39 Thoughtful Employee Recognition & Appreciation Ideas for 2020 [Updated]


It pays to be really good at employee recognition.

Companies with a solid strategy to recognize team members enjoy stronger engagement, increased employee morale, better customer service, and lower turnover. Acknowledging achievement can have serious ROI – to the tune of 50% higher productivity and as much as 20% increase in business outcomes.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right?

Well, it’s not as easy as it seems. You need to find the right employee recognition program for your company. To do that, it first helps to get a better understanding of employee recognition and how it works.

Before we hop into it… Our favorite employee recognition platforms to check out:

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Kazoo betters both the employee and manager experience by connecting and aligning organizations through employee-driven goals, continuous check-in conversations, peer-to-peer feedback, social recognition and pulse surveys.

Blueboard is an employee recognition and incentives platform powered by hand-curated experiences. We make it easy for companies to give meaningful employee rewards, incentives and gifts—from one-of-a-kind to once-in-a-lifetime experiences. 

Bonusly is a fun, personal recognition and rewards program that enriches your company culture and improves employee engagement.

Free bonus: Download our entire Employee Award Templates Library. Includes award templates for Employee of The Month, Work Anniversary, MVP, Rookie of The Year, Spirit, and Going The Extra Mile. Easily customize each award for your company and recipient!


What is employee recognition?

Employee recognition is all about acknowledging the hard work and accomplishments of the individuals and teams within your organization. It’s really about creating an emotional connection with your employees and your company, all while supporting the work your employees do and staying authentic to your company’s values.

It’s as much art as science, and the best recognition tactics do something no tchotchke or gift card ever can – they make employees feel valued, respected, and even loved.

The creative employee recognition examples and employee appreciation ideas below come from real companies that know a thing or two about making their employees feel cherished.

39 Employee Recognition & Appreciation Ideas:


1. Use a public recognition feed (with points!)

Claiming the #1 spot on this list is Kazoo with their Recognition & Rewards platform! Kazoo’s social-media inspired recognition feed puts appreciation front and center, with employees recognizing one another for the whole company to see and engage with in real time.

On top of the joy of being appreciated, employees also earn points for each piece of recognition they receive. Team members can cash in their points for fun and meaningful rewards and experiences — like donating money to their favorite charity, gift cards, or buying more points to send to their peers (one of the most redeemed rewards at Kazoo!).

“Public recognition feels incredible — and it lets employees know they’re contributing to the bigger picture at their company — especially since Kazoo allows employees to tie a core value to their posts.

With the platform, employees feel connected to their team and the business, and no achievement goes unnoticed — big, small, and everything in between.”


2. Deliver personalized, unforgettable recognition rewards that are relevant to employees right now

To be most impactful, recognition efforts should be personalized to the employee’s individual needs—but let’s be honest, it can become challenging to deliver meaningful recognition and rewards programs at scale, so we end up with the status quo that doesn’t deliver the impact we want.

Unlike status quo corporate gifts for employees like cash or gift cards, experiential rewards, incentives and gifts are proven to drive long term engagement. That’s because experiences like life coaching sessions, learning to play guitar, or a family photo shoot, are personal, memorable, and shareable. No matter the person, you can give them an experience they personally want right now and will remember forever.

Blueboard makes it easy to reward your best employees with meaningful experiences that drive engagement. Their recognition platform scales to enable any size company—from 100 to 100,000—to send rewards in seconds to employees across the globe. You can easily manage recognition programs and budgets, and—unlike with cash or gift cards—you get full visibility into the reward lifecycle, from appreciation, to activity, to afterglow.

And the best part?

Employees don’t have to lift a finger. They simply choose their desired experience and Blueboard’s celebrated Concierge team takes care of all the logistics.

Blueboard Admin Feedback


3. Empower your team through peer recognition and rewards!

Did you know that peer recognition is more likely to have a positive impact on financial results than manager-only recognition? Build a scalable, accessible culture of recognition by empowering everyone to recognize their peers, direct reports, and managers.

