According to Workhuman’s employee recognition statistics, employees who feel recognized are 73% less likely to feel burned out and five times as likely to feel connected to their workplace culture. Recognition awards are a fantastic way to strengthen these connections, reinforce hard work, and boost retention. In fact, strong recognition programs reduce employee turnover by 31%.
Recognizing your employees with a prize or award is a memorable way to signal your appreciation. These awards go beyond merely thanking an employee because they thoughtfully celebrate the employee’s work. A meaningful reward will help communicate your appreciation and instill a culture of gratitude in your organization.
To help you build a sustainable program, we’ll look at the basics of recognition awards and the best ways to reward employees’ work:
- What are recognition awards?
- Why are employee awards important for company culture?
- 26 employee award ideas
- What types of recognition awards should I give?
- Best practices for better recognition awards
- How eCardWidget can help deliver employee awards
We’ll share everything you need to know to incorporate recognition awards into your employee engagement strategy. In no time, you’ll show them how important they are to your company’s success.
What Are Recognition Awards?
Employee recognition awards are honors given to employees as a way to acknowledge their contributions and achievements within an organization. These awards serve as a formal way to celebrate hard work, dedication, and positive impact on the company. At companies that implement this type of recognition, leadership commonly awards employees with trophies, plaques, and certificates. Typical awards include:
- Employee of the month
- Years of service
- Performance-based awards
They can be implemented for all types of organizations, including nonprofits. After all, their staff members deserve recognition for the work they do just as much as business employees do.
Think about your staff like a soccer team. Some players focus on scoring points while other players defend their team’s goal. Both positions have very different roles, but should each be rewarded for the unique value they bring to the team. In the same way, employee recognition awards can come in many different forms, and every role deserves to be recognized.
How To Create the Right Employee Awards
As you notice ways that your organization benefits from an employee’s work, acknowledge their unique contributions. For instance, you might highlight these attributes in recognition awards:
- Impact: How does their work or specific achievement bring value to the organization?
- Efficiency: How does their work ethic efficiently further the company’s goals?
- Timeliness: How do their timely results help the organization move forward with its overall mission?
It’s important to be specific with recognition awards so that employees feel genuinely appreciated for their unique efforts. Also, give awards frequently so that employees feel it’s part of the workplace culture.
Why Are Employee Awards Important for Company Culture?
Recognition gives employees the encouragement they need to know their work is noticed and appreciated. Giving employees this sense of importance through an award can greatly impact how they view their work.
Employees aren’t the only ones who benefit from workplace recognition. When employees feel genuinely acknowledged and valued, the organization as a whole, from company leaders to customers, can benefit. Some examples of these benefits include:
- Confidence: Awards carry a feeling of success or victory. Recognition awards can give employees confidence in their work because they frame employees’ work as an achievement. This newfound confidence can also encourage them to grow in their roles, take on more responsibilities, and be engaged in work.
- Productivity: Since awards signify significance and success, employees will feel important to their company. One employee recognition study found that 85% of surveyed HR professionals say employee recognition programs positively affect organizational culture. These programs enforce the idea that their work requires great attention and efficiency. Therefore, awards can encourage employees to keep up their work or even take on bigger tasks, making them more productive.
- Positive reputation: When customers or clients see how your company treats its employees, you’ll gain a positive reputation in the community. Plus, an employee’s positive attitude about their job will translate into helpful customer service and efficient work, which will draw a bigger crowd.
- Employee retention: Employees who feel important to the company and recognized for their work will likely want to stay. In fact, over 91% of HR professionals believe recognition makes employees more likely to stick around, according to that same Apollo Technical resource we referenced earlier. By rewarding employees and viewing their work as significant accomplishments, an organization can effectively engage and retain its employees.
Recognition awards are like the first-place prize in a competition. Only one person can receive that prize, and it has to be earned. Whether you give a tangible gift or recognize employees with an eCard, employees won’t forget your intentional efforts to celebrate them.
