corporate recognition program
Oct 22'

How to Create a Rewarding Corporate Recognition Program

While the benefits of employee recognition are impossible to ignore, it's not always easy to create an effective corporate recognition program.

It's no longer enough to hang an employee of the month poster or implement a straightforward system of monetary bonuses. Amidst the Great Resignation, companies are turning to a holistic recognition approach with a variety of nuances.

Let's take a closer look at how to design an effective corporate recognition program that drives engagement, productivity, and retention.

The Basics of a Corporate Employee Recognition Program

In the past years, the approach to corporate recognition programs has changed. The key drivers behind the adjustments are:

  • Unstable economy due to COVID-19 and other factors
  • The rising need for flexibility and remote operations
  • The abundance of new technologies
  • The generation change in the workforce (Baby Boomers retiring, Gen-Zr's growing up)

Meanwhile, the basics of employee recognition mostly stay the same. By implementing them, you can take a significant step toward reaping the main benefits of an effective recognition program.

  • Transparency – employees must have a clear understanding of what your expectations are and how to achieve recognition. The recognition program must be 100% clear to avoid misunderstandings and suspicions about preferential treatment.
  • Tools – Successful recognition is no longer a manual process that involves lengthy evaluations and delayed rewards. Recognition software makes it easy to recognize employees properly, efficiently, and on time according to the pre-set criteria.
  • Timing – rewards should be provided on time while the meaning of the achievement is still fresh in the employee's mind. Rewards that celebrate milestones and important life moments lose their significance if not received on time.
  • Consistency – all recognition and reward efforts must be consistent across the company's lifespan regardless of the number of employees, financial success, or the worker's position.  
  • Budget – by setting a budget for your employee recognition program, you are dictating the types of rewards that you can provide. The average budget is 2% of payroll. However, some companies go as high as 10%.
  • Alignment – the success of your program depends on how well it's aligned with the company's mission, values, and goals. Employees need to see a clear and strong connection between rewards and values.

No matter how complex and intricate corporate employee recognition programs become, these pillars don't change.

Choose the Right Recognition Program Software

In the 21st century, employee recognition is rarely a manual process. Regardless of how many employees you have, you can benefit from implementing recognition software. By investing in the right type of software, you can:

  • Ensure instant recognition – no more recognition delays that hurt employee enthusiasm.
  • Simplify the recognition process – take the burden of time-consuming recognition tasks off the HR team's shoulders.
  • Recognize remotely – you or your employees don't need to be in the same building for recognition to happen.
  • Arrange peer-to-peer recognition – busy employees can recognize each other's achievements easily.
  • Generate data – gain access to data that can help you adjust the recognition program to ensure its higher efficiency.
  • Manage the program – having all achievements, rewards, and recognition data in one place makes program management faster and easier. It also prevents errors and contributes to transparency.

While software can improve the quality of your corporate rewards program, it can also cut costs. Holistic employee recognition efforts are time-consuming. By implementing efficient software, you allow the HR team to focus on core tasks that contribute to the company's bottom line.

Bucketlist's Corporate Rewards & Recognition Software has all the key features to help you create, manage, and improve your corporate recognition program. With this software, you can automate performance reviews, keep recognition history, track spending and engagement, and much more.

This software can become the centerpiece of your entire program and help you achieve engagement, retention, and productivity goals.

Recognize Staff Publicly with Employee Recognition Programs

No two employees want to be rewarded the same way. Some may be happy with a private "thank you" email while others need their photo in the company's monthly Facebook post.

Both private and public recognition comes with impressive benefits. However, public recognition tends to be more effective. Even if the employee feels uncomfortable about public praise, they may be happy with remote appreciation. 

Public recognition doesn't just benefit the person who is recognized at the moment. It shows the entire team that achievements are rewarded. Such recognition turns into an extra incentive that drives the increase in productivity.

By implementing comprehensive public recognition tactics, you are contributing to the culture of recognition within your organization. Public rewards keep recognition on top of employees' minds and incentivize them to improve their work.

Public recognition doesn't need to be extensive (or expensive) to generate the desired effect. You can:

  • Send an office-wide email that honors a person's achievements.
  • Hang a photo on the "employee of the month/week/year" board.
  • Say "thank you" during a weekly meeting.
  • Write a social media post to give thanks.

While transparency and timing are important, public recognition doesn't always require planning. Spontaneous public praise can be even more effective than rewards that employees know and expect.  

Ways to Create an Engaging Employee Recognition Program

The Great Resignation coupled with an unstable economy and poor recruitment and retention tactics powers the decrease in engagement. The number of engaged employees dropped from 36% in 2020 to 34% in 2021.

Disengagement reduces productivity, increases turnover, and affects the company's ability to attract top talent. One of the ways to boost engagement is to create an engaging employee recognition program. Here’s how.

Empower Employees to Provide Peer-to-Peer Recognition

While many employees prefer praise from their superiors, peer-to-peer recognition has an impressive effect on productivity. For some employees, recognition from a coworker can be the much-needed factor that pushes them to go the extra mile.

