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How cultural differences around age can affect reward strategy

Ensuring your reward strategy is inclusive of age and cultural understanding is the only way to ensure international inclusivity. Ensure your reward strategy is across contries and inclusive.

“If we feel included, we are 17 times more likely to say ‘working brings out our best ideas’, 15 times more likely to find work inspiring and 77% more likely to recommend our organisation to others” – BI WORLDWIDE, New world, new rules of engagement.

For any reward or recognition strategy to be effective, it needs to be inclusive. 

With multiple generations working alongside each other, ensuring your rewards offer inspires employees at both ends of the employment spectrum, in the form of employee benefits and incentive rewards, is critical. 

Take length of service recognition as an example. Businesses in many regions including China, the US and Germany, are celebrating service anniversaries spanning up to 50 years. In January this year, 100-year-old Brazilian Walter Orthmann, earned a Guinness World Record after celebrating 84 years and 9 days at the same company. 

Now throw geography into the cultural mix

Diverse companies with employees based around the world also need to consider the cultural differences that can affect the effectiveness of their reward approach while ensuring equality in offering, regardless of where employees are based. But being culturally sensitive and offering comparable solutions internationally is challenging if you don’t have the right support. So, what should you look for?

Centralised approach to reward strategy

Implementing a centralised reward strategy helps employers maintain cohesion and compliance across countries and cultures. Company culture also has a strong bearing on the overall strategy but, crucially, it must dovetail into local traditions and expectations. Seek to find solutions that allow for central governance, but offer the agility and flexibility to provide local nuance in delivery. 

Feet on the street

There is no better way to ensure your reward strategy lands well with your international employees than having feet on the street where they are based. As well as ensuring your reward approach features globally aspirational reward choices, seek a provider that is local. This will guarantee they understand the trends, brands, needs and desires of the people they serve and allow them to buy and fulfil within the region to maximise the effectiveness of your rewards and their ability to inspire your employees.

Give employees choice

No two people are the same. Gone should be the days where we assume everyone will be inspired by a gold watch. The only way to ensure international inclusivity in your reward strategy, whether for age, gender or religion for example, is to offer choice. Don’t assume. Reward strategies that offer a breadth in range to include experiences and tangible rewards help foster inclusivity by offering something for everyone. 
Is cash king?

So why not just give them cash?

Surely that offers maximum choice?


If you truly want to inspire someone, to make them feel recognised and appreciated, Research shows that non-cash rewards are more effective, none more so than experiences. In recent research for Expedia Group, conducted by Wakefield Research, 16,000 people were asked what they would give up for one month in exchange for a vacation. Results included smart phones, online shopping and favourite food and alcohol, showing the value we all place on experiences. 

The reason we reward anyone is because we want them to feel recognised, remember the moment and replicate the behaviours in the future. Among other things, when given cash, the recipient often, to themselves or others, has to justify any spending on a luxury in a way they don’t when they receive a tangible reward or experience.

Sometimes guilt sets in and that cash reward finds its way into monthly household spending. The consequence? You reduce the rewards impact in creating that memorable moment and as a result its ability to inspire future behaviour.

Everyone is different

So, no matter your employee’s age or geography, the key to ensuring your reward strategy is effective and inclusive is choice and understanding. 

Don’t fall into the trap of assuming, based on age or any other demographic, you understand what will motivate an individual. Everyone is unique. 

Avoid the pitfalls of reward providers who don’t understand the people and cultures they serve. Seek to find solutions that offer global processes, but with truly local implementation to ensure your strategy gives you global consistency and equity with culturally appropriate experiences that inspire.


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