According to statistics from the Society for Human Resource Management, 68% of human resources professionals believe employee recognition positively impacts employee retention. By recognizing employees for the hard work they contribute to your organization, you’ll make your workplace an enjoyable environment in which your employees want to stay.
Employee recognition benefits management and employees for two reasons: it fosters increased productivity and higher job satisfaction. In this guide, we’ll cover:
- What is employee recognition?
- What is an employee recognition program?
- How do employees want to be recognized?
- Top 10 ideas for recognizing your employees
Depending on your organization and employees’ preferences, recognition can take many different forms. You’ll need to understand the basics of employee recognition to show your appreciation in the most meaningful way.
What is employee recognition?
Employee recognition is the practice of acknowledging or rewarding employees for their contributions to your organization. Recognition is an important part of engaging your employees, which can boost their satisfaction with their jobs and the value they bring to your organization. Some other benefits of employee recognition include:
- Humanizing the workplace: Showing gratitude for your employees makes them feel valued not just as workers, but as human beings. If you spotlight your employees’ unique attributes and accomplishments, they’ll feel noticed for something exclusive to them and their work process.
- Retaining employees: Recognition can help retain employees when it makes them feel truly appreciated and needed for an important job.
- Strengthening your team: With a strong recognition strategy, everyone can get involved. Recognition can be given from managers to employees, or from peer to peer. Whole teams can recognize an individual, or an individual can recognize their supervisor. When everyone shows gratitude for one another, your team as a whole will be more connected.
As you consider how to show your recognition, think about how it will uniquely impact your employees. For example, if your employees work as a team for most projects, call out their specific skills that help the team.
To facilitate employee appreciation, provide your staff with the right recognition tools, and create a plan for employee recognition that the whole office can follow.
What is an employee recognition program?
An employee recognition program is an office-wide system for rewarding employees’ work. Although tangible gifts can be used to recognize employees, the program focuses on a feeling of acknowledgment rather than giving gifts. It can be part of the organization’s overall engagement strategy to help employees feel valued. Some examples of potential rewards include:
- Cards: Share your appreciation for your employees with a physical or digital card.
- Gift cards: Set a work-specific goal and reward employees who meet it with gift cards to local businesses or restaurants.
- Electronics: Reward work that stands out by giving the top-performing employee a new gadget, such as a watch, tablet, or laptop.
- Company merchandise: Create branded merchandise to give to employees for smaller achievements. For example, you might reserve monetary gifts for reaching bigger goals and give a company t-shirt as a thank-you gift for helping out when someone was out of the office.
- Bonuses: If your budget allows it, provide bonuses at the end of each year as a holiday gift. You can use it as an opportunity to generously say thank you to the people who make your operations possible.
Structure your recognition program to standardize gifts for certain occasions (and some for no occasion at all!). By planning these gifts, you’ll avoid the risk of under-appreciation and make employees feel frequently recognized.
Incorporate daily reminders to regularly show your appreciation for employees’ efforts. For example, consider this eCard created by Circa Logica Group to celebrate employees’ achievements.
With a recognition program that uses daily reminders, employees will understand how much they’re valued at your organization. By appropriately recognizing your employees, you’ll encourage employee retention and create a staff culture where everyone is happy to work.
How do employees want to be recognized?
Every employee is different, but to truly make them feel appreciated, recognition must be specific and meaningful to them. For example, consider the different aspects of recognition that your employees might prefer:
- Public or private: Would your employees rather be in the spotlight or be recognized in private?
- Verbal or tangible: Would your employees rather receive verbal praise or a tangible gift?
- Peer or management: Would your employees prefer recognition from their coworkers or their leaders?
Gauge what would be most meaningful to your employees by surveying them or holding a company-wide vote. After all, getting to know your employees better will help you choose the gift that means the most to them.
Also, keep in mind how different occasions call for different types of celebrations. For example, you might create an eCard for an employee to thank them for handling a messy client situation, but host a company-wide party to celebrate their promotion.
Top 10 ideas for recognizing your employees
Employee recognition can take many different forms. Here are ten unique employee recognition ideas that will make your employees feel valued and appreciated.
An eCard is an electronic greeting card that can be created online and emailed to recipients. With eCardWidget, you can create custom cards for your employees that are branded to your organization. Then, you can use these templates to send these cards to your employees for different occasions.
For example, create an eCard template for each of your company’s values. Then, when an employee exhibits one of those values in their work, send an eCard to thank them.
As an added bonus, you can also use eCards as part of your promotional and marketing efforts. Familiarize your employees with your marketing software by using it to show your appreciation for them, as well!
2. Time off
Research shows that employees are healthier and more productive when they take breaks from work throughout the year. This is especially meaningful when you provide an extra break rather than encouraging them to take time off from their allotted PTO or sick days.
You might use surprise breaks from work as a special thank-you for employees who have recently worked especially hard. For example, notice when an employee comes in early or stays late, then encourage them to take a day off at the end of the week for their efforts.
There are several ways you might give them a break:
- Let them start the work day late.
- Let them end the work day early.
- Give them a whole day off.
- Give them an extended break, like a three hour lunch break.
When you give your employees a break from their work, they’ll see that you view them as a human being rather than a source of labor. Humanizing the workplace not only helps employees feel recognized, but also creates a family-like atmosphere in which they’ll want to work.