Bonusly is a recognition and rewards platform that allows employees to send small, public bonuses to each other to recognize everyday wins and successes. It meets teams where they’re at through integrations with Slack, Microsoft Teams, and other tools, and users can easily redeem bonus points for a wide variety of gift cards, donations, and other prizes!

Here’s how Andrew Schrader, HR Manager at Chobani, describes his company’s experience with Bonusly:

andrew-chobani-transparent-bg “It doesn’t matter how many coworkers people have, they just want to be told they’re doing a good job.

Instead of being driven from the top down, our success with Bonusly grew organically. Our employees wanted frequent recognition, and the program empowers them to recognize each other. Having the ability to recognize someone immediately is the most valuable part of Bonusly.”

Bonusly PlatformA public peer recognition and rewards platform like Bonusly enriches company culture, improves engagement, and reduces turnover! Bonusly also offers automated welcome, anniversary, and birthday bonuses.

4. Scale staff recognition with a “Recognition Toolkit”

Globally, people see Yankee Candle as the makers of the “World’s Best Loved Candles.” Internally, the company sees themselves as the keepers of the “World’s Best Loved Employees.” When the company expanded globally, its employee recognition plan lost intimacy as many people received major milestone gifts in the mail, without a human touch.

The solution?

*Assembly offers a free employee recognition software solution. Check them out here.


Equipping all managers with a “Best Loved Employees” toolkit for handing out staff appreciation awards. The toolkit provided uniformity and scale for efficiency, and the human connection needed to make awards significant for employees.


5. Test recognition ideas by surveying your employees

The company behind the real-world treasure hunt app, Geocaching knows how to treat it’s employees like treasures too. HR Manager, Laura Hughes explains her appreciation ideas for employees:

laura-hughes“Find out what forms of recognition resonate most with staff members. Often times, we equate a streamlined process with effectiveness– with recognition, this couldn’t be further from the truth. If we’re taking only one approach to recognition and thereby missing the mark in how we recognize others, it can be equivalent to not recognizing them at all. Encourage managers to ask employees how they most like to be recognized— you might be surprised at the answers that surface!”


6. Create a “Go The Extra Mile” Program

creative Employee recognition ideas: go the extra mile program

The transport staff at the Staten Island University Hospital Radiology Lab has the tough and tiring job of wheeling patients around for testing. When they were falling short of their goal number of moves per hour, the recognition experts at Michael C. Fina came up with an employee appreciation idea that got the hospital results: the Go the Extra Mile or GEM program.

When an employee witnessed another going the extra mile, they would nominate them for a GEM certificate. The program was simple, but gave the staffers recognition they could hold in their hands, which went far towards making them feel truly appreciated.


7. Shout out on social media

recognizing employees on social media

The St. Louis Children’s hospital leveraged social media to extend employee recognition reach during their staff recognition gala. Employees nominated for awards of honor were profiled on Facebook and they even made the effort to Skype employees into the gala for special recognition if they couldn’t make it. Dedicated employees working late shifts were still justly recognized. Supplement any employee recognition idea with social media.

You can also recognize employees by using them in your profile pictures across networks. A picture of your best employees in a Facebook cover photo, for example, is a great shoutout to those who go the extra mile.


8. Gamify…in real life

This idea actually comes from our very own SnackNation Member Success Team (MST). MST leaders Chelsie Lee and Clay Telfer designed a recognition program in which team members earn badges for hitting milestones related to their most important metrics.

Think of it like a video game achievements program come to life – complete with custom-made badges for unlocking milestones and participating in team campaigns.


MST employees are awarded in elaborate fashion during the team’s weekly department meetings.

The coolest part is that some of the achievements are kept secret until you unlock them, making the experience full of delight-inducing Easter eggs.

For more on this program, check out this podcast we produced and this incredible step-by-step breakdown from Chelsie.


9. Recognize your team by recognizing their passions

Omelet’s employee recognition idea involves recognizing something at the core of every employee: passions. The ad agency has a program they call 60/60, which grants employees two hours every week to work on a project they’re passionate about – and it doesn’t even have to relate to a client!

Through the program, employees have been able to work on anything from sports sites to food blogs. When you value an employee’s passions, they know you value them as a unique individual.


