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Employee Recognition

22 Amazing Employee Recognition and Reward Programs to Implement

employee recognition and reward programs

Employee recognition is the driving force behind productivity, engagement, retention, and satisfaction. While many employers agree that recognition is important, only a few implement successful employee recognition and reward programs.

By focusing on streamlining these efforts, it’s possible to hold on to the top talent amidst the Great Resignation and improve your business’s bottom line.

Employee recognition and reward programs don’t have to be complex. A smart approach to the structure can help you achieve excellent results without making a hole in the company’s budget.

Employee Recognition Program vs Employee Rewards

While some HR specialists use recognition and rewards interchangeably, they aren’t the same concept. Both of them are important for improving productivity and retention. Using them in tandem can help you achieve better results.

We explain the differences below.

Employee Recognition

Recognition involves letting employees know your appreciation for their work. Unlike rewards, they aren’t something tangible. Usually, they involve verbal praise, appreciation, and gratitude.

While it can come in many forms, recognition shows that the company cares for its employees’ accomplishments and achievements.

With the right approach to recognition, it can become more valuable to your employees than tangible rewards or awards.

Employee Rewards

Rewards are physical elements of recognition that employees can count on when achieving certain goals. Common examples of rewards are money, gift certificates, and tickets. Rewards are less spontaneous than recognition, which can happen at any time.

While rewards demonstrate recognition, they aren’t sufficient to achieve the key goals of your recognition program. They encourage employees to work better and harder. However, they may not make them feel properly appreciated.

That’s why employee recognition and reward programs is imperative to improve productivity and satisfaction.

Successful employee recognition and reward programs programs include an intricate combination of rewards and recognition tactics.

Ways to Offer Employee Recognition   

The key to employee recognition and reward programs is encouragement. Management should understand the importance of recognition and implement it whenever applicable.

However, praising employees too often can be counterproductive. According to a survey conducted by Gallup, weekly praise is sufficient to achieve good results. Recognize employees in a genuine way.

In large companies, praising and thanking employees once a week isn’t always easy. Managers can have a hard time remembering when to do it. Or they could be too busy to find time for praise.

That’s why it’s crucial to have a structure that allows your management enough time for appreciation. Or you could consider opting for an employee retention software solution that makes giving praise much easier while keeping track of all recognition tactics.

Below are different ways to ensure your employees are recognized for their efforts. 

1. Recognition of Achievements

When employees demonstrate excellence, it’s imperative to acknowledge it. This motivates the employee to work harder and achieve better results. Besides making an employee feel appreciated, public recognition encourages other workers to strive for excellence.

Examples of when achievement-related praise is warranted include:

  • Completes a project ahead of time
  • Makes a record number of sales
  • Comes up with an effective idea

This type of recognition can be both verbal and written. You can praise a worker at a meeting, write them an email, mention their accomplishments in a newsletter, and so forth. 

It’s imperative to give praise timely. If you delay recognition for more than a week, its efficiency decreases considerably.

2. Acknowledgement of Hidden Efforts

Not all employee accomplishments are easy to see. When someone completes a big project, this is hard to miss. However, if an employee buys plane tickets for their CEO at the last minute to ensure they arrive at an important meeting on time, this achievement can be hard to catch.

Meanwhile, “under-the-radar” work is just as important to your company’s success as big achievements. You could face unsatisfied employees if you don’t notice and praise little things that make the company run smoothly.

It’s important for managers to note the “invisible” work as much as they notice something more obvious. Praise for such employees must be as regular as for the rest of your team.

3. Recognition of Teamwork

Smooth teamwork is the backbone of your company’s success. Encouraging teamwork is a big part of healthy company culture. 

Around 75% of employees say that teamwork and collaboration are vital. Meanwhile, 86% blame the lack of collaboration for project failure.

If someone goes out of their way to help a colleague, it’s a reason to praise their effort. Such recognition can come from peers and managers. While it may not always be easy for managers to notice hidden teamwork efforts, team members always do.

That’s why it’s essential to encourage peer-to-peer recognition. You can keep track of peer-to-peer acknowledgment if you work with a reliable recognition platform. By analyzing this data, you can schedule recognition from the management.

4. Public Recognition (In-Person)

Public recognition involves praising or thanking an employee publicly. This can be done in many ways, one of which is in person. In-person recognition involves publicly facing your team in a meeting or at a company event and praising a specific employee.

While highly effective, such public recognition may not be suitable for everyone. Some employees may not feel comfortable receiving such praise in person. It’s up to the management to learn employee preferences and make sure they don’t make matters worse by praising them in front of their colleagues.

For most people, in-person recognition is an effective way to receive appreciation. Meanwhile, it encourages everyone at the event to work harder to receive similar praise.

5. Public Recognition (Online)

The COVID-19 pandemic gave an extra boost to virtual recognition tactics. The trend is here to stay. You don’t need to arrange a gathering of the entire team to give proper recognition. 

