I’m sure you’ve heard about the UPS driver who recently went viral on TikTok, celebrating his employer and sharing an often overshadowed, positive employee perspective. His voice as an employer advocate reached more than 6 MILLION consumers (potential employees?). For those concerned with employer branding, can you imagine the impact that this video may have had… could have had… that is, until the company responded.

The CEO rewarded him with a friendly letter of thanks and… a commemorative coin. You know the kind. Shiny. Round. Completely worthless.

It was a “challenge coin,” reserved for those UPS-ers that go “above and beyond.”

The letter thanked him for being a “brand ambassador.” His reward for positively impacting an external campaign to attract the best potential employees was an addition to his junk drawer.

What would you do for an employee who catapulted your employer brand to levels unseen before?

This story is incredibly personal to me because it reflects my own experience.

Back in the day, I worked for a multi-billion dollar household brand. This was a time before “quiet quitting” and employee empowerment. I, too, received a coin.

I was called into the VP’s office for my weekly one-on-one and asked about my plans for the next 5 years. Heck, my 5-month plan was to (1.) kick serious butt in my current role, (2.) get some kids out of diapers to free up some vacation money, and (3.) start my own business full-time. My transparent response was, “My future plans are to work for myself.”

His response was comical and surprising. He became visibly upset and replied, “Are you not (pause for dramatic effect)… all in?”

He hands me a coin with a stamped phrase: “ALL IN.” I was one of the first to receive this “prestigious” gift as a reminder that we each needed to be “all in” to make this company successful.

In my short tenure, I had already revamped the career site, produced quite a few employer brand videos, hired multiple executives, and kicked serious butt from Day 1. My work quality was impeccable. Everything was fresh and new for a somewhat stale brand.

But my superior believed that I required a motivational coin to push me in a compliant direction. I was a little surprised that I didn’t also receive a poster set for my office, complete with a soaring eagle, golf putting green, and dangling kitten.

Why is gifting trinkets a bad strategy for rewarding employee performance? They have no personal value. Period. Companies should focus on rewards that are beneficial to employees, such as PTO or bonus checks. And I’m not saying that all gifts of recognition have no value. My wife fondly remembers an employer who put together a catalog of high-end items that she could chose from for meeting milestones. She enjoyed picking out jewelry and handbags that weren’t company-branded. They were just nice little rewards that made her feel valued.

Back to UPS… this driver’s video received more than 6 million views. How many viewers have chosen to follow him for additional videos? He now has an attentive audience. UPS currently has 5,013 jobs posted on their career site. I am willing to bet one challenge coin that their applicant flow has increased 1000 percent!

Keep in mind the cost to recruit can easily be $23,500 per person (varies based on location, type of role, etc.) Here is a quick breakdown:

$1,500 – per hire, based on 1 internal recruiter hiring 100 people per year
$3,500 – per hire, advertising cost
$1,500 – per hire, recruiting tools/software
$1,500 – per hire, training
$8,000 – per hire, sign on bonusĀ  (see UPS post below)
$7,500 – per hire Interviewing time (consider the compensation of hiring team and divide by hours they spend interviewing, reviewing resumes, etc.)

TOTAL COST: $23,500 per hire

And I believe this is a conservative cost estimate.

So, float the man responsible for generating 6 MILLION views of positive press for your employer brand a nice payout! He can run ads on TikTok and make 2-4 cents per 1000 views, or $120-$140 dollars.

And now that he has an attentive audience, what does UPS want him to discuss next? Evidently, they desire for him to share about his generous reward for a job very well done.

Thoughts? What are companies doing positively to reward employees who go above and beyond?