10. Be true to your culture

MINDBODY offers online business management software.  Their goal is to “leverage technology to improve the wellness of the world.” This goal informs how they treat clients and their staff appreciation ideas. Jeff Harper, Senior Vice President of People and Culture at MINDBODY, says:

Jeff-Harper“Employee recognition can have an amazing impact on culture of a company and employee behavior when done well.  With all the various ways to approach employee recognition, one of the most important things to remember in developing a recognition program is: be true to who you are. At MINDBODY our culture is core to everything we do, so we build our employee recognition programs to align with our company values. This approach helps connect employees’ behaviors to what we believe, while strengthening our brand.

For example, we are a purpose-driven organization focused on improving the wellness of the world.  It’s an integral part of our own Core Values and Culture, and one that we offer to other companies through our Connect Workplace Program. This program provides employers with the opportunity to reward their employees and keep them engaged by promoting healthy behavior via the services of the nation’s largest network of wellness practitioners!”

Recognize employees in a way that aligns with your values
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11. Use your website well

Your company homepage counts as prime real-estate. Why not dedicate a portion of it to your hard-working employees? Denver based communications firm, Ground Floor Media, carves out a generous section of their valuable homepage space for employee stories.

employee recognition on website

In addition to strictly business biographies, Ground Floor also includes the “Real Story,” so people can be recognized for their lives and passions as well as their amazing work for the company.


12. Host a Friday “Crush-It” Call

The “Crush-It” Call is SnackNation’s time-honored tradition. Each Friday afternoon, the entire SnackNation team huddles together and we go around the room stating 2 things:

      1. “Crush” someone on the team whose work they want to recognize and why
      2. Something you are grateful for

It’s a great chance for people to not only recognize each other and take advantage of positive thinking, but also bring that person’s hard work to the attention of the entire team. As our team has grown, this gives everyone a chance to see the awesome work of the people who they don’t work with very often.

Check it this video of one of our recent Crush It Calls:



13. Gift custom action figures

employee action figure

RoundPegg is in the business of culture and engagement. They know how to keep creative employee recognition ideas from getting stale within their own walls. They offer every new hire their very own action figure.


14. Make employee recognition part of your lingo

Sometimes, Content Manager Chloe Deiulis says, a simple “thank you” is all it takes. Reward Gateway, an employee engagement platform, delivers digital thank yous through its peer-to-peer recognition program, where tailored eCards help bring company values front and center. She says,

Chloe-Deiulis“I openly try and recognize my colleagues across the globe through a variety of channels, in private and out in the open, too. One of my favorite ways to do this is through peer-to-peer recognition eCards.

They’re non-monetary, simple to send and are a great way to say thank you. There is an infinite number of eCards that employees can send for new employee motivation ideas. Plus, since they’re social the whole company can view and add reactions.”


15. Celebrate more!

Alexander Kjerulf, also known as the Chief Happiness Officer, provided his take on employee appreciation:

alexander-kjerulf“Companies need to focus less on rewarding performance (which has actually been shown to reduce intrinsic motivation) and start celebrating performance. This can be done in many ways, but the point is to highlight and appreciate employees and teams who have made a spectacular effort, have achieved great results or helped others achieve them. Celebrating success is fun and energizing and shows employees that their efforts are being seen by leaders and by their peers.”


 16. You are MORE than just a gift card…

MeetSnappy for employee recognition

Snappy Gifts is disrupting employee recognition by creating a gifting platform where employees can choose what they actually want from a curated collection of options that are highly personalized.

What kind of gifts?

How about local experiences like cycling and cooking classes to international getaways, as well as today’s top trending products like Google Home Mini and Fire Tablets. That’s way better than getting a gift card for $50 that says, “thanks for everything…you’re worth $50 to the company.” Your employees will feel the rush of excitement when they receive their first digital scratch off card and you (as the manager) will create a lasting impact that is guaranteed to leave them feeling appreciated and loved.

Jenni“Snappy’s secret to building a culture of positivity is to keep our team happy.

When employees love what they do, customers can tell. Investing in your team lets them know you appreciate them, and recognition goes a long way!”


