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August 2, 2022
January 20, 2021

Ideas for Employee Award Programs

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What Is an Employee Award Program? Ideas and Examples

Employee award programs are more important than ever; especially in our remote-work world. Establishing a successful employee award program, however, is no simple task! In this article, we will define the purposes behind an employee award program and give you a few ideas and examples to help you get started.

What is an Employee Award Program?

An employee award program (also called an employee recognition program) is more than simply taking notice of a work anniversary or a job well done. It does that, but it’s also a way to attract and retain top talent by ensuring employees feel valued and motivated to do their best.

6 Tips for a Successful Employee Award Program

Each employer will have its own way to implement an employee award program; nevertheless, to be successful, follow these expert-approved techniques to build a culture of recognition:

  1. Tie each recognition to the company’s values or goals.
  2. Recognize people promptly, based on specific results or behavior. 
  3. Use peer-to-peer recognition (not top-down) to let them reward each other and celebrate together.
  4. Track rewards and share recognition stories to encourage an atmosphere of gratitude.
  5. Evaluate the program and ask for feedback to learn if the program is giving employees the recognition they desire while still accomplishing the company’s goals.

Make recognition easy and frequent with an employee recognition platform.

11 Employee Award Program Examples

In reality, an excellent employee award program is made up of various smaller programs with different target goals or audiences. Some employee award program examples include:

  1. Sales incentives
  2. Health and wellness programs
  3. Work-from-home programs
  4. Referral programs
  5. Value spotlights
  6. Spot recognition
  7. Peer-to-peer recognition
  8. Service awards
  9. High-performer nominations
  10. Employee annual award appreciation
  11. Team accomplishments

By combining multiple types of award examples, you can be sure to reach and recognize everyone.

Why Do You Need an Employee Award Program?

An employee award program is more than just a feel-good perk for a job well done. You need an employee award program to:

  • Strengthen bonds of trust that build better work relationships and environments.
  • Boost productivity, because employees want to earn awards but also want to be noticed as important, contributing members of the team.
  • Empower employees to do their job since it helps people learn faster and retain information longer.
  • Give a feeling of safety and security, as compliments release oxytocin in the brain, which reduces stress and the “fight or flight” reflex.

Essentially, the psychology of employee recognition addresses the top four basic needs of humans listed on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization.

When these needs are fulfilled, employers see lower absenteeism and reduced turnover—two other crucial benefits employee recognition programs offer.

The Best Employee Award Ideas and Examples

Different awards are best depending on what’s trying to be achieved, so here are some of the best employee award ideas based on the behavior you’re encouraging with the recognition. 

Best Employee Award Ideas for Encouraging Retention

Employee retention can be tough depending on the labor market, but to encourage your employees to stay, consider these concepts:

  • A handwritten note from the right person can express sincere care and make the recipient feel seen and valued.
  • Company swag is always popular and can be anything from outdoor products to self-care and even tech gear.
  • Extra paid-time-off days, because who doesn’t want that?
  • A flexible work schedule can make the difference between staying at or leaving a job.
  • A promotion and/or raise is one of the ultimate rewards.

Best Employee Award Ideas for Encouraging Production

If meeting metrics is the goal, here are some thoughts on best employee award ideas:

  • An item that makes their workspace more comfortable (upgraded chair, foot heater, etc.) can help an employee work better and faster.
  • Transportation assistance gets them to work on time and back home without a hassle.
  • A special project or assignment in their field of interest means the job might get done quickly.
  • Educational opportunities that allow for professional development and advancement are long-term rewards that keep on giving.
  • A points-based award system and catalog of items from which to choose are likely to make production rates reach higher.
  • Monetary incentive is always a great reward for performing hard work.

Best Employee Award Ideas for Encouraging Motivation

Motivating employees to do their best work can be tricky, but consider these ideas: 

  • A thank-you video can be either funny or serious, but make sure to share it publicly, so everyone knows what a great job the employee is doing.
  • A trophy to show off is a classic award.
  • A Wall of Fame display where everyone walks by is a constant reminder of a job well done.
  • A salary bonus can be big or small because, either way, it will be accepted gratefully.

Best Employee Award Ideas for Encouraging Engagement 

To get employees more involved and connected with their work and coworkers, consider the benefits employee engagement award ideas like these can offer:

  • A shout-out on social media (be sure to tag them) gets everyone in on the public congratulating.
  • Team-building activities or outings break up the monotony of daily work life and build lasting relationships.
  • An ambassador opportunity to a conference or other professional event can bring someone a solid sense of pride.
  • A charitable contribution in the employee’s name to one of their favorite causes is an excellent way to spread the love.
  • A new job title shows you respect their work, trust their judgment, and want to keep them around. 

Best Employee Award Ideas for Encouraging Happiness

Happy employees are the best employees, so encourage them by gifting. Here are some thoughts:

  • A feature in the company newsletter or a published industry press release gives the employee a keepsake they can have forever.
  • A reserved, prime parking space is a nice perk to have.
  • A gift basket full of treats and trinkets is always a fun thing to receive.
  • A gift card pleases even the pickiest person.
  • Event tickets give some fun outside of work hours.
  • An all-expenses-paid vacation would be turned down by absolutely no one.

The Potential Challenges of an Employee Award Program

While having a program in place is fun and can bring many benefits to the company and its employees alike, you may face some challenges if you’re not careful. 

First of all, it can consume too much time and effort of multiple people if tasks such as setting up the program, ensuring timely recognition, and tracking awards are done manually. This is especially true for keeping recognition consistent and fair for everyone and not just a popularity contest. 

Second, it can all come across as insincere if the act of recognition becomes more important than the intent behind the process. While you do want the rewards to tie back to the company’s values and vision, are you employee-focused at all times or just trying to meet metrics?  

The good news is that when done right, the challenges of implementing an employee award program idea are irrelevant and what remains are the program’s crucial benefits.

Awardco Can Help!

If you want to build a positive culture, increase engagement, and create loyalty, value-driven recognition is the way to go. However, building an employee award program from the ground up can be a big undertaking even with the best of intentions. 

You want to show appreciation to your hard-working employees, but how do you put together an integrated program that gets used regularly, creates unity (not rivalry), and appropriately celebrates the moments that matter? 

To truly recognize and reward your people, hand the hard work over to Awardco. We’re expert celebrators and have won numerous awards ourselves for our powerful recognition platform. We make it simple to give fun, effective employee award ideas everyone is excited about. Get your demo today!


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