Employee Recognition Guide

Employee Recognition Ideas & Examples

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Let's Get Specific

Let’s get into the nitty gritty of employee recognition. How do you do it? What kind of programs should you set up? Well, we have seen our clients use various programs over the years. From annual work anniversaries to day-to-day recognitions you can do a little or a lot, but we recommend a lot because that’s our thing. But don’t worry, creating employee recognition programs with Awardco helps you easily automate and simplify recognition at your organization. You get the benefit of lots of recognition without too much added effort. 

We help our clients become the hero in their own story.

Recognition Program Examples and Ideas

If you want to create a company culture where people feel genuinely appreciated, you have to build upon a strong foundation and get a little creative. You’re likely already recognizing top performers in some way: maybe you give out bonuses, or send people cards on milestones. This is a great start, but to touch everyone in your organization, you'll need to have a holistic program with several targeted programs.

Here is a list of the most popular employee recognition programs (and how to best pull them off):

Service Awards

In a study we conducted with HR.com we found that 71% of organizations have a service award program. Traditionally, service awards have taken the form of a certificate or pin handed off unceremoniously without a lot of thought. This kind of generic reward may be useless to an employee or even worse, something that reminds them of how little their company cares. A token gesture can give off a sentiment of “thanks for not leaving” rather than “we really appreciate all you’ve contributed to the company in the last year!” And check this out: one new Awardco's client said that 50% of retiring employees left their service awards behind with their previous vendor. That’s a lot of certificates, pins, and plaques left on dusty desks!

To ensure your employee feels like an individual whose work matters, make sure you attach real meaning or purpose. Acknowledge all that has been achieved during their time at the company, specific accomplishments or goals they’ve completed, and give them a reward that is meaningful

Work anniversaries should be celebrated every year. Service awards are commonly only given out for “significant years” like the fifth and tenth year, but every year an employee spends with you is significant. Think of it this way: if the median tenure at a company is about 4.1 years (2.8 for millenials!) then a 5, 10, and 15-year program won’t be very useful at all. We recommend rethinking the way you’re celebrating service awards. The more recognition, the happier the employee.

Value-Driven Spot Recognition

Recognize your team members whenever they do something great or noteworthy. You really can’t over-recognize, so do it as often as possible. Send a note, give a high five, leave a comment on something they’ve done, etc. And remember: 91% of employees feel any kind of recognition is meaningful, so you really can’t go wrong here.

Timing matters. Recognizing someone soon after they do excellent work will better reinforce the behavior. The Awardco platform lets employees send and receive recognitions in real time, both for celebrating big goals or appreciating small actions. 

Be specific. The more specific the better. Hearing “great work” can be nice, but if you want specific behaviors to continue, you need to acknowledge and show appreciation for those specific behaviors. In the Awardco platform, administrators can create “tags” or values which can be highlighted with each recognition.

Simplify processes. Use your standard communication channels for spot recognition. The average worker uses seven pieces of software in a regular workday. Microsoft Teams and Slack are perfect tools for this. Using the tools your employees are already familiar with means adoption increases and social recognition kicks in through likes and comments.

Sales Incentives

This one is pretty self explanatory. Did your sales team hit their goal? Recognize and reward that. However, you can go beyond just the amount of money brought in. You can set up programs to incentivize things like number of calls made, deals started, projects completed, etc. And it’s not just about numbers, incentivize them for learning new skills or completing other tasks. There are lots of things that make your sales team successful, so set up recognition programs that reflect that. Also, sales go up when employees can choose their own reward. We’ve seen it in our own organization.

Peer-to-Peer Recognitions

As a manager it’s your job to increase employee engagement in your recognition and reward programs and encourage peer-to-peer recognitions. You won’t change your company culture if the only recognitions are coming from managers or leadership. It needs to be happening up and down and side-to-side so that everyone in the organization appreciates the work of all their team members.

High Performer Nominations

Allow team members to nominate someone they think has gone above and beyond each month. You can give this group your own name like, “Super Squad,” “A Team,” “Groovy Gang,” etc. Get creative to add a higher level of value for the winner. At Awardco, we announce the winner with a video of their favorite celebrity congratulating them (you can get one from cameo.com). 

Health and Wellness Programs

Create a wellness program to encourage your employees to be their best selves. This can (and should) include mental health and overall wellness. You can incentivize goals by offering rewards for working out three times a week, learning more about mental health, drinking water every day, etc. 