Take a peek at the Snappy team working hard and having fun at SHRM 2019:


17. Commission Custom Oil Paintings 

Mobile gaming hit factory Scopely knows how to recognize employees in style.

First, their “Beast of the Week” campaign recognizes major contributions from team members with a trophy, social media shout out, and a coveted preferred parking spot.

But it’s their work anniversaries that really take the cake. The company celebrates them in epic fashion with custom made samurai swords and one-of-a-kind oil employee oil paintings. These are some of the most unique gifts for employee recognition we’ve ever come across.

scopely employee oil painting

Not only are these celebrations consistent with Scopely’s cheeky culture, but they’re also a smart retention strategy.

A study of more than a million respondents found that employees are most likely to switch jobs at the one year mark. In fact, there’s a spike in voluntary turnover at each successive anniversary.

Celebrating anniversaries helps remind employees that they are cared for and appreciated – which will help keep them around if they’re on the fence about staying put.


18. Or, for a more budget-friendly option…

employee recognition caricature

Two Rivers Marketing  has an equally unique, but much more cost effective  idea:

They give their employees a personal caricatures when they’ve been at the company for a year. They’ll laugh at it, remember it, and most importantly, keep it forever as a token of appreciation.


19. Try random acts of fun 

You probably imagine working for a brewery is fun. In the case of Deschutes Brewery, you’re absolutely right. Pat Gerhart, HR Director for the brewery, favors amazingly fun activities that celebrate every single person at the company.

“At Deschutes Brewery, our employee recognition program is not specifically designed to highlight one individual or small group, but to create support for our work environment as a whole, for everyone. For example, we often do what could be called ‘random acts of fun’.

Is there snow?  Let’s do a snow shoe hike with a keg of beer and burritos at the shelter bon fire.  It’s a nice summer evening?  Let’s sponsor co-owners for a local run/walk and have fun together with a beer and sharing stories after the event.  Are a bunch of crazed cyclists in town?  Let’s send out our cyclocross team to join the fun & competition and have the biggest party Bend sees each year to celebrate!

We like to live our core values—and this would reflect ‘Celebrate the culture of craft beer’.”


20. Forget performance, recognize holistic achievements

strong employee recognition ideas

Some companies recognize their employees for reaching company goals. Others recognize them for reaching personal goals. Ergodyne, a protective workwear manufacturer, incentivizes employees by recognizing them when they reach their own fitness or nutrition goals. This reminds workers that the company is invested in them as people, and not just as contributors to a bottom line.


21. Create a Giant Wall Clock for Your Employee of the Month Award

This idea comes from SnackNation’s own sales- (and real life) rockstar Joey Joyce.

The “Value Victor” is our long-standing and cherished employee of the month award. Each month, the company recognizes employees who embody one or more of the company’s core values. Value Victors enjoy preferred parking, a trophy, a giant bag of healthy snacks (naturally), and the admiration of their peers.

But Joey thought we could ramp up the program’s public recognition factor. Since there are 12 Value Victors every year, and 12 hours in a day, why not create a giant Value Victor clock display? Working together with VP of Customer Success Chelsie Lee, Joey hired designers to create a cartoon-like caricature for every Value Victor. These were then placed around a giant wall clock display. For every new Value Victor, a new portrait is commissioned and places on the clock.


Today, this clock is prominently on display for employees and visitors alike in our foyer, and the glory of the Value Victor employee award now lasts for an entire year.


22. Recognize their other talents

unique talents of employees

You probably imagine that your team has talents beyond what they bring to the workplace. OpenDNS provides internet security solutions, but they recognize their employees by showcasing their inner creativity through an employee recognition program called theOpenDNS Art Experience.”

Through the program, the company shows their employees they value their talents in music, art, and dance in addition to their company contributions.


23. Get together and cheer each other on

Ashley Pelliccione, Director of People at Namely, an HR software company, believes in the goodwill that comes from group recognition. She says,

Ashley-Pelliccione“I’d say shout-outs at the all-company meeting. High performers don’t only work for recognition, of course. But to have your name mentioned in front of the whole company—followed by cheers from the crowd—that’s a reward bigger than a gift card, bigger than a thank-you lunch. It’s true appreciation, and that’s powerful.

