GuidesEmployee experience10 employee recognition program ideas to make your employees feel valued

10 employee recognition program ideas to make your employees feel valued

Last updated

21 March 2024


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Shawnna Johnson

Strategic employee recognition programs catalyze a culture where every team member feels genuinely valued, leading to increased revenue and efficiency. While implementing such programs demands time and resources, the returns are boundless: heightened employee retention, loyalty, and a culture of inclusivity and positivity that fuels outstanding performance. Welcome to a realm where acknowledgment isn't a mere formality but a driving success factor.

What is an employee recognition program?

An employee recognition program is a structured way of acknowledging and rewarding employees for their exceptional performance, achievements, and contributions to the workplace. These programs aim to boost morale, increase employee engagement, and encourage a positive environment by publicly acknowledging and appreciating individual or team efforts. 

Recognition may take various forms, including verbal praise, awards, certificates, or tangible rewards. 

By highlighting and celebrating employees' dedication and accomplishments, recognition programs motivate individuals and cultivate a culture of appreciation, loyalty, and heightened job satisfaction.

Why are employee recognition programs important?

In the hustle and bustle of running a business, it's easy to overlook the hard work of those who keep things running smoothly. 

Employees may feel undervalued, especially in large organizations with many departments. 

Employee recognition programs are crucial for demonstrating to employees that their contributions are valuable and appreciated. 

Recognition can also act as a motivating factor, leading to better engagement and retention rates. For instance, when the team at Nectar, an employee recognition software platform, surveyed 1,800 full-time employees across the U.S77.9% of respondents said they would be more productive if recognized more frequently

Moreover, 71% confirmed that more routine recognition efforts would make them less likely to leave their job.

A separate Gallup-Workhuman report revealed that employees who receive great recognition are 20x as likely to be engaged as employees who don’t.

So, the evidence for putting effort into meaningful recognition is clear. 

However, it's essential to establish and implement recognition programs thoughtfully. (Insincere or inconsistent recognition may land poorly and be more detrimental than no recognition). 

By strategically designing and launching employee recognition programs, you can create a positive and rewarding culture that encourages your team members to reach their full potential.

The benefits of employee recognition programs:

Beyond the joy of knowing you've made your hardworking team members happy, thoughtful, intentional employee recognition programs allow you and your company to show off your corporate values and strengthen relationships with your employees. Some of the many benefits of employee recognition programs include:

  • Employee retention: It's simple - employees who feel valued by their employer and appreciate the leadership style will likely remain with the company longer. Conversely, if people feel undervalued and unappreciated, they are more likely to leave the company, increasing hiring and training costs.

  • High performance: Employees know their managers appreciate their work, and they'll stay motivated to do their best on every project. Employee recognition programs also keep team members engaged in the company vision.

  • Teamwork: By encouraging employees to recognize the contributions and success of their peers, you can have a powerful impact on team morale. Employee recognition programs can enhance teamwork and camaraderie, cultivating a sense of collaboration that can lead to increased revenue and more successful projects.

  • Positive company culture: Recognition and praise help create a positive company culture. Celebrating each other's successes, small and large, fosters a positive work environment.

  • Better customer experience: Ultimately, creating happier customers is at the core of every business, regardless of the industry in which you work. Engaged employees are more likely to provide outstanding service, which translates to improved customer experience right down the line.

Types of employee recognition programs:

Employee recognition programs should be meticulously tailored to suit your company and workforce's unique dynamics, acknowledging that individuals appreciate different forms of appreciation. Consider implementing these types of employee recognition programs within your business.

Service and Achievement Awards

Service and achievement awards recognize employees for their contributions to the organization. These awards can take various forms, such as Employee-of-the-Month awards commonly seen in customer service industries or service awards for reaching significant milestones, like years of employment. Typical rewards associated with these awards include monetary bonuses, gift cards, additional time off, plaques, and certificates.

Innovation Awards

Innovation awards celebrate employees who contribute to the company's culture of innovation and excellence—this could involve sharing groundbreaking ideas or playing a crucial role in fulfilling a project.

Social Impact Champion

Social impact awards celebrate employees who contribute meaningfully to the community or environment. This recognition can encompass volunteering efforts, sustainability initiatives, or fundraising activities that positively impact society beyond the workplace.