Tip: You could give your employees company swag in the form of workout gear with your company logo on it to kick off a health and fitness program...or as a reward. 

Employee Appreciation Day

Did you know Employee Appreciation Day is March 5th? Put it on your calendar so you can do something to make your employees feel, you guessed it, appreciated. Make it meaningful with specific recognitions for each employee that highlights the value they bring to the company. 

Some employee appreciation ideas:

  • Have managers recognize the individual talents of their team members 
  • Buy lunch for the whole team
  • Hand out company swag
  • Award points in the Awardco platform

Team Accomplishments

While individual recognition is important so many things are a team effort. Plus, it can be more fun to celebrate together. Some people might even prefer to share the spotlight rather than have it all on them. We’re better together! 

We help our clients become the hero in their own story.

What Kind of Recognition Do Employees Want?

No two employees are the same, but there are some common themes when it comes to what kind of recognition employees want. The right kind of recognition will improve employee engagement and productivity. We’re kind of experts in this, so here are some employee recognition ideas.

Recognize Often

First and foremost. Employees want recognition. Period. Surveys have shown that 82% of employed Americans want more recognition. So get recognizing! 

Don’t be afraid to recognize too much. It may seem redundant to recognize an employee for the same tasks they do day to day, but it’s important to help your team members feel appreciated. Just because something becomes commonplace doesn’t mean your employees aren’t giving their all every day. 

You can also find new angles. Be as specific as possible. If you simply tell someone they’re doing a “great job” every time, that might sound repetitive. Instead try something like, “I noticed your attention to detail on [enter specific project name here].”

Public or private?

Not everyone wants their photo on a bulletin board or a “wall of fame.” They may not want to be recognized in front of everyone or on social media. If someone on your team doesn’t seem to like recognition, it could just be that they don’t like lots of attention. You can make recognitions private in the Awardco platform. 

Anything is better than nothing

Don’t stress about having the perfect recognition plan, especially at first. As Nike says, just do it. Like anything else, practice makes perfect, so just start somewhere. 40% of employed Americans said they would put more energy into their work if they were recognized more, it’s an easy way to improve engagement at your workplace.

We help our clients become the hero in their own story.

Employee Reward Examples and Ideas

Recognition is great, but it can be further solidified with a reward. Recognition-based rewards are so much more than giving someone a bonus check or gold watch. They are rewards that show you recognize all the work your employee has done and who they are and what they value as a person.

Make it Personal

Does your team member like to travel or have they been wanting new running shoes? Are they minimalists who don’t like a lot of things or do they need a new sound system? When you give someone something they don’t want it either gets tossed aside and forgotten, or worse, is even an annoyance. 

Give Them What They Want
(What They Really, Really Want)

When you get your employee something they really want it means so much more. It goes beyond rewarding them, it shows that you see them as a person with likes and dislikes and not just a drone who works for them. It's a great way to show how much you value your employee. 

Give Employees a Choice

The best way to get them exactly what they want is to let them choose from a large rewards catalog. Providing a rewards catalogue is great, but only if there are enough options. Awardco’s partnership with Amazon Business means our rewards options include millions of products. Items can be a great reward because they’re a tangible reminder of their relationship with the company. 

Consider a Gift Card

Everyone loves a gift card, right? Right...however, there is a catch. Gift cards may seem like a foolproof plan, but they don’t work for everyone. For example, don’t get someone who is lactose tolerant a gift card to an ice cream place. 

Make sure you know your team members well enough to get them a gift card to somewhere they like. This is what takes it beyond a generic reward to something meaningful. If you get them a gift card to somewhere you know they like, it shows you pay attention to their likes and dislikes. 

Have we made it clear enough? Know your employees enough to know what they value so they can feel valued as much as they feel they've contributed value.

We help our clients become the hero in their own story.

In Conclusion

Awardco gives you unprecedented power to celebrate successes as they happen within your organization. With simple, yet flexible, capabilities like peer-to-peer, manager-to-peer, social recognition (with social feed posts), health and wellness programs, and all manner of monetary and non-monetary recognition features, no achievement or milestone goes unrewarded with Awardco’s spot recognition programs.

Use Awardco to set up and automate recognition programs for just about any type of recognition. Awardco helps you reimagine recognition by building positive culture, and driving real value for your company and for your employees.

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