We have monthly all-hands meetings at Namely. We bring everyone together at a fun spot, like a rooftop restaurant or fun theater space, and present on the big projects everyone is working on. Employee recognition plays a big part.”


24. Recognize the value of helping others

Limeade’s office award idea advises recognizing employees who help others. Their “Make Others Great” monthly award recognizes an employee who exemplifies the kind of collaboration and teamwork it takes to help make others great.

limeade make others great monthly award

The chosen employee gets recognized through a Q&A post on the blog and gets the honor of keeping the coveted, lime-colored shoe for a month.


25. A little gaming goes a long way

employee recognition games

Games. We’ve all played them, well all love them…even if we try to hide it. Games suck us in through immediate rewards. We kill a bad guy and walk off toting a sack full of magic coins. What if workplace rewards and recognition could be just as immediate and visible? Thanks to new tools, it can be.

New gamification tools aim to make workplaces more game-like, offering points and badges for doing good work. Target uses gamification to recognize its cashiers. After they’ve helped a customer, they get a score that instantly recognizes their performance, no management necessary.

Use gamification to recognize your team
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26. Know your staff

Intrepid Travel offers unique adventure travel itineraries to their customers. They prefer taking a unique approach to employee recognition as well. Their Marketing Director for North America, Leigh Barnes told us:

Leigh-Barnes“Make recognition fun and personable. Go out of your way to find out what their interests are and recognize with a personalized message.

A note, a craft beer….know your staff personally and you will know the little things that truly will motivate them.”


27. Use an old school “suggestion box”

Drip Club keeps it old school.

In an interview with the Awesome Office show, CEO Mike Zhang described why his team prefers the suggestion box for their staff recognition.

“We have an old-school ‘comments box’ where you can drop a card if you happen to see a colleague, co-worker, a manager – whoever – embodying or living the values. At the next all-hands meeting, we recognize all the folks that got these post cards with a gift card or other token of appreciation.”

We like this method of acknowledging achievement not only because it’s simple, but because the anonymity lends itself to authenticity – you know that the recognizer doesn’t want anything out of the act of recognition. The suggestion box can also be an excellent  way to showcase employee appreciation by allowing everyone to offer up fun team activities and workplace ideas to improve the office.


28. Don’t wait to show employee appreciation

TINYpulse has tons of ideas for showing employee appreciation, including a “thank you” t-shirt signed by co-workers. When we asked them for their employee appreciation idea, they advised being timely and specific. Laura Troyani, Director of Marketing at Tinypulse says:

Leigh-Barnes“I was floored by the findings in our recent Employee Appreciation & Recognition Report that showed how feeling valued in the workplace actually significantly impacts employee retention.  

For managers that really care about recognition, and they really should, I always recommend being timely and being specific. When you see something great happening, show your appreciation immediately, and say why you think it was a great job. It makes sure you don’t forget to do it later and it helps to reinforce the types of behaviors you want to keep seeing.”


29. Design perks around your company story

New Belgium Brewing started after the founder’s 1989 bike trip through Belgium. His journey through the beer- loving European villages inspired him so much, he decided to make sure New Belgium Brewing employees could share the experience with him.

When brewery employees make it to year five, they get a paid trip to Belgium. The brewery gets to recognize employees with a fabulous trip while letting them soak up even more of the company culture.


30. Dole employee recognition out daily

Daily employee recognition ideas

A consulting firm called The Frontier Project offers amazing fitness perks to its employees. More importantly, the leadership is passionate about good employee recognition. Lead facilitator Stevie Toepke says:

Stevie-Toepke“Face it: we all spend way too much time at work to feel like the work we do doesn’t matter. Good managers make their employees feel appreciated. Great managers make their employees feel valued.

Yes, there is a difference. That difference boils down to recognition – not just if you give it, but how you give it.  Employee appreciation programs have been around for a while and often take the form of praising or spotlighting an employee for tenure or general awesomeness (think: Employee of the Month).

The best leaders don’t make their employees wait until the end of the month (or year) to let them know they are doing great work. Instead, they recognize good performance by giving informal and frequent positive feedback about specific behaviors – in conversation, in email, or even in a short, hand-written note.

