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11 Tried and Tested Employee Recognition Ideas

By Preethi Jathanna

Senior Writer for HR and Remote Work

Reviewed by Kara Funk

Senior HR Consultant, People & Culture

11 Tried and Tested Employee Recognition Ideas

Don’t you just love it when an all-hands meeting wraps up with your boss or manager appreciating the team? According to an article on Business Insider, if employees don't feel appreciated for their work, they are 39% more likely to start looking for a new job. This explains why employee recognition ideas have become a hit at workplaces over the years.

Recognition of employee’s contribution and impact is not only key to retaining talent but it is also vital to employee engagement. Picture it as a domino effect, where appreciation leads to motivation, which in turn leads to higher engagement and ultimately greater productivity. Having written about virtual employee recognition before, this post is going to talk about employee recognition ideas and the best employee recognition program ideas that offices with any work arrangement can try out. 

1. How Should You Recognize Employees?

Different moments warrant a different timeline for recognition at work. For a job well done on a project or initiative, recognition in real-time is ideal. The first step to recognizing employees promptly is to establish clear and accessible channels for acknowledgment, such as implementing a structured recognition program or ensuring that regular one-on-one meetings are conducted between employees and managers.

Next, there should be levels to indicate consistency in performance. Creating tiers is at your discretion, but doing so also gives all employees a goal to aspire to. Look at employee of the month ideas. You can then finalize the employee recognition ideas suited for the occasion and employee. 

2. Monetary Employee Recognition Ideas

2.1. Training and Upskilling

No one wants to be doing the same job for the entirety of their career. With training, employees will acquire skills in other knowledge areas that make them an asset to a different business unit or department within the organization. For example, a copywriter can move up and take over as a product marketing manager provided it aligns with his or her interest. 

Initiate a conversation with employees regarding their future goals and areas of interest. You can then recommend resources, materials, and people to keep in mind when the time is right. They can register their interests through manual or digital means to reserve their place for appropriate study courses, classroom, or project-based training. 

2.2. Sponsored Experiences 

sponsored experiences

Recognizing employees as a team is an essential part of employee recognition and one fun way you can achieve this is through sponsored events. These kinds of team recognition ideas help employees know each other better and help create shared experiences for them to bond over beyond the workplace. 

We offer shared experiences with the help of Hooray Teams. A fun virtual team building platform that offers a number of employee recognition ideas for teams. Our favorite picks include Murder at the Manor: a Murder Mystery, Hot Sauce Making Class, Online Meditation and Painting Session.

2.3. Custom Subscriptions

In this digital landscape, subscriptions are a mainstay for great experiences be it movies, food, wellness, or books. So, If you are looking for a personalized way to recognize employees, consider paid subscriptions. This could include magazine or book subscriptions for bookworms in your team, streaming services like Netflix or Hulu for entertainment, or meal kit subscriptions for those who enjoy cooking.

It is important to understand your team’s preferences and share custom subscriptions. This shows that you not only value their professional contributions but also respect their unique personalities and lifestyles. 

2.4. Paid Vacations

If you are looking for good employee recognition ideas then consider a paid vacation. This helps them reset and perform to their maximum potential. Introducing paid vacations as a part of your employee recognition program shows that you aren’t just saying thanks but rather showing appreciation for their time as well. 

One of the best ways to implement this is by tying up with a travel agency and creating a list of places your employees can pick from. This way they can choose destinations that best represent their preferences and interests. 

2.5. Spot Bonuses

spot bonuses

Spot bonuses are spontaneous bonuses and incentives given out to employees when they achieve something that goes beyond their regular tasks. Unlike traditional bonuses, these aren’t tied to a certain time frame. These can be given out anytime, anywhere. You can link spot bonuses to achievements like completing project milestones ahead of schedule, offering innovative solutions, or receiving exceptional customer feedback. 

The real-time approach helps build a culture of employee recognition within the organization, and who doesn’t want that? Some forms that it can take include cash rewards, gift cards, extra time off, or other tangible perks, making this one of the most appreciated employee rewards ideas.

2.6. Discounted Gym Membership

If you are looking for more wellness-based employee recognition ideas then a gym membership is definitely one you should check out. This is a thoughtful initiative that places a strong emphasis on the health and well-being of your team.

There are different ways you can go about this. You can either provide discounted vouchers or tie up with a gym close to your office and offer sponsored subscription plans. If your team is remote then you can buy a corporate plan from places like Gympass and ClassPass. These places give employees the flexibility to pick workout classes that best fit their needs.

3. Non-Monetary Employee Recognition Ideas

3.1. Tête-à-tête with the Leadership

For many, the idea of conversing with leadership can be a little overwhelming.  You can also achieve this virtually by hosting an "Ask Me Anything" session, where participants can submit questions in advance, either anonymously or openly, for discussion and answers. 

It's a learning opportunity for all involved because leaders can share their experiences (yes, even the rookie mistakes) and new hires can put forward suggestions to help the business grow or explore the market. 

