Employee Recognition

25 Of the best employee recognition ideas [2020 update]

best employee recognition ideas

Employees are the heart of every business. But if they aren’t feeling appreciated or recognised it can lead to a broken organisational culture and negatively impact your bottom line.

Research by Gallup suggests that engaged employees show 21% greater profitability. Furthermore, businesses who prioritise employee engagement see a 41% reduction in absenteeism, and they experience 59% less turnover. 

Engaged employees are motivated. 

They bring positive energy to the office, and this results in them being more productive, performance-driven and collaborative with the teams within which they work. 

Further, all of these can result in higher levels of customer satisfaction that lead to higher levels of customer retention - and that’s good for business.

You then don’t need us to tell you that disengaged employees can impede the growth of your company. Their negative sentiment towards their work and your business can drive the customer experience down.

So how do we turn this around? 

For many companies, employee engagement is seen as a “soft metric” and, therefore, the activities to boost employee engagement are not taken seriously.  

The fact is, the future of work is here and the war for talent is even more critical. Therefore, if you want to retain your customers, you need to retain your people. 

You can build an engaged workforce. It starts with employee recognition 👏 .  We have a 10-step guide to help you boost employee morale today. Download the PDF here.  

Employee recognition doesn’t cost as much as you think. In fact, increasing employee engagement can be as simple as saying ‘thank you’. This forms the very foundation of building a performance-driven culture.

In today's blog, we have rounded up 25 of the best employee recognition ideas. They’re easy to implement and will go a long way in building a great organisational culture.  

Let’s get started:


1. Start an employee recognition program:

According to IBM, organisations that score in the top 25% on employee experience report that they see nearly three times the return on assets as those in the bottom quarter. 

Research by Gallup suggests that employee engagement and motivation levels are strongly affected by how often they are recognised for doing a great job.

An employee recognition program can build a high-performance culture, one that’s strategically aligned to your core business objectives.

We’re so sure about the benefits of employee recognition programs that we wrote a comprehensive 10-step guide to help you build your very own program for scratch. You can download the PDF here


2. Select show and tell teams:

Each week you could put varied teams up on the bulletin board to do a small show and tell of a project or idea they’ve been working on. Make sure that you have management in these sessions. 

Leadership needs to see what your employees are getting up to. They may have some great ideas that are worth exploring. Furthermore, you may find leadership candidates through innovative sessions like these. 


3. Step up the office coffee game:

Let’s be honest there’s nothing like a great cup of coffee. We’re pretty sure nothing beats it. 

You could treat a deserving employee to a great cup of coffee. You could offer them a voucher for their favourite coffee spot or bring one into the office and place it on their desk with a little note.  

4. Peer-to-peer recognition:

This can be as creative as you like, but you could give each team member three cards they need to hand out by the end of the week. 

They need to recognise three different team members for valuable work achieved during that week and they then need to personally hand it to those people. 

This can nurture a culture of recognition and ensure you’re rewarding the right behaviours. 

Employee recognition doesn’t have to be difficult. We’ve done all the hard work and wrote you a 10-step guide to help you get that program off the ground. Click here to get your copy


5. Offer pay-day surprises:

If employees go above and beyond standard performance, why not include a ‘pay-day bonus’ in the form of a gift card or voucher with their salary? 

bountiXP can fulfil all digital rewards and vouchers right from the app. So it’s as easy as click and send. Give bountiXP a try, it’s FREE for 14 days. Click here to get started

Try and keep this a surprise. Neuroscientists have identified that the more unexpected a reward, the more pleasure your employee will experience. They call this the “surprise and delight” element, which is central to great rewards strategy


6. Flexible in office hours:

We’re living through a pandemic and that’s meant many employees have needed to work from home. This work from home environment has posed some interesting challenges for those with younger families. 

Your employees are learning to navigate time spent working, alongside their children who need feeding, educating and entertaining. It’s been tough. 

One South African dad confesses to waking up earlier in the morning before his little ones are in full energy mode. This ensures he’s able to get some valuable work done in a time that’s suitable for him. But perhaps not within the scope of a normal 09-17h00.

You may consider allowing your employees the opportunity to work around busy children. This should motivate and encourage them to be more productive and engaged when they are in front of their computers. 

7. Get your employees to vote for their favourite rewards:

Your employees are probably the best people to ask when it comes to deciding how they’d like to be rewarded. 

You can send a quick survey to ask them which rewards they’d prefer. bountiXP houses pulse surveys that can be sent to your entire workforce and analysed in real-time. Give bountiXP a try, it’s FREE for 14 days. Click here to get started


8. Send thank-you notes to employees who worked long hours:

If your employees have put in the hard slog of working long hours above the call of duty, thank them. 

You could send a thank you note to their home addresses. If you’re looking for thank you note ideas, we’ve pulled together 32 of the best

This acknowledges their efforts and helps them to understand that you appreciate the fact that they have spent time away from home to meet a work deadline. 


9. Recognise employees’ personal achievements:

Recognising your employees’ personal achievements shows that you have a vested interest in their ambitions and achievements outside of the office environment. You can acknowledge an employed achievement in the next newsletter or team meeting. 

A gesture like this can help boost employee loyalty and overall workplace morale.  


10. Give employees an extra hour for lunch:

There are those days where you just need a little bit of extra time over lunch, whether that be time to read, zone out or run an important errand. 