26 Employee Award Ideas
Although you may understand the importance of recognition awards, it can be tricky to implement them as a regular part of your recognition efforts. Over-awarding can cause awards to lose their exclusivity. However, you should also avoid under-awarding, which risks making your employees feel undervalued.
These employee award ideas can be adapted and customized to fit your organization’s unique culture and values. Remember, the key to successful recognition is to make it meaningful, relevant, and aligned with your company’s goals and values.
Employee of the Month/Quarter/Year
Create an employee of the month program to highlight an employee each month. This enables you to recognize outstanding employees who consistently go above and beyond in their roles.
Use the program to appreciate each employee for their unique contributions rather than hold everyone to the same standard. Make sure to include specific qualifications and boundaries for the program to ensure fairness and appreciation for everyone.
For example, you might implement a rule where the same employee is not allowed to be awarded twice within a certain time period. This provides more employees the opportunity to earn the award. You can also establish a standard for receiving the award, such as meeting a work-related goal or receiving a customer recommendation.
Going The Extra Mile
When an employee does more than their job requires, reward their extra efforts to show your gratitude for their exceptional work. Look for employees who:
- Exceed expectations
- Exhibit company values
- Work diligently to further the company’s goals
Every role in the company has opportunities to go above and beyond. To truly make your employees feel recognized, call out their specific contributions and how they went beyond their basic job requirements.
Team Player Award
Working with others isn’t always easy, but effective teamwork can achieve great results. When your employees work especially well together, be sure to reward them and thank the team for all their contributions.
Acknowledge individuals who excel at collaboration and teamwork, contributing to a positive work environment and supportive team dynamic. You might even reward whole teams who accomplish significant projects or work together to reach a goal.
For example, you might send an eCard to celebrate employees’ teamwork, like this one created by Circa Logica Group:
Notice how whoever sends the card can add a personal message alongside it to reflect their appreciation.
By rewarding employees for their team efforts, you’ll encourage them to work together to achieve greater results. Plus, collaborating toward a common goal can ensure that employees don’t feel overwhelmed by having all the responsibility placed on them.
While your company’s digital marketing and social media presence play a significant role in representing your company to the public, it’s outstanding customer or client feedback that truly boosts your company’s reputation. Rewarding employees who receive positive feedback will communicate the importance of your company’s service quality and reputation.
You might wait to receive this feedback naturally or ask for feedback by sending out a survey to your customers or clients, asking how their experience with your employee has been and what could be improved. If you send out a survey, encourage customers to give specific examples of how they’ve been helped and what stands out about your employee’s service. That way, you’ll have a specific commendation to pair with the award.
This reward will show employees that service is a high priority of your company. Plus, incentivizing positive customer service can boost your company’s reputation in the community when employees work hard to earn that award.
Years of Service
Reward employee retention, like significant anniversaries at the five, 10, and 15-year points in an employee’s time with your company. Celebrating lengthy stays shows your gratitude for employee loyalty and cultivates a sense of family in the workplace. It expresses that you’re grateful for those who stick around and will go the extra mile to show that appreciation.
Give rewards to employees who have taken initiative for work-related projects. By honoring leaders who lead through their actions, you’ll set a positive example for their teams and peers. In other words, you’ll motivate employees to take the lead and look for ways to push things forward.
Company Culture Ambassador
Just as your company aims to uphold its values, employees should also be held to this standard. By rewarding employees who exhibit the company’s values, you’ll communicate that these values are worth being celebrated and highlight these employees as successful representatives of these values.
You might create awards for each value, then establish a timeline for giving them. For example, you could give a weekly award to an employee who most exhibited a certain value in the past week.
Hold a company-wide vote for the employee who most deserves to be rewarded for their hard work. Ask employees to vote for someone other than themselves and to include the reason they believe a certain person should receive an award.
Then, when you reward the winning employee, read out or summarize all of the positive feedback received in the poll. This is an opportunity to make employees feel appreciated, not only by management, but also by their peers.
