February 9, 2024
March 1, 2024

A Quick Guide to Employee Rewards and Recognition in the Workplace

Employee Recognition for a Modern Workforce
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Employee rewards and recognition is the secret sauce in your recipe for success—rewards and recognition influence culture, engagement, motivation, turnover, and productivity because employees will always perform better when they feel valued and supported.

Employee engagement levels are dropping for the first time in a decade, burnout is rising, and employees expect more from their employers and workplaces. (According to one study, employees think company culture is 10X more important than their salaries!)

Times are changing, and rewards and recognition is your key to staying relevant in 2023 and beyond. With this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to get buy-in, effectively implement, and steadily increase your companies employee recognition and improve your reward offerings.

Why is Employee Recognition Important in the Workplace?

Employee recognition lowers turnover by 31% and increases engagement and productivity by 14%. Employees are 3X more likely to be loyal to an organization with a culture of recognition, and high performing companies are 10X more likely to put a central focus on recognition.

Recognition makes employees feel appreciated, valued, and noticed, which drives behavior, builds trust, and increases job satisfaction. Employees will try harder when they’re confident their efforts will be recognized.

All these benefits mean that creating a culture of frequent and genuine recognition in the workplace can completely transform a company’s productivity, retention, and performance.

How to Build a Culture of Recognition?

When implementing or improving employee recognition programs, you must have some foundational practices in place that make it easy and rewarding to recognize. Here are these foundational concepts:

  • Make recognition easy to do. Executives, managers, and employees all have a lot on their plates, so when recognition is complicated or cumbersome, most won’t bother. However, with a innovative recognition platform, people can quickly give shoutouts on the spot. And don’t forget to encourage in-person compliments and public praise!
  • Make recognition specific, timely, and genuine. Whenever you recognize someone, it should be for a specific reason, it shouldn’t be weeks after the fact, and it should be heartfelt. Only with these key features will recognition give you the benefits you’re looking for.
  • Tie recognition into company values. Value-drive recognition is a sure-fire way to build a healthy work culture. When recognition reinforces value-driven behaviors, your employees will come to understand your values and put them into practice.

When recognition is easy, meaningful, and value-driven, your culture of recognition will reach everyone effectively.

Modern Employee Rewards & Recognition Ideas

Now that you know why and how to implement recognition, here are some strategies to make it easier to get started.

Offer Various Recognition Programs

Every employee is different, which means everyone has different preferences for recognition. In fact, many employees would rather have recognition delivered privately, not publicly. But that doesn’t mean social shoutouts or public praise is bad.

Another tip: cash is great, but it isn’t your only reward option. Many employees respond better to rewards like development opportunities, greater trust, or more responsibility.

Survey and talk to your employees to figure out what types of recognition and rewards mean the most to them. After all, creating multiple different recognition programs and reward networks is a piece of cake with Awardco.

Make Rewards & Recognition Much More Frequent

Employees spend eight hours every day, 40 hours a week, at work. Being recognized once a month or even once a quarter simply is not enough. 40% of employees are recognized only a couple times each year or less, and 82% of employees don’t feel recognized enough at work.

All this goes to show that recognition needs to be given out like candy—but not to the point of sacrificing genuinity! The main thing to remember is that recognition should be given out for the big things (birthdays, service anniversaries, sales quotas, etc.) and the small things (having a good attitude, helping on a project, being on time, etc.).

Recognize and Celebrate Milestones

Besides work accomplishments, employee recognition should encompass professional and personal milestones. Some examples of fitting milestones to celebrate include:

  • Employee birthdays
  • Work anniversaries
  • Promotions
  • Getting married
  • Having a baby
  • Graduation
  • Buying a home

These work and life events are a huge deal for your employees, so when you recognize these milestones, you show that the company cares about its people, both in and out of work.

Promote and Recognize Employee Wellness

Burnout and stress are the new workplace pandemic, with 67% of employees saying stress and burnout have gotten worse since 2020. 83% of Americans regularly deal with work-related stress, too.

Employee recognition doesn’t only celebrate those who prioritize wellness—it can also incentivize participation in wellness programs and initiatives. Create programs centered around walking a certain amount of steps, eating certain healthy foods, or taking care of their mental health. Then, incentivize employees to participate and recognize those who do their best.

Mix Digital and Physical Recognition

Digital recognition is convenient, fast, and easy, but it may not reach everyone. Using physical recognition, such as notes of gratitude, gift cards, or an in-person compliment balances your recognition programs.

Employee Rewards and Recognition Program Examples

Let’s briefly look at a few employee recognition programs to see what you can do with your own culture:

  • Life event program. Every employee goes through life events, such as birthdays, marriage, or graduations. Support your employees by recognizing these events and rewarding them with something fitting!
  • Wellness program. Support wellness by creating a wellness program. This program may include a stipend each month for gym memberships or healthy groceries. Then, leaders should recognize those who participate.
  • Peer-to-peer recognition program. An employee’s peers work closely with them and know their strengths and contributions probably better than most leaders do. That’s why peer-to-peer recognition can be so powerful. These programs allow coworkers to recognize each other and build those relationships.
  • Charity or volunteering program. Employees want a company that takes care of the community. A charity or volunteering program allows employees to donate their money or time for a good cause—and then leaders can recognize those who give of themselves.
  • High performer nominations. Employee-of-the-month programs are a good example of this—let employees and managers nominate high performers who will be recognized for their stellar work ethic and results.
  • Holiday programs. New Year’s, Employee Appreciation Day, Easter, Yom Kippur, Thanksgiving, Chinese New Year, etc. These are all great opportunities to celebrate with your employees and reward them for their work. Find ways to be inclusive and respectful while allowing employees to have fun!

The sky's the limit for your recognition programs. Create custom programs that excite and involve your employees, and they’ll respond by building a culture of engagement.

Benefits of Rewards & Recognition Programs

The reason every company should create and support specific recognition programs is that these give recognition more structure and guidance. They allow employees to know exactly how they can recognize each other and what they need to do to be recognized themselves. Other benefits of employee recognition programs include:

  • Inclusivity. Companies can create various programs that reach all their employees, no matter what their position, interests, or personalities are.
  • Incentives. Structured programs also allow companies to incentivize specific behaviors.
  • Reward options. Specific recognition programs can be paired with specific reward networks, giving employees the freedom to choose which reward means the most to them.

Best Rewards for Employees

Recognition, as important as it is, is only half of the solution. Employee rewards need to be fitting, personalized, and meaningful for each and every employee. But how do you accomplish that, especially when every employee probably wants something different?

There’s one answer that can solve this conundrum: giving employees the power to choose. That’s probably why gift cards are so popular, because it gives employees the freedom to spend the money on what they want. (However, Amazon is even better than gift cards.) Here are some other strategies for offering stellar rewards:

  • Make them personalized. Never, ever give cookie-cutter gifts because most people will be disappointed. Not everyone wants a cooler or a pair of Converse. Talk to your employees to figure out what they’re interested in, then sculpt your reward options around them.
  • Gift career advancement. Not every achievement needs to be rewarded with cash or a gift card. In fact, promotions, raises, training opportunities, and new responsibilities are fantastic rewards for those employees who are motivated to improve themselves.
  • Give the gift of team building. With remote and hybrid work getting more and more popular, rewards shouldn’t always be specific to one person. Instead, reward entire teams with the opportunity to get out of the office and have fun together.

Rewards need to be rewarding, or else they do more harm than good. But with effective recognition and fitting rewards, employees will love the culture you create.

Start Recognizing and Rewarding Your Employees Today

Employee recognition and rewards are the solution you need for an ailing culture, which is a common problem in today’s work environment. Awardco can help you create customized programs, curate personalized reward networks, and implement an easy-to-use solution that reaches all of your employees. Schedule a demo today!

Jefferson Hansen
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An avid lover of fantasy books, a proud Hufflepuff, and a strong proponent of escapism, Jeff has a love of good storytelling. He relies on that for both his professional work and his writing hobby (don’t ask about the 10+ novel ideas collecting virtual dust on his computer).