8 Employee Recognition Ideas for a Happier Workplace

There are plenty of ways to show your employees just how important they are to your business: from monetary incentives to non-monetary employee recognition strategies. Find the perfect way to reward your team’s hard work.

5 min read

Employee recognition ideas for a happier workplace

Ensuring your employees know just how valued they are to your organization is key to creating a happy, motivated workforce. A key part of that is employee recognition: a form of positive reinforcement by managers and supervisors. 

Most business leaders and HR professionals are familiar with traditional employee recognition programs such as monetary incentives and quarterly awards, but many other options exist for recognizing a job well done and incorporating new methods will keep your employees excited.  

Developing new employee recognition ideas is essential to keep employees feeling appreciated and valued at their jobs, but sometimes, HR professionals need help knowing where to start. Employee recognition programs can vary dramatically, from creative forms of monetary rewards to employee recognition gift ideas that get everyone excited.

Why is Employee Recognition Important?

A recent study by Gallup and Workhuman found that doubling the number of employees who received recognition for their work each week in a 10,000-person company is associated with a 9% increase in productivity and a 22% decrease in absenteeism. It’s simple - workers who are appreciated and recognized for their hard work are happier, and happier workers are more productive. 

However, every business is unique. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to determine which employee recognition programs will work best for you and your employees. That’s why, below, we’ve pulled together eight popular employee recognition programs, organized into monetary employee recognition ideas and non-monetary options.

Top 8 Employee Recognition Ideas

There are two major categories of employee recognition programs: those that involve paying employees more money, and those that rely on other types of praise and rewards. Let’s review both so you can choose an option that works for our company. 

Monetary Employee Recognition Ideas

1. Gift Cards

Many employee recognition ideas use a points-based reward system. Employees can accumulate points for accomplishments at work and then redeem these points for gift cards to their favorite retailers. 

This is an excellent way to acknowledge employees regularly so they can earn larger rewards over time. It keeps employees motivated when they see how close they are to the next reward, and ensures you’re able to motivate employees to complete small tasks as well as significant projects. 

There are several solutions available for employers seeking to implement this type of reward system, including Tangocard and Guusto. These employee recognition gift ideas are universally popular – allowing employees to essentially select their own reward. 

2. Spot Bonuses

A spot bonus is a monetary reward paid “on the spot” for a specified positive outcome or action and is one of the well-loved employee recognition ideas. For example, if an engineer just deployed a new product that can make a massive difference for the company, the employee might get recognized with a spot bonus. Or perhaps a sales rep closed a huge new deal, and you reward that with a spot bonus. 

One thing that makes spot bonuses unique is that they are unexpected. Employees should only really earn a spot bonus for major achievements where they’ve truly gone above and beyond to deliver for the company.

HR experts suggest that businesses should set aside approximately 1% of their payroll to implement a system for spot bonuses. This allows team leaders, in partnership with the HR department, to give out spot bonuses to select employees as they see fit. Make sure you have guidelines in place that outline how spot budgets are calculated and paid out. 

3. Performance-Based Pay and/or Commission

Many sales jobs use some form of performance-based pay or commission. With these types of employee recognition programs, employees are rewarded for each sale they make. 

While performance-based pay isn’t a structure suitable to every type of role, it does offer employees in certain positions an extremely attractive incentive to deliver results for the company. 

If a commission-based compensation structure doesn’t quite make sense for your company, consider performance-based pay to reward employees for hitting specific targets. This might be an end-of-year bonus for employees who meet their objectives and key results (OKRs), or receive a glowing performance review. 

4. Meal Stipends

Meal allowances are considered fringe benefits in the workplace. When employees put in long hours to finish a project or end up working over the weekend, offering meal stipends is a proven way to show employees you’re grateful for the extra work. 

This recognizes employees who go above and beyond to complete a project by allowing them to order a nice meal while finishing their work. Allot a specific dollar amount per meal. Don’t cheap out: look at the price ranges of local restaurants and make sure your stipend is large enough for employees to purchase a standard meal. 

Businesses should also specify conditions that determine when employees can take advantage of this stipend. For example, if an employee works a 12-hour day to complete an important project, they might get a meal stipend for the day and any overtime pay.

Non-Monetary Employee Recognition Ideas

5. Extra Time Off

Many HR departments’ go-to employee recognition ideas is to award extra paid time off for a job well done. For example, if the marketing team had to put in a lot of extra hours to meet a deadline for a new website, each employee might be awarded an additional day of PTO.

Another option for extra time off is to offer shorter work days on Fridays. Some companies brand this as “Half-day Fridays” or offer “Summer Fridays” during the warmer months. It’s best practice to offer this extra time off around a weekend or holiday so that employees feel like they can extend their vacation time.

6. Company Swag

Offering employees company swag for a job well done is a win-win. Employees get a fun reward they’re proud to wear and your company continues to build its brand awareness. The sky's the limit when it comes to choosing promotional products to order for this type of employee recognition program, with options including clothes, hats, mugs,backpacks, and more.

Companies can recognize employees with swag for work anniversaries, birthdays, or even just for a job well done. Don’t be afraid to think a little outside the box to find creative employee appreciation gifts that you know your employees will love. 

Pro Tip:

Consider setting up a pop-up shop to allow your employees to pick their own company swag.

7. Office Parties 

Everyone is familiar with the office holiday party. But nothing is stopping you from holding a party at any time of year, and celebration is one of the best employee recognition ideas! 

If you want to make sure your office party meets and exceeds expectations, keep these party planning tips in mind:

  • Organize catering
  • Provide unique entertainment
  • Don’t let it run too late
  • Provide small gifts for each employee

8. Peer-to-Peer Recognition

While praise from leadership is always welcome, many employees love to hear that they’ve done an excellent job from the people they work with every day. 

Many employee experience platforms are available to implement a structured peer-to-peer recognition program. Employee recognition programs in this theme could include regular “shoutouts” to helpful team members, or a more formal nomination based on a large project completed.

If you want to move forward with this for your company, find the right employee experience platform to support your needs. For instance, Assembly and Nectar are two leading platforms, each with unique benefits, including nominations and a points-based reward system.

Looking for more non-monetary employee recognition ideas? Read our blog, 11 Non-Monetary Incentives to Motivate Your Employees, to get inspired.

Lean Into Employee Recognition to Boost Morale and Retention Rates 

The employee recognition ideas listed here are a great place to start, but now it’s time to figure out which programs work best for your company. Since the goal is to make employees feel appreciated, don’t be afraid to ask for their feedback and co-create employee recognition programs that everyone will love.

If that involves investing in corporate swag, reach out to the team at GoDelta. Our experts will partner closely with your team to select, design, and deliver high-quality corporate swag that will make your employees feel like the superstars they are. 

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