Diversity and Inclusion Advocate

Advocacy-related awards help honor individuals who go above and beyond to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace culture (such as advocating for underrepresented groups, creating committees, or implementing initiatives that promote equity and belonging). Recognizing such efforts reinforces your company's commitment to diversity and inclusion while encouraging others to follow suit.

Customer Service Awards

Recognizing employees who excel in customer service is vital for maintaining satisfied customers. These awards can happen whenever an employee demonstrates exceptional customer assistance, whether efficiently handling phone calls or resolving issues in a way that leaves customers satisfied. Pay attention to positive mentions of employees in customer feedback forms and promptly reward them accordingly.

Employee of the Month

Employee of the Month programs have remained popular across industries for good reason. They offer a monthly opportunity to honor individual employees for their outstanding contributions. Employee of the Month recognition can come with additional perks such as monetary rewards, office parties, or acknowledgment on a recognition wall. When celebrating an Employee of the Month, highlight the specific qualities and contributions that add to a positive company culture.

10 employee recognition ideas for showing appreciation

Showing appreciation to your employees should be a year-round endeavor. However, there are a few specific ways to incorporate employee recognition into your business. These employee recognition ideas will help you and your team establish a comprehensive strategy that enhances retention and fosters a more collaborative, positive atmosphere.

1. Appreciation events

Hosting employee appreciation events is a fantastic way to build team spirit and celebrate each other's successes. Host these events in honor of individual employees or a whole team. They can be as elaborate or as simple as you deem appropriate. Some companies make employee appreciation events a surprise. In contrast, others prefer to block off time on the calendar or inform all employees in advance so everyone has a better chance of being free to attend the event.

2. Recognition walls

An employee recognition wall is a way to honor employees requiring relatively few resources. Make a recognition wall for employees who receive "employee of the month" designations or have been with the company for many years. You can add to the wall continuously, demonstrating your commitment to celebrating and promoting excellence within your organization.

3. Weekly shout-outs

Use a dedicated company social media page (like LinkedIn or Instagram) to highlight employee achievements with weekly shout-outs. Recognize successes like project completions or outstanding customer service, but ensure that only appropriate information is shared publicly. Offer employees the choice to opt out of social media recognition if they wish to for privacy reasons. For those uncomfortable with online shout-outs, consider acknowledging using internal channels such as company newsletters or team meetings to express gratitude.

4. Monetary awards & perks

Monetary awards encompass various forms beyond cash, including gift cards, bonus PTO days, stocks, and entries into gift raffles. Consider conducting an in-office survey to gauge employee preferences to help tailor rewards effectively. Some may value additional PTO days or gift cards over cash, highlighting the importance of understanding individual preferences.

5. Employee wellness initiative

Incorporating wellness initiatives into your employee recognition program can yield significant benefits, namely by improving the health of your team, reducing absenteeism, and enhancing productivity. Options range from offering complimentary yoga classes and fostering healthy workplace habits to organizing monthly workout sessions led by certified instructors from nearby gyms.

6. Equipment and gadgets

Equipment and gadgets as employee gifts are a great way to recognize your team members' hobbies and interests outside of work. You can also gift items that make employees' lives at work more manageable, such as new computers, tablets, noise-canceling headphones, and wireless keyboards. If you don't have the resources to give these items to each employee as rewards, you can raffle them off, drawing a winner from the names of employees recently recognized. (If you go the raffle route, balance your program with other forms of recognition, too, so those who don’t win aren’t routinely left out).

7. Birthday celebrations

Everyone loves a birthday celebration. Recognizing your employees' birthdays is a fabulous way to show them you value them as people. If it's not feasible for you to celebrate every team member's birthday (and generally it isn't), consider hosting a combined monthly celebration for everyone who had a birthday that month, but also be mindful of employees who do not celebrate birthdays.

8. Professional development

An employee recognition program that includes opportunities for team members to build and enhance their skills benefits the employees and the company. Employees who sharpen their professional skills and dedicate time to career growth can bring more value to your organization, all while showing employees that you respect their skills and abilities.