Recognize employees who consistently come up with new and inventive ideas that positively impact the organization. This recognition award helps to acknowledge anyone who:
- Demonstrates outstanding thinking
- Comes up with creative solutions
- Develops efficient methods to perform tasks
- Brainstorms innovative products or services
The primary purpose of this award is to cultivate a culture of innovation and inspire employees to think outside the box.
Customer Service Excellence
Honor employees who consistently deliver exceptional customer service, ensuring high levels of customer satisfaction. Particularly reward anyone who:
- Receives consistent positive feedback from customers
- Goes above and beyond to address customer issues
- Demonstrates the ability to handle challenging customer situations with professionalism
- Is proactive in ensuring customer satisfaction, such as through professional service or appreciation gifts
The “Customer Service Excellence” award is an essential tool for companies that aspire to foster a culture of exceptional customer service. By implementing this award, you’ll reward individual achievements and incentivize all employees to value customer satisfaction.
The most successful individuals are those who constantly pursue growth. Celebrate employees who have shown significant growth and improvement in their performance over time. This award spotlights employees who, regardless of where they started, have made remarkable strides in their performance, skills, or contributions to the organization.
Giving this type of recognition award will encourage a growth mindset. Employees will realize they can always grow, learn, and improve, regardless of their currency performance level.
Rookie of The Year
Recognize new employees who have made a remarkable impact and contribution in their short time with the company. This recognition award highlights the potential of newcomers, serving as an acknowledgment of their efforts and inspiration for their future at the company.
Before selecting your “Rookie of the Year,” you might set the following criteria:
- Duration with the company (e.g., employees who have joined within the past year)
- Exceptional performance metrics
- Additional responsibilities or projects tackled
- Positive feedback from colleagues or clients
This award will serve as a testament to the fact that anyone can make a noticeable difference, regardless of their tenure.
Recognize individuals who have made a significant impact on the professional development of their coworkers. The “Outstanding Mentor” recognition award will help honor employees who have shown exceptional dedication to guiding colleagues, especially those who are newer to the organization.
Mentoring is a crucial component of employee development, so spotlight those who assist in others’ professional growth with this employee award idea!
Recognize employees who actively contribute to sustainability efforts and promote environmentally responsible practices. These individuals embody your company’s commitment to social responsibility, helping to enhance your reputation. Rewarding this type of behavior with a recognition award will drive employees to reduce their carbon footprint in pursuit of this type of recognition.
Celebrate employees who consistently find innovative solutions to complex problems, driving efficiency and productivity. This employee recognition award is a formal acknowledgment given to employees who consistently demonstrate exceptional problem-solving skills.
The award celebrates those who approach challenges with analytical thinking, creativity, determination, and urgency to find solutions. It’s a powerful way to reinforce a culture of resilience and adaptability.
Especially for jobs that impose risks, you’ll want to design an employee recognition award for workplace safety. Commend any employees who prioritize and promote safety, helping to ensure a secure environment for everyone.
Common characteristics you’ll want to look for include:
- Consistently adhering to safety protocols.
- Proactive identifying and reporting potential hazards.
- Offering solutions or improvements to existing safety practices.
- Promoting safety awareness among peers.
- Taking on a leadership role in safety training or emergency response initiatives.
Whether they work in a high-risk environment or an office, every employee can contribute to a safer workplace. Overall, the “Safety Champion” award will celebrate the pivotal role employees play in maintaining safety standards. It not only recognizes the importance of individual safety practices but also encourages a collective effort toward creating a safer working environment.
Acknowledge employees who have demonstrated remarkable resilience, adaptability, and willingness to embrace change. These employees are the reason your organization can thrive in times of change and uncertainty.
In today’s fast-paced environment, adaptability is a prized skill, especially as organizations undergo various technological or structural transitions This award seeks to highlight those who not only manage change effectively but thrive within it, setting an example for their peers.
Unsung Hero Award
Celebrate employees whose behind-the-scenes contributions have significantly impacted your company’s success. The “Unsung Hero Award” is a special employee recognition award that honors individuals who consistently give their all without seeking or receiving widespread recognition.
These individuals are the backbone of many successful projects, initiatives, and daily operations, even though they aren’t frequently in the spotlight.