The best part about this recognition tool? It costs nothing. And, you can dole it out daily – even multiple times a day. Oh, and in addition to helping your employee actually feel valued, they are more likely to understand (and do) more of what will make them and the company successful.”

Employee recognition tip: dole it out daily
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31. Make the impact clear

Co-founder of Engagedly, an employee engagement platform, Srikant Chellappa shared his employee recognition best practices:

Srikant-Chellappa“The one thing employers can do to recognize their employee is to provide social praise and communicate clearly the positive impact the employee had and acknowledge where employee went above and beyond their jobs description. Monetary incentives while good, have a limited impact and mostly short term. Employees need to feel their work is appreciated and that they need feel invested in the overall goal of the organization they are part of.”


32. Set up a peer-to-peer system

Peer to peer recognition ranks as the 3rd most requested form of recognition by employees. Allison Citino, Communications Director at ad agency Team One, points to the power of peers:

“Create a system that encourages peer-to-peer recognition.

We have an internal employee recognition program where you can send your colleagues a thank you note, and then they are also entered to win a gift card. Design the cards in a way where folks are proud to display them!”


33. Support what they want to support

Ad agency Drake Cooper recognizes employees through philanthropic side projects. They have a Dream Big program where they let staff select a nonprofit for the agency to work with for free. Letting staff have the time to work on a passion project and do good is a great way to offer recognition.



34. Go visit

The experts at the staff recognition blog, Baudville put simple visits at the top of their 7 Simple Ways to Engage Your Team in 10 Minutes or Less post. Facetime not only makes employees feel appreciated, it also helps you get to know employees impromptu.

Employee recognition idea: simple visits
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35. Showcase employee success stories

Learning manager at Disney University, Pete Blank, recommends showcasing employee success stories in order to show that there are opportunities for upward mobility within companies. Disney showcases every promotion and employee success story, at every opportunity they get.

Disney’s internal newsletter “Eyes and Ears” features everything from health and wellness tips, employee appreciation awards and milestones, to “Magical Moments” between cast members and guests.


36. Recognize skills (and talents) they value in themselves

When people have natural skills and talents, they sometimes find it hard to see the true value in what they do best. As a result, raw talent can be neglected instead of nurtured, and the talented employee fails to live up to his or her full potential. When this happens at scale – entire companies fall short of their true potential.

That’s why every company should recognize employees not just for achievements that result from hard work and dedication, but also for achievements centered around individual talents.

Give superlative recognition awards with themes aligned with the talents you hope to nurture. These awards can highlight a different person each month. This way, everyone receives recognition, even if they didn’t participate in one of your company’s recent standout projects. For example, you could give awards for:

  • Room-commanding public speaking
  • Human-calculator math skills
  • Einstein ideas
  • Networking


37. Ask for help


When you ask employees for help, you put “your money where your mouth is,” so to speak. Recognizing an employee for a talent in videography is one thing, and asking the same employee for help on a high-profile video project is another. The latter provides recognition and shows employees you value their talents enough to put them to good use; it also demonstrates trust as you give employees leadership positions on high-profile projects.

As it turns out, concrete demonstrations of trust make a powerful form of employee recognition. Reporting on some of his study findings for the Harvard Business Review, Paul J. Zak—director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and author of Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies—says:

“Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout.”


38. Give them nicknames

Nicknames boost camaraderie in the workplace, and they can be a great source of humor. When assigned strategically, nicknames can also be a subtle, long-term way to provide employee recognition.

Instead of calling people by some abridged version of their own last names or finding a standout physical or personality feature to highlight, what if you gave teammates nicknames symbolic of their strengths and talents? Imagine calling your second-in-command “Hemingway” to compliment his concise writing style. Talent- or skill-based nicknames obviously make employees feel recognized and appreciated, but they could also help employees live up to, and even surpass, their reputations. Over time, words—including names—can shape perceptions and behaviors enough to ultimately influence outcomes.