Provide unique experiences for your employees to enjoy as an appreciation gift for their hard work. This has the potential to be a very thoughtful gift and will give employees something exciting to look forward to on the weekend. Some exciting experience gifts might include:
- Wine tasting tour
- Cooking class
- Spa day
- Sports event tickets
- Escape room
Customize these gifts to each employee to make it more meaningful. For example, if you know one of your employees is especially stressed out and has a lot going on outside of work, consider gifting them a spa day.
Put lunch on the company card every once in a while, and not just as a reward for meeting a certain goal. Instead, host these lunches regularly to get to know your employees better and strengthen office relationships.
For example, you could schedule quarterly lunches with each of your teams. This will help you make your employees feel more like people rather than just workers.
5. Charitable donations
SHRM’s research has also found that employee recognition programs are more successful when they align with a company’s mission and values. After all, your employees likely want to see that your organization’s values actually line up with the way it operates.
Express this by providing opportunities for charitable giving to organizations that support your company’s values and include your employees in the donation. For example, give a donation to an organization your employee cares about to reward their outstanding work.
You can also recognize employees by partnering with them to fund causes they’re passionate about. For example, donating to a nonprofit that your employee regularly volunteers with shows the employee that your company notices them and their interests outside of work. There are two ways you might do this:
- Give on behalf of your employees: Use eCardWidget as a donation tool by making a charitable donation through an eCard. For example, donate and send the eCard to an employee explaining that you gave in their honor because of the way they embody the company’s values on a daily basis.
- Give with your employees: Establish a corporate giving program where your company partners with its employees to give to nonprofits. For example, offer a matching gift program so that you and your employees can work together to fund important nonprofit work.
Charitable donations not only show your employees that you’re serious about company values, but also make them feel recognized when you include them in the donation process. Create a list of supported charities for your employees and explain why your company supports them.
6. Social media shoutouts
If your organization is active on social media, look for ways to incorporate your employees into social media posts. Highlight their specific achievements for all your social media followers to see. For example, you might recognize them on the following platforms:
- Instagram: Since Instagram is primarily photo-centric, post pictures of your employees in action and use the photo caption to describe what makes them so important to your organization.
- Facebook: Facebook comments and reviews are helpful for seeing what your community thinks about your organization. Screenshot and share any comments relevant to your employees and welcome positive feedback to show the employee how appreciated they are.
- Twitter: Share informational tweets and statistics about your field, then call out employees who help to further your company’s goals and mission.
Ask for your employees’ permission before posting their names, photos, or other information on social media. This type of recognition might be meaningful to some employees, but may be too public for others.
For the employees who enjoy them, social media shoutouts can help them feel recognized and important. It can also show your social media audience that you value your employees. Through this, your followers will feel more connected to your organization, as they can get to know the people working behind the scenes.
Anyone who earned a trophy in a high school sport or club likely remembers the feeling of excellence and achievement.
To recognize your employees, create a themed trophy that represents their work. For example, order a trophy of a person answering a phone for your outstanding receptionist. This is a fun way to award your employees for their hard work. You might create the following opportunities to present them with their awards:
- Award ceremony: Create trophies for every employee and gather them for a company dinner or party. Then, call out employees’ names, their specific award, and the reason for their award.
- Office announcement: For a more casual presentation, make an announcement to the office about the award and present it to the employee at the beginning of a work day. This helps employees feel especially noticed, since they’re the only ones receiving an award.
- Trophy shelf: Consider placing a shelf somewhere in the office specifically for employee trophies. Then, establish a system for awards, such as keeping trophies on the shelf for a month before having employees take them home. Then, you can refresh the shelf with new trophies each month to show appreciation for a new group of employees. This can be a fun way to surprise employees with an award, since they won’t know to expect the trophy until it’s placed on the shelf.
No matter how you choose to present these awards to your employees, remember that tangible rewards can be especially meaningful. Plus, creating trophies and presenting them can be a fun office tradition that your employees look forward to.
8. Employee wall of fame
Much like the trophy concept, highlighting employees with a physical reminder of their accomplishments in the office can be a thoughtful way to recognize them. For example, you might frame their company headshot and hang it on a wall in the office. Include their name and specific achievement so everyone will know what makes them special.
You might hang one picture at a time for specific achievements or hang many pictures at the same time. While rewarding employees on an individual basis can help them feel set apart, creating the whole wall at the same time can ensure no one feels left out. This way, every employee will know they’re valued at your organization.
9. Peer recognition
Establish a program where employees are encouraged to celebrate their coworkers. This will strengthen connections between employees and the feeling of being a team throughout the office.
For example, you might implement “Compliment Cake Fridays” where team members bring in a cake every Friday for someone they want to celebrate. On employees’ lunch breaks, they can share cakes with each other and the reason for their appreciation.
10. Employee appreciation day
National employee appreciation day is the first Friday of March each year. Treat this like the other holidays your company celebrates. You might pay special attention to this day by:
- Decorating the office
- Offering time off, like a half-day or extended break
- Throwing a party
- Buying gifts for your employees
By making a special effort to celebrate your employees and thank them for their hard work, you’ll enforce a work environment where employees feel important and valued. Not only will this make them happy to work for your organization, but it will boost the office attitude overall.
Employees are crucial to your company’s work, and you should make it known how important they are! Develop a meaningful recognition program that shows your employees just how valuable they are. This will result in more satisfied employees who are happier to continue working for your company.