How to Create a Structured Employee Appreciation Program

Date: October 13, 2022
employee appreciation

There’s nothing better than a structured employee appreciation program that allows team members to gain recognition for the myriad of ways they show up for your company every day. If you don’t already have a program in place, it’s never the wrong time to begin. However, if you’ve never implemented a program like this before, you might be feeling overwhelmed. And that’s okay! We’re here to help.. 

If you’re curious about how you can create a robust employee appreciation program that allows team members to connect to the larger organization, you’re in the right place. And while deciding to implement a comprehensive employee appreciation program will certainly work wonders for boosting company morale, it’s also an investment of time, resources, and energy. Therefore, you want to ensure that the program that you are creating is worth what you’re investing — and that it’s giving back to the employees that power your company in a way that is authentic and meaningful. Employee engagement is an integral ingredient in employee recognition efforts. 

But where to begin? That’s a great question. Luckily, you don’t need to navigate the waters of designing your employee appreciation program alone. Furthermore, if your company has never had a structured employee appreciation program in the past, it may feel as if you are starting completely from scratch. That’s where we come into the picture: to help you create a modern employee appreciation program

Today, we’re going to walk you through the process of building a structured employee appreciation program. You’ll discover the most significant differences between structured and unstructured programs, learn the essentials for crafting your own employee recognition program, dive into how to celebrate employee appreciation, and even find some suggestions for creating the best reward and recognition programs.

Differences Between Structured and Unstructured Programs

Deciding to launch an employee appreciation program is where the work begins. Once you’ve made the decision to move ahead with your plans, you’ll be tasked with deciding if you want a structured or unstructured program. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the differences between structured and unstructured employee appreciation programs, we will walk you through their key distinctions so you can have a more thorough understanding of what to expect based on what your team selects.

Structured Employee Appreciation Programs

Successful employee appreciation programs offer structure and consequently, are easier for team members to follow along with and for the HR team to run, too. There are a number of benefits associated with implementing a structured employee appreciation program into your organization’s fabric. 

Part of what makes an effective employee recognition program is that team members feel a connection to the awards, that they feel personal. No one wants an employee appreciation program that was thrown together in a shoddy or slapdash manner. This diminishes the point of taking time to recognize employees. A structured employee appreciation program is carefully curated, occurs routinely, is built on company values, and may ultimately help with employee retention. 

A structured employee appreciation program has the framework necessary to launch your team to success. A structured employee recognition program operates from the top down and follows rules and guidelines that are transparently conveyed to the entire team. The benefit of a structured employee appreciation program is that people feel they are appreciated and recognized regularly. 

For instance, an example of a structured employee appreciation program is a ceremony that is held by the executive leadership yearly to celebrate team members who have reached a certain number of years of service. There may also be a segment for peer recognition, and monetary rewards may be offered.

Unstructured Employee Appreciation Programs 

While structured employee appreciation programs are built around predictability and transparency, unstructured programs are centered around spontaneity. With an unstructured program, there are no strict rules or guidelines team members may need to follow to gain recognition. While these are effective in some circumstances, they may seem overall disjointed and team members can become dismayed if they are unsure when their efforts will be recognized — or if they will be recognized at all. 

Because of this, an unstructured employee appreciation program is not advisable for most firms. By simply adding some defined outlines and providing structure to the program you are investing in, you could see a much more engaged community build. A structured employee appreciation program will quickly get adapted by eager teammates who want to recognize the outstanding work of their colleagues and be recognized for their contributions. But on the contrary, an unstructured employee appreciation program may seem like more trouble than it is worth for team members to engage with.

Essentials for Structured Employee Recognition Programs 

So you’ve decided to stick with a structured employee recognition program. Congratulations on taking the next step towards encouraging employees to do their best work and creating your company’s culture! There are several essentials necessary to launch a structured employee recognition program that your company will respond to. Here is everything you need to know about getting started. And don’t worry — we’ll offer up some examples of employee recognition programs that are successful for your inspiration.

Provide the Right Tools

The first — and perhaps most important — thing you will need to do when crafting your employee recognition program is to provide the right tools. By this, we mean equipping your team with the resources necessary to take part in the program. After all, what is the point of having a public recognition program if no one decides to participate in it?  Therefore, providing the right tools for your team to get involved is absolutely crucial. 

