22 Best Employee Recognition Ideas for 2022 [Ranked]

Simona Lokvenec

by Simona Lokvenec · Updated Mar 22, 2022

Employee recognition comes in many shapes, but whatever approach you fancy, you have to agree on the following: it’s absolutely one of the most valuable areas an employer could focus on.

Identifying the right employee recognition ideas may take some time, however, once you’ve chosen what works for you and your company's workforce, you can bet you’re giving your company what it needs in order to grow and expand in the right direction. After all, showing your employees they’re valued and acknowledging their hard work and accomplishments results in more motivated employees, higher engagement and productivity, and lower turnover - and what employer doesn’t want that?

With that in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that more and more employers are coming up with a wide range of employee recognition ideas. That said, it’s not just about contemplating these ideas - it’s more about implementing them.

And we hope you’ll find what you need in our article to get started!

Chapters

What Is Employee Recognition?

Fun or Informal Employee Recognition Ideas

Formal Employee Recognition Ideas

Employee Recognition Gift Ideas

Online Employee Recognition Ideas

Other Favorites

Frequently Asked Questions

Final Words

What Is Employee Recognition?

what-is-employee-recognition

Employee recognition, also referred to as social recognition, is defined as

the act of publicly acknowledging your people for who they are, what they do and when they do good work. With employee recognition programs, workers recognize each other and make the workplace feel more inclusive and human. Employee recognition is one of the most important factors in driving workplace engagement, productivity, and employee retention.

In general, employee recognition is significant because it includes a business’s most important asset - its employees. Arguably, employees are a company’s biggest treasure, as they’re the ones driving performance, dealing with projects and clients, defining the company culture and expected behavior, and so on. And showing appreciation for their efforts helps build not only a better working atmosphere, but a better emotional connection between the employee and the company itself. On the whole, employee recognition is a great motivator and plays a crucial role in employee satisfaction and engagement.

Yet, employers failing to express recognition leads to employees feeling dissatisfied, neglected, and frustrated. And ultimately, this may lead to employees leaving the company for good.

That said, securing a vibrant and honest recognition culture takes not only time, but proper research and skills. And although everyone likes to receive recognition, employers need to decide which staff behaviors should be recognized, and then think about the relevant employee recognition ideas they can apply.

Which employee behavior deserves recognition?

It may be tricky to pick adequate employee recognition ideas without knowing what it is you wish to show appreciation for.

In essence, employee recognition refers to acknowledging your employees’ contributions, efforts, and accomplishments. But what exactly does this entail? It goes without saying that employers should have specific information and suggestions in mind before they decide who to recognize.

Without any ado, let’s analyze which events and what type of employee behavior deserve proper recognition.

1) Company’s values

Each company has its own set of core values - some more serious than others, but they are there. In fact, even if certain values aren’t explicitly started, employees can intuitively pick up on them.

For instance, if you have a law firm, and you attend meetings and trials all the time, it goes without saying that your company will expect employees to dress in a more formal way than if you were running a startup.

That said, a company’s values go way deeper than how employees present themselves. They also involve factors such as integrity, humility, punctuality, overall integrity, transparency, and so on.

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to make sure the values you cherish are openly stated. For instance, if you don’t tolerate employees being late, you need to make sure everyone knows this, from their first day of work.

Certain companies don’t have a problem with their employees arriving an hour late, and then staying one hour longer at work, but if this is a deal breaker for you, by all means - do express your views and values.

Now, why would such behavior be worthy of recognition? Put simply, having employees who stick to these principles and awarding them accordingly helps set an example for the rest of their peers, as well as lets them know that adhering to these values is very appreciated and they’re doing a good job.

2) Creativity

Creative ideas and an innovative spirit are key to seeing your company succeed. And if you have employees who manage to not only express such qualities, but impact their peers to improve theirs, they certainly deserve public recognition.

Innovation and creativity matter because they help employees overcome unexpected obstacles, come up with relevant solutions, address problems from a refreshing perspective, create projects, and so on.

3) Motivation

There are employees who need constant supervision, both by their peers and their senior managers. Others tend to be more proactive on their own.

Although both groups of employees may finish their tasks successfully, the latter deserve special recognition for their intrinsic efforts. Such intrinsic motivation should not only be valued and recognized, but stimulated in others, too.

