Peer-to-peer reward schemes: Star peerformance

According to motivation experts, peer-to-peer reward schemes can help boost morale in the workplace. How can you ensure employees buy into the idea?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that some employees find peer-to-peer reward schemes a bit naff. One ex-employee of an American-owned publishing company, for example, says being practically forced to nominate a colleague for ‘good behaviour’ once a month made the whole thing a bit of a farce. So why bother running such a scheme, and how can you ensure it’s not a waste of money?

A peer-to-peer reward scheme involves employees nominating their fellow colleagues for exceptional work. Managers usually then look at the nominations – often once a month – and decide who should receive an award by judging the nominated achievement against set behaviours the company wants to promote.

Steve Baker, director of sales and marketing at reward and recognition specialist Projectlink Motivation, says peer-to-peer reward schemes are particularly good for recognising achievement in back-office roles, such as accounting or HR, where performance is not as easily measured as in departments such as sales. The other benefit, he says, is that the performance expected by a colleague to warrant a nomination is often much higher than could be demanded by management.

Sheila Sheldon, director of European operations at reward and recognition company Michael C Fina, agrees. “You can pull the wool over your boss’s eyes, but you can’t pull the wool over your peers’ eyes. Sometimes management is so close to the coalface that they don’t always see the true performers, but the peer group will know who is working and who isn’t.”


Sheldon believes that for a peer-to-peer scheme to work, management buy-in is required from the start, and adds that she has never seen an issue with employee participation where a scheme is constructed and promoted properly. Where employees are reluctant to nominate their colleagues, Baker says that involvement can sometimes be encouraged by rewarding workers who do make nominations.

“In some of the programmes we manage, the nominator also gets an award if a set number of their nominations are successful,” he says.

While peer-to-peer schemes should be relatively cheap to set up – around 5% of the total amount budgeted for running a scheme, according to Baker – the amount invested overall needs to be realistic.

“One of the easiest ways to kill a peer-to-peer reward programme is if you have a fixed budget,” he explains. “You don’t ever want to be in a position where you have two people who have done exactly the same thing, but you can only afford to reward one of them, because then your reward scheme has become a lottery.”


Baker believes budgeting for every employee to get one award per year is sensible, and that the prize awarded should be enough for the employee to buy something without an additional contribution.

“We normally say around £20, although it depends on the audience. If it is a scheme for solicitors, for example, you might need to give a bit more for it to seem like a reward,” he suggests.

Sheldon agrees that £20 is a good starting point.”We currently [run schemes with] rewards from as low as £10 up to £1,000. You are better off rewarding an individual two or three times a year and giving them £25 a time,” she says.

So while some staff might see a peer-to-peer reward scheme as a bit silly on the face of it, with the right investment, planning and promotion, and by measuring performance against set criteria, organisations should find that their investment pays off.

Top tips

  • Set the criteria for peer-to-peer awards based on the behaviours you want to promote.
  • Make sure the scheme is open to all employees and that everyone is aware of the nomination criteria.
  • Encourage staff to get involved. Having management buy-in to the scheme will make this much easier.
  • Make it simple for employees to nominate one another or self-nominate – an online database can be a good solution.
  • Consider how often you want awards to be distributed. Many businesses opt for once a month.
  • Ensure the reward given is enough for the employee to buy something without putting in additional funds.
  • Put adequate investment behind the scheme. Budget for at least one award per employee per year.
  • Publicise who was awarded, and why. This will help employees see that nominating their peers is not a waste of time.

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