9 Employee Recognition Award Ideas

Create an appreciation culture with insights from HR professionals, Top Workplaces experts, and research-backed best practices.

Employee recognition awards have many benefits, from connection to morale, loyalty, and a sense of value. It’s also a driver of employee engagement

But, meaningful employee appreciation differs from individual to individual, so it’s essential to take a personalized approach when choosing the types of employee recognition awards. Your goal is to select employee recognition ideas that connect people and company goals. 

Employees know when appreciation is authentic. When recognition is insincere, unthoughtful, or inconsistent, your company risks disengagement, low morale, higher turnover rates, and a lack of employee motivation. 

Award programs should be easy, inexpensive, and highly rewarding. Creating meaningful and engaging employee awards programs takes time. When you find the right mix of employee award ideas, your company will reap the benefits of employee recognition. 

Benefits of employee recognition awards 

The benefits of employee recognition awards are proven. Employee awards allow people to bond with the company and their peers. Reasonable compensation is critical for baseline satisfaction, but adding thoughtful employee awards programs will take companies to new heights. 

Top Workplaces research shows the benefits of employee recognition include:

Employee recognition award best practices 

Executing an effective and meaningful employee awards program is one of the qualities of a great workplace. It requires consistent effort to ensure employees are satisfied and loyal. Motivated by their peers and the company mission, engagement will boost retention, professional development, and company growth. 

According to our research, here are helpful tips to consider when creating an employee recognition program:

  • Meaningful recognition differs from one employee to the next. If you don’t know, ask. 
  • Consistency is critical to keeping employees motivated.
  • Showing employee appreciation during tough times boosts motivation and productivity. 
  • Align your employee awards program with company values.
  • Employees know genuine appreciation when they see it and when it is fair. 

Nine employee recognition ideas 

Learning how employees prefer to be appreciated before creating a recognition program is essential. Listen to employees and understand what matters to them before choosing how to recognize them. Remember to keep it authentic, personal, and straightforward. 

Here are some examples of employee recognition awards:

1. Employee-of-the-month award 

This is a classic, oldie-but-goodie employee recognition idea. Make the most of this award by asking employees to vote with personal comments about whom they think should be Employee of the Month. It’s an excellent opportunity to share personal appreciation and celebrate employees most aligned with company values. 

2. Years of service award 

Work anniversaries are important to individuals, and it makes them feel valued. Years of service awards are most successful when companies compile a database of employees’ start dates. Celebrate work anniversaries through company-wide meetings, Slack channels, or small gifts.  

3. Customer service award 

Another great idea for employee awards programs is a customer service award. A customer-facing team means companies should go the extra mile to appreciate their employees. The additional employee support will ensure positive customer experiences and better brand recognition. 

4. Social media shoutout awards 

Social media employee shoutouts are an effective way to show appreciation while gaining brand exposure. Even if your company doesn’t have a big social media following, it is a great way to boast about everyone’s most valuable assets: their employees. It’s also a great way to attract top talent that values appreciation. 

5. Monetary employee recognition awards 

It’s no secret that people love money. Bonuses, extra paid time off, and gift cards are popular employee recognition ideas. They are not as personal as other ideas, so couple monetary awards with unique, individualized ideas. 

6. Employee appreciation awards 

Employee recognition ideas such as happy hours, office outings, and other company-sponsored social events will boost morale. These are great opportunities to praise employees for their hard work, give peers time to connect, and create more positive relationships in the workplace.  

7. Employee appreciation wall 

Appreciation walls are a tangible way to motivate employees to work harder and participate in a recognition program. Employee appreciation walls will vary between offices, but most serve as a creative way to broadcast recognition internally. They can feature pre-approved peer-to-peer appreciation, inspirational quotes from leadership, and even document how to give gratitude. 

8. Driving success award 

The Driving Success Award should go to an employee who helps advance the company with creativity, hard work, innovation, and other essential company values. This could be a more traditional award involving an award ceremony, speeches from peers, and a party to celebrate. 

9. Above and beyond award 

Similarly, the Above and Beyond Award is appropriate for employees who give their best daily and work hard to advance company values. Bonus points if the awarded person shares appreciation often. Modeling this behavior shows other employees that the company values a culture of gratitude.    

Employee recognition ideas 

We discussed the many types of recognition awards for employees. Consider those that best align with how employees want to give and receive appreciation. Additional informal employee recognition award ideas include:  

  • Celebrating employee birthdays 
  • Surprise lunches and treats  
  • Managers who applaud progress and team wins 
  • Town hall meetings as a public platform for showing appreciation 
  • Sharing positive customer feedback on company-wide channels 
  • Hosting wellness days focused on happiness and relaxation 
  • Thanks from senior management 
  • Recognizing employee achievements outside of work 

Providing recognition is one of the qualities of a good manager because it shows they listen to and care about their employees. Managers are essential to the recognition process because they connect employees and leadership. Most recognition programs require planning from management and their encouragement of employee participation. 

How to implement employee recognition awards 

Employee recognition awards programs take effort to start but quickly become part of the workplace culture when they’re effective. Consistent, authentic appreciation is not a one-time event. Instead, nurturing a culture of appreciation is most successful when it comes from multiple sources and levels across the organization.

Managers and leaders should be comfortable constantly adapting to and developing new ideas. It is important to note that recognition programs should be structured while leaving space for spur-of-the-moment appreciation. A level of surprise and being personal and specific makes employee recognition even more meaningful. 

Take the time to share with people how to participate in employee awards. Ensuring your recognition programs are inclusive and transparent will encourage more employee participation. 

Build your brand as a Top Workplaces for Appreciation 

Employee feedback surveys are the perfect way to measure employee engagement and identify meaningful recognition. They also help companies improve their bottom line by allowing people to provide anonymous feedback and feel heard. When you know your culture’s unique strengths and differentiators, you can immediately build your company brand

Curious to know about the employee awards programs of the nation’s Top Workplaces? Go here to view the Top Workplaces for Appreciation award winners. 

If your company believes in the power of a people-first culture that prioritizes employee appreciation, get recognized for it! Top Workplaces is the nation’s leading employer recognition program, offering awards in 60+ regional markets plus national honors for culture and industry excellence. To participate, begin by nominating your organization.     


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