And while you can’t force any employee to change overnight or adopt new habits right away, they might find the motivation they lack in seeing their peers get the recognition they also crave for.

5) Individuality

Employees want to feel appreciated as individuals. They wish to be seen for who they are and what they represent - not just for what they do, or what rules they’re required to follow.

This means you can appreciate your workers’ talents, personalities, unique traits, and valuable abilities.

That said, many employers can’t quite seem to understand why an employee’s personal talents matter in a corporate context. We believe that by recognizing individual value, you’re allowing employees to grow at their own pace, as well as decide how to incorporate their individual talents within their daily tasks.

6) Team player

Although we explained why individuality matters and why it’s so important for employees to embrace it, it’s worth remembering that employees belong to a company that has other workers. In other words, they’re not alone, and they should be comfortable working with their team members, too.

Plus, it’s not just about collaborating with peers. It’s about helping others when they need it, it’s about answering a question when a colleague asks something, and it’s about knowing when to intervene and when to pull away.

Of course, it’s up to you as an employer to determine whether a worker manages to play well in a team or not. For some, it may be easier than the others - but one thing’s for sure, each worker has the chance of working with a peer at some point in their career.

7) Professional development

Are your employees striving to be the best version of themselves? Are your employees willing to learn new things and improve their already existing skills? Are they happy to embrace their strengths and work on their professional weaknesses?

Companies and employers should recognize employees who are willing to work on themselves. In essence, employees who don’t want to stay where they are (although they could be happy with where they are at the moment, but they realize they have potential for more and so they’re ready to work to get to the next level).

For instance, they may be attending extra conferences, preparing presentations, reading books from their industry, and so on. There are many ways to see if an employee is committed to making progress. It could even be something as silly as this: if your company has new clients and they’re coming from Asia, the employee might show the initiative to start learning their language.

8) Taking initiative

Although most of the time employees receive a fixed set of tasks, responsibilities, and projects, every now and then, it’s good to see them take matters into their own hands, right?

Of course, with those corporate things they’re allowed to manage in the first place. Taking initiative from an employee point of view should include:

  • the skills to independently assess problems and consequently initiate solutions;
  • come up with new approaches;
  • communicate fresh ideas to management and the rest of the employees;
  • be prepared for each opportunity when they appear;
  • try to predict potential issues and be willing to discuss them without waiting on others;
  • determine what scenarios are more likely to happen than others;
  • be the first to do/say __________.

When employees see their colleagues take initiative and be up for a challenge, this helps stimulate them, too. It also shows you as an employer that you can count on this person in difficult and stressful situations.

9) Years of service

The time an employee has devoted to working for you and your company is indeed important. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should recognize employees solely because of their time in your company, and never stress other qualities they may have shown throughout the years. It simply means that it’s a factor that’s worth considering.

After all, it’s not about the number of years an employee spent working with you and for you. It’s about the experience they got along the way, the colleagues they met and collaborated with, the projects they took part in, the clients they advised, and so much more.

And above all, it’s about the loyalty and the level of commitment they’ve shown toward your company as a whole.

10) Performance

An employee’s performance is deemed as one of the most important aspects worthy of public recognition. Performance-based recognition matters because it includes a wide range of behaviors and qualities. Yet at the same time, it’s one of the most straightforward behaviors.

With performance-based recognition, we refer to any goals an employee may have achieved, any sale they may have secured, teamwork efforts, amazing behaviors, the time they took to finish something, and so on. It can even be the way they usually do things.

Notice how we stress the importance of sales, behaviors, and efforts in general. This means that you can praise and recognize your employees for their daily wins, too. They don’t have to secure a once-in-a-lifetime sale in order to qualify for special employee recognition.

Of course, such employees deserve specific recognition, but that doesn’t mean that what the rest of your workers do isn’t good enough. In essence, it’s all about showing that you approve of how employees do their job - by acknowledging this, they’re likely to continue doing what they’ve done so far. In fact, they may strive to be even better.

Employee Recognition Statistics

Many employers struggle to fully grasp the concept of employee recognition as well as understand the business impact it has even after they’ve familiarized themselves with the subject matter. In fact, sometimes we all need that extra push to completely understand why we need to implement a certain practice in our daily business matters.

