any logins that may have been compromised due to data breaches.

Other password managers

Some great alternatives for password managers include Dashlane and LastPass.

Screen and video capture tools

One of the most underrated categories of remote tools are those that allow for screen and video capture. When you want to share how to do something, a problem on your screen, or just communicate asynchronously, having the right tool can be the difference between an unnecessary meeting and a quick message.


Loom touts a strong screen recording platform made for business. With features like easy sharing, fast recording, and special permissions, it’s easy to see why. It’s a specialized tool that’s particularly useful for remote teams. It enables recording and sending, with a special Chrome extension that helps users work across multiple tools.

Loom amplifies my communication with the team like nothing else has. It’s a communication tool that should be in every executive’s toolbox.
–David Okuinev, Co-CEO at Typeform

Other screen and video capture tools

Looking for alternatives? Check out Snagit, CloudApp, Camtasia, and GIPHY Capture.

Fun and useful tools to improve company culture

There are plenty of ways to keep the team together even when you’re not in the same room! Here are a few tools that make remote work fun and contribute to company culture.

fun chatting between coworkers


For when you really need to know whether your team prefers regular or curly fries… or you know, more important things like manager feedback or project retrospectives, look for a survey solution like Polly.


Polly helps engage remote teams by adding a deeper layer to the communication channels they already know and love.

Its features bring more efficiency, context, and automation to people-driven processes like onboarding, internal c-sat, pulse surveys, and stand-ups. Leaders can reliably draw necessary insights to build a more engaging work environment and culture for their team without distracting them from their work. Polly also encourages creativity and play among colleagues, bridging the distance between colleagues.

–George Dickson, Content Marketing Manager at Polly

At Bonusly, we used Polly to host our very own Starch Madness!

Hear ye! Hear ye! We do not yet have a winner of Bonusly Starch Madness! 🥔😮 In an absolutely UNPRECEDENTED, NEVER BEFORE SEEN EVENT in the history of Starch Madness.......... we HAVE A TIE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP!!! (@SoapBoxHQ, please take note and plan #CandyWars accordingly.)


Water Cooler Trivia

It’s your time to shine. Whether you’re a history buff, sports aficionado, or an aspiring chef, office trivia quizzes can be a great way to bring the team together for some light-hearted fun. You might even learn a thing or two about your coworkers!

Our goal at Water Cooler Trivia is to build culture with weekly trivia contest. They spark conversation around the proverbial water cooler in a low-stakes, low-cost way. As the CEO of a major consulting firm told us recently... ‘this is always something I look forward to during the week, and as many work from home an important source of diversion for a mental health break!'
–Collin Waldoch, Co-Founder at Water Cooler Trivia


This is a personal favorite!

Donut brings coworkers together in a number of different ways - we love using it to set up virtual coffee sessions.

Through its platform Donut builds trust and forms friendships for even the most distributed teams by encouraging meeting, learning, and onboarding opportunities. For remote teams, there’s also a Google Calendar integration, special conversation starters, and even pre-built connections programs.

Creatopy is an intuitive visual production platform designed for communicators, allowing individuals and teams to create engaging advertising visuals. If you're looking to create responsive designs for multi-channel creative mediums, give Creatopy a try.

"For those who know that effective creative processes demand exceptional planning, there is Creatopy. With our platform, it’s easy to have all your teams collaborate on design projects while generating multiple sets of visuals, whether we’re talking posters, stories & social posts, animated banners, or video ads. Design productivity through effective collaboration is our mission!"

- Teodora Gavrilut, COO at Creatopy

Pabbly Connect

Pabbly Connect is an integration platform that allows for flexible automation workflows between more than 250 different apps, including Slack, Asana, and Square.

Time Zone Converter

Working with teammates across multiple time zones? It can be tricky thinking about two time zones, let alone twelve! Time Zone Converter allows users to quickly calculate the exact time anywhere in the world across time zones online.

Next steps

Now that you know what’s out there, it’s time to find the best tools for your own organization! Consider your needs and company culture while researching the right fit. Almost all of them have some kind of trial, so you can test before committing.

And don’t forget - you can have all the best technology in the world, but if you’re not focusing on people, you won’t get far.

Want to learn more about remote work? Check out Bonusly's Comprehensive Guide to Remote Work.

Working agreements have quickly become an essential part of modern, successful teams. You may have heard the term thrown around, especially as new teams form, but is it worth discussing with your own team?