You could reward a hardworking employee with a little extra time over lunch as a way of saying thank you. You could make the gesture even sweeter with a meal reward voucher.


11. Make sure it’s personal:

A general reward or recognition for great work, just doesn’t cut it anymore. We live in a world where employees expect you to personalise their recognition, tailor it to their interests. If you’re wanting to use recognition and rewards to drive employee motivation, retention and increase productivity, then personalisation is essential. 

This means if you have a millennial employee, how you recognise and reward their work will be different from how you thank a boomer.  


12. Recognise your employees with training opportunities:

According to research by Udemy 51% of employees would quit their job if training was not offered. 

Offer your employees the opportunity to do on the job training and learning. This strengthens your workforce and empowers your employees to perform well. 


13. Show them you care about their charity causes:

Charity projects are very personal. Imagine recognising employees for a great job by supporting their favourite charity with a donation in their name. Not only will they feel really appreciated but they would get recognition from the charity as well. Create a repository of charity names by asking employees via email to name their favourite charity.

14. Get social about recognition:

Research suggests that social recognition can improve employee productivity by over 60%. 

Social recognition utilises recognition technology and takes place over social feed or timeline.  Employees can participate, engage and even assign rewards to individuals who deserve public recognition. 

Tools like bountiXP make social recognition easy. The central timeline looks a little like this:

best employee recognition ideas - bountiXP central recognition timeline

15. Let’s get creative:

If an employee has done fantastic work, make a point of finding out what his/her personal interests are.

Once you know what those are, surprise them with something related to that, whether its a coffee brewing class or a book on home DIY. The personal touch will go a long way with your employees. 


16. Make it a group date:

If specific teams have pushed through some difficult projects and have delivered exceptional performances, a group date may be a good way to recognise both the individual and collective efforts.

You could head out for a meal together or you could schedule a team-building activity like mini-golf. If your office has facilities you could host a small get together in the building too. The point is that you're wanting to reward your employees for a job well done. 


17. Use your company website to recognise employees:

Your company’s website attracts visitors from all over.

It might be fun to have a page that’s dedicated to highlighting your organisational culture and values. You could mention the employee of the month or create a series of stories dedicated to exciting things happening within your company and why your business values them so much.

This tells people visiting your site a little more about your company, but also shows them the kind of people they can expect to work with should they purchase your product or services.  


18. Recognise employees who help others:

Teamwork and collaboration are important for building a great company culture.

A great way to encourage teamwork could be to incentivise it. 

To instil a culture of collaboration, you could reward a team or an individual who’s gone out of their way to collaborate and embrace teamwork. By making this a recurring monthly reward, you’re also ensuring this is a value that your employees begin to live out. 

19. Don’t keep the praise to yourself:

Not all managers are akin to giving recognition, but it means the world to employees who are working hard to help your business achieve its objectives. 

If you see great work being done it needs to be recognised, according to research by Randstad 27% of employees site leaving a job for lack of recognition. 

This is a powerful way to send surprise recognition to employees. It also works as a great way to recognise introverted personality types.


20. Call employees into your office for recognition:

It’s so important for your employees to receive frequent recognition and appreciation from senior leadership and management. One way to do this is to invite employees into your office to receive a message of appreciation directly. 

This gesture goes a long way in making employees feel valued and that their efforts are noticed and appreciated. 


21. Make recognition public:

Recognition holds a lot of power when it’s done in public.

Not all employees will enjoy this type of recognition. Introverts and extroverts in the workplace will enjoy this form of recognition differently. 

An extrovert might enjoy a public announcement, whereas an introverted employee might prefer to receive praise via email or over an employee recognition platform. 

bountiXP has a central recognition timeline where you see all the “thanks” given and received over time. This feature is fun to scroll through and allows you to see your recognition efforts and values in real-time. You can sign up for a FREE trial here


22. Email is a great means of communication:

Successful internal communication can increase productivity

Email campaigns can be used to send out important information around company values or newsletters announcing important company information. It could look something like this:

best employee recognition ideas

Emails can also be used to quickly pop an employee an email to say thank you for their hard work. 

We actually wrote a blog on the importance of email in employee recognition


23. Show employees that you care about their career growth:

Expressing an interest in your employees’ career growth and professional development speaks volumes about how much you value them.

Research by Udemy suggests that 51% of employees would quit their job if training was not offered. 

You don’t have to fund their educational pursuits but recognising the initiative taken in pursuing growth and skills development is important. You could acknowledge this by offering them access to resources you may know of or recommending a great book to read. 

24. Surprise employees with an unexpected office leisure hour:

You could surprise a hardworking employee with an unexpected hour off. They could hop into a bean bag to play some games, watch some T.V. or catch up on a book or podcast.  

What podcasts are you listening to at the moment? 


25. Give employees the choice to work cross-functionally:

Research by Queens University indicates that 75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as very important. 

If your business can shift employees around departmentally it can have far-reaching benefits for your business from increased innovation, greater learning and development, an increase in effective internal communication and can promote a culture of knowledge sharing. 


Key Takeaways

Recognition along with the right ideas and application may be the competitive advantage your business is looking for. 

The best employee recognition ideas don’t need to be expensive, but they need to be frequent, genuine and hyper-personalised to affect real positive change for your business. 

You can build a better workplace. It starts with employee recognition. Your 10-step guide to boosting employee morale is a click away. Click the button below to grab your copy 👇

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