And this time it could be just that numbers and stats do the magic. So, here are some employee recognition stats which stress the importance of employee recognition:

  • 44% of workers are said to switch jobs as a result of them not getting proper recognition for their efforts;

  • 63% of workers who feel recognized are unlikely to search for a new job;

  • 53% of employees claim they’d stay longer in a company if they feel appreciated;

  • 72% of companies agree that recognition has a positive impact on engagement;

  • a well-designed recognition program may assist in driving an 11.1% increase in average employee performance;

  • companies with ongoing recognition programs are said to experience 28.6% lower frustration levels than those without;

  • 50% of employees trust that appreciation from managers improved their relationship with the senior employees;

  • 24% of employees claim the most memorable recognition they’ve received came from the CEO;

  • employee productivity, performance, and engagement are said to be 14% higher in companies with recognition programs than in those that don’t have them;

  • 83% of HR leaders claim that employee recognition strengthens organizational values;

out of 540 HR leaders of companies that have recognition programs:

  • 89% suggest that recognition helps with the employee experience;
  • 86% suggest that it helps with employee relationships;
  • 85% suggest that it strengthens organizational culture;
  • 84% suggest that it boosts employee engagement;
  • 83% suggest that it reinforces corporate values.

Now that we’ve fully explained the importance of employee recognition and appreciation, and supported that with relevant stats, let’s move on to the best employee recognition ideas for 2022.

Fun or Informal Employee Recognition Ideas

fun-or-informal-employee-recognition-ideas

Employee recognition doesn’t always have to include formality or very detailed pre-planning. It might include various fun and quite informal ideas which not only enable employee recognition, but also boost overall office morale and bring about positive vibes in the workplace.

If you’re up for such an approach, take a look at the following suggestions.

1. Provide a VIP Parking Treatment

Each worker should be able to properly park their car when they go to work (preferably their company should have a parking lot, but we understand that in practice many employees may struggle with this, depending on their line of work).

Whatever the situation may be, it could be fun to reward an employee by allowing them to pick their own parking spot for the week/month. It’s also a good idea to allow them to use the parking lot even during the weekend or in the evenings throughout the week. Let’s say your company’s located in the city center, and so your employee gets to park their car in your company’s parking lot for free when they go to the city center during the weekend.

With that in mind, we understand that some companies may provide such benefits to their employees anyway. This is one of those employee recognition ideas that isn’t suitable for each corporate scenario.

It would probably make sense to use this as a recognition practice in a context where employees struggle with parking space in general, and so allowing them to have a secure parking space will be considered a privilege and will give them peace of mind for the week/month ahead.

If this recognition idea resonates with you, you might want to take things to the next level and even buy award parking signs. Having signs such as “Reserved for the employee of the month”, “Attendance award employee of the month”, and “Employee of the quarter” can make the whole parking experience for workers much more amusing.

2. Have a Trophy Tradition

This employee recognition idea can be approached in two ways. The first one would be to treat the trophy as an award that you will give to the employee who gets recognized for something. We suggest buying a trophy and then engraving your employee’s name along with the reason for getting recognized.

That said, you may approach the trophy idea a bit more metaphorically. For instance, you can choose a trophy that resonates for you and your workers and treat it as a token of recognition. Only that it’s not going to be personal - employees will pass it among one another.

So, for example, when Sam gets recognition for the latest project he worked on, he gets to keep the trophy for a whole week. And then, when Jenna gets praised for the contract she signed with a new client, Sam will give it to Jenna. And then Jenna may pass it to Caroline.

You get the point.

This is an exciting idea because it requires initiative from your employees, too. In other words, the “recognition burden” isn’t just yours to carry.

3. Introduce a “CEO for the Day Program”

Introducing a CEO for the day role could be a fun thing to try every once in a while. You could do it when you’re away, or you might do it while you’re in the office, too.

In essence, it involves assigning an employee to lead meetings, perhaps make some decisions, talk to other workers, to name a few.

This is one of those employee recognition ideas which are great if you wish to check if an employee is ready for a more serious job position, like a promotion to manager where the employee will need to use their leadership skills. In essence, you get to test the waters.

