11 employee recognition ideas that won’t break the bank

employee recognition ideas




Employee recognition is a key aspect of maintaining an engaged workforce. Studies have repeatedly shown that feeling appreciated at work is a leading driver of employee engagement. This should hardly be a surprise. Nobody wants to feel as though their efforts are taken for granted.


But the unfortunate reality is that employee recognition is one of the areas where employers routinely disappoint their staff. Most of the time this is down to lack lustre ideas of what constitutes ‘recognition’.


At many organisations, there is a tendency to resort to generic, impersonal employee recognition methods like “Employee of the Month” awards and bulletin board announcements in the break room. Needless to say, pretty much everyone views such approaches as lifeless and corporate. They don’t resonate with the things employee actually care about.


So what should be done instead? Build more meaning and connection into your workplace. Give people a chance to make a real impact. And use your staff recognition programs to reinforce that meaning, connection, and impact.


Below we’ve outline 11 employee recognition ideas that seem (and actually are!) genuine.


Say thanks


It may seem obvious, but “thanks” is a word that doesn’t get used often enough in many offices. A genuine “thank you” for a job well done goes a long way. So don’t waste opportunities to say it.


Ask for help


This one is more subtle. Asking for advice may not feel as tangible as giving an employee an award for an achievement. However when you ask for someone’s help or advice, you send a strong implicit message: “I value your opinion / expertise”. Everyone like to feel like their voice matters and they have something valuable to contribute.


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Spread the success


Following on from the point above, you can take things a step further by asking successful teams and employees to be “office consultants” for particular issues or tasks. But make sure their time is respected by assigning a scheduled time window in which they’ll be free to answer questions. After all, they still have their own work to do.


Social sharing


Take to your company’s Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn to recognize your employees in a public setting. Highlight who they are, what they’ve done, and why it was such a great achievement.


Invest in learning


Give your employees the opportunity to further their education — on the company’s expense. Send them to a conference, enroll them in an online course of their choice, offer tuition reimbursement, or give them an opportunity to cross-train with other coworkers to develop a new skill. Employees will appreciate the investment in their future.


Connect employees with upper management


Even without day-to-day interaction, employees still like to feel that they know the upper leadership. Consider hosting regular lunches in which new hires sit down with the C-suite. This helps build connections across your companies hierarchy.


Make it about more than work


Publicly acknowledge employees’ personal accomplishments. Did Emily’s vegetable garden have a bumper year? Did Tom hit a personal best in the half-marathon? Make an effort to get to know what employees are doing in their free time and recognise any achievements. Even if it’s just mentioning them in a staff meeting, it shows interest and will be appreciated.


Let employees pay it forward


Some employees get more out of giving than receiving. Set aside some of your staff recognition budget for small peer-to-peer recognition awards to keep everyone happy.  


Don’t just recognise exceptions


Many employees get recognised for that one time they go above and beyond. But what about those who consistently do their job well? They are easy to forget about, but you shouldn’t take them for granted. Encourage consistency by recognising employees for the day-to-day challenge of doing their job well.


Give the gift of time


To recognise a particular accomplishment, you can reward employees with an extra-long lunch break or an early finish to their day. Having some additional time to manage their personal lives can be incredibly useful at times.


Put yourself out there


While it may be easy to hand off recognition of birthdays or workplace anniversaries to an assistant, generic recognition generally isn’t met with much enthusiasm. Even if you automate and standardise employee recognition of key events, make sure that recognition has at least some element of personal touch.