20 Ideas for Employee Recognition Programs

Thinking about starting an employee recognition program in your company? Or just looking to revamp the one you already have? Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out 20 creative employee recognition ideas your employees will love. 


Why is employee recognition so important?

Employee recognition plays a very important part in today’s fierce competition to attract and retain employees. 

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Companies work hard to find and hire top talent. HR professionals have started to use advanced marketing tactics to attract top talent and persuade to take their job offer. 

Once top talent is hired, their work is far from over. Now they have to work hard at keeping their top performers happy, productive and loyal. 

This is where employee recognition programs come in. Employee recognition programs are crucial for retaining top talent:

  • One of the top reasons why employees leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated, according to Gallup’ research

  • Gallup’s poll also found out that 65% of employees haven’t received any form of recognition for good work in the last year


  • Study by CareerBuilder found that 50% of employees would stay if they were tangibly recognized. 

  • TJinsite’s research revealed that more than 35% of the employees consider lack of recognition as the biggest hindrance to their productivity. 

Thus, if you want to retain your employees, keep them motivated, engaged and productive, you should implement an effective employee recognition program. 

Characteristics of effective employee recognition programs

Before you start implementing an employee recognition program, it is important to understand what makes a certain employee recognition effective and successful.

Gallup's data reveal that the most effective recognition is honest, authentic and individualized to how each employee wants to be recognized.

In a recent Gallup workplace survey, employees were also asked to recall who gave them their most meaningful and memorable recognition. 

The data revealed the most memorable recognition comes most often from an employee's manager (28%), followed by a high-level leader or CEO (24%),

When asked what types of recognition were the most memorable, respondents emphasized four types of recognition:

  1. Public recognition (acknowledgment via an award, certificate or commendation)

  2. Private recognition (from a boss, peer or customer)

  3. Promotion (or increase in the scope of work or responsibility to show trust)

  4. Monetary award (such as a trip, prize or pay increase).


As you can see, money is not the only (or even the top) way to recognize your employees. 

You don’t have to spend any money to recognize your employees and show them that you appreciate their hard work. 

Actually, according to Officevibe’s recent study, 82% of employees think it’s better to give someone praise than a gift.Why-you-need-an-employee-recongition-program

How to choose the best employee recognition ideas for your company?

What type of employee recognition program you will implement in your company will depend on many different factors, such as:

  • Your budget

  • The number of employees you employ

  • Your company values

  • The type of your company culture, etc.

When it comes to employee recognition, there is no “one size fits all” secret method. This why a secret to great employee recognition program is to adjust it in line with your employees' wants and needs.

Survey your employees and ask them what they want and would they like to be recognized. 

Make a list of the employee recognition awards and ask them to vote on their favorites. You can even ask them to submit their own ideas and suggestions! 

That way, you will be sure that you’re rewarding your team with something they really value.

Employee recognition ideas

Here is a list of 20 examples of employee recognition ideas your employees will love:

1. Public recognition ideas

  • Surprise appreciation celebration
    Organize a surprise party for your top performers! Include some cake, confetti and their favorite tunes. 

  • Shout out on social media
    Post a photo of your employees on social media and brag about their achievements. Don’t forget to tag them! 

  • Newsletter
    Feature your employees’ success stories in your company’s newsletter. 

  • Congratulatory email
    Send a company-wide congratulatory email and praise your employees for a job well done.

  • Run a press release
    Share a story of your employees’ success with your local press. When the story was published in the newspaper, get the article framed and give it as a gift to your employees.   

  • Give kudos
    Give kudos to your employees as a token of your appreciation! You can even automate and digitize this system with employee recognition software such as HR Cloud

2. Private recognition ideas

  • Hidden praise
    Hide a few notes of appreciation around your employees’ work area.

  • Handwritten note
    Send your employees a handwritten note, or just leave a sticky note saying “Thank you” on their desk.

  • Thank you meeting
    Call an employee to your office just to say thank you. Don’t discuss any other issue!

  • Send a video
    Create an appreciation video for your employee which includes a thank you message from your CEO. 

  • Home delivery
    Send a box of chocolates and a bouquet of flowers to your employee’s home address.

3. Promotion and similar recognition ideas

  • New job title
    Reward your employee with a new, advanced job title.

  • Ambassador opportunity
    Offer your employees to represent your company at an event they typically would not attend. 

  • Ask for their help or opinion
    Show your employees how much you value their opinion by asking for their input on important company business issues. 

  • Special project
    Give your employees an opportunity to work on special projects beyond their regular responsibilities.

  • Invitation to an executive meeting
    Invite your top performer to join your executive team meeting. 

4. Monetary and other tangible awards

  • A raise
    Show your appreciation by giving your employees a raise.

  • A bonus
    Some of the best employee recognition programs, like Bonusly, allow meaningful praise from peers in the form of small bonuses.

  • Luxury vacation
    Book a luxury vacation for your employees in some exotic destination. 

  • Tickets for an exclusive event
    Reward your employees with courtside seats of a game, VIP access to a concert that is sold out or movie tickets to a premiere.

  • Offer educational opportunities
    Surprise your employees with tickets for a conference, external certification, seminar, training or other educational opportunities. 

Employee recognition programs: A must-have for successful companies

In today’s workplace, employee recognition programs are no longer just nice to have – they’re critical

Employee recognition is the key to employee satisfaction

If you want to keep your employees happy, engaged and productive, you need to let them know that their hard work is recognized and appreciated. 

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