Get right to it: -> try our working agreements template!

Let’s start with the definition: Working agreements are norms or guidelines created by a team to enhance their interactions for higher performance and create a common language. Practically, these agreements set group expectations, lay out ways to collaborate, and establish the kind of atmosphere required for empathetic, psychologically safe work.

Working agreements are often used in the context of Agile but can be used by any team. Through the working agreement process, teams become equipped with a heightened awareness of interaction between individuals. 

Why use working agreements?

It’s easy to jump into projects with new teams, but working agreements create the kind of solid foundation required for high-performing collaboration, especially between individuals from different backgrounds, assumptions, and experiences.

Working agreements are used by teams because they:

  • Empower shared responsibility across all team members
  • Enable proactive planning for team success
  • Encourage techniques and guidelines for impactful collaboration
  • Promote desired behaviors and kindly correct undesired behaviors
  • Increase awareness of individual behaviors and communication styles within a team
  • Boost individual and team motivation

How do we get started?

To begin, set the context of working agreements with your team. As a group, you can use (physical or digital) whiteboards, sticky notes, worksheets, or flipcharts.

There are a few major questions that you’ll want to cover together:

  • Why does this team exist? Discuss the value you provide as a team and your goals.
  • What’s in it for each team member? Consider individual motivations from every team member.
  • What working agreements should we set? To be successful, what behaviors should the team encourage or discourage, what practices will maintain accountability, and when should agreements be revisited?

-> In order to help your team get started even quicker, try our working agreements template!


Tips and Resources

As with any framework, it’s important to adapt it to your own needs and culture. As you introduce working agreements to your team, consider the most appropriate approach.

At the onset, encourage discussion within the team, and empower anyone to propose, agree, and reject any agreement. Note that you can’t make people change their feelings, but you can focus on (enforceable) behaviors.

To keep discussion on track, use facilitation techniques like fist of five to reach consensus on all working agreements. 

Aim for simplicity and clarity.

Check in often, and remember that agreements can always be renegotiated, especially when new members join or situations change. Every new team has a distinct dynamic, with individuals that prefer a certain mixture of behaviors and practices. Respect your uniqueness!

Finally, retrospect and iterate on the effectiveness of your working agreements to compound your team’s learnings.

For further reading and examples of working agreements, we recommend:

-> In order to help your team get started even quicker, try our working agreements template!

Special thanks to my colleague Steve Demchuk for partnering with me on this article.

Henry Ford once said, “Nothing happens until someone sells something.” Without sales, businesses flounder. Sales is an integral part of most organizations; it directly impacts cash flow, provides insight into market fit, and lays the groundwork for customer retention.

Sales teams are often on the front lines for their businesses, serving essentially as the face of their companies. That’s why US companies spend up to $800 billion each year on sales compensations, more than three times what they spend on advertising. Yet, sales folks are more burnt out than ever after selling through a pandemic, the Great Resignation, and the shift to hybrid work, they've been  pushed far beyond their usual capacity. 

Metrics prove that incentivizing sales teams boosts your bottom line. A Vantage Point Performance study found that businesses with effectively-managed sales pipelines grow revenue 15% faster than businesses without them. With the right incentives, businesses can keep their pipelines full. Without those incentives, organizations’ unmotivated sales teams will suffer poor performance and decreased growth.

Incentivizing an organization’s sales force is a crucial step to success. Unfortunately, the current incentive system is broken.

The prevailing sales motivation structure is flawed

The average sales team turnover is 35% a year, far exceeding the average employee turnover rate. Exiting team members carry direct and indirect costs, like taking clients with them when leaving, and new hires often take more than three months to fully ramp up. Sales roles can be exhausting, and a poorly-run sales team can have far-reaching consequences for an entire organization.

A key reason for the failure of sales team is a lack of motivation. There’s no replacement for the incentives provided by salaries, commissions, and goals, but those only go so far. In fact, relying solely on an “if-then” motivation system can paradoxically harm performance.

Many popular sales incentive structures can encourage the wrong kind of behavior by focusing solely on quotas or short-term gains. These structures keep salespeople from helping each other and can alienate individual employees, leading teams to be, at best, unmotivated and underperforming, and toxic at worst.

Sales teams need the right kind of motivation to align themselves with company goals and successfully sell. However, research suggests that rewards alone secure only temporary success. When it comes to securing lasting change in attitudes, behavior, and employee retention, teams need something more.