You can:

  • Send a company-wide newsletter or email
  • Say “thank you” on a Slack channel
  • Use a recognition platform to make your praise public

Virtual public recognition is just as effective as in-person recognition. For some people, it could be a much better way to receive praise, especially if they don’t feel comfortable being the center of attention at large company events.

6. Social Media Recognition

More than 70% of your employees use social media. If you have corporate social media channels, your team is likely to join them. Showing your appreciation on social media is a great form of public recognition that yields excellent results for the entire company.

You can congratulate an employee on their birthday, highlight service anniversaries, and recognize a notable achievement. A post can include a photo of the employee and a little information about them.

Besides being an effective recognition tactic, such posts work toward positioning your company as an employer of choice. They are a direct demonstration of your ability to recognize the workforce. Meanwhile, such posts are highly shareable and bring other candidates to your social pages.

7. Asking for Feedback

Feedback plays a major role in improving your employee recognition and reward programs. Besides receiving valuable information about what your employees think, you show them that you care about their opinions.

You can ask a series of questions every quarter and make the survey anonymous. This allows employees to vent, share their thoughts, and feel heard. Once you receive employee feedback, it’s necessary to act on it.

If you don’t make any changes based on the feedback, employees may not feel heard or appreciated. They may not agree to participate in surveys in the future.

8. Personalized Recognition

Personalization isn’t just the key to success in sales and marketing. It works great for retention as well. If you try to learn your employees’ personal information (birth date, interests, hobbies, children’s birthday), you can use it to show appreciation.

Congratulating an employee with a kid’s birthday and maybe giving them a day off to celebrate goes a long way toward keeping top talent in the team. If workers feel personally recognized, they are likely to start feeling attached to the company.

This powers loyalty and drives productivity.

9. Choices

Appreciation with actions speaks louder than words. You can show recognition and trust by giving employees opportunities to make choices. For example, an employee who accomplishes certain results on one project could get a chance to choose the next project they work on.

You could implement the ability to make choices into the company culture. Employees who show certain results could have wider choice options.

While giving all employees a voice regardless of their accomplishments is vital, they should be able to make work-related choices as recognition.

10. Pride in Your Employees

When employees see that you are proud to work with them, they feel appreciated. The easy way to show this type of recognition is to add their profiles to the company website. One picture and a few lines of information can tell employees how much you care for them.

If your company is too large to put all employees on the website, you can have a rotational scheme that posts several profiles simultaneously. These profiles can list their achievements and accomplishments as well.

11. Private Recognition

Recognizing employee achievements privately is an essential part of showing your appreciation. For some employees, private recognition from management is much more important than public praise.

This type of recognition comes in many forms. The easiest yet highly effective one is a thank you. You can show appreciation in person or send a note through a recognition tool.

Personally-addressed praise works great, especially if it’s not just a faceless “great job” remark but a short appreciation speech or a personalized letter.

Ways to Offer Employee Rewards

Some employers mistakenly believe that giving monetary rewards to employees can drive productivity better than any other type of recognition. In reality, employees are more likely to be incentivized by non-cash rewards.

A study published in the Human Performance Journal demonstrated that people are willing to work better if the incentive is non-cash rewards.

While money can be a good way to reward employees every now and then, other corporate rewards are even more effective.

12. Spontaneous Rewards

While rewarding specific achievements is essential, you can show appreciation for the entire team with spontaneous treats. A pizza lunch or morning coffee for everyone can become the driving force behind a productive day.

A survey showed that more than 40% of employees want spontaneous rewards. These rewards make them feel more appreciated and incentivized.

Depending on the budget of your recognition program, you can implement several types of random rewards, including events, tickets, lunches, and more.

13. Experiential Rewards

Experiences are something people tend to remember much longer than tangible rewards, such as gift cards or a free lunch. If you have an opportunity to learn about your employees and their dreams or hobbies, you can offer effective experiential rewards.

If one of your team members loves bungee jumping or dreams of going to a Broadway musical, you can reward them with tickets. This experience will likely stay in their minds for a long time, working as a driving force behind productivity.

Today, over 75% of millennials prefer spending money on experiences rather than something materialistic. Such an experience is an excellent way to show appreciation for your team using employee recognition and reward programs.

14. Gift Cards

Gift cards are an effective reward. This type of reward is different from cash since it allows employees to spend money on themselves other than putting it into a bank account. You can buy a relevant gift card if you know the person’s hobbies and preferences.

With such tangible rewards as gift cards, it’s crucial to have transparent employee recognition and reward programs. Employees should know exactly what they can be awarded for.

15. Time Off

One of the best rewards for employees is extra time off. You give them time to spend on their needs without feeling guilty for missing work. Ideally, the employee should be able to choose when to take the extra day off.

16. Wall of Fame

While virtual recognition works great, on-site appreciation still has its benefits. Walls of fame improve employee morale, honor top employees, and remind others about the advantages of working harder.

If you have a large company, you could make walls of fame for each department or rotate people daily or weekly.

17. Training Opportunities

Educating your employees isn’t just a way to show appreciation. It’s an opportunity to improve their skills and drive motivation. You can sponsor online courses, send employees to conferences, or cover tuition (at least partially).

Many employees aren’t ready to dedicate time and money to education because they are busy with everyday work and routine. However, they can see it as a major reward if you give them training opportunities.

18. Company Retreat

Retreats are an effective team-building tactic. Meanwhile, they show your appreciation for employee efforts. Depending on your budget, you can plan different types of retreats, from a day on a lake to a trip to a resort.

During the retreat, you can plan various activities that help employees get to know each other. At the same time, you can learn valuable information to help you plan other recognition tactics.  

19. Free Commute

As employees return to the office after COVID-19 restrictions, they rediscover commuting hardships. You can show your appreciation by covering their commute expenses or making commute arrangements.

You can also reimburse bus tickets, hand out free parking passes, or cover gas costs.  

20. Flexible Work Hours

Flexibility is an important factor that helps employees get more work done. Today, 95% of knowledge workers prefer flexible working hours over hybrid work.

If you don’t have an opportunity to arrange such work for all employees at all times, you can use flexible hours as a reward.

You could offer flexible hours for a week or a quarter, depending on your recognition system. However, it would help if you made sure that all employees get the opportunity to receive the “flexible hours” reward. Consistency is key to motivation and incentivization.

21. Swag

Company swag (apparel, iPhone covers, pens, notepads, etc.) makes an excellent reward. It also turns your employees into brand ambassadors. When you are designing swag, make sure it has proper quality.

If you try to save on t-shirts and pens, you dramatically reduce the significance of appreciation. In fact, cheap swag can have the opposite effect and make employees feel underappreciated.

22. Surprise Party

If one of your employees demonstrates significant excellence (landing an important client or finishing a big project), you can throw a surprise appreciation party. Besides being a great way to show that employee that you care, you are demonstrating your ability to be thankful to other employees.

A surprise party is a spontaneous recognition tactic. It loses some spontaneity after the first time you do it. However, it incentivizes other employees to work harder to deserve such appreciation.

Benefits of Successful Employee Recognition and Reward Programs

Employee recognition programs are an essential part of successful company operations. People are more dedicated, motivated, and goal-oriented when they feel recognized and appreciated. The main benefits of honing your employee recognition and reward program include the following.

Lower Turnover Rates

Employee retention remains a major concern for all U.S. employers. Nearly half of employees quit their jobs due to feeling underappreciated. 

Top talent is constantly looking for better work opportunities, leaving employers with sizable turnover expenses.

Successful employee recognition and reward programs improve company culture and keeps your existing talent with your company while turning your organization into an employer of choice. Appreciated employees don’t just stay with your company; they can become your brand ambassadors and help with passive recruitment.

Higher Employee Engagement

Low engagement is a significant problem that leads to low productivity and high turnover. Engaged employees don’t just work better; they share their enthusiasm with their colleagues and improve the overall workplace environment.

One of the best ways to improve employee engagement and drive loyalty is showing appreciation. Employees are more likely to continue demonstrating their best efforts when they feel rewarded for their work.

Improves Productivity

Nine out of ten workers say that recognition makes them work harder. When people feel recognized, they are more likely to be engaged in their work. Engaged teams work better to achieve company goals.

Successful recognition and reward programs help employees feel invested in their work and take pride in it. This ensures work quality and further achievements. The race for awards, rewards, and recognition creates a healthy competitive environment, boosting productivity.

Positive Workplace Environment

A positive workplace is an excellent environment for productivity. Appreciated, motivated, and satisfied employees contribute to a positive atmosphere and higher employee engagement. 

Positive feelings are contagious. They help other team members feel enthusiastic about their work.

Working on your company culture is integral to a successful employee recognition program. By encouraging, motivating, and praising your workforce, you are contributing to the company’s bottom line. 

Such an environment attracts top talent more than high salaries and flexible work hours.

Fosters Loyalty

Loyalty is one of the most critical elements that keep employees with the company and drive productivity in the workplace. If your employees are loyal, they are more invested in the company’s operations and work harder to achieve relevant goals with company values in mind.

Proper, consistent, and timely recognition fosters loyalty and helps employees feel that they are an important part of the company.

Design a Successful Employee Recognition and Reward Program Today

Designing a successful employee recognition program doesn’t have to be complicated. You can reap employee recognition platform recognition benefits if you stress consistency, timeliness, and fairness.

Employee recognition software can achieve fairness, consistency, and cost-efficiency. These tools don’t just simplify your recognition tactics. They save time for your HR teams and provide significant amounts of useful information.

Bucketlist’s rewards and recognition tools can help you create a successful program, hold on to top talent, increase employee engagement, and position your company as an employer of choice. Learn more about this tool by scheduling a free demo today.

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