4. Provide an Off-Site Day

Would you like to allow employees to work from home for a day? Or perhaps in a local cafe? Maybe even their favorite pastry shop? Or maybe they can pick their preferred location?

This is one of those fun employee recognition ideas whose purpose is to spice things up in the office. It’s especially good for employees who are up for a more dynamic routine rather than those who fancy sitting in the office.

Also, keep in mind that this kind of recognition can’t apply to every employee. For example, if you want to show appreciation to the front desk security officer in your company, it’d make no sense to send them away from the company, as they’re supposed to be physically present there.

5. Have a Wall of Fame

Having a wall of fame is a very common practice and it’s fairly easy to set up. Of course, you don’t need a whole wall - it’s enough to put a bulletin board where you can pin pictures, names, and contributions of your employees.

Plus, having such a “wall” is a great way to freshen up the office, as well as obviously recognize effort.

It’s up to you how the company should approach the wall’s layout. For instance, what kind of contributions should be placed on the board. Should it be done frequently or not? Are employees supposed to nominate themselves? How long should someone’s imagine staying pinned there? These are some questions worth reflecting on in order to provide workers with the best wall of fame experience.

6. Send (e)cards

Ecards or physical cards can be a great way of showing an employee you recognize their efforts. It’s easy to write them, and it’s easy to send them.

If you opt for a physical card, you may just leave it on their desk. It’s not something that requires logistics or any special type of planning like other employee recognition ideas. That’s what makes this such a popular option - you may decide to go for it, and you don’t need any extra preparation.

That said, if you do pick a physical card, instead of having the same cards circulating the company over and over again, why not buy cards with different patterns, themes, colors, and forms? That way, you add a more personal touch to the whole card experience. Also, we suggest writing a personal statement in them instead of just going with a generic card which has the phrase “Thank you” already printed out on it.

The same applies to ecards, too. Instead of picking a ready-made ecard, we recommend customizing it.

Finally, if you aren’t sure what the messages in the (e)cards are supposed to sound like, take a look at the following ones:

  1. You’re an inspiration to us all! Your outstanding performance helped push up our company revenues to greater heights. Thank you!

  2. I’d like to recognize the entire team for surpassing their goals for the quarter! Their hard work is turning into tangible profits for our team and company!

  3. We wanted to let you know that having you on our team makes all the difference. Thanks for all you do.

  4. Congratulations on achieving this anniversary! We know you have worked hard for this accomplishment, and we truly appreciate your dedication.

  5. Reliability is hard to come by. Thank you for being someone we can always count on! I’m so grateful for all of your hard work. The entire team thanks you for everything you do.

7. Leave “Thank You Notes”

Finally, leaving “thank you notes” may seem like a random gesture, but it can be a very meaningful one.

You don’t need a special reason to leave a thank you note - the act itself is what makes this special. It could be something as simple as thanking an employee for helping you out during a meeting, or reminding you to do something that has completely slipped your mind. Or it could be something they’ve managed to pull off with a client, and while you’re waiting to meet with them physically, you decide to leave them a note.

Indeed, thank you notes can “handle” even the most random corporate reasons. And if you find it difficult to think of proper adjectives to describe your employees, here are some nice suggestions:

  • resourceful;
  • innovative;
  • efficient;
  • team player;
  • problem solver;
  • energetic;
  • thoughtful;
  • client focused;
  • inspiring;
  • leader;
  • mentor;
  • brilliant;
  • amazing;
  • helpful;
  • dedicated;
  • motivating;
  • supportive;
  • impressive;
  • intelligent;
  • positive;
  • focused;
  • logical;
  • reliable;
  • creative;
  • resilient.

Formal Employee Recognition Ideas

formal-employee-recognition-ideas

Have you ever wanted to give a speech in front of your workers, but weren’t sure if that’s the right option?

Have you been thinking about promoting several of your employees?

Perhaps you’ve been reading about Employee Appreciation Day but didn’t know how your employees would feel about celebrating it in a more official manner?

If you’ve been contemplating such formal ideas, perhaps now it’s the time to actively include them in your employee recognition plans.

Read on to get some ideas.

8. Give an Employee Recognition Speech

Employees love motivational speeches (especially when such speeches include a segment about employee recognition). To deliver an employee recognition speech, you don’t need to organize a formal event or plan things well ahead.