Make peer-to-peer recognition possible by:

  • Simplifying the recognition process by giving employees the right tools (e.g., employee recognition software)
  • Encouraging employees to thank one another (lead by example)
  • Involving employees in designing the peer recognition program

Besides improving productivity, peer-to-peer recognition can also strengthen employee relationships, build trust, and improve the company culture. In turn, stronger teams can contribute to the company's image and help recruit top talent.

Recognize Personal Achievements

Personal accomplishments are just as important for employees as achievements at work. If the employee is working on personal and educational goals, it's important to reward them as well. This type of skill honing and self-development is vital to employees' professional growth.

Examples of personal achievements that deserve recognition are:

  • Victories in sports competition
  • Volunteering
  • Awards
  • High grades in studies

You don't need to set a significant budget to show recognition and appreciation for personal achievements. Simple congratulations or mentioning the employee's accomplishment in weekly internal newsletters can do the trick.

Similar to recognition for professional achievements, recognizing personal fulfillment can encourage other employees to follow suit. If your team is working on personal and educational goals, it's likely to be more productive when achieving professional objectives.

Make personal achievement recognition an official part of the recognition program. Employees need to know that if they share such accomplishments, they will be rewarded.

Set Program Objectives

To measure the success of your corporate rewards and recognition program, you need to set clear objectives. Keeping these goals in mind can help you create a successful program and see whether it's working the way you expect it to.

Common recognition program objectives include:

  • Higher employee productivity
  • Better quality of work
  • Higher employee satisfaction and workplace morale
  • Increased competitiveness
  • Reduced employee stress
  • Increased retention
  • Better recruitment results

Depending on your current business and HR needs, you can prioritize specific goals and structure your program to achieve them. The type of reward will depend on the prioritized objective.

For example, if you want to achieve competitiveness, you could arrange a performance-based contest with highly sought after prizes. If you want to alleviate stress in the workplace, consider leaning more on "thank you's" and encouragements.

It's worth noting that a properly structured corporate recognition program can't achieve the above goals unless you also have a healthy company culture.

Measure Program Results

To make sure your recognition program is moving in the right direction, you need to measure its success. Several ways to measure how well your recognition is working with key goals in mind, include:

Seek Feedback

The easiest way to find out what employees are thinking and feeling is by asking them about it. Arrange surveys (consider anonymous to take the stress and bias out of the process) to find out what employees like and don't like about the recognition program.

Keep in mind that by asking for feedback, you are taking the responsibility to make at least some adjustments according to the information you gather. Otherwise, this can have a negative impact on employee satisfaction.

Measure Satisfaction

If your goal is to increase employee satisfaction and retention, you can arrange a satisfaction survey (also anonymously). It can contain such questions as:

  • How likely are you to look for another place to work?
  • Would you recommend someone to come and work here?
  • How stressed (1 to 10) do you feel every week?
  • Do you feel that your work is valuable?
  • Can you rate (1 to 10) your work-life balance?

If employee satisfaction is increasing, your recognition program is on the right track.

Analyze Retention

By tracking changes in retention rates, you can gain an understanding of whether the program is working. While many factors can affect the retention rate, recognition is a big one. Make sure to ask employees to share their opinion of your program during exit interviews.

Track Metrics

When creating your employee recognition program, you need to focus on a set of metrics that can help with success measurement. These metrics can depend on the program goals. Some may include:

  • Program participation rate
  • Employee satisfaction scores
  • Frequency of peer-to-peer recognition
  • Employee productivity by profit
  • Number of employee referrals

Depending on your objectives and their urgency, you can decide to compare these metrics once every three to six months.

Review Changes in Behavior

While behavioral changes are hard to track with numbers, you can have an overall understanding of the behavior in the workplace.

Your managers can notice improvements in employee behavior, such as the desire to contribute to the company's growth, better alignment with corporate values, or being supportive toward colleagues. If changes are positive, the program is working. If not, it may need adjustments.

Define Budget

The budget for your employee recognition program can depend on several factors including:

  • Your goals
  • Number of employees
  • How much you can afford to spend

According to SHRM, the recognition budget should be at least 1% of the payroll. However, some goals require a higher budget. For some employers, it can go up to 10%.

If you are just starting to design a program, consider a conservative budget. For example, $50 for each full-time employee per year. You can adjust the budget accordingly after evaluating the program.

Consider Taxes

When you implement an employee recognition program with tangible rewards, you need to think about tax implications. In most cases, awards that employees receive are taxable. Your workers would need to report them on W-2 forms.

Consider consulting with a tax attorney before implementing a program to figure out what tax obligations for your employees are. This may affect the type of awards you use.

You should also make sure employees know about the tax issue so it doesn't come as a surprise.

Best Practices for Recognition

To ensure the success of your corporate recognition program, you can consider some of the best practices other companies have used. They are:

Implement Different Types of Rewards

Many employers mistakenly believe that the best reward is money. However, employees are happy to receive other types of awards as well. Depending on your budget, consider implementing a multifaceted reward system that includes:

  • Verbal and written "thank yous"
  • Peer-to-peer recognition options
  • Reward points that can be exchanged for something in the future
  • Appreciation walls

Monetary awards and praise should complement each other regardless of your budget. You can control the size of awards according to your financial capabilities.

