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8 Examples of Employee Recognition Programs to Try

Illustration of two hands high-fiving and one giving thumbs up.Text reads: "Employee recognition programs to try:Years of service award ,Customer service award,Employee appreciation events,Weekly shoutouts on social media"

Developing a consistent and thoughtful strategy for recognizing employee achievements is an important part of promoting growth and success at your business. Employees who receive praise and feel valued for their work often tend to be more satisfied, productive and motivated. According to an Indeed survey, 30% of people who left a job within the first 6 months said being recognized more for their unique contributions could have helped them stay longer.*

You can implement an employee recognition program at your company in several different ways—from public praise to employee of the month awards, to monetary incentives. Below, learn about employee recognition strategies you can deploy at your workplace to create a positive company culture where team members can feel valued, appreciated and satisfied.

Related: Employee Appreciation Day: How Recognition Transforms Companies

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What is an employee recognition program?

Employee recognition programs acknowledge the dedication and hard work of your staff members. By recognizing your employees and enabling your business’s leaders and teams to recognize each other for milestones, small wins or major achievements, these programs can drive employee motivation and enhance performance standards.

You can implement one or several recognition programs that acknowledge a variety of achievements, such as work anniversaries, positive feedback from clients or other workplace accomplishments. Whether a spoken acknowledgment, public recognition or monetary bonus, the purpose of an employee recognition program is to express thanks to employees who deserve it.

Some common areas of recognition include:

  • Years of service
  • Strong individual or team performance
  • Systems improvement
  • Client growth or retention
  • Personal development
  • Actions that embody your organization’s values
  • Technological advances

Related: How to Motivate Your Employees

Benefits of employee recognition programs

Rewarding outstanding behavior in the workplace can boost morale and motivation for employees as well as create a company culture focused on growth and achievement.

Here are a few ways that employee recognition can positively impact your organization:

Encourages engagement: Employee recognition programs can greatly increase overall employee engagement rates. Employees are often more engaged in their work when they’re recognized for it. This can ultimately lead to increased productivity and innovation.

Boosts performance: Workers who feel recognized and appreciated by their employer may be more likely to feel valued and important to the organization. In addition to greater satisfaction, this boosted morale can result in greater productivity and performance.

Enhances company culture: Recognition from leaders and peers helps employees feel seen and promotes a sense of belonging, which can lead to better peer connections, stronger communication and boosted organizational loyalty.

Attracts new talent: Attracting top talent to your organization is vital to growing within your industry, and people want a workplace that recognizes its employees for their successes. Implementing employee recognition programs and sharing them with potential talent can have a positive effect on your recruiting efforts.

Improves retention rates: Employees who don’t feel recognized may be more likely to leave an organization than those who do feel recognized for their work and accomplishments. By practicing employee recognition in your company, you can increase overall employee retention and reduce turnover rates.

8 examples of employee recognition programs to try

There are many types of recognition programs you can use to thank employees. Some are structured and planned rewards, while others are unstructured and spontaneous shows of appreciation.

Here are a few employee recognition programs to try:

1. Years of service award

A years of service award celebrates employees who have worked for your organization for a significant amount of time. An award that acknowledges years of service thanks tenured employees for their dedication while also encouraging loyalty in new hires. Years of service awards can include paid days off, monetary compensation or gifts that mark milestone years.

2. Customer service award

You can show appreciation for employees in customer service roles by rewarding them for meeting sales goals, demonstrating leadership skills, receiving positive customer feedback or providing exceptional customer service. Rewarding customer service employees with praise, a bonus or flexible scheduling is a great way to help them stay motivated.

3. Social recognition

Social recognition is an unstructured way to support positive work behaviors and can take forms such as a casual thanks in a meeting or a personalized message from a workplace leader. Regular social recognition can help your employees feel more supported, connected and proud of their work. It could also make team members more likely to recognize their peers.

4. Employee appreciation events

Praising employees for their good work with employee appreciation events can help boost self-esteem and make workers feel valued, which can lead to increased motivation. When other employees see a colleague being recognized, they may feel inspired to work harder to achieve similar recognition.

