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Faster Than Fast: Instant Rewards in an Instant World

Good things come to those who wait. That’s very often true, but why make people wait when you don’t have to?

A recent article in the scholarly publication Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior discusses some of the costs of delaying earned rewards. Known as “delay discounting,” the study examines subjects’ responses to delayed rewards in terms of direct costs (discomfort; boredom), and several types of opportunity costs (lack of access to alternative sources of reinforcement; inability to actually use the reward earned). Ultimately, the longer people have to wait for their rewards, the greater the risk of diluting the positive effect.

This research provides helpful support to what we’ve long experienced and promoted as an incentives and engagement company: To obtain the best results in any kind of recognition program, the rewards (tangible or otherwise) need to be frequent, meaningful, and most importantly in this context, timely. You’ve probably experienced either positive or negative effects in this regard in your own career. Let’s try an example.

You’ve been given the responsibility for an important month-long project. At the end of the 30 days, your expert management has brought the project in on time and under budget. In terms of recognition for your success, would you prefer:

  • immediate, personal feedback from your manager, recognizing your accomplishment and accompanied by an appropriate reward
  • as part of a periodic review two months later, acknowledgement of your good work on that project a while back, with a promise to “make sure you get some type of reward” at the next opportunity


Not a hard choice, is it? One is motivating. The other is, well, nice. One will deliver the most positive reinforcement for the recognition buck. The other disassociates the reward from the activity, fading bit by bit as each day goes by.

So, timely really counts. But how timely is timely? Here’s where it gets a little tricky, since “timely” today may mean something quite different than it did just a few years ago. It’s an instant world, constantly getting more instant. Fast can never be fast enough, and particularly so with younger people, who have never known a time in which you can’t get whatever you want, pretty much whenever you want it. And when they’ve earned a reward — well, where is it?

Hawk Incentives has been working on ways to get rewards to your recipients not only quicker, but literally on the spot. Prepaid cards continue to be extremely popular rewards for both employees and consumers, and now there’s more than one way to deliver them. We’ve developed cards that can be delivered via email, as well as a method for loading plastic prepaid cards with funds onsite. The next time you want to deliver an instant reward, you can. Instantly.



Questions? Talk to an expert today.

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