Your guide to employee recognition programs

By Jostle

4 min read

Your guide to employee recognition programs
Illustration by Kevin Yu

All organizations spend a great deal of time and money on employee recruitment, training, and development. However, most of them overlook one of the most important aspects of employee success—employee recognition programs.

Employee recognition programs are an invaluable part of creating a strong organizational culture that values and rewards employees for their hard work, dedication, and contributions.

In fact, a 2022 Gallup-Workhuman report reveals that effective recognition programs can dramatically improve employee retention, productivity, satisfaction, engagement, and connection to company culture.

Whether you're new to the idea of employee recognition programs or looking to improve an existing program, this guide covers the basics of employee recognition programs as well as some examples to get you started.

What is employee recognition?

The more you recognize employees for their work, the more motivated and engaged they will be.

Anyone who’s ever worked in an organization knows how satisfying it feels to be recognized for their contributions, especially after putting in extra effort.

While the approach to recognition may vary from organization to organization, the core idea remains the same – employee recognition is an act of appreciating and praising employees, whether formally or informally, for their hard work, dedication to the job, and positive contributions to the company.

Why employee recognition matters

Organizations with employee recognition programs have been shown to have 14% higher employee engagement, productivity, and performance levels than those without, which can ultimately increase your bottom line.

Rather than just being a nice thing to do, employee recognition not only reinforces positive behavior but also helps:

  • boost team morale
  • build trust and loyalty between employers and employees
  • increase commitment to the company’s goals
  • create a culture of appreciation and recognition

In essence, employee recognition programs act as a glue that binds an organization together, giving employees a sense of purpose and motivation to keep striving for excellence, making them feel like a valuable part of the team, and ultimately, building a workplace where everyone wants to stay and contribute.

Employee recognition program ideas (with examples)

Employee recognition programs typically involve both elements of recognition and reward as a way to make employees feel valued and appreciated.

While rewards are part of the equation, it should not just be about giving out gifts and bonuses. It can be any meaningful gesture that shows appreciation and gratitude for the employees.

But these programs should be appropriate to the employee's accomplishment, adequately funded, structured, regular and consistent, timely, personal, and smoothly delivered.

Here are some of the best recognition programs you can implement in your organization as well as examples of each:

Monetary rewards

Every time an employee does something extraordinary or goes above and beyond, a monetary reward is one of the easiest ways of acknowledging their effort. While cash bonuses are the most popular form of monetary reward, you can also give out:

  • Free meals
  • Gift cards and vouchers
  • Extra allowances
  • Salary increase
  • Stock options

Non-monetary incentives

Showing appreciation doesn’t always have to include money. For most employees, non-monetary incentives are just as rewarding as they can equally show how much their contributions are valued.

Think about the things that your employees find meaningful, such as: 

  • Additional vacation days
  • Flexible working hours
  • Travel incentives
  • Paid training and development opportunities
  • Promotions

Recognition awards

The most common form of employee recognition is awards. You can create your own internal awards system and give out prizes, certificates, or trophies in recognition of the employees' achievements.

Some examples are:

  • Loyalty awards
  • Employee of the month
  • Most exemplary performance
  • Best team player
  • Perfect attendance
  • Innovation awards

Regular events

Aside from nurturing bonding and teamwork, organizing regular events are excellent for recognizing employees for their contributions while giving them the opportunity to unwind and relax.

While only larger companies can usually hold monthly events, smaller organizations can also host simple ones like:

  • Office birthday celebrations
  • Company lunches
  • Employee appreciation days
  • Holiday parties
  • Annual retreats

Public shout-outs

Giving public recognition is a great way to boost employee morale and show appreciation. You can share how a particular team member has gone the extra mile and made an impact on your organization through verbal or written praise in:

  • Meetings
  • Weekly social media shout out
  • Email newsletters
  • Recognition wall

Final thoughts

Traditionally, employees have been recognized mainly for their results and output. However, modern employee recognition programs have shifted to focus more on values-based recognition, which is more about appreciating employees for their behavior and attitude in addition to performance.

No matter what approach you take, employee recognition programs are crucial for cultivating a culture of recognition that will bring out the best in your people and help drive organizational success. But recognition alone isn’t enough to provide a meaningful employee experience.

Instead, any employee recognition program needs to be part of an overall comprehensive approach to employee success, which includes employee engagement and enablement. These three are essential components in building a high-performing workplace that equips, inspires, and motivates employees to contribute their best work.


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