39. Brag about them 


While employees love heartfelt, one-on-one recognition, they also love to be recognized across the entire company. Since most people shy away from the type of bragging that leads to company-wide acclaim, managers can be their employees’ best evangelists. When managers relay their team’s accomplishments to a larger group, it reinforces individual recognition and brings a fresh and exhilarating dose of pride to the memory of an achievement.

Here are some ways you can brag about your team without annoying everyone in your company:

  • Listen carefully during meetings; if someone needs help in an area one of your employees recently mastered, then speak up, explain the recent accomplishment, and offer your employee’s services. Even if the employee in question did not attend the meeting, he or she will be flattered to hear of your endorsement.
  • Submit your team’s achievements for appearances in your newsletter, website, digital bulletin board, social media channels, or any other outlet where your company publishes news. The people who curate content for these communications are always looking for material, and your team will love seeing their names in print. (They might even save a clip for their scrapbooks or portfolios.)
  • Reserve a slot in your next company town hall to give everyone the rundown of notable achievements. (A room full of applause does have a nice way of enhancing recognition.)


Bonus Idea: Be a not-so-secret admirer 


Who doesn’t love receiving a surprise letter or card? Every so often, put your recognition in writing and leave thoughtful notes on employees’ desks in the morning before they come to work. Your notes can praise the employee for being awesome overall or highlight your appreciation for specific work on a recent project. (We even have a bunch of email/letter/card templates you can customize to recognize employees for almost anything!) When you provide recognition in this format, you can plan ahead, writing letters ahead of time and ensuring your employees will get the recognition they deserve, even if the days tend to get away from you before you’ve been able to squeeze in a healthy dose of compliments.


Bonus Idea: Implement an employee recognition software

Many organizations struggle managing their employee recognition programs. That is where employee recognition tools can come in. These software platforms use behavior-driven motivations to improve company culture. They use visible dashboards to highlight those who go above and beyond in their roles and provide recognition and rewards to those who exemplify company culture.

Our favorites:


Bonus Idea: Employee Recognition Pins

Employee recognition pins are a great way to show gratitude & appreciation. You can reward employees for efficiency, for completing special projects, for being a department “MVP”, for going above and beyond at work and much, much more.

As it turns out, there’s a strong correlation between recognition and employee satisfaction.

So what’s the perfect formula for an employee recognition idea? Make it personal, relevant, timely…and most of all, give it some heart. Since you’ve read through all of these ideas, we know you can come up with the perfect idea that fits your company culture.

We hope you found some ideas for employee appreciation! How does your company recognize the team’s hard work and good character? Let us know in the comments below.


Bonus Idea: Give them something from their wish lists


Between sites such as Amazon, Pinterest, and Giftster, almost everyone has an online wish list—one you can probably find if you do just a little searching. Recognize employees for a job well done by giving them something they want from one of these lists.

Consider this tactic merit-based gift-giving. After all, you might do similar research if you were shopping for birthday or holiday gifts. This tactic, instead of recognizing employees with gifts just because of what time of the year it is, recognizes and rewards employees for doing good work.

If you like this idea and want to use it on a large scale, then you can standardize it by selecting a wish-list generating tool. Have all onboarding employees fill out their lists. Knowing they might be rewarded by one of their wish-list items might even motivate some employees to go above and beyond.


Bonus Idea: Design an “indispensable” list

In our modern work culture, many employees get conditioned, and sometimes explicitly told, they’re replaceable. Employees constantly hear things like, “a thousand recent graduates would kill for this job,” or “we could fill that position before the end of the week,” or “we selected you from a long list of qualified candidates.”

In fact, there’s even a sentiment around most offices that employees need to do spectacular things to make themselves indispensable.

While it’s important for employees to know they should always do their best, the fear of being replaceable can be psychologically damaging and demotivating for some. To recognize and award your super-star employees, make them a one-of-a-kind “indispensable list.”

Simply create a template (or have one designed) and fill it in with at least 5 qualities to show the recognized employees how indispensable and irreplaceable they are. Get creative and choose the most unique qualities you can think of—qualities that no one else has. Have the list matted and framed and then present it to the employee.

