20 Employee recognition ideas for your organization

By Jostle

6 min read

20 Employee recognition ideas for your organization
Illustration by Kevin Yu

Your company may have an employee recognition program in place, but do these efforts actually motivate and reward your staff?

A 2022 Gallup-Workhuman study reveals that two out of five employees (40%) feel like they don't receive enough recognition and appreciation in the workplace. And if ever they do, more than half of employees (53%) who think that it’s inauthentic and unfair are actively searching for employment opportunities.

The good news is that you can always update your employee recognition program to make it both effective and meaningful.

In this article, we’re sharing simple yet creative employee recognition ideas to show them how much they mean to the organization.

What is employee recognition?

Employee recognition is an intentional and ongoing effort to show appreciation for the work that employees do. It goes beyond rewards or recognition programs as it's about creating a culture of appreciation that encourages employees to do their best work.

20 employee recognition ideas

Big or small, any effort to recognize employees goes a long way in showing appreciation. Here are some simple and fun employee recognition ideas to try out in your organization:

1. Prepare a handwritten “thank you” note

Be a little old-fashioned and write a personalized note for each employee. Include what you appreciate about them as well as their contributions that make a difference in your organization.

Whether it’s a simple Post-it note or a personalized card, employees will appreciate the thought and effort you’ve put in.

2. Buy a useful work-related item

Show your employees that you value their work by giving them a practical gift for their workspace. It can be anything from a new laptop and earphones to books and resources that can help them in their job.

Giving these useful items can be a great way to show your appreciation, and it’s also an investment in the future of your organization. 

3. Take them out to lunch

Treat your employees to lunch in a nice restaurant or café. It’s an excellent way to show your gratitude and create an opportunity for you to bond outside of the office.

It can be anything from a team lunch with everyone in the organization to small group lunches, depending on what works best for you.

4. Reward with experiences

Experiences can create lasting memories that can be shared and talked about for years to come. It also gives employees something to look forward to at the end of a long work week or month.

Consider gifting experiences that are meaningful to the employee such as tickets to a movie or museum, a day at the spa, or even outdoor activities like picnics or hiking. It allows them to take a break from their daily routine while also being reminded of how much you appreciate them.

5. Send a spot bonus

Giving out spot bonuses is one of the easiest ways to recognize employees who have gone above and beyond. It’s a nice way to reward employees for their efforts without having to rely on performance reviews or other lengthy processes.

You could give it in the form of gift cards, vouchers, cash, or even company swag.

6. Set up an employee care package

Put together a care package for employees with their favorite snacks, drinks, and other treats. This gesture shows them that you’re thinking of them and that can help to brighten up their day.

You can also include personalized items such as a mug with their name or a pen with an inspirational quote.

7. Organize wellness programs

Dedicate some time to host wellness programs like yoga classes, meditation sessions, massage therapy, or even basketball games to promote physical and mental health.

Encouraging physical activity at the workplace can help in reducing stress, increasing productivity, and creating a healthy work-life balance among employees.

8. Offer flexible working hours

Giving employees some level of control over their working hours can be extremely beneficial in improving focus and productivity.

Allow employees to trade shifts or take days off when necessary, so they have the flexibility to manage their personal commitments while still getting the job done. 

9. Share positive feedback

Praise and positive feedback can go a long way for employees. They need to be reminded that their hard work is being noticed and appreciated.

Share your positive feedback in team meetings, via emails, or even one-on-one conversations. While feedback can sometimes be seen as negative, focus on the positive aspects and how they can use it to grow in their role.

10. Give additional vacation time or days off  

Whether it’s a day off for their birthday or extra vacation days for reaching milestones, extra time off is always appreciated.

You can also consider offering a “work-from-home” day once a month or having an extra day off during the holidays. These days will allow employees to take some time for themselves or spend it with family and friends.

11. Create an employee recognition wall

Display a wall of fame for all the employees who have shown exemplary performance. You can have photos of each employee with a short paragraph about their achievements as well as messages from other colleagues.

This public display of recognition helps motivate other employees to strive for excellence while also reinforcing that hard work is rewarded.

12. Announce work anniversaries

Dedicated employees stay with the company for years so it’s crucial to recognize that commitment and celebrate their milestones.

Make a big deal of their work anniversary by customizing a cake or gift box or organizing a special lunch in their honor.

13. Celebrate birthdays

Birthdays are always a special time to make an employee feel appreciated and valued. Consider organizing a small celebration with their favorite snacks and drinks, or getting the whole office together in singing happy birthday.

You can even nominate a team member to be in charge of organizing surprise birthday parties for the rest of the staff.

14. Go social

Social recognition is an amazing way to build team spirit within your organization. Highlight employees’ achievements on social media with pictures of their work and add a witty caption for added fun.

You can also create a hashtag to recognize all the employees who made an impact in your organization. It will not only make the employee feel special but also motivate others to put in more effort.

15. Sponsor a volunteer day

Sometimes, the best kind of recognition is when employees are given the opportunity to make a difference in their community.

Have your organization sponsor a volunteer day and allow employees to select their favorite cause or charity to support. It's an experience they can share with family and friends, creating a sense of pride in the organization they work for.

16. Showcase employee skills

Featuring their skills and achievements can be a great way to recognize and reward employees. Organize a special event featuring various employee presentations to highlight their expertise.

This idea will not only motivate them but also build team morale, as everyone gets to learn something new from each other’s experiences.

17. Give value-based awards

Ditch the traditional awards like “Employee of the Month” or “Most Valuable Team Member”. Instead, opt for something more meaningful and special based on your organization’s values.

If one of your core values is innovation, then you could give an award to someone who demonstrated creativity and out-of-the-box thinking to solve a problem. Other awards could be based on customer service, integrity, leadership, teamwork, and honesty.

18. Start a formal mentoring program

Set up a formal mentoring program that provides the opportunity to learn from other colleagues. It can be as simple as assigning an experienced employee to mentor new employees as they learn the ropes or pairing up employees with similar interests and skills.

Mentoring creates an encouraging environment that allows everyone to exchange ideas, share experiences, and work together towards achieving common goals. 

19. Upgrade the break room

Pamper your employees by upgrading the break room with some thoughtfully chosen items. You can consider adding a mini fridge for snacks and drinks, buying a coffee machine or espresso maker, or providing more comfortable seating areas. 

These small upgrades will make employees feel like they’re in an enjoyable environment that encourages relaxation and creative thinking.

20. Acknowledge small, daily wins

Bolster morale by recognizing the small wins and achievements each day. It could be as simple as acknowledging an employee for their hard work or providing positive feedback in a meeting.

It doesn’t have to be extravagant or over-the-top, but it should show that you appreciate the effort they put in every day.

Final thoughts

Hopping on the employee recognition bandwagon doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Even simple gestures and small rewards, like a handwritten “thank you” note or an extra break to recharge, can make your employees feel valued.

At the end of the day, it’s not just about showing gratitude but building a culture where everyone feels appreciated and inspired to do their best work. But tapping into this “feel-good” factor of recognition doesn't necessarily transform the employee experience.

A healthy mix of engagement, enablement, and celebration in your strategy pushes employee success in the right direction to ensure that everyone is in their best self to achieve greater heights in your organization.


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