Workplace Happiness Ambassador
Honor employees who actively promote a healthy and balanced lifestyle among their colleagues and contribute to a positive, enjoyable work atmosphere. Whoever receives this recognition award must often go the extra mile to ensure their colleagues feel supported, valued, and motivated, thereby playing a pivotal role in enhancing team morale and workplace culture.
Especially in hybrid and remote work environments, engagement can be tough to maintain. That’s why anyone who works tirelessly to promote team morale should be commended for their commitment to maintaining a supportive workplace.
The “Cross-Department Collaborator” award commends individuals who actively seek and nurture collaboration across different departments or teams. Celebrate individuals who excel in collaborating across different departments, fostering synergy and cohesion in the workplace.
Such collaboration often results in improved processes, holistic solutions, and innovative ideas that might not have been realized within the confines of a single department. This award celebrates those who see the bigger picture and bridge the silos that are often present in larger organizations.
Recognize employees who have displayed resilience in the face of challenges and obstacles, maintaining a positive attitude and determination.
The “Resilience Award” celebrates individuals who have displayed an exceptional ability to adapt, persevere, and thrive against challenges in the workplace. These employees showcase a strong capacity to bounce back from adversity while maintaining a positive attitude and contributing constructively despite facing difficult circumstances.
Acknowledge employees who actively promote diversity and inclusion within the workplace. These individuals actively work to ensure that all colleagues feel valued, understood, or integrated into workplace culture, regardless of background, identity, or personal characteristics.
To select the recipient of this recognition award, look for someone who:
- Advocates for diversity and inclusion initiatives or policies.
- Proactively supports underrepresented groups in the workplace.
- Organizes or participates in training sessions or events that promote inclusivity.
- Exhibits leadership in fostering a culture of understanding, respect, and acceptance.
- Addresses and combats discriminatory practices or biases in the workplace.
An “Inclusivity Champion” award is vital in today’s diverse and globalized world. It acknowledges the growing role that inclusivity plays in creating a thriving and harmonious workplace. For one, Built In’s diversity statistics page claims that diverse teams make better decisions 66% of the time, resulting in 2.5 times higher cash flow per employee. Not only that, but employees who feel included are about three times more likely to feel excited by and committed to their organization.
Community Impact Award
The “Community Impact Award” is an employee recognition award given to individuals who significantly contribute to the advancement of their local community through volunteerism, advocacy, or other community engagement initiatives.
These employees not only excel in their professional roles but also go above and beyond to use their skills, resources, and time to positively impact society. By acknowledging their efforts, you’ll emphasize your organization’s commitment to social responsibility, encouraging other employees to engage in meaningful community-based endeavors.
Honor individuals who empower their colleagues, encouraging autonomy and growth. The “Empowerment Award” should be given to employees who consistently inspire their peers to reach their full potential. They should help:
- Foster a culture of autonomy, growth, and confidence.
- Take proactive steps to mentor and share knowledge with peers.
- Share resources that enable others to succeed.
- Uplift their peers through recognition.
This award underscores the importance of leadership that moves beyond management to genuinely uplift others. By celebrating contributions, your organization can place value on collaborative success, nurturing an environment where every team member feels encouraged and equipped to excel.
The “Philanthropy Award” is an employee recognition award granted to those who demonstrate a profound commitment to charitable causes through one of the following:
- Significant personal donations
- Fundraising efforts
- Volunteering their time and skills to nonprofit endeavors.
By honoring these altruistic efforts, this recognition award accentuates your organization’s commitment to community involvement. It serves to inspire other employees to engage in charitable activities and reinforces the value of giving back to society as an integral part of the company’s values.
The “Efficiency Expert” award can be given to employees who consistently demonstrate exceptional skill in optimizing tasks, processes, or workflows. For one, these employees find innovative ways to streamline operations, reducing time and resources without compromising quality. What’s more, they also contribute to enhancing overall productivity.
