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83.6% of employees say recognition impacts their motivation to succeed at work. 

If that doesn’t say every workplace needs an employee recognition program, I don’t know what does, frankly.

Cultivating a positive culture of recognition is no longer a “nice to have”, it’s a “must have”. 

In this guide, we’re going to look at exactly why employee recognition is important and the essential ingredients you must mix to create an effective employee recognition program. 

What Is An Employee Recognition Program?

An employee recognition program is a business-wide, intentional initiative that facilitates the recognition and appreciation of employee’s achievements, efforts, and contributions. The goal is to engender the consistent practice of acknowledging individuals or teams for their performance at work.

Of course, while excellent performance is certainly one reason, an employee recognition program can also extend to recognizing commitment to company values, dedication and service longevity, worthwhile contributions, and consistently showing influential attitudes.

By appreciating the different types of employee contributions, you ensure that every team member has the opportunity to be valued and respected.

Different types of employee recognition include awards, verbal compliments, and incentives.

Here’s what these can look like in more detail:

Monetary incentives

This type of recognition involves financial rewards in recognition of workplace achievements.

It can include salary raises, bonuses, commission-based earnings, stock options, a rewards program, profit-sharing opportunities, or other forms of direct financial payments. 

An example of this incentive could be an Excellence Award awarded to the employee nominated as the one who shows the most instances of outstanding contributions by their peers. You can specify that nominations are reviewed by a cross-functional panel to ensure objectivity. 

Social recognition

This involves public recognition of team members’ work and contributions. 

This recognition strategy is often shown via team meetings, company newsletters, or company-wide announcements allowing colleagues to appreciate each other's successes.

For instance, you could implement an award whereby team members (including supervisors and peers) nominate individuals or teams that demonstrate creativity, design, or strategic thinking tactics. 

You could include a dedicated section in the company newsletter highlighting the selected projects with the individuals or teams.

Peer-to-peer recognition 

Employees credit each other in peer-to-peer recognition practices.  

Typically through informal channels such as company shout-outs on internal communications platforms, this approach can create a great sense of teamwork and a positive work environment.

To implement this type of recognition, consider a dedicated communication channel where team members can post shout-outs or thank you messages to their peers. The most recognized employee then receives a notification and can see the public platform praise helping to promote a great sense of pride and accomplishment.

Manager-to-employee commendations

These often happen through in-person conversations such as performance reviews. 

It’s also common for managers or supervisors to appreciate the great work of their team members in team meetings or at company-wide gatherings. Employees feel valued, seen, and motivated when their managers acknowledge their achievements and hard work.


Self-recognition involves employees recognizing their own skills, accomplishments, and workplace growth. 

Individual team members proactively reflect on their accomplishments, set personal milestones, and enjoy their progress. 

Self-recognition is a valuable aspect of self-esteem; one which can be integrated into an employee recognition program by giving employees the space to share their achievements with the rest of the team.

Benefits Of An Employee Recognition Program

At its core, an employee recognition program ensures employees feel recognized for their hard work and helps reinforce desired behaviors.

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Increases employee engagement and motivation

A successful employee recognition program can significantly contribute towards both increased employee motivation and engagement. 

When employees receive frequent recognition for the good work they achieve, they get a deeper sense of connection to both their roles and your business. Positive employee experiences like this results in more dedication, enthusiasm, and a willingness to do more towards the growth of the business. 

Strengthens culture

Employment recognition programs help reinforce your organization's culture. 

When you align recognition with core business values and behviors, you reinforce them.

This approach works to strengthen a shared purpose and sense of belonging creating a positive work environment where employees align with a common ethos drives excellent business results.

Encourages high performance 

Employee appreciation is a strong incentive. 

When excellence is recognized, employees instinctively become more motivated to consistently deliver. This culture of recognition and positive feedback boosts employee morale giving you a workforce that continuously achieves.

Enhances business successes 

Recognizing employees directly contributes to your business’s successes. 

This is because appreciated teams are more likely to be productive, engaged, and invested in what your business wants to achieve and its core values.

So you’ll see a rise in key growth metrics like outputs, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

Retain and attract top talent 

Employee turnover can significantly impact your business’s bottom line as the hard and soft costs associated with recruitment are expensive

Recognition is a significant driver of employee retention and will help with attracting and recruiting talent when word gets around that top talent is recognized.

Improves employee well-being 

That employees that are consistently appreciated feel better about themselves isn’t too much of a surprise.

Positive reinforcement like this contributes to enhanced job satisfaction, reduced stress levels, and a better work-life balance.

Promotes innovation

Promoting a workplace culture where team members feel they can speak up is invaluable. 

When they know that their ideas and contributions are appreciated, they’re more likely to share new ideas that help elevate your business. 

Empowering them to innovate not only creates opportunities for new processes and solutions, but also means a proactive and forward-thinking company culture is embraced.

How To Build An Employee Recognition Program

Now you know why employee recognition programs are so important, how do you build one?

1. Defining your objectives

Firstly, think about your why.

Do you want to improve your business’s performance as a whole? Are you looking to boost workplace morale? Maybe there’s another specific outcome you’d like to achieve. Getting granular about why you’re implementing such a program and how you plan to reward employees will help guide your approach more efficiently. 

2. Establishing recognition channels

Next up, choose your recognition channels. 

These can include your company newsletter, Slack/IM apps, intranet, the side of a plane (now there’s an opportunity to show some personality). You might choose to invest in some specialist tools like employee recognition platforms to help facilitate this. 

3. Communicating the program

There’s not much use in a program if no-one knows about it. 

Communicate far and wide about your program plans and provide instructions. These can include specific guidelines for recognizing someone publicly. For example, Slack channels use hashtags to separate chat channels - #organizationalvalue and #teamwins are just a couple of ideas for this one.

Company-wide announcements keep team members informed about the program and enable each other to share success stories.

4. Ensuring employee data is current

To properly appreciate your team members, your employee data must be relevant and correct to recognize milestones. 

You’ll also want information on employees such as dates of birth and start dates to celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries. A solid recognition strategy is to send employees gift cards to mark these events or start an employee of the month scheme to celebrate an employee’s work. 

5. Monitoring and reinforcing your program

Your program will change over time, so be prepared to iterate as you go. 

It’s important to gather feedback from your teams, too. What do they like about the program and are there any integrations they’d like to see? After all, appreciation is only as good as what your employees actually want.

To improve your employee recognition program, measure the impact over time on key metrics such as performance, employee retention, engagement, and workplace satisfaction as a whole. 

Remember, your program is an initiative that should evolve based on your business’s changing organizational needs.

Employee Recognition Program Best Practices

Moving on now to the best practices. There are some ways to effectively implement an employee recognition program for the best chance of success.

These include:

Tailoring to individuals

As I touched upon, recognize that each one of your employees is unique with different appreciation preferences, so it’s important to match recognition strategies with individual personalities. 

Some employees might prefer a private thank you, and others may like the limelight—in which case public recognition is for them.

Showing personality

Be careful not to be generic in your appreciation. 

Strive for thoughtful and genuine language that showcases specific efforts, and add a personal touch from their manager or supervisor if possible.

Sending automatic reminders and prompts

A successful employee recognition program is one built on consistency.

Set automated reminders and prompts to drive continuous recognition. It helps managers to acknowledge milestones, special efforts, or positive behaviors timely. It also makes it a lot easier for you to ensure that recognition becomes a regular practice.

Implementing diversity and inclusion

Your recognition program must be inclusive and recognize a diverse range of contributions. 

Take care to celebrate accomplishments from all teams and departments in your business. Recognize cultural variances and think about how recognition aligns with diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Ensuring a transparent process

Clearly communicate the criteria for appreciation so your teams know how and why recognition is given. It’s essential to maintain fairness and consistency to stop any perception of favoritism.

Employee Recognition Ideas

To spark your creativity, I’ve come up with a list of employee recognition ideas you can add to your program (you can thank me later):


  • Event tickets
  • Cooking classes
  • Balloon rides
  • Weekends away
  • Dance classes
  • Spa days


  • Noise-canceling headphones
  • Wireless keyboards
  • Fitness trackers
  • Tablets or e-readers
  • Wireless speakers


  • Performance-based bonuses
  • Long-service incentives
  • Profit sharing

Company trips

  • Team-building retreats
  • Theme parks
  • Company picnics

Embracing Recognition For A Bright Future

Crafting an employee recognition program is key to implementing and maintaining a positive workplace that new employees want to be a part of.

Doing so will result in higher levels of employee retention, engagement, productivity, and well-being.

If you want some more advice on how to implement a program, you can apply to join the People Managing People Community, a supportive community for you to connect and share knowledge with experienced industry professionals.

Further Resources To Get Your Employee Recognition Program Underway 

If you need a little more direction with kicking off your own program, here are some more useful resources to help:

By Finn Bartram

Finn is an editor at People Managing People. He's passionate about growing organizations where people are empowered to continuously improve and genuinely enjoy coming to work. If not at his desk, you can find him playing sports or enjoying the great outdoors.