You may even do so in the office in a spontaneous manner. That said, it’s not wrong to make such speeches part of more formal events, too. It all really depends on the reason for employee recognition, as well as the “seriousness” of the speech you’re planning to give.

To inspire you, we’re sharing a quote by Charles Schwab, the founder of the Charles Schwab Corporation:

I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my people the greatest asset I possess, and the way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement. There is nothing else that so kills the ambitions of a person as criticism from superiors. I never criticize anyone. I believe in giving a person incentive to work. So I am anxious to praise but loath to find fault. If I like anything, I am hearty in my appreciation and lavish in my praise.

9. Provide Promotions

Getting a promotion is something each employee looks forward to. Some anticipate it sooner than others, but the desire is there anyway.

That said, not each worker gets the promotion they expect. But as many see it as an important step in their careers, an increasing number of employers decide to use promotions as a way to show employee recognition, especially for outstanding accomplishments and hard work.

Although in theory, the concept of promotion is more or less the same in all industries, in practice it may vary from industry to industry. And it’s up to you, as an employer, to explore what suits your company the best in order to provide employees with the recognition they deserve.

10. Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day

Employee Appreciation Day is an official holiday, usually celebrated on the first Friday in March. It’s a day where companies get to thank their workers for all their hard work and effort throughout the whole year.

This day’s main purpose is to further strengthen the professional bond between employers and employees. Here are some ideas as to how you can celebrate this day with your workers:

spend the day volunteering at a local nonprofit, or a school near your office (and you don’t need to keep workplace roles while volunteering - for instance, a younger hire can take the lead that day); play games and socialize; give out gift bags; plan a special lunch event; prepare a happy hour; take a field trip; film a video; start a mentorship program; write a LinkedIn recommendation, and so on.

11. Give a Certificate of Employee Recognition

This is one of those employee recognition ideas that are pretty much straightforward. It’s also a commonly used one.

You can give your employees a certificate for various reasons, including but not limited to:

  • engaging in hard work;
  • showing leadership skills in a project;
  • outstanding presentation at a conference;
  • helping new employees during their onboarding process;
  • improving the company’s reputation, and so on.

Just make sure to specify the reason this person is being recognized (or thanked). Also, list their name as well as the title of their position. It’s a good idea to use the company’s letterhead and include the date of issue of the certificate, too.

Employee Recognition Gift Ideas

employee-recognition-gift-ideas

Gifts are always appreciated, as most of them are a physical proof of the recognition an employee receives. They might come in the form of a voucher a worker may get to use, or food treats they get to eat and share with the rest of their peers.

Either way, gifting something is always nice, as it lets the worker know you took the time to make a purchase and think of a gift suitable for them personally.

And while every employee is different, we believe you can find something in our ideas below that can apply to some or most of your workers.

12. Buy a Corporate Gift

Employees get gifts for various reasons, such as birthdays, work anniversaries, or retirement. Why not buy them a gift as a symbol of recognition for their efforts, too?

We recommended purchasing a corporate gift that you know your worker will love. For instance, you shouldn’t give someone a watch just because you’ve given a watch to the other workers you’ve given recognition to so far.

Also, it’s up to you to decide how expensive the gift is meant to be. Is it supposed to be something useful, such as noise-canceling headphones they might use at work, or is it meant to be some fancy accessory?

13. Gift a Care Package

Employers usually give care packages to their workers for birthdays, new hires, when they’re sick, and so on, but care packages can be a great recognition idea, too.

In essence, a care package is a great way to say “Well done!”, “Thank you.”, or “You deserve this!”. Plus, they make a lasting impression on workers.

That said, sometimes it may be tough to decide what to include in a care package. And while each care package is a story on its own, there are some items you may wish to take into account when planning the next employee care package:

  • cookies;
  • chocolates;
  • candles;
  • coffee mugs;
  • branded apparel;
  • snacks;
  • a blanket with your company’s logo;
  • ANYTHING with your company’s logo;
  • a tea set;
  • a coffee set;
  • a SPA basket set;
  • a vegan snacks package, and so on.

Just make sure to prepare an adequate care package for the employee you wish to give this package to. For example, imagine preparing a tea set for someone who hates tea. Or a coffee set for someone who never drinks coffee.