Here’s an example:

Marta: Certified Indispensable

  • For always remembering the “brilliant idea” everyone else forgot from the last meeting
  • For her “someone-needs-a-hug-or-coffee” 6th sense
  • For her 6 sigma wizardry
  • For her kickass brainstorming leadership skills
  • For the most contagious laugh in the world

Sure, maybe you can technically replace an employee, but this tactic will help you convey that you don’t want to.


Bonus Idea: Take care of them


Dole out employee recognition in the form of enhanced security. Offer financial bonuses that go directly to employees’ retirement, flexible savings, or emergency fund accounts.

This idea may not be as flashy as some other options, but it shows your top-performing employees that you care about their well-being and that you’re willing to invest in them. It demonstrates, in a subtle way, that you see the employer-employee relationship as a long-term mutually beneficial arrangement. It shows that if they stick around and work hard, you’ll take care of them just as they take care of your company’s interests.


Bonus Idea: Grant a wish

Inspired by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, this employee recognition idea will provide some amazing memories and some good stories.

Once a year, select a truly exceptional employee and give them a chance to “make a wish.” You can offer pre-packaged experiences they can choose from or give them the opportunity to make  an open-ended wish and then negotiate the details if necessary. (Sure, your employee absolutely deserves to meet the cast of their favorite TV show, but that wish might be a little bit over the top.)

As an added bonus, you can post about the wish on your company blog or website. By sharing the story with all employees, you can convey what qualities and achievements earned the person a wish. This will keep employees motivated to try to earn their own wish one day.


Q: What is employee recognition? 

A: Employee recognition is based upon the premise that acknowledging positive work behaviors and activities results in better overall employee performance. By recognizing your team members for their successes, this creates benefits that positively impact business results. We’ve interviewed the top companies that emphasize employee appreciation to bring the best ways to create your own recognition program here.

Q: Why is an employee recognition program important? 

A: There are a ton of benefits to developing an employee recognition strategy. Companies attribute improved employee morale, better customer service, lower turnover, and increased productivity. This all points to the fact that employee recognition can drive serious ROI. 

Q: How do you give employee appreciation? 

A: Employee appreciation can be administered in many fun and creative ways. With everything from peer-to-peer recognition platforms, office-wide games, celebration events, and personalized rewards. Check out our list of the top 39 recognition and appreciation ideas to start building a culture of recognition in the office.

Q: Where do these employee recognition examples come from? 

A: These creative employee recognition examples have been collected from real companies that have prioritized making employees feel valued and respected while at work. Our research and interviews with business professionals have been compiled so that you can see just how well these appreciation ideas can work in your office. 

Q: What are some examples of employee recognition awards?

A: We recommend choosing awards that suit both the employee and the culture of your company. Our list of recognition ideas can help you find the right program for your team whether that involves: gamification, office celebrations, social media shout outs, or other creative ideas.

Q: When should I recognize employees? 

A: Many of the recognition experts that we spoke to recommend acknowledging employees in a timely fashion with a personal gift, reward, or shout out. Showcasing success and celebrating your team’s victories daily can create a work environment where people feel appreciated and valued as contributors to the whole. 

Q: How can I appreciate my staff? 

A: Whether you want to go all out or ball on a budget, get things started with the right employee appreciation idea. We have 39 options here to choose from, but don’t forget to be creative! 


Free bonus: Download our entire Employee Award Templates Library. Includes award templates for Employee of The Month, Work Anniversary, MVP, Rookie of The Year, Spirit, and Going The Extra Mile. Easily customize each award for your company and recipient!


Employee Recognition & Appreciation Resources:

Use These Employee Appreciation Speech Examples to Show Your Team You Care

12 Effective Tools & Strategies to Improve Teamwork in the Workplace

Your Employee Referral Program Guide: The Benefits, How-tos, Incentives & Tools

21 Unforgettable Work Anniversary Ideas [UPDATED]

15 Ideas to Revolutionize Your Employee of the Month Program

16 Awesome Employee Perks Your Team Will Love

71 Employee Recognition Quotes Every Manager Should Know

How to Retain Employees: 18 Practical Takeaways from 7 Case Studies

Boost Your Employee Recognition Skills and Words (Templates Included)


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