There’s a huge opportunity to improve sales team performance and reduce turnover.

The solution is to connect sales to purpose

Compared to their average counterparts, top sales performers all have one thing in common: a sense of purpose. Successful sales teams focus on the purpose of the product or service they sell, their role, and the impact they have on customers. According to Lisa Earle McLeod, salespeople who truly wanted to make a difference for customers consistently outsold their colleagues who focused solely on reaching sales goals and quotas.

When asked about what millennials want from an employer, 76% of younger Americans indicated that working for a company with a clear and impactful mission was most important. Having a fulfilling work life is a top priority. According to Imperative’s Steve Woods, work is no longer the means to an end, and intrinsic motivators are more powerful today than ever before.

How can you foster a sense of purpose for your sales team? Here are four actionable steps:

1. Focus on successful long-term relationships

“You don’t close a sale, you open a relationship if you want to build a long-term, successful enterprise.”
–Patricia Fripp

Most customers would rather engage with salespeople who have their best interests at heart, who look for ways to help instead of focusing on quotas. Jim Stengel, author of Grow, found that businesses focused on improving people’s lives outperform the market and grow three times faster than peers.

Developing fruitful relationships helps salespeople feel a sense of purpose as a contributor to their clients’ continued success. When their client wins, they win.

How can you inspire your team to focus on the long-term customer relationship? Reward behaviors that benefit clients like holding regular feedback sessions to share and learn from customer experiences. Think about creating a playbook that emphasizes relationship-building activities. Celebrating both new contracts and renewals with the broader team.

You’ll more easily gain the trust of clients, build purpose, and even save costs – acquiring new customers can cost around five times more than keeping existing ones.

2. Hire the right people, and onboard communally

"Great vision without great people is irrelevant."
–Jim Collins

It can take new sales folks a full nine months to be competent and another 6 months after that for them to be top performers. The direct and indirect costs of hiring are high, so it’s important to get it right the first time.

Authors Frank Cespedes and Daniel Weinfurter offer three areas of focus to begin the sales hiring and onboarding process that can help instill purpose early on. Taken from their HBR feature, The Best Ways to Hire Salespeople. These are:

Focus on the behaviors.

Evaluate your current screening tools and processes. It’s import to observe an applicant’s behaviors, using simulations or even hiring for temporary roles where potential hires can be observed before offering them a full-time position. At the very least, consider multiple interviews from different team members in a different settings. Do these behaviors fit with your team’s common purpose?

Be clear about what you mean by relevant “experience.”

Double and triple-check experience: Follow up with past employers and references. Assess any necessary technical knowledge through assignments or tests if necessary. New employees should be prepared to carry out their responsibilities so that they can sooner focus on the most meaningful aspects of their role.

Conduct ongoing talent assessments.

Continuing professional development opportunities are important to most employees. After the hire, reevaluate the salesperson’s skills, knowledge and ability and provide the necessary training for improvement.

The hiring and onboarding stage is the perfect time to educate new team members on core values, incentivizing purpose-driven behavior through recognizing achievements, both big and small, that line up with those values. This is also an opportunity for existing team members to help new team members in their first few milestones.

For more information, here are some crucial onboarding tips, as well as tips for onboarding a remote or hybrid team.

3. Go beyond the commission

“Motivation will almost always beat mere talent.”
–Norman Ralph Augustine

Commissions and bonuses are important sales incentives, but giving purpose-focused recognition and rewards can be more personal, memorable, and successful.

Sales teams are already winning deals and booking calls – surfacing this kind of activity consistently in a public forum can solidify purpose, improve communication, and reinforce transparency. In a Close.IO article, Steli Efti explains that the best way to protect sales reps from burning out is to pay close attention to them by celebrating wins and empowering top salespeople to mentor and support their peers.

Also consider recognizing smaller wins that benefit the whole team, sharing lessons learned instead of keeping knowledge siloed. This can be especially motivating for teams with long sales cycles who rely on shared sales assets like case studies, scripts, and message templates.

Meaningful and creative rewards that go beyond cash, even ones that are either low or no cost, can also help employees feel like their work is more meaningful and appreciated. Think about rewards that employees will use often, ones that will be constant reminders of accomplishment and positivity. For example, winning a gadget or piece of clothing used every day will remind an employee of their past success and lend purpose to their continued activities to repeat that success.

Want to try something new? Experiment with unique rewards for the whole team to work toward. To amplify the motivating effect of rewards, you can provide a wide range of reward options and give visibility to the interesting rewards people are choosing.

Consider using an employee recognition and rewards platform like Bonusly to facilitate meaningful motivation within your own team.

4. Encourage team-oriented rather than individual competition

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
–African Proverb

Competition for sales teams is a highly motivating factor that helps give purpose, and it’s important to channel it into something productive and collaborative so team members aren't isolating themselves or their diverse perspectives.

Fortunately, productive competition can take many forms.

For example, giving the whole team (or smaller teams) a target to aim for together can be more productive than having individuals compete against each other. Give rewards that entire teams can benefit from. Having a team work together toward a goal can bring individuals closer and foster collaboration between sales and other departments.

Purpose doesn't always have to be about the business goals. Another way to foster healthy, team-oriented competition is to run wellness challenges. Encouraging a healthy level of fitness, nutrition, and sleep among teams can be fun. More importantly, it can also improve well-being and productivity, keeping employees motivated to do their best at work.

For sales teams who find meaning through competition, creating an environment of healthy competition that challenges them every day can be extremely beneficial.

Committing to a purpose-driven sales team

Sales is a critical aspect of any organization, but these teams face challenges that require more than financial compensation to overcome. In Daniel H. Pink’s book, Drive, he found that the idea of being successful is often a better motivator than getting paid. To feel truly successful, sales teams need a strong sense of purpose.

To build a high-performing sales team, all incentives and goals should contribute to the team’s purpose. Goal-setting sessions should be team efforts, with the organization’s leadership guiding the team in their endeavors. Developing successful sales teams requires showing them how their efforts impact the success of the organization and its stakeholders.

For more inspiration when it comes to improving employee engagement across your organization, check out this resource: 

This past year has been challenging in many different ways. But in a time when so many things are changing, there are also plenty of new opportunities to grow your career in 2021. With all the volatility around us, it’s a surprisingly conducive environment for reflecting on our careers and future plans.

We’ve learned valuable lessons around just how flexible we can be. We’ve realized that it’s easy to take things for granted until you can’t anymore. We’ve recognized the importance of investing in yourself and your own wellbeing.

Despite unemployment levels of 6.7% (almost double the rate at the beginning of last year), most businesses expect a strong economic outlook for the rest of this year. Industries are evolving and adapting quickly, changing the way we experience work. Now, we’re taking this opportunity to reflect on trends for this year and beyond.

Now’s the time to prepare yourself for career success! So what exactly can you do to grow your career this year?

We asked top career growth experts to find out:

1. Establish healthy habits

There's a common thread with career growth, and I tend to say it lies within our habits. Whether you want to beat burnout or change careers, cultivate these habits in 2021: respecting your sleep, listening well, and learning how to be courageous. Building your personal brand and attracting aligned opportunities are all great but habits lead us there.
Rachel Montañez, Career Coach 

Start small and be consistent. Building the right habits is integral to any long-term success. And learning to build healthy habits is a skill you can use for the rest of your life. Whether you’re trying to eat better, learn a new skill, or keep up daily tasks, you’ll need to establish the right habits.


There are plenty of places to start, but one of my favorite habit-building methods, the “Seinfeld Strategy,” is a pretty simple one. In not so many words, this strategy is based on using a physical calendar and marking off successful completions each day. Once you get started, you’ve only got one job: don't break the chain.

For more on habits, check out Atomic Habits by James Clear.

2. Approach your career with positive outlook

Consider what I refer to with my clients as an energy-first approach; look at the energy you're bringing to anything you do in your career. If you're honest with yourself about that energy or attitude you're coming from (getting vs giving, unworthiness vs worthiness, etc), your results will likely make sense. Then, reverse-engineer your messaging and strategy from the place of embodying the energy you want to have (confident, trustworthy, whatever it may be). It may sound touchy-feely but it's effective. This is exactly the work I do with the most senior level executives I coach.
Emma Garrett, Executive Coach

Your thoughts have a huge influence on your future outlook and actions. This year is the perfect time to shift your mindset to positivity and work towards your full potential.

We can do things that either amplify our motivation and enthusiasm, or we can dwell on negativity in a way exhausts us. Instead of trying to argue with the reality of a situation, consider what impact you can create with the things you can change.

3. Check in with yourself

Navigating unexpected career change is our new normal. It's so important to check in with ourselves often to ensure we know our own career pulse. The check-ins help us self-soothe, gather courage to take next steps, and quiet our minds to inspire the next round of creative thinking. That's how we'll make bold decisions to grow our careers.
–Kalyn Wilson, CEO at
Dream Forward Consulting

It’s easy to get caught up in the grind and focus on your work without really thinking about yourself. So, when’s the last time you took the time to reflect on your career?

There are natural moments when we reflect on our careers, often on our work anniversaries, birthdays, the end of the year, and even reunions. However, a real career check-in with yourself is more deliberate than that. Imagine how powerful it would be to ask yourself key questions every quarter.

Consider booking some time on your calendar with yourself! Use a career self-assessment or get in touch with a career coach to determine your best course of action in making the right decisions to guide your career.

Grow your career by growing yourself. Center yourself in your career and not your employer. Self-awareness is key. Getting feedback is key. Celebrating your present, enjoying the journey and pushing towards the future is key.
Latesha Byrd, CEO of Perfeqta


4. Know your why

Don't ask 'what' you want to do before you ask 'why'. So many of us are trying to make money, to increase wealth -- without realizing we could bankrupt our souls along the way. When you know your 'why', that thing that is worth living and dying for, you will grow the most imperative traits of focus, integrity, reliability, and heart.  
–Branden Polk, CEO and Founder of
Arrowhead Advising

You probably know that a sense of purpose in work is important, but did you know that engaged employees are 2.4 times more likely than their peers to be regularly shown how their work contributes a larger purpose?


This past year has been exhausting, and we’re all feeling more overwhelmed and anxious at work. To survive and eventually thrive, we need to understand what fuels us. To be truly fulfilled at work, you need need to feel like your actions have a greater purpose. Consider if your personal values line up with your organizations lived values. Take time to understand the impact you're making and how that lines up with your own mission.

Parting words

We’ve all been impacted by the global events of 2020, but this year is rife with opportunity. And it can only go up from here, right?

Bet on yourself this year by establishing the right habits, pushing for a positive outlook, checking in, and knowing your purpose. It’s up to you to prepare a strong foundation for the future.

What will you do to grow your career this year?

Employee recognition is the open acknowledgement and expressed appreciation for an employee’s contributions to their organization, and it’s one of the most important factors in employee engagement. In 2021, it will be even more important to recognize employees, especially as they face a brand new set of challenges and continued uncertainty.

Just how closely are recognition and engagement tied? Highly Engaged employees are 2.6 times more likely to work in organizations with a peer employee recognition program than Actively Disengaged employees. And when employees feel engaged, everyone wins.

So what can you focus on this year to successfully recognize employees in your own organization this year?

Need help planning your rewards strategy? We have a video for that.

To bring you the most important employee recognition and rewards trends of 2021, we consulted the top industry leaders and most recent research:

1. Support a more equitable and inclusive world

In 2020, many people experienced an awakening to the injustices that persist in our society and within their own communities. Increasingly, employees will expect their employers’ recognition and rewards program to support a more equitable and inclusive world, beyond the company’s internal DEI efforts. HR leaders can help their companies stay competitive in the talent market by encouraging support for social justice initiatives and providing employees with paid time off for voting, volunteering, and political/social activism.
–Analiese Brown, PHR - VP, Talent & Culture at

We don’t work in a vacuum, and it’s people who are the critical driver of business success. Among the many lessons we were reminded of last year was the importance of social justice in our society and how it impacts our responsibility as people leaders. Any successful rewards and recognition program in 2021 should support a more equitable and inclusive world.


To get a head start this year, learn more about the benefits of offering inclusive employee rewards. Plus, consider adding a donation option to your reward catalog—in 2020, donations to charities and non-profits from the Bonusly product increased 482% from the previous year. The ability to support causes they believe in was clearly a meaningful reward for many employees.

2. Offer holistic rewards

Because our environment has changed, so should how we reward and recognize our employees. We will need to go beyond company swag and shout outs during in person meetings and find ways to help improve their personal lives where they need it the most. This could be offering flexible scheduling or providing employees with free tutoring for students or yoga classes to help eliminate and reduce stress.
–Jessica Miller-Merrell, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, Chief Innovation Officer at

Teams can’t function when their people aren’t taken care of. It’s up to people leaders to focus on the whole person and offer ways to help employees not only at work but outside as well. When building out your rewards catalog, consider holistic rewards. Look for platforms that can offer rewards catalog options like training with remote fitness instructors, video chats with expert dieticians or life coaches, home office amenities, or Amazon Wellness-specific gift cards.