14. Organize a Wellness Day

As a concept, wellness days aren’t new, but they’re somehow neglected.

There are many ways as to how you can approach this idea. You may give them a SPA voucher, bring a puppy in the office and allow the employee to spend the whole day with them, hire a massage therapist, gift them a yoga class, and so on.

It’s only fair to choose something that works for that specific employee. For instance, it makes no sense to give a SPA voucher to an employee who isn’t fond of SPAs at all. You want employees to truly enjoy their recognition (whatever employee recognition ideas you pick), not to force themselves to enjoy it.

This may be tough to do if you don’t know a lot of personal information about the specific employee (it could be that they’re relatively new, or you just don’t know a lot of details about a specific person), but do ensure to talk to other workers or consult HR as to how to approach this.

Finally, care packages are meaningful because they make employees feel seen and valued, they make work life much more enjoyable, and help inspire a stronger company work ethic (especially if you gift items with your company’s logo).

15. Provide Surprise Food Treats

We talked about gifting a care package, and while such packages may include food items, this idea is a bit different.

Namely, the idea is to bring food treats to the office that you know the specific employee simply loves. It may even be a specific meal, it doesn’t have to be a random treat like chocolate.

For instance, if the worker loves a Hawaiian pizza from a specific place in the city, you should order one for them during lunch break. Or if they’re a pancake lover, have pancakes delivered to the office. If your employee is a bagel fan, you find the best bagels in town.

You get the point.

Now, this idea is often confusing to many employers. Do they buy something just for the employee who gets recognition? In other words, do they order one Hawaiian pizza and then the rest of the workers are supposed to look at this one person eating pizza in front of them?! Of course not.

In essence, the point is to order food for the whole office, but the food choice should reflect that employee’s preferences. After all, they’re the reason for the whole “food surprise event” in the first place.

Online Employee Recognition Ideas

online-employee-recognition

Employee recognition doesn’t have to include in-person activities only. It may be virtual, and nowadays it’s easier than ever to implement such ideas in your employee recognition practice.

Below, we share two such ideas. One of the biggest advantages when it comes to applying these ideas is that they’re free, don’t need a lot of planning, and are available to others to “see” them.

16. Give Website Recognition

If your company’s website is frequently updated, and both your employees and clients frequently check it, giving your workers recognition on your website may be a pretty good idea.

You may have a separate website corner where you outline your employees’ achievements and milestones, or you might include something on the homepage and leave it there for some time.

Whatever option you go for, we assure you that it will fill your employee’s hearts with gratitude as well as pride.

17. Give Social Media Recognition

Social media recognition is quite similar to what we just discussed - it’s just that the recognition isn’t on your company’s website, it’s on your company’s social media channel(s).

The first step is to pick the social media channel you think it’s adequate for such recognition. For instance, LinkedIn might be a better option to praise an employee compared to YouTube.

That said, if you think it’s suitable to use all social media channels, by all means, do so. The only thing you’ll probably need to do is come up with a way to “post” this employee appreciation.

Other Favorites

other-favorites

To wrap up the employee recognition ideas successfully, we include one final section with a list of widely popular recognition ideas.

Some of them might sound familiar, others not so much - either way it’s always a good idea for an employer to learn about some extra ideas they can use whenever they’re needed.

Now, onto the ideas.

18. Introduce a Peer Recognition Program

Peer recognition programs are some of the best practices you can introduce in your company. In essence, peer-to-peer recognition is the act of employees acknowledging another employee’s efforts, successes, talents, deliverables, and so on.

This is a very refreshing approach, as people usually tend to think of recognition as something that comes only from their superiors. In fact, positive feedback from a colleague can be just as meaningful as the one that comes from a boss.

As an employer, you have the power to implement something like this. Of course, you also need to allow employees to freely express themselves.

That said, they need to be as objective as possible, too. For instance, you wouldn’t like a worker to compliment another peer for the work they’ve done just because they’re friends outside of the office, and then realize that the job wasn’t properly done in the first place, right?

Maintaining an impartial approach may be tough, but such peer programs may help employees work on their critical skills, as well as objectivity.

