When it comes to daily operations, keeping your organization going (and excelling) is a team effort. And if you manage a team of hard-working employees, you know that employee recognition is vital to the continued success of your company.
Showing appreciation for your employees’ hard work cultivates a positive work environment, fosters increased productivity, and improves job satisfaction. If you’re interested in tapping into these benefits, you’ve come to the right place! In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about employee recognition, including:
- What is employee recognition?
- What are the different types of employee recognition?
- Why is employee recognition important?
- 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, so that’s where we’ll start! Let’s dive in.
What is employee recognition?
Employee recognition is the practice of acknowledging or rewarding employees for their contributions to your organization. Through positive feedback, employers can show that they notice the individuality and unique strengths of each staff member.
That’s what makes recognition such an important part of engaging your employees. Effective recognition strategies give your organization the power to encourage valuable work, improve the workplace culture, and boost employees’ job satisfaction.
What are the different types of employee recognition?
Recognition is highly circumstantial, depending on the reason for recognition, the person giving it, and the way recognition is communicated. Some common types of recognition include:
- Formal recognition: This type of recognition accompanies a formal ceremony or standardized process for recognizing an employee. For example, you might call out an employee in a company-wide email or praise their efforts in a speech at an in-person event.
- Informal recognition: Sending a note or praising an employee in a one-on-one conversation is considered informal recognition. This type of recognition may be more casual, but small thank-yous for daily achievements can help employees feel appreciated for even their typical tasks.
- Top-down recognition: Recognition from a supervisor is called top-down recognition. Every employee with a supervisor can receive top-down recognition, even if they’re in a management position. Be sure to disperse recognition equally among all levels of employees.
- Peer-to-peer recognition: Building team rapport is a crucial part of a healthy workplace culture, but it can’t be accomplished through recognition from the higher-ups alone. By recognizing their peers, employees can acknowledge and thank each other for their hard work.
Of course, recognition can also vary depending on what the employee is being recognized for. For example, let’s say you have an employee named John. A group of coworkers might thank John for going above and beyond on a recent project or throw a party to celebrate his fifth anniversary at the company. Both types of recognition are peer-to-peer, but they’re celebrating different things.
Why is employee recognition important?
First and foremost, your employees should be recognized simply because they deserve it! Your company’s success would be impossible without their work. But your organization will reap benefits from strong recognition strategies, as well. Consider these employee recognition statistics from Zippia:
- 80% of employees would be motivated to work harder if they felt recognized by their superiors. This means your recognition efforts could have a significant impact on productivity.
- Turnover rates are reduced by 31% when effective employee recognition programs are in place. In fact, employees are nearly six times more likely to stay at their jobs when they feel recognized, meaning your organization can retain employees by taking the time to acknowledge their hard work.
- 37% of employees report that recognition from their superiors is the best way to improve employee engagement. In other words, positive feedback from management has the power to cultivate a more engaged workforce.
- 92% of employees are likely to repeat a specific action if recognized for it. Your company can guarantee patterns of productivity and encourage certain actions by rewarding hard work.
Ultimately, effective recognition humanizes 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.
What is an employee recognition program?
To facilitate employee appreciation, you must create a plan for employee recognition that the whole office can follow. An employee recognition program is an office-wide system for rewarding employees’ work. Strategic recognition efforts use a combination of casual acknowledgment and designated software to help your employees feel valued. To be effective, your program must be:
- Consistent: Show your appreciation regularly to let your employees know that their daily efforts make a significant impact on the success of your organization.
- Notable: Make sure your employees see the significance of your recognition efforts. In other words, they should feel the importance of your recognition and see the value in their work as a result.
- Specific: Be as specific as possible to reiterate your appreciation for their unique contributions. This also reminds employees that you’re recognizing their specific work and not just vaguely appreciating the staff as a whole.
Most importantly, an effective recognition program makes known the rewards for outstanding work. This helps to reinforce the company’s values, from the quality of work your organization hopes to produce to the internal work culture you aim to cultivate.
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 unique digital cards to your employees for different occasions.
Consider the following ways to use work eCards:
- Share kudos. Celebrate employees for their workplace accomplishments, from significant work anniversaries to small daily accomplishments. For example, you could 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.
- Call out client satisfaction. Emphasize a positive review that praises an employee or team by sharing the feedback through an eCard! This can especially help your efforts to engage hybrid or remote employees who might not be part of in-office conversations on a daily basis that highlight these achievements.
- Support personal milestones. Send eCards to employees who have recently purchased a new home, gotten married, adopted a new pet, or accomplished something else significant in their personal lives. This shows that you care about more than just their work performance—you’re invested in them as individuals!
- Celebrate special occasions. Prepare an eCard for holidays and employees’ birthdays complete with all the classic party animations, like confetti and party poppers. To spread the fun, encourage employees to send eCards to each other! Plus, you can use these cards to invite staff members to a company-wide celebration.
- And many more! eCardWidget’s software allows you to create completely customized eCards, so you can send a card for any occasion. The opportunities are endless!
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 them 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
Recognition programs are more successful when they align with a company’s mission and values. After all, your employees likely want to see that the way your organization operates actually aligns with its proclaimed values.
Express this by providing opportunities for charitable giving to organizations that support your company’s values and including your employees in the donation. For example, reward their outstanding work by giving a donation to a nonprofit your employee cares about.
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 several ways you can include employees in corporate philanthropy:
- Give on behalf of your employees: Use eCardWidget as a donation tool by making a charitable donation through an eCard. Some nonprofits have pre-made charity eCards that you can send to an employee explaining that you gave in their honor. For example, you might donate $100 to their favorite charity because of the way they embody the company’s values on a daily basis.
- Matching gifts: Establish a matching gift program where your company donates a predetermined amount to a nonprofit every time your employee gives. For example, if your employee donates $10 monthly to a local animal shelter, your company can match their donation.
- Volunteer grants: Support your employees’ philanthropic endeavors by donating monetarily to a nonprofit every time an employee volunteers a certain number of hours. For example, you might donate $25 for every hour volunteered at a food bank to thank employees for their hard work, both in the office and in the community!
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. This is a great option for intangible recognition that still effectively shows your appreciation and gives employees the recognition they deserve! 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.
- X (formerly Twitter): Share informational tweets and statistics about your field, then call out employees who help to further your company’s goals and mission.
To get your employee recognition in front of a larger audience, update and track your follower data through a social profile append. Appending this data can help you locate important social media profiles so that you can target your communications to the right audience. Also, be sure to 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.
As an added bonus, social media shoutouts 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 themed trophies tied to different workplace awards. For example, order a trophy of a person answering a phone for your outstanding receptionist. Then, have it engraved to say “Front Desk Superstar.” This is a fun way to reward 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.
Additional Resources on Employee Recognition
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.
If you’re interested in more resources to help you master employee recognition, check out our suggestions below:
- 13 Remote Employee Recognition Ideas to Show You Care. Don’t let virtual work stand in the way of showing your appreciation frequently or meaningfully! Check out our guide to remote recognition for ideas that will help you engage your employees, no matter where they’re working from.
- 18 Best Corporate Gifting Companies To Impress Constituents. Do you want to get a gift for your employees but you’re not sure where to turn? Explore our recommendations for the best corporate gifting companies to kickstart your search!
- Employee Engagement Software: Crash Course & 10+ Top Options. The right tools can make a huge difference in your ability to properly acknowledge and thank your employees. Learn what tools are the most engaging in this guide!