March 21, 2023

Employee Recognition Program Ideas

Employee Recognition for a Modern Workforce
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Effective employee recognition can improve employee turnover, employee morale, company culture, and company productivity. And the best way to implement recognition and get employees excited is through various employee recognition programs.

We want to share some ideas for recognition programs that will make it easy to implement, easy to administer, and easy to get involved.

What Are Employee Recognition Programs?

A recognition program is an organized system that recognizes and/or rewards employees for specific behaviors. As an example, a recognition program centered on sales numbers would recognize any salesperson who hits a certain sales goal in a specified time period.

Recognition programs are great because they set the foundation and take away the guesswork that comes with employee recognition. Instead of worrying when to recognize, who to recognize, and how much is too much, HR leaders and managers will know exactly how to recognize and reward their employees through their programs.

Programs keep everything planned and organized, and they also let employees know how they can get involved. If employees aren’t sure what sort of behaviors their leaders are looking for, they may get stressed or avoid going the extra mile. But with the right employee recognition programs, they’ll know exactly how to move forward in the most effective, productive, and rewarding way.

Key Takeaways:

  • Employee recognition programs cut back on administration time and make it easy for leaders to spread the love.
  • Recognition programs get employees involved and strengthen company-value-drive behavior.

Most Effective Employee Recognition Program Ideas

It’s impossible to make a list of the exact programs you need to implement to find success because every company is different and every employee is different—what works for us may not work great for you. But we do have some general strategies to keep in mind when planning your next recognition programs.

1. Varied Recognition Programs That Reach Everyone

Not every employee is going to be a top performer, and that’s okay. Everyone has something they bring to table, so ensure you have at least a few programs that recognize and reward as many people as possible. Some examples might include:

  • Peer-to-peer recognition program. If you implement a peer recognition program, make sure to allow employees to recognize each other for anything. Because coworkers often see the day-to-day efforts of their peers, this will lead to genuine recognition going to employees who are more quiet, whose work flies under the radar.
  • Wellness recognition program. Employee wellness is more important than ever before. Create a recognition program that recognizes and rewards those who participate in your wellness program, incentivizing your employees to improve their health and well-being. This type of recognition will most likely reach an entirely different demographic than a performance-based one.
  • Monthly employee wall-of-fame. While not every recognition program should focus on results, it’s good to reward those who go above and beyond. A monthly reward program, such as a wall-of-fame, can be an effective way to get employees excited and working hard. Just make sure the program fosters collaboration, not unhealthy competition.

While top performers need and deserve recognition, not all recognition programs need to focus solely on getting results. Instead, show employees that you recognize them for the unique individuals that they are—show them that they are valued, even if they’re work isn’t as prominent as someone else’s.

2. Rewarding Programs that Incentivize Behavior

You probably have company values that you want your employees to exemplify, right? Hard-working, diligent, collaborative, etc. But without creating incentives that reinforce those values (i.e. creating value-driven work—something many employees want), your employees may forget about them or, even worse, feel like the company doesn’t actually care about them.

Create recognition programs that tie work to your company values, and don’t just focus on getting results. If your company values teamwork, recognize employees who go out of their way to help others and give guidance. If you value communication, recognize employees who always answer chats and emails quickly.

When you create recognition programs that recognize and reward the behaviors you want to see, you’ll encourage more employees to exemplify those behaviors, which leads to more recognition. It’s an awesome cycle that makes employee recognition a foundation of an amazing culture.

3. Recognition Programs That Celebrate Employees’ Milestones

Employees accomplish great things while at your company, and you should never, ever miss celebrating them. Work anniversaries and birthdays are two examples of yearly milestones that you should always remember. However, employees have a life outside of work—and 70% of them want greater work-life balance.

One way to encourage work-life balance is by celebrating employees’ personal milestones. Create employee recognition programs that celebrates things like:

  • Employees getting married or having kids
  • Employees graduating from school
  • Employees buying a house or moving
  • Employees excelling in an outside-of-work hobby

Your employees want to know that you care about them as individual people—and that means caring about their lives outside of work. Recognition programs that celebrate and reward employees for their personal accomplishments are a great way to show them that they matter.

Creative Recognition Program Ideas (From Our Own Clients)

We know it’s hard to come up with effective, efficient recognition programs at the drop of a hat. That’s why we want to show you some real-world examples of what our clients are doing. We hope that these programs will inspire you to create your own recognition programs that fit your workforce.

1. “Most Likely to…” Recognition Program

Seven Bridges, a global bioinformatic solutions company, takes pride in creating unique, fun, and inclusive recognition programs. One of the best they’ve come up with is the “Most Likely to…” program. Each month, they complete the sentence with different accomplishments or silly life events:

  • Most likely to become famous
  • Most likely to become a millionaire
  • Most likely to start their own business

Then, every employee nominates who they think best fits the prompt, and the person who gets the most nominations wins a prize that month. This is a phenomenal way to get employees involved in a recognition program and help them have fun!

2. Home Office Personalization Recognition Program

With the popularity of remote and hybrid work, it’s important for employees to have a comfortable place to work while at home. Percepta, a customer experience design company, realized this, and created a program that gave their employees an allowance for home office customization.

Not every recognition program needs to focus solely on recognition. Percepta used Awardco to provide all of their employees with some reward points that they could use to buy office supplies for their home—ergonomic equipment, plants, office chairs, etc. These programs are a great way to show that you care about your employees’ well-being.

3. Creative Holiday Recognition Programs

Rag & Bone, a fashion boutique, has taken great strides in creating new and exciting recognition programs for their employees. In 2022, they implemented a new holiday program in October—Howl-oween. Employees submit pictures of their pets dressed up in costumes, and then everyone voted on which costume was their favorite.

New American Funding created a “Seasons of Gratitude” program in November. This recognition program included a new prompt for employees every week, such as “show your gratitude to your work bestie.” This raised feelings of gratitude, appreciation, and goodwill throughout the entire month!

Holiday programs are a great way to raise excitement and find fun ways to recognize your workforce. If nothing else, remember Employee Appreciation Day in March to really show how much you appreciate your employees.

4. Lifestyle Spending Account Recognition Program

This is something Awardco does for our own employees! We have reimagined our service awards program to be more rewarding throughout the year for employees. Instead of giving out one award for employees’ work anniversaries, we contribute a set amount of money into their Lifestyle Spending Account every single month. Employees love that they’re rewarded more frequently.

Through our Lifestyle Spending Account, you can create a program that builds funds for bonuses, anniversary rewards, travel expenses, or wellness incentives. Create the custom program that best fits your employees.

5. Breakfast Program

One of our clients created a “Breakfast Program” that provides breakfast for employees during their team meetings. But that’s not all—the program is tied into GrubHub gift cards, so remote employees can order breakfast for themselves as well! This is a fun and relatively simple way to get employees more excited to attend meetings and to reward them for coming to work.

Create Effective Recognition Programs Today

Employee recognition is vitally important, and recognition programs are the best way to get started. The main point to remember is that you need to create programs that show your appreciation and mean something to your employees—reinforce values, drive behaviors, reward effort, promote wellness, and celebrate personal milestones. 

The rewards for your programs are important, too; public recognition, private recognition, gift cards, handwritten notes, team parties, gift baskets, extra cash, or a genuine “thank you” are great ideas. Make sure your recognition programs are fun and rewarding to participate in.

But don’t feel overwhelmed—Awardco is happy to help you get started! Schedule a demo to talk about potential employee recognition programs you can run today.