Finally, when we talk about peer recognition programs, we don’t think of any formal program you need to introduce. Of course, if that’s something that resonates with you and your company, go for it, but we don’t see any problem with employers adopting a more neutral approach. In essence, having employees praise each other’s efforts and achievements in a more spontaneous setting can be just as impactful.

19. Provide Professional Development Opportunities

Providing employees with a professional development opportunity is one of those employee recognition ideas that may get tricky.

On the one hand, paying for an amazing masterclass is something that an employee may truly appreciate. On the other hand, they might expect something much more playful and fun as a recognition for their work. In essence, they may not expect more work (studying or training sessions) as a reward for the work they’ve done.

We dare say it all depends on how your employees perceive employee recognition. Put simply, if they know that their employer has the habit of gifting workers a masterclass, paid conference, or a new book by a professional in their industry, they’ll probably be fine with it. In other words, they’ll know that’s the norm.

However, if you tend to express your appreciation in more versatile ways, it’s probably better to “save” such employee recognition ideas for those employees who will truly enjoy them.

And if you need some suggestions about what to give to your employees that can classify as a professional opportunity, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • sign them up for a language course;
  • pay for a masterclass (we already mentioned this);
  • give them a book you know they’ll enjoy (this one too);
  • have them join a team-building event;
  • invite an expert from your industry to coach them one-on-one;
  • sign them up for a conference;
  • have them join a club;
  • buy them a podcast subscription (it can be something from your industry), and so on.

For instance, if you do decide to go with YouTube it may be a good idea to post a short interview with the employee, and if you pick Instagram, you might include a reel or just a regular post with the employee’s photo explaining who they are, and what it is they’re recognized for.

Ultimately, it may be a good idea to discuss this with your company’s social media managers.

20. Give Time Off

Giving workers time off is always welcomed. Of course, they have vacation days anyway, but rewarding them with some extra time off, or allowing them to choose first when they’d like to plan their holiday is a big plus.

Each employer and every company has their way of dealing with employees’ free days, but allowing them to have some additional ones as a way to recognize their efforts is always a great idea.

21. Celebrate Daily Wins

If there’s one thing you should remember about employee recognition, it’s that you can’t go wrong if you decide to do it on a daily basis. Put simply, you can’t go wrong with celebrating daily wins and expressing your gratitude and appreciation each day.

And it doesn’t have to be anything complex - it can be as simple as starting each meeting with team wins. If an employee signed a contract with a new client - celebrate it. If an HR leader has a great onboarding meeting with a new hire - celebrate that. If a team launched a new product feature - celebrate the win.

This way you’re not only publicly acknowledging your employees, but you’re also letting your workers know what has been going on in your company that’s worth sharing. So, you’re making sure your employees are up to date, plus, by praising their peers, you’re motivating everyone to do their best.

For example, if you praise an employee who signed a new contract, and there’s another employee in the room who needs to have a meeting with a client later on that day, they’ll be much more motivated to close a deal.

22. Ask how they wish to be recognized

This employee recognition idea may seem rather obvious at first, but you’ll be surprised to actually find out how overlooked it is in practice.

Each employer wants to provide employees with the best employee recognition practice, but if you don’t know how your workers wish to be recognized, how can you give that to them then?

It’s all about sitting down, making a plan, learning about their preferences, and applying them adequately.

You may conduct a brief survey to find our general preferences in the company, or you might even sit with every employee and have a 5-minute chat.

After chatting with employees, you’re more than likely to learn that some prefer to be publicly recognized, whereas others would opt for a much more subtle approach. Some employees would pick a fun idea, such as the trophy suggestion, CEO for the day program, or the VIP parking treatment; others will be happy with a general “thank you” note, or an eCard.

Then, certain workers don’t feel comfortable receiving praise and recognition on a daily basis, as they believe they should only be recognized for “bigger” things; other employees may welcome such suggestions, as it helps them stay more motivated and committed to their work.

In general, it’s up to you to discover more about your employees’ recognition preferences and wishes. Such chats and interactive discussions won’t just help you about setting an adequate employee recognition practice - they’ll help you bond with your workers, too.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is employee recognition important?

Employee recognition practices are very important because they have an impact on many areas of the business. In essence, recognition (or the lack of it) has the power to make or break your company.