Ask For Feedback

Besides using feedback to evaluate the quality of your program, you can use employee opinion to set up a reward system. Find out what your team wants to see as rewards. For example, they may rather get a gym membership than theater tickets.

If you are planning to give gift cards, ask which stores employees prefer to go to. Such communication doesn't just improve your program quality but also increases employee satisfaction.  

Ensure Effective Implementation and Consistency

Even if your program looks great on paper, it could fail without thorough implementation and consistency. Management must take the program seriously, even if the budget is low. Employees need to feel that you care about them enough to implement the program and follow through with it.

It's imperative to be consistent and timely with recognition. If it seems like you’re playing favorites with employee recognition, you'll send mixed messages and end up hurting the employee experience.

According to Gallup's survey, only 26% of employees believe that they are recognized the same way as the rest of the team members. This undermines the quality of your program tremendously.  

Make It Simple

Complex employee recognition programs aren't likely to have an impressive ROI. The time and effort you invest in the details may not pay off. The recognition program can be simple, transparent, and straightforward.

The easiest way to achieve this is to use comprehensive software with various automation features. Besides helping you provide timely and transparent recognition, it can generate valuable data that allows easier program evaluation.  

Types of Recognition

The success of your corporate recognition program depends on the type of rewards you implement. While the extent of these rewards depends on your goals and budget, consider offering a variety of reward types in your program.

Peer-to-Peer (Social) Recognition

Social recognition is peer-to-peer recognition. It involves team members and other employees acknowledging a person's achievements. The acknowledgment can be both public and private.

The peer-to-peer recognition part of your program allows anyone from the company to congratulate another employee and award achievement verbally or through a specific rewards system.

LinkedIn Endorsements

Encourage employees to endorse another worker's skills on LinkedIn. This can help the employee feel appreciated.

Thank You Cards

"Thank you" notes that employees send to each other through the recognition software or by putting stickers on the monitor do an excellent job.

You can also send "thank you" and "kudos" emails or write posts on the company's social media accounts.


Consider implementing several titles (e.g., "employee of the month", "best team player," etc.) and allowing all employees to nominate each other for the award.

Keep in mind that peer-to-peer recognition doesn't just involve team members recognizing each other. It includes leader-to-peer recognition as well. This includes "thank yous" and congratulations from managers and leaders.

To be effective, social recognition requires a system that makes it easier for employees to acknowledge their peers. Bucketlist Rewards' Employee Incentives and Recognition Software can simplify the process for busy team members.

Monetary Rewards

Monetary rewards can help incentivize your employees and allow them to feel appreciated. While money seems like the easiest type of reward, the way you give monetary rewards matters.


Set a specific bonus for a specific achievement. An employee should have a clear understanding of how much money they can get for taking a certain action. Examples are sales quotas and meeting production requirements.

Pay Raises

You can offer employees pay raises for meeting specific requirements. Examples are completed training or a certain number of years with the company. The type of achievement that warrants a pay raise depends on your budget and the number of employees.

Profit Sharing

In addition to the salary, you can offer your employees a specific percentage of the organization's profits. This type of reward is highly beneficial since it involves the employee in the success of your company. It increases engagement and stimulates a sense of belonging.

Monetary rewards require an especially careful approach to consistency and transparency. Consider creating monetary rewards for both teams and individuals. Team rewards encourage better teamwork and contribute to improved company culture.

Experiential Rewards

Experiential rewards create positive experiences for employees. One study found that 72% of Millennials would rather spend money on experiences than on purchases. That's why experiential rewards can be even more effective than monetary rewards.


Consider rewarding your employees with tickets to a food festival, a music event, or a sporting event. Keep in mind that to be more effective, get to know your employees’ personal food, music, and sports preferences.  

Wine and Food Tours

Local wine and food tours are an exciting way to spend the weekend. It's one of those things that employees may never find time to do unless they don't need to pay for it.

Days Off

If your budget doesn't allow you to buy tickets, pay for cruises, or arrange skydiving lessons for your employees, you can improve their experience another way. Consider giving your team members an extra day off in exchange for a certain achievement.

Arranging different types of awards and mixing them together to create a successful corporate recognition program is a complex process.

With the right type of software like Bucketlist's Corporate Rewards & Recognition Program, you can ensure clarity, transparency, and timeliness without inflating the budget.  

Make a Corporate Recognition Program Work for Your Company

A corporate recognition program is an essential part of your company's success. It can improve productivity, increase employee satisfaction rate, boost engagement, and turn your team members into brand ambassadors.

Implementing an employee recognition program requires a comprehensive approach to the budget, creativity, employee opinions, and tools. Bucketlist's Corporate Rewards & Recognition Program can streamline your corporate recognition program, improve your company culture, and contribute to your company's bottom line. Would you like to learn more? Sign up for a free demo today.

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