Employee appreciation event ideas include:

  • Surprise celebrations: If an employee has been performing exceptionally well, you can surprise them with a celebration that recognizes their hard work and contributions to the workplace.
  • Office outings: When a team or department has been delivering consistently good work, you can recognize them by taking them out to lunch or a fun outing for the day (e.g., bowling, karaoke, cooking classes).
  • Holiday parties: Annual traditions such as holiday parties give employees something to look forward to.

Read more: Celebrating Success in the Workplace: A Guide for Managers

5. Employee recognition wall

Consider setting up a board or dedicating a wall where everyone shares messages of appreciation toward their peers. Not only will this inspire employees who have been recognized to maintain their good work, but it can also foster a supportive workplace culture where team members help each other perform and succeed.

6. Weekly shout-outs on social media

Shouting out an employee on the company’s social media platforms or internal company intranet is a great and free way to recognize employees regularly. With their consent, you can post a picture of them and describe what makes them such valuable employees. List their job title, accomplishments and meaningful contributions.

7. Monetary employee recognition awards

Monetary employee recognition programs don’t have to be extravagant. Personalized gifts or even a $10 gift card to a coffee shop can be a nice perk for hardworking employees.

Common monetary awards include:

8. Employee of the month

A classic employee recognition tactic, an employee of the month program, works best when implemented strategically. Consider having peers or managers vote for the employee, and have each person explain why they’re voting for a particular person. Personalize the reward, and be specific when discussing why the employee is being recognized.

Related: Giving Gifts to Employees: Best Practices

Tips for implementing employee recognition programs

To build a culture of recognition in your organization, consider these tips:

Make recognition part of your company culture

Once a company embraces a culture that rewards employees for quality work, it’s easier to establish a foundation for creating an employee recognition program. Ensure that your organization’s goals and core values align with rewarded behaviors to make a clear connection.

Make it a habit

Make employee recognition a regular part of your management style as opposed to a one-time event. The more you recognize your employees, the more likely they are to feel appreciated. Even if you offer just a small or casual gesture of appreciation, try to recognize employees as often as appropriate. Keep in mind that recognition should be delivered in a timely manner to strengthen the connection between their behavior and its value to your business.

Provide recognition at random intervals

Recognition that is unexpected can sometimes be more meaningful for employees. Consider giving compliments, praise and thanks at random times or unexpected moments—unrelated to any event or organized recognition. This shows that it’s truly genuine and authentic because it’s not related to a quarterly award or regularly scheduled company event.

Be specific and personal

Rather than simply saying “good job,” be specific and sincere about what the employee did to earn recognition. Explain the impact they made on their team and the company, and give measurable results if you can to give it more meaning. For example, send a handwritten appreciation letter that describes what you appreciate about the employee, noting special skills they have or progress they’ve made during their career.

Give equal opportunities

Because employee recognition is often given publicly to boost morale, it’s especially important to consider inclusion, diversity and equity in your recognition program. Be clear and specific about the requirements needed to receive them, and make sure that your program doesn’t discriminate against employees based on their abilities or other characteristics.

Frequently Asked Questions about employee recognition programs

What benefits and perks can help employees feel valued?

The most valuable perks for employees are those they actually want. Instead of flashy or trendy perks, consider benefits that can support well-being, improve workplace culture and boost performance. These can include:

  • Flexible work arrangements
  • Gym or fitness memberships
  • Mental health benefits
  • Team-building events

How can you improve an employee recognition program?

You should continually evaluate and address opportunities in your employee recognition program. Consider questions such as:

  • Are rewards fair, appropriate and competitive?
  • Do recognition efforts support performance and job satisfaction initiatives?
  • Are employees satisfied with recognition efforts?
  • What are the program’s objectives? Are they being met?
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Employee recognition FAQs

Should employers reward employees in the same way or do something different for each employee that receives recognition?

Someone in your company may feel upset or left out when others are being recognized. When an employee feels left out, reassure them not to take it personally and find ways to praise them for the work they do. Offer a compliment or positive feedback for their work. You may also consider making changes to your employee recognition program to recognize everyone for their efforts rather than a single employee.

What should an employer do about employees who feel left out of an employee recognition program?

An effective employee recognition program should praise behaviors that are aligned with the goals and objectives of your company and create an experience that encourages employees to increase productivity and stay at your company. It should also be fair and valuable to employees.

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