10 Meaningful Employee Recognition Ideas You Should Try

Giving employee recognition can be a tricky thing: when you don’t give any or give too little, it can hurt your team’s morale and productivity. On the other hand, giving too much recognition or using too many overused clichés can be counterproductive, as your employees may feel that your efforts are inauthentic.

With that being said, planning a comprehensive and effective employee recognition program is very important. The right employee recognition activities and programs can help your business in retaining your valuable talents, improving overall collaboration, boosting productivity, and ultimately, growing your business.

When your employees are happy, business productivity can increase by 31%, and below we will share 10 creative, meaningful, and effective employee recognition ideas you should try right away.

Top 10 Meaningful Employee Recognition Ideas You Should Try

1. Monetary-Based Recognition

Monetary-based recognition awards might seem overused, but it’s still crucial for any organization due to an obvious reason: employees do want and need money.

The key here, however, is to be creative and give the right amount according to the occasion and accomplishment. Here are some ideas to try:

  • Promotions. Promoting employees with a salary increase
  • Bonuses. Still effective when done right, and the key is to implement an appropriate bonus structure
  • Gift cards. A versatile way to reward your employees, you can let them cash in the gift card or tie it with a specific retailer/restaurant/store. Employee recognition solutions like Guusto offer a versatile and reliable way to create a gift cards-based employee recognition program

2. Free Lunch or Dinner

Another recognition award that can be cost-effective, and especially effective in recognizing employees that do not prefer public recognition and would prefer more intimate settings. Managers and leaders can ask the employee to join them in a private lunch or dinner, and you can let the employee choose the place if you’d like.

This private lunch or dinner will also provide the chance for meaningful 1-on-1 conversations with the employee where the manager can further elaborate the acknowledgment.

Another effective way is to make a simple peer-to-peer recognition program where your employees can throw their peer’s name in a designated place (i.e. a jar) each time they recognize one of their peers.

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Every week or every month, you can draw out two or more names from the jar and let these employees enjoy a free lunch or dinner on the company.

3. Off-Site Recognition Day

A little change of scenery can be quite effective as a setting for your recognition program while also helping boost morale and productivity.

Plan an off-site day at any suitable location that meets your team’s needs: a library, a co-working space, or even your nearby park. If you want, you can also organize a dedicated recognition session on the agenda to encourage peer-to-peer recognition.

When recognizing employees on this off-site day, it’s crucial to be clear and specific. Since it tends to be an informal setting, if not elaborated correctly, your employees might not know clearly what they’re being recognized for.

4. Effective Public Recognition

While there are employees who prefer more private recognition, there are also those who prefer public recognition in front of their peers. To accommodate these employees, managers can plan to publicly mention the said employee at the next weekly staff meeting. Nowadays, we can also use social media and the company’s online platforms to publicly recognize employees.

To be effective, public recognition should be made when there are enough people ‘exposed’. Also, the reason behind the recognition should also be clear and specific, or else you’ll risk jealousy.

5. Surprise Time-Off

While this one is not always available, depending on your industry and business schedule, giving your employees a surprise paid time off can be effective, especially if you are awarding this day off as an acknowledgment for their previous hard work.

You can also combine this approach with other ideas, like giving your employees a gift card to their favorite retailer or coffee shop or even awarding tickets to a famous holiday destination.

6. Annual Appreciation Party

Make employee recognition a part of your company culture by organizing a regular appreciation party as a part of your peer-to-peer recognition program.

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When executed correctly, this can also motivate your employees, as they’ll know that they have a chance to get recognized by their peers and vice versa in this event, giving them something to look forward to.

7. Dedicated Recognition Space

Another effective way to facilitate peer-to-peer recognition is to create a dedicated online or offline space for employees to recognize each other.

This can be as simple as a dedicated whiteboard where employees can stick post-it notes to appreciate their peers or a dedicated Slack Channel/WhatsApp Group for those who prefer an online approach.

8. Experiment With Experiential Awards

Experiential awards are giving the employee something to experience (or something to do) rather than giving them money (monetary awards) or physical things.

When done right, experiential awards can be both cost-effective and engaging, and there are many affordable examples, such as travel tickets, concert tickets, free meals at famous restaurants, and so on. You can use gift cards, for example with Guusto to facilitate these experiential awards.

9. Years of Service Awards

You shouldn’t only focus the recognition awards on project successes, successful milestones, and other accomplishments, but also tenure.

This type of recognition will encourage loyalty, which in turn, will lower your organization’s turnover rate. The employees being recognized can also get an extra boost in motivation.

9. Professional Development Opportunities

There are employees that will better appreciate opportunities to enhance their strengths and further develop their careers.

This can be as simple as letting your employees pick a special project to work on, or an opportunity to attend a higher education course sponsored by the company. The key to this approach, however, is about accurately identifying your employee’s strengths and passions.

Wrapping Up

The 10 meaningful employee recognition ideas and examples we have shared above can be a great start, and you can use them as your foundation while building your comprehensive employee recognition strategy.

Making employee recognition as your company culture can help in maintaining your team’s morale high, lowering the turnover rate, and ultimately, improving your business’s productivity.

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