9. Peer recognition

Encourage your employees to celebrate each others' achievements. You can create a platform where team members can nominate their peers for special awards or set up a "wins" channel to acknowledge their colleagues for their excellent work or thank them for their contributions to specific projects. By making recognition a part of your company culture, you can motivate your employees, boost their morale, and enhance their overall job satisfaction.

10. Say thanks more often

There are many ways to show appreciation, but don’t forget the simplest. Expressing gratitude through a simple daily "thank you" is one of the most powerful and effective ways to appreciate employees.

Tips for implementing employee recognition programs

Aim for transparency, consistency, and fairness in your employee recognition efforts. Here are four criteria to strive for as you develop a program: 

1. Consistent

One of the most effective ways to motivate and engage employees is to express appreciation regularly. Recognition should be consistent and timely for the best results, ideally right after the accomplishment. Ensuring all employees receive recognition when they achieve the same goals is also essential.

2. Specific

As you celebrate your employees, be specific about why you're honoring them. Detail their achievements and let everyone know why they are receiving recognition. Doing so highlights behaviors that you would like other employees to emulate and offers transparency (as opposed to favoritism).

3. Visible

While some employees might feel uncomfortable being the center of attention, your employee recognition program should generally be visible to everyone in the company. Sending thanks over a virtual teams channel rather than a social media blast is an excellent way to honor low-key employees who might appreciate the recognition but want to avoid the spotlight.

4. Personal

Knowing how your employees prefer to be honored is crucial. Ask about their preferences and make notes to help customize how you recognize them. Getting to know your employees better will give you insight into how to craft a robust recognition program and uncover what motivates and inspires your team members.

Companies with excellent employee recognition programs

As you design your employee recognition program, you can look to companies that have established compelling ways to honor their employees.

Here are a few examples:

  • Gorilla Glue: With a commendable People Committee in place to ensure employees feel appreciated and valued, this company encourages team members to think creatively. Moreover, they acknowledge and understand the importance of employee loyalty and endeavor to foster a strong sense of camaraderie among their workforce. You won’t find many other companies that throw an appreciation parade for their workforce.

  • Patagonia: The company's commitment to employee well-being is evident in its generous policy of granting paid time off for personal pursuits. This approach has proven highly effective, with an impressive 91% of Patagonia's workforce expressing satisfaction with their work.

  • Disney World. Disney World is known for its dedication to its employees. They take employee retention to remarkable heights, with some of their original staffers in the 50-year club (!)

6 most memorable forms of employee recognition 

When Gallup recently asked workers which types of recognition they found most memorable, respondents highlighted these six forms of recognition (in this order):

  1. Public recognition and awards: Public acknowledgment through awards, certificates, or recommendations.

  2. Private recognition: Recognition from a boss, peer, or customer in a private setting.

  3. Achievement through evaluations: Obtaining a high level of achievement through evaluations or reviews.

  4. Professional advancement: Promotion or increased scope of work, demonstrating trust and responsibility.

  5. Monetary rewards: Receiving a financial award, including trips, prizes, or raises.

  6. Personal satisfaction: Finding personal satisfaction and pride in the quality of work.


Recognizing employees for their hard work and achievements is an excellent way to create a positive and productive work environment. Employee recognition programs can take many forms, such as service and achievement awards, acknowledging innovation, supporting social impact and diversity, and customer service awards. Recognition programs require consistency, specificity, visibility, and personalization to reach maximum effectiveness. It's important to seek feedback from all stakeholders, especially employees when designing recognition programs. Understanding what motivates employees can build a more supportive workplace for everyone.


How do you promote employee recognition programs?

You can promote employee recognition programs internally and externally. Internally, you can promote the program via company emails, newsletters, in-person meetings, and town halls. Externally, you can discuss how you honor and celebrate employees in job postings and social media to illustrate your company's positive employee experience.  Additionally, your leaders must understand how to recognize and be held accountable for identifying employees and know the resources available to them. 

What is a people recognition platform?

An employee recognition platform is a software tool for acknowledging and rewarding employees' contributions. It allows managers and peers to give recognition through written praise, digital badges, or other types of acknowledgment. These platforms often include features for peer-to-peer recognition, rewards, performance tracking, and integration with HR systems. You can enhance employee morale, engagement, and retention by facilitating a culture of appreciation and teamwork. A few examples include Workvivo, Bonusly, Nectar, and Motivosity

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