By honoring their efforts, the award acknowledges the pivotal role of productivity in the workplace and inspires others to adopt a proactive mindset toward identifying efficiency-enhancing measures.
What Types of Recognition Rewards Should I Give?
After establishing which awards you’ll give, you’ll need to decide on prizes to pair with each one. It’s best practice to reward individuals with tangible gifts when possible, even if it’s a certificate.
Recognition awards offer an opportunity to get creative with your gratitude, and there are a variety of employee recognition tools at your disposal. Whether you want to go all out with your gifts or keep things simple, we’ll explore recognition award ideas your employees will love.
Although charitable donations seem like an unconventional award, they’ll mean a lot to the employee who is passionate about a specific nonprofit or cause. Similar to contestants on a game show who compete for a donation to their charity of choice, nonprofit donations can be a meaningful way to reward employees for their hard work.
Encourage employees to give through your company’s corporate giving program and ask them for a list of nonprofits they support. For example, an employee might request that your company makes a donation to the local animal shelter whenever they earn a reward.
After making the donation, send your employee a charity eCard with the donation information. eCardWidget allows you to streamline this process by making the donation with an eCard. This award helps employees feel like they’re accomplishing social good through their corporate work. Also, it connects your company to the community and gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your company’s values on a regular basis.
As a classic reward, certificates are a simple way to reward employees for their workplace achievements. Create certificate templates for different accomplishments. Then, add an employee’s name, print, and sign the certificate whenever they earn one. For example, you might create templates for the following achievements:
- Completing a training course
- Being mentioned in a positive customer review
- Receiving an office superlative, such as earliest to start the day
To make the award more special, frame the certificate before presenting it to your employee. You might present the certificate in front of the whole office to draw special attention to the employee’s achievement. Also, provide a place in the office to hang the certificates to proudly display your employees’ contributions.
Plaques are a step up from certificates and may be reserved for more significant accomplishments. These should be more formal and presented from the company rather than one person. For example, the plaque might read, “Technology Incorporated proudly presents this plaque to John Doe for his outstanding performance at the company for 10 years.”
Consider these occasions for presenting an employee with a plaque:
- Work anniversary
- Employee of the year
Because plaques might represent a more significant occasion, accompany the award with a ceremony or party. In the example above, a company leader might present the plaque to John Doe at an after-work party and give a small speech highlighting John’s specific contributions and accomplishments.
Trophies can be a fun gift to make your employees feel appreciated. Since certificates and plaques can award serious work accomplishments, consider using trophies for more fun recognition opportunities.
For example, you might treat trophies as a type of workplace superlative. Give a trophy of a bird and a worm to the employee who arrives the earliest every morning and call it the “early bird” award. Schedule a miniature award ceremony during everyone’s lunch break one day and give the awards in front of everyone in the office.
5. Employee Perks
Workplace perks are great rewards for exceptional work since they make the work day more convenient for your employees. Consider the following perks you might give to exceptional employees:
- VIP parking spot: The closest parking spot to the office entrance
- Company car: Use of a company car, even just for travel in between home and the office
- Branded merchandise: T-shirts, water bottles, laptop bags, and other merchandise with the company’s colors and logo
- Upgraded desk: A standing desk or higher quality workspace, according to the employee’s preference
These perks can be combined with other awards to make an employee feel like their accomplishment has earned special treatment. For example, the employee of the month might receive a special parking spot for the month along with a plaque recognizing their exceptional work.
6. Paid Time Off
Employee satisfaction research shows that regular breaks from work can make employees more productive. Consider rewarding accomplishments with some extra time off, not included in their allotted paid time off. For example, you might offer:
- An extended break: Allow employees to take a longer lunch break, start the day later, or leave the office earlier than usual.
- A half day of work: Allow employees to either come into the office or leave the office after lunch.
- A full day off from work: Offer a long weekend or a break in the middle of the week with a full day off from work.
After employees put extra effort into their jobs, they might appreciate a break! Thank them for their efforts by giving them a chance to rest without having to worry about the number of sick days or PTO they have left.
