33 Employee Recognition Ideas for Small to Large Organizations

office employees having a discussion in a meeting room with a digital signage screen which displays employee of the month


Staying competitive in today’s agile corporate world necessitates innovation. Organizations that flourish in the digital era restructure, transform, and recognize the potential that exists within their workforce. Employees are the heart and soul of every business.

An organization’s growth is driven by its workforce and its level of involvement. The financial benefits of employee engagement are undeniable.However, it’s also important to prevent employee burnout through recognition programs or other initiatives designed to reward employees for their hard work. Engaged employees are less likely to leave the company to pursue other alternatives. Some of the outcomes are higher productivity, improved employee retention, a pleasant, more creative workplace, and a better place to work for everyone.

According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, 82% of Americans say their bosses don’t recognize them enough for their achievements, and 40% agree that if they were recognized more often, they would put more effort into their work.

Clearly, there is a disconnect between employee expectations and the employers’ responses.

“Why thank them when they’re only doing their job?” goes the adage.

In today’s competitive corporate environment, that mentality is no longer acceptable. Recognizing employees’ contributions is essential if you want to retain talent.

With that insight, let’s dive into some employee recognition ideas that will be appreciated by your staff.

Gifting Ideas for Employee Recognition

There are more than one ways to recognize your office staff’s hard work. While monetary rewards or amazing selection of awards can be given, there are several other things that you can gift your employees to make them feel appreciated. Here are a few examples:

  1. Bottoms Up: Surprise your employees with a bottle of wine & a ‘Thank You’ card. Or better, gift them a personal care hamper!

  2. Subscription Fee Cancelled: What about a free Netflix subscription? Or a free membership at the gym?

  3. The Classic Flower Gesture: Sending your hard-working teammate a bouquet of their favorite lilies is never going to be old-fashioned. From time-honored movies to our favorite clichés, the flower gesture is well-known to precipitate a positive effect.

  4. Secret Santa Gifts: This peer-to-peer gifting idea is perfect exercise for this year’s staff appreciation day. Let your employees decide what they want to award their colleagues…secretly!

  1. Gift Cards: Yes, this idea is not unique, but giving your staff gift cards & vouchers never goes out of fashion. After all, who doesn’t want that free watch or coffee maker?

  2. There is Such a Thing as Free Lunch: According to a survey by Visa, Americans on an average spend $53 on weekly lunch. That’s over $200 per month of savings from the salary if your company starts a free lunch program for the employees!

  3. Personalized Office Stationery: That personalized coffee mug with your name on it or a framed team photo on the desk subconsciously builds a sense of bonding.

Employee Recognition Ideas for Virtual Teams

As of currently, most teams are virtual teams. It’s been over two years since the office doors shut, and we are getting used to hearing “You are on mute” and “Am I audible?” Simply thanking your remote employees over an email might not be such a good idea.

Here are some interesting ways you can appreciate your virtual staff:

  1. Sponsor Learning: Let your remote employees upskill themselves through sponsored courses that help expand their portfolio.

  2. Delegate As You Like: Every employee has a least favorite work that they wish someone could take over from them. Make their wish come true by allowing them to delegate that work to one of their peers.

  1. Celebrate Diversity: Many of your remote employees might work from different corners of the world. With a diverse cultural workforce, the management can undertake initiatives to celebrate indigenous festivals, national days, and events.

  2. Endorsements: You can write a LinkedIn recommendation for your interns or freelance workers. Many employees would often love to have a video testimonial from you, but would not rather say. Grant them the opportunity to post endorsements on their websites, blogs, or portfolios.

  3. Happy Hours with the Boss: When you are working from the office, you invariably bond over a cup of coffee or break room conversations. But, with virtual teams, it’s almost everyday all work, no play. Break the robotic working hours & host a weekly or bi-weekly ‘Happy Hour Call’ with your staff to discuss anything but work.

  4. The Real Wellbeing: Looking after your workers’ mental well-being can be tricky. Especially, in the post-Covid scenario, it is the best and the most effective way to show that you care. Managements can organize frequent mental health workshops and host discreet consultations sessions.

Budget-friendly Employee Appreciation Ideas

  1. Post a Picture: Give your star employees a spotlight on social media and publicly acknowledge their work.

  2. A Pleasant Surprise: Might sound far-fetched, but your best go-getters will appreciate it if you allow them a surprise 2-day leave from work. A movie ticket for two will be a cherry on top.

  1. A Little Big Thing: A ‘Thank you’ note or a ‘You’re the Best’ message from the boss never fails to please your employees.

  2. Personal Milestones: Did one of your staff recently buy their first car? How about clicking a team photo in front of that brand new car? Being part of your colleague’s ‘dream come true’ moment can help you connect at an emotional level.

  3. Pass the Crown: Gamify employee recognition with a ‘Winner’s Crown’ that moves from desk to desk every time an employee pitches a brilliant idea or solves a technical challenge.

  1. Let Ideas Flow: How often do you take suggestions from non-experts in any work matter? Well, sometimes, non-experts bring fresh ideas & perspectives. Host a Pitch fest once to twice a year to give every employee a chance to pitch ideas on any matter.

  2. Reward punctuality: Whether it’s timely entering the office or being consistent at meeting deadlines, punctuality is a rare quality and deserves a pat on the back. If you are on a tight budget, simