People thrive on recognition

Everyone loves being rewarded. Whether it comes in the form of praise, money, experiences, or other goodies, we are hardwired as humans to enjoy being recognized and rewarded for our efforts. And companies have long capitalized on this fact, utilizing everything from office perks to free food to traditional monetary bonuses as a means of incentivizing and motivating their employees. And hey, pretty much every company around the world follows this tried-and-true method of rewards and recognition, so that must mean it’s the best way to keep employees happy and engaged, right? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it… right?

The issue: adaptation

The thing is, “rewards” as we traditionally think of them have a serious limitation as to their impact. Sure, free lunches and company-branded swag are great perks… at first. But eventually, even the coolest freebies stop making an impact as they become absorbed into employees’ baseline experience. As much as human beings are hardwired to enjoy being rewarded, we are also hardwired for continuous and constant adaptation. So eventually, we begin to expect the perks, the praise, the year-end bonus. They’re simply a part of our overall workplace experience now. And all that motivation those rewards initially encouraged? Well, I think you can probably guess.

The wrong solution: more of the same

So let’s say you observe that employees seem less engaged, folks are taking advantage of their office perks less and less often, and that productivity is stagnating. What’s your go-to move? You probably try to drill down with more of the same, right? Instead of free lunch once a month, it’s free pizza every Friday. And after employees adapt to Pizza Friday, you try to up the ante with more pizzas, better toppings, supporting different local pizzerias… and then you move on to replace Pizza Friday with Taco Tuesday… and so on, and so forth. Eventually, even the best tacos on this side of the Golden Gate Bridge stop making an impact.

The real solution: variability

Surprise knows that it’s simply human nature to stop caring about things as much once they’re no longer shiny and new. So we built our platform on behavioral economics and the psychology of intermittent rewards to maximize impact on employee behavior, engagement, and productivity. By using the app to shore up their fundamental work and life skills (and have fun while they’re at it!), they also work to earn Surprises. And while Surprises can technically also be categorized similarly to tangible rewards, goodies, swag, freebies, and the like, the real value is in the how, rather than the what.

Surprises vs. Rewards

Surprises are so much more than traditional rewards and recognition because only Surprises are doled out with intelligent, purposeful, unpredictable variability, both in the value of what employees may receive as a Surprise, as well as the frequency with which they receive it. Our automated, Ai-driven platform collects thousands of data points from app usage, Mission completions, and integrated systems to ensure that Surprises are being received at the point of maximum impact. Even the way that Surprises are redeemed keeps users on their toes — our system is designed so that earned Surprises can only be opened once a week, on Surprise Day, which is constantly changing and could be on any given day within that week.

Suddenly, employees are going from the ho-hum, run-of-the-mill perks and bonus structure they’re used to, to a fun, gamified, unpredictable means of being rewarded and recognized for their hard work. They can’t game the system in order to gain more Surprises, they just have to keep producing excellent work, and our platform will ensure they feel valued for it.

Surprise helps teams knit strong foundations, helps individuals build positive work habits, and helps managers automate and enhance their own team management — and the Surprises that users receive along the way are really just the cherry on top.

Gretchen Fox is the Director of Content Marketing at A novelist, blogging veteran, and social media aficionado, she splits the majority of her time between wordsmithing, wrangling her children, and rewatching old episodes of The Office and Parks & Rec on repeat.