First of all, employee recognition affects your workers’ productivity. When you praise your workers and reward them for their efforts, they’ll be even more motivated to do their job.

Next, recognition brings about higher employee engagement. And engaged employees are passionate about what they do, they express their creativity in a much more authentic way, and are able to commit to the company’s goals.

Recognition brings about a sense of purpose, too. Put simply, getting recognition for their efforts and successes makes employees feel like they belong in the company, and are able to drive the business forward.

Also, employee recognition ensures higher retention levels. This basically allows employers to keep their top talent and not have to deal with turnover very often. And keep in mind that even small gestures go a long way. In other words, you don’t have to do something spectacular each time you want to show appreciation for an employee - even the employee recognition ideas we just shared are quite versatile, and most of them require more spontaneity rather than serious or impossible planning. Finally, employee recognition is important because it shows workers that their behaviors and decisions are aligned with the company’s core values and principles.

  • Are rewards the same as recognition?

While it’s true that employee recognition ideas are very frequently combined with rewards, it’s worth understanding they retain a different purpose. First of all, one (recognition) is much more of a psychological acknowledgment, whereas the other (reward) is frequently a financial benefit. In general, employee rewards are considered as being tangible and perhaps even of a specific amount. Employee recognition may sometimes be invisible (for instance, giving an employee appreciation speech), yet they’re priceless when it comes to their value. Rewards denote transactions - recognition is all about human connection and interaction. Rewards are also much more economical in nature. On the other hand, recognition is emotional.

Rewards can be consumed, whereas recognition is usually absorbed or experienced. Rewards are usually spent and even transferable (for instance, receiving a bonus), whereas employee recognition can’t be transferred and isn’t temporary. This also makes recognition much more personal, and rewards impersonal.

We do feel the need to explain that one isn’t better than the other, though. In essence, both employee rewards and employee recognition have their place within any corporate context. And it’s up to employers to apply them properly (and as evenly as possible based on merit, skills, and certain criteria).

To illustrate this just think of the following: if you have an employee who only receives public recognition, but they’re never financially rewarded, they may struggle to stay motivated and engaged. The opposite applies too - if you have a worker who only receives financial rewards, but they’re never told their work is appreciated, they’ll probably struggle with the same issue as well.

Now, it’s up to employers to use smart discernment when it comes to how recognition and rewards should be combined (or used in general).

Having said that, things aren’t always that black or white. In other words, many employers decide to use rewards in order to demonstrate appreciation for their workers. Even in our article, some may argue that the trophy, promotion, or wellness day employee recognition ideas are, in fact, rewards. And it’s not wrong.

This only serves to bring to the fore something significant: our belief that rewards and recognition are much closer in practice than many initially understand or anticipate. What we do wish to differentiate, however, is that recognition shouldn’t be purely driven by the act of giving a reward. Put simply, financial benefits and perceiving rewards as finances shouldn’t be the main focus on employee recognition.

Finally, differentiating between employee recognition ideas and employee rewards is a very complex topic. Ultimately, it’s up for each employer to determine how they perceive these two matters and decide how they wish to approach them. And, of course, in the end, what matters is the employee itself and what employers can do to show how much they value them.

  • Who gives recognition in companies?

By now, it’s clear that usually employers give recognition to their employees. Of course, this isn’t fixed. It could be a manager who gives recognition to a worker, or another senior leader.

Such recognitions are important because those senior leaders are the ones who work with the employees on a daily basis. They’re able to assess their skills, monitor their progress, follow their work and analyze it, and so on.

That said, peer-to-peer recognition, also referred to as social recognition, is also very important (as we already explained back in employee recognition idea no. 5). This type of recognition is a highly significant one because it strengthens work relationships, improves workers’ self-esteem and confidence, makes teams a stronger unit, and helps the overall business thrive.

On the whole, we believe each successful company should incorporate both types of recognition.

Final Words

To wrap up, employee recognition refers to the open acknowledgment of employees’ contributions to your company. It’s one of the most meaningful things an employer can do for their workers. It’s often easier said than done though.

That’s why we hope this article helped you not only to identify the best employee recognition ideas - but it inspired you to start applying them too.

And, of course, do let us know if there are any other employee recognition ideas you may have thought of. We’d love to learn more about this important matter!