3.2. Peer Recognition Programs

Peer recognition programs make mutual appreciation easier for coworkers. This is one of those ideas for employee recognition where the appreciation also tends to be more heartfelt and meaningful. This is because colleagues who work in the same team or collaborate on projects frequently would have a first-hand account of their colleague’s expertise, approach to problem-solving, and attitude to work.

Peers can form a group on meeting platforms (if the colleagues are distributed) or conduct after-office hours or informal social meets. These programs strengthen the bond between colleagues.

3.3. Awards and Rewards

Fun awards for employees add a touch of humor to the employee recognition process. From fun and informal categories like "Best Dressed" and "Most Winning Smile" to more work-specific distinctions such as "Exceptional Coach," "The Marketing Genius," "That-Extra-Mile," "The Growth Driver," and "The Client Whisperer/Best in Customer Excellence," employee award ideas can cover many accomplishments and qualities. 

What makes the reward system particularly effective is its adaptability to different departments. For instance, the creative team might have its own unique set of fun employee awards, which would be different from those in the sales department. Regardless of the names, the ultimate goal remains consistent – to provide recognition to employees.

3.4. Flexible Working 

A Global Trends report by LinkedIn found that workplaces with flexible arrangements saw a 137% increase in headcount. This follows the heels of the pandemic disrupting business-as-usual. Companies that previously distrusted remote work as a viable option are now reconsidering their stance, having seen that it doesn’t negatively impact office productivity. 

Offering your workforce flexible work arrangements is a solid strategy, particularly if you’re employing working parents. Flexible arrangements also give parents a fair shot at being considered for promotions since they can do justice on both the home and work front. We, at SIWOM are a 100% remote organization and have witnessed the impact that it has had on the day-to-day lives of our employees, From being able to spend time with their kids to managing a workout schedule everything is just a little bit easier with flexible working arrangements.

3.5. Premium Parking

premium parking

Employees who work out of an office especially covet parking spots. Premium parking is an understated yet effective way to show recognition for employees.  Reserved parking spaces for outstanding performers provide not only a practical benefit but also a visible symbol of recognition. 

Another thing you can do is celebrate work anniversaries with special parking privileges. This acknowledges loyalty and dedication and adds a social dimension to the employee recognition program.

If you need a bit more employee recognition inspiration, check out our posts on no-cost employee appreciation ideas, employee recognition for large companies, and employee appreciation for long service, as well as a how-to article on creating a well-rounded employee appreciation program.

Consider hosting an employee appreciation day or an employee appreciation party to demonstrate how much you value your staff. Alternatively, boost morale with some well-chosen motivational quotations. We’ve also got a guide to penning a heartfelt employee appreciation letter, as well as a complementary post on how to write a note of appreciation to thank a boss for their support.

4. FAQs

4.1. What is employee recognition?

Employee recognition fills a basic need to feel both valued and appreciated. It refers to those actions that observe and appraise individuals in a transparent and objective setting. Recognition is also closely linked to employee appreciation and employee engagement.

4.2. What are good ways to recognize employees?

Some recognition ideas for employees include;

  1. A Gratitude or employee recognition board made on a meeting platform or an actual wall
  2. Public praise via employee recognition email and messaging
  3. Giving them vouchers to avail discounts at select stores
  4. Celebrating personal events such as birthdays, anniversaries or reaching a new work milestone
  5. Investing in their training and development
  6. Having a 1:1 catch-up to give and receive feedback regarding how they feel about work and what can be done to help them bring their best to the table

4.3. How important is recognition in the workplace?

Employee recognition is vital to quantify the value and worth of every employee working in an organization. It lets employees see that their contributions and efforts aren’t going unnoticed and that tangible results are tied back to those efforts. Employee recognition leads to satisfied and engaged workers who feel more confident about themselves, giving them a reason to be productive.

4.4. How do you praise someone professionally?

Here are some words for employee recognition you can use to praise someone in a professional context;

1.’Thank you, reading your email made my day.’

  1. ‘Great colleagues like you make me realize why I love coming to work’.
  2. ‘I/We could not have done it without you. I/We appreciate everything you’ve done to make this happen’.
  3. ’ I couldn’t help but notice the effort you put in for the project and just wanted to thank you for being YOU!’.

4.5. How do you make employee recognition meaningful?

Employee recognition can be made meaningful by ensuring managers take the time to get to know their employees. When managers have established good rapport with employees and understand what motivates them, they can give recognition that is aligned with that, thus having more impact and meaning for the employee. Not only will an employee feel recognized but they will feel seen when you recognize them in the way in which makes the biggest impact for them. 

4.6. What is the difference between appreciation and recognition?

HBR explains the distinction between appreciation and recognition succinctly. Appreciation is about who the person is, while recognition is about acknowledging what they do. Both are given on different occasions and for different reasons. Appreciation lets you connect with the employee on a social and personal level, thereby humanizing their actions. Recognition, on the other hand, praises them for doing something correctly or for surpassing expectations. 

4.7. What are some employee appreciation ideas for large companies?

Some of the best employee appreciation ideas for large companies include recognition programs, peer acknowledgments, personalized thank-you notes, and flexible work arrangements. 

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