We promised you examples, so here are a few to get those inspiration juices flowing. If you are working with an employee recognition program software, which we highly recommend for those setting up structured formats, then you should look for software that integrates seamlessly with the tools your employees already use. For example, your employee recognition software should work in conjunction with Slack, Teams, Gmail, and even Outlook. 

This will increase the likelihood that the program will be adopted by more of your team members. Remember: you want to involve as many members of your team as you possibly can. By working with tools that people are already familiar and comfortable with, you can help your program experience success right off the bat.

Establish Recognition Criteria

As we’ve mentioned, you want as many of your team members to get involved as possible. One of the best ways to ensure that they do is by offering up transparent, easy-to-digest recognition criteria. Are you recognizing your sales team solely based on the number of cold calls they complete? Is your social media marketing team getting rewarded based on the engagement on their posts? Or, is it something less tangible — like how the community your social team is cultivating responds to their posts? 

That’s for you to decide. However, the underlying message is the same regardless: it’s essential that you are transparent about the recognition criteria. Not only will having clear criteria engage more of your team members, it also makes the awards that much more meaningful, because your team will understand what it took to earn them.

You can even remind people of the recognition criteria when they are submitting their insights about which colleagues deserve recognition. The clearer you are, the better.

Gain Support from the Executive Team

Next, it is critical that you gain support from your executive team. The executive team’s endorsement of the employee appreciation program will prove invaluable to garnering support from team members, so it’s worthwhile proving to your executive team that recognition is necessary for the company. 

When you approach the executive team for their endorsement of the employee recognition program, be sure to mention that this will allow the company an opportunity to demonstrate how it puts its values into practice, could lead to higher employee retention rates, and could contribute to an overall happier environment for the entire team. This could trickle downwards and even impact the work that people complete. Therefore, while this is an investment, it’s an essential one, and will repay tenfold.

You should also come armed with the stats regarding your employee recognition program. How much money do you anticipate needing? What are the prizes? Are they monetary rewards, or will a trophy or certificate suffice? Remember: to incentivize team members to actually participate in the program itself, you may need to up the ante with prizes.

Workshop ideas for recognition rewards before you approach the executive team. Then, create a comprehensive budget breakdown of how much it will cost to run the employee recognition program. This should factor in any software you may need to use to keep the program running smoothly, as well as prizes themselves.

Use Cases and Case Studies to Support Incentives

Here’s another suggestion: use case studies to support the incentives you’re launching. For instance, if you’re working with an employee recognition program software, they likely have case studies that detail how other companies have harnessed the power of their technology to grow a program. Seek out a case study from a company that is the same industry or size as yours. Then, share that with executive leadership to get them on board. 

Remember: when it comes to gaining momentum for this, the executive leaders hold the keys to the castle. That’s why it’s necessary for you to get them on board, and excited. Be sure to emphasize the perks associated with launching these programs, including the ability to put company values into practice, creating a culture of compliments and recognition, reduced employee turnover, and beyond.  
The statistics back this up. Did you know that companies that incentivize employees have an average of 31% reduction in voluntary turnover? This demonstrates exactly why employee appreciation is so necessary.

Partner with the Right Recognition and Rewards Company

And that brings us to our next point: it is vital that you partner with the right recognition and rewards company to ensure success. If you only have a few dozen members, you may not think it’s necessary to work with an external company to launch your program. But think of it this way. What if your team member grows to 50, or 100? Would your team still be able to put the same care into the program on top of their various other responsibilities? 

That’s why we think it’s important to work with a recognition and rewards company right off the bat. It’s also less confusing for team members; you wouldn’t want them to get used to one program only to have to change it shortly after because it’s impossible to keep up with. 

The right recognition and rewards company is passionate about transforming your company culture, helping your business retain talent thanks to a meaningful program, and can even help with talent recruitment. How? Because potential employees want to work with companies that value them and allow them to feel appreciated at work. Partnering with the right recognition and rewards company will allow you to create an employee appreciation program that current team members are proud of, and something your recruiters can boast about during interviews.

Give Recognition for Effort

You’ve heard of the saying, “It’s an A plus for effort,” haven’t you? We thought so. The most successful employee recognition programs call people out for the effort that they invest. This will ultimately create a company culture where people are comfortable complimenting the work that people complete and allow team members to gain recognition for what they do. 

This recognition could create a sense of accountability for team members. Furthermore, it could provide team members who are meeting expectations but not currently exceeding them to strive for more. And for team members who routinely go above and beyond, developing a program will entice them to continue to do so on a routine basis. 

Now that we’ve discussed some of the must-haves for establishing a structured employee recognition program, it’s time to learn more about how you can celebrate employee appreciation. You will quickly learn that the most successful employee appreciation programs are those that allow the team members to choose what recognition looks like to them, but we will provide a few examples of how you can demonstrate your appreciation to your team.

How Do You Celebrate Employee Appreciation?

Now that you have learned more about some of the hallmarks of successful employee recognition programs, it’s time to discuss some ways that you can celebrate employee appreciation. Keep in mind that the best programs will take team values into consideration, so be sure to create these celebrations with the people who work at your company in mind. 

That being said, there are certain celebrations that are generally well received by employees. We rounded up some of our favorite, foolproof ways to celebrate employees so you can get thinking about what will work best for your team members. Happy brainstorming!

Create a community to share team members’ brilliant moments. 

Who said that employee recognition has to be a one-day-only event? Instead, your company can opt to work with an employee recognition program software provider that will help you create a digital community where people can share their colleagues’ wins. There are quite a few reasons why this is an attractive option. For one, if your team members’ wins live in a digital location, they can refer to them at a later date. Also, offering team members the opportunity to recognize their colleagues on an ongoing basis instead of just when there’s a meeting or event upcoming could mean that more peoples’ achievements are accounted for in real time. This will help your company create a culture of positivity. 

From there, your company may decide to call out some of the recognition given during a company meeting, and provide awards or prizes to those who received accolades from their teammates or manager. 

Offer monetary awards or company swag for top performers. 

If your company wants to make a statement by investing in your employee appreciation program, monetary awards are a great place to start. Offering individuals who are recognized for going the extra mile monetary rewards could entice more employees to kick up their performance in hopes of being recognized.

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to stay away from monetary rewards, you could send company swag to top performers who are recognized for going above and beyond. Offering swag such as jackets, shirts, mugs, and beyond will allow your team members to take their company pride into the real world. Plus, these rewards are relatively inexpensive. 

Offer your team members paid time off. 

If employees are granted a limited amount of days off per year, you could offer paid time off as a reward for garnering recognition. Because people value their PTO, this is one way that you can offer something that is meaningful to the team and does not necessarily cost the company as much as a monetary reward. 

This could be as much as a day, a few days, or could be given to people in increments of hours – whatever makes sense for your team.

Let your team choose. 

Alternatively, why not let your team decide what the best way to celebrate employee recognition is? No one knows what would be valuable to your team better than the team itself, which is why it’s an excellent idea to get their input on the company’s reward system for garnering recognition.

This will also allow your team to create a connection with the rewards that you select, as they have the opportunity to vote on them. This could mean that your program will experience higher levels of engagement, which is also a win. 

We’re major advocates for allowing your team to choose what they’d like their reward to be. Because each individual team member has unique priorities, some may prefer a monetary reward, whereas others would value the PTO more, or perhaps a company-sponsored experience – such as seeing their favorite artist perform live or the chance to go skydiving. When a place of employment can provide the opportunity for an employee to cross something off their bucket list, that’s a company people remember!

What Are the Best Reward and Recognition Programs?

The best reward and recognition programs know that your employees understand best what they’d like to receive as a thank you for their dedicated work. Consequently, your job as the individual coordinating an employee appreciation program is to give back to the people who power the company as they’d like you to. That’s why working with a rewards and recognition program that resonates with employees and allows them to choose how they are shown appreciation is invaluable. 

At Bucketlist, we are passionate about creating a rewards program that resonates with employees. We believe that the employees themselves should have the opportunity to choose how the company recognizes them, and that by doing this you can fuel your team members’ happiness. And people don’t want to leave companies that make them happy. 

By working with a company that wants to help you create a one-of-a-kind reward and recognition program for your business, you’ll be able to streamline the process of giving back to the people who make your company what it is. 

Ready to Reward Your Employees?

Are you ready to reward your employees and create a culture of recognition at your company? If so, it’s time to get started fleshing out the concept of your structured employee recognition program. No matter how you choose to celebrate employee wins, if you follow these guidelines and use the checklist of essentials for structured programs, you will experience success.

As we’ve mentioned, the best way to get started with creating a robust employee appreciation program is by working with a software company that facilitates the process. At Bucketlist, we want to help you create meaningful rewards for the people who power your company. Get started today by signing up for a free demo to learn more about how Bucketlist can help you begin your employee appreciation program journey. 

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