7. Celebration Lunch
Celebrate your employees’ accomplishments with a free meal. Tell them to forgo packing lunch before coming in to work the next day.
You can ask for their restaurant preferences or give them a company card to purchase the meal themselves. If they’d rather eat in the office, pay to have the meal delivered.
If company leaders work closely with the employee, encourage them to take the employee out to a restaurant as a thank-you meal. You might also consider allowing the employee to invite their coworkers for a larger celebration.
Best Practices for Better Recognition Awards
As you start to nail down your employee award titles and rewards, having guidance for choosing ones that’ll motivate your employees can be helpful. Inspire everyone at your company to go above and beyond by implementing these best practices:
- Recognize your employees frequently. At a minimum, we suggest designating employee awards annually. However, your best bet is to infuse recognition into everyday work. As we’ll explore, you can create employee recognition eCards that managers and peers can send whenever they want to call out exceptional performance.
- Award actions that align with company values. Chances are, your organization has a series of values you want employees to exemplify. Common examples include integrity, innovation, accountability, and transparency. Create employee awards that align with these values.
- Include peer nominations. Involve employees in the recognition process by allowing them to nominate their peers for awards. This fosters a culture of appreciation and empowers employees to recognize each other’s efforts.
- Celebrate milestones. Recognize and celebrate employee milestones such as reaching work anniversaries, completing major projects, or reaching significant goals. Milestone awards can boost employee morale and loyalty in an instant.
- Provide tangible rewards. Consider providing tangible rewards like gift cards, personalized gifts, or experiences that employees can enjoy. Remember, we explored plenty of great ideas above!
It’s not enough to create a few half-hearted awards and call it a day. Your award process should be more thoughtful than that! From choosing the appropriate frequency to coordinating tangible gifts, following these tips will help you design awards that motivate employees to reach for the stars!
How eCardWidget Can Help Deliver Employee Awards
What if we told you that you didn’t have to undertake employee acknowledgment alone? Fortunately, that’s the case! Employee engagement tools can simplify the recognition process substantially.
You can level up your recognition awards by delivering them in fun formats. eCards (AKA digital greeting cards) are the perfect way to do this. Backed by eCardWidget, you can design branded eCards that help deliver employee recognition directly to employees’ inboxes. Here’s how it works:
- Design eCards that embody your company’s values and brand, or choose from our collection of ready-made designs.
- Add your eCards to your website or employee portal. Alternatively, we can host it for you as an easy solution.
- Encourage managers and employees to visit the page to send recognition cards to colleagues.
The sender can attach a personal note to express their gratitude. Not to mention, leadership will be able to see whoever sends and receives the eCard, making larger-scale recognition a breeze.
Our Employee Recognition eCards in Action
Curious how eCards can fit into your employee recognition plan? Let’s take a look at a real-world example from Fexco.
The company designed a series of employee recognition eCards that employees and managers can send to celebrate exceptional work. Each eCard features a vibrant design with fun graphics. The sender can choose a relevant design, whether they want to celebrate teamwork, progression, reliability, or professionalism. Then, they can customize the card’s message to emphasize how they value the recipient’s outstanding contributions. Awarding employees for a job well done has never been easier!
Final Thoughts on Employee Awards
Employee appreciation isn’t solely about company events and ceremonies. It’s about instilling a culture of appreciation year-round through regular recognition.
No matter which employee awards you choose, be sure to develop a thorough acknowledgment plan before implementing any changes. By establishing a clear plan for awarding your employees, you’ll ensure everyone is rewarded fairly and has an equal opportunity to be recognized.
To learn more about employee recognition and engagement, check out the additional resources below:
- Employee Gifts: A Complete Guide + Top Gift Ideas. Explore this guide to learn more about the gifts you can give employees.
- Employee Coaching: Complete Overview and How-To Guide. Learn how to motivate employees through performance reviews and motivation.
- Employee Recognition Platforms To Recharge Your Workplace. If you want to pair your employee awards with tangible rewards, you’ll need tools to send those gifts. Check out these helpful platforms that’ll help deliver recognition rewards.