3. Tie recognition to purpose

Employees excel when they understand the purpose of their contributions, especially right now. Studies show that people who believe that their work matters are four times more likely to be engaged, learn faster, and feel more fulfilled. So how do you show employees their work matters? 

Successful organizations offer rewards and recognition that reinforce employees’ personal sense of purpose. Public recognition of contributions makes it easy for employees to understand their impact and purpose at work. That recognition also addresses key needs on a personal and professional level.
–Raphael Crawford-Marks, CEO at

Simply put, when people believe that their work matters, they’re more engaged. In fact, 88% of Highly Engaged employees are regularly shown how their work contributes to the larger purpose of their organization as opposed to only 37% of Actively Disengaged employees. When it comes to recognition, consider highlighting the ways in which someone’s work impacts not only their team, but the rest of the company, customers, and other stakeholders.

In 2021, tying recognition to purpose will be even more important to teams. The need for recognition is increasing right as we’re still adapting to changes in communication and working styles. With teams balancing remote work, public health guidelines, and other challenges, it’s your responsibility as a leader to make time for recognition and to tie that recognition to purpose.



4. Anticipate digital gift cards to grow as a preferred reward category

Our favorite trend of 2021 is a shift to digital work solutions, including for recognition and rewards. E-gift cards have been valuable for years because they offer immediacy, choice, and tracking. However, gift cards get pegged as impersonal. Now, through a distributed workforce lens, e-gift cards are increasingly recognized for their ability to give choice, provide experiences, and reinforce a job well done.
–Cindy Mielke, Director, Channel Marketing: Incentives at
Tango Card

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed much of the workforce into a distributed, remote environment. Experiential rewards and in-office perks are going unused, and companies are recognizing the value in repurposing those budgets toward remote-friendly digital gift cards. In fact, the IRF Industry Outlook for 2021: Merchandise and Gift Cards report showed that 27% of respondents have shifted their travel incentives budget to merchandise and gift cards.

Digital gift cards, specifically closed-loop gift cards, have become the de facto standard for rewards recognition in recent months. Defined as gift cards meant to be redeemed at a specific store or experience (e.g. Amazon, Starbucks, etc.), closed-loop gift cards are flexible, effective, and valued employee rewards.


Source: IRF.

5. Expect rewards strategy to change with the coming vaccine

Most organizations will likely change their rewards strategy with the coming vaccine.

Based on the recent IRF Industry Outlook for 2021: Merchandise and Gift Cards report, this year’s vaccine rollout will “favorably impact the incentive market.” Most organizations indicated that they would change their incentive strategy over the next six months if vaccines are successfully distributed. Because of that, the second half of 2021 may see even more investment in recognition and rewards, especially if a strong economic recovery occurs.


Source: IRF.

6. Provide a flexible, adaptable rewards catalog

Having a reward catalog is key! People have different languages of appreciation, and what may be meaningful to one person may not be as engaging a reward to someone else. That’s why having a robust catalog with the opportunity for diverse reward experiences is your best bet for recognizing and motivating your team. In fact, utilizing gift cards can be a way to reach both experiential and merchandise reward lovers.

The IRF study indicates that companies aren’t listening. And with an entire industry of suppliers dedicated to helping companies provide gifts or tokens of appreciation, offering these types of rewards is easy. [...] Ultimately, if companies want to encourage and fuel employee satisfaction and engagement, they need to deliver the rewards their employees really want.
–Cindy Mielke, Director, Channel Marketing: Incentives at
Tango Card

Parting words

When you recognize employees, they’re more likely to stay engaged and stay around. It’s important to note that recognition isn’t a panacea for bad company culture, but it is a foundational pillar of any successful employee experience.

If you’re still looking for more information, check out these 12 Unique Examples of Employee Recognition in Action to see what other companies are doing, or you can chat with one of our recognition and rewards experts to understand what solution is best for your company, and how Bonusly can be customized to fit your unique business needs.

Ready for next steps? Tour Bonusly or schedule a demo.

It’s a new year, and despite recent challenges, Human Resources and People Operations leaders have plenty to look forward to in 2021!

Every industry has witnessed huge shifts due to global events, and the HR space was perhaps one of the most affected. It’s evolving and adapting quickly, changing the way we experience work. Now, we’re taking this opportunity to reflect on trends for this year and beyond.

To bring you the most important and current information, we asked top HR leaders about their thoughts on top trends in the industry for 2021:

1. Renewed focus on the human element

Teams can’t function when their people aren’t taken care of. It’s the responsibility of HR to focus on individuals, and that means everyone on the team.

When day-to-day tasks drag on, it’s important to remember the human in Human Resources and people in People Operations. If nothing else in the past months, we’ve seen the necessity of embracing our humanity at work.

2020 showed us that there's nothing more important than people. In 2021, employers are going to reprioritize the human element in how they support and encourage their people. The goal isn't just to motivate people—it's to inspire them to bring their best self to work.

–Ben Eubanks, Chief Research Officer at
Lighthouse Research & Advisory


When people bring their best selves to work, they’re more engaged. And more engaged employees mean more successful teams. In 2021, HR will need to focus even more on the people they impact. We’ve all learned to expect the unexpected, and this next year is sure to bring its own hurdles that require an empathetic, human-focused mindset.

"While there are many people-first, forward-thinking, business and tech-savvy HR leaders, I hope that we make 2021 the year that HR finally transitions from paper-first to people-first.  And I mean all of HR.  If you wake up in the morning and your first thought is on the mountains of paperwork on your desk and not on your people, you need to take a good hard look at yourself first.
Tracie Sponenberg, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, Chief People Officer at The Granite Group

We all still face very human obstacles and opportunities. Those will continue as we cope with setbacks, but also as we bounce back and innovate. Every business has evolved more rapidly than they originally planned, and that evolution isn’t losing any steam.

Whilst we will never return to the old normal, key trends from then will return once the force of the pandemic has reduced. The future of work is still set in the future, [and] digital transformation involves more than meeting over Zoom. HR’s main challenge for 2021 will be to chart a strategic, people-centric path towards truly transformed digital businesses.
–Jon Ingham, Director at
Jon Ingham Strategic HR Academy

As you’re leading teams, consider the following questions from Tracie Sponenberg:

  • Are you leading with empathy, kindness, vulnerability, compassion and love?
  • Are you having tough conversations about diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging? And more than that, are you doing something about it?
  • Are you talking about wellbeing in the workplace? Not just physical wellbeing, but mental health, financial health and social connections?
  • Are you giving AND receiving regular feedback?
  • Are you a fierce people advocate, willing to put your people before the business?

2. Automation of key functions


In 2020, HR leaders were tasked with managing their companies’ response to multiple crises, and are now faced with implementing a myriad of complex requirements resulting from COVID-related legislation. Many are overwhelmed, burnt out, and looking for ways to simplify their work. As budgets rebound, HR leaders should identify platforms and services that can help them streamline and automate aspects of their role that they no longer have time to perform manually.
–Analiese Brown, PHR - VP, Talent & Culture at

The uncertainty and volatility of last year brought HR teams a deluge of unforeseen complications. On top of that, many teams found themselves with fewer teammates or resources to get the job done.

Fortunately, new tools are available to ease previously cumbersome functions. Whether it’s a snappy ATS, a more fully-featured HRIS, or an engaging employee recognition platform, the right tools can make all the difference. Working with a smart HR tech stack is a sure way to prepare your team for the future, prioritize effort, and meet your 2021 HR goals.

The HR tech stack will be more important than ever. Having tools to connect, inspire, reward and protect employees will help companies fill in the gaps that remote work can create. HRIS systems will need to evolve to meet employees (and HR teams) where they are—everywhere!—and in ways that today's workforce wants to engage with.
–Julie DeBuhr, Senior Director of HR at

3. Expanded workplace flexibility

Research shows that flexible and remote work opportunities are now the 2nd most important factor job seekers consider when evaluating a new position—behind compensation. If organizations really want to attract and retain top talent, they will adopt more people-friendly and focused policies, like focusing on outcomes and not hours.
–Micole Garatti, Director of B2B Marketing at Fairygodboss

Last year, most organizations were forced to adapt to new ways of working, whether that included working from home, additional procedures for interacting with employees, or major adjustments to serving customers.

Flexible and remote working arrangements went from an optional perk to a requirement for many. Now that workers and employees have seen the benefits of this type of work, don’t expect it to fade away. 

Of course, remote work comes with its own set of challenges like disconnected teams and lack of visibility. An employee recognition and rewards platform like Bonusly can help make great work visible and improve connections between teams through consistent and meaningful recognition. 

2020—the year we worked from home. Employees are willing (and enabled) to realistically work ‘from anywhere.’ HR/Companies will have to act quickly to set up employment entities across state, even country, borders, to retain this top talent.
–Julie DeBuhr, Senior Director of HR at 1Password

4. Prioritization of job design

In 2021, HR professionals will need to focus on job design. As it becomes safe to return to on-site operations, hybrid work will be prevalent. As such, evaluating processes will be critical to ensure that employees achieve desired outcomes while remaining engaged and connected to one another, while working both on and off site. Performance management and total rewards will also need realigning as this new normal evolves.
Melanie Peacock, MBA, PhD, CPHR, SHRM-SCP, Double M Training & Consulting

Put simply, job design is “the process of creating a job that enables the organization to achieve its goals while motivating and rewarding the employee.” It not only adds value to organizations, increases team performance, and reduces turnover—it leads to real fulfillment. We’ve seen a rise in the importance of motivation at work, and prioritizing job design is an excellent way to motivate this year.


Image source.

5. Embrace employee wellness

Healthy teams are made of healthy individuals. As we look to this year, wellness will continue to grow as a priority for successful teams.

After the year of crisis, 2021 will have a strong focus on employee physical and mental health. That means organizations are going to need to continue the flexible and remote work opportunities, increased healthy and wellness benefits, and enhanced time off. Once employees are healthy, teams can focus on organizational health.
–Micole Garatti, Director of B2B Marketing at Fairygodboss


When we talk about employee wellness, that includes both physical and mental wellness. It’s a hugely impactful factor in employee engagement. It’s also a key physiological need required before people can focus on higher levels of work. That’s why it’s imperative for HR teams to understand the benefits of effective wellness programs.

In fact, our recent 2020 Employee Engagement and Modern Workplace Report found that Highly Engaged employees are 3.2 times more likely to be on a team that encourages open discussion of anxiety and stress at work than Actively Disengaged employees.

employee levels and wellness

When it comes to mental health, are you empowering your employees to truly succeed?

Mental health support will be very important this year.  I believe we'll see a move to offer more mental health benefits as the last year has proved even more challenging than most for many and HR professionals should help to de-stigmatize this issue.
–Jon Thurmond, SHRM-SCP, Co-Host of The HR Social Hour Half Hour Podcast


6. Increased reskilling

Reskilling has been a hot topic in recent years, but it became even more relevant when millions of workers lost their jobs during the period of uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Also, since the pandemic started, many companies had to adapt their business models to meet new demands. These events widened the skills gap for many employees in their current roles, and as research has shown, 80% of employees do not have the skills needed for their current and future roles. So in 2021, we can expect to see more employers demanding a shift to new and advanced skills better-suited for their new business models and investing in reskilling their employees.
Osasumwen F. Arigbe, PHR

To stay competitive and innovative, your team needs to have the right skills. Future-proof your organization by investing in reskilling now. We’ve been told about the benefits of professional development and continued education, and this is the time to prepare your employees for long-term success.

7. Incorporation of new technologies

The events of last year catalyzed our adoption of technologies in a way no one could have predicted. The abrupt shift that many workplaces faced last March necessitated the incorporation of new technologies into nearly every aspect of work.

In 2020, everyone got comfortable with video interviews. I think this is going to lead to more comfort using AI and other virtual tools to communicate between hiring managers & HR, and with candidates. These tools, implemented properly, can create a warm, welcoming feeling for the candidate and provide some relief to the recruitment staff by handling some of the minute details of the process.
–Wendy Dailey, Co-Host of The HR Social Hour Half Hour Podcast

That said, many of us are still learning how to include technology into our workflow. While we’ve become more accustomed to new tools and ways of communicating, it’s important to acknowledge that everyone faces unique challenges and has different levels of comfort.

I’m genuinely concerned about Zoom fatigue. Rethinking the “cameras on” rule is on my list to consider.
–Julie DeBuhr, Senior Director of HR at 1Password


Parting words

While it’s healthy to acknowledge the challenges this year will bring, it’s also important to understand the opportunities we have in 2021 to positively impact teams through effective HR.

Organizations should position themselves to thrive by embracing the trends mentioned above, adapting to new situations and evolving to become more successful. Let’s learn from the past year to come together and build a better future.

Looking for more advice this year? Read some of our other top articles:

And learn more about employee recognition with our special resource:

Looking for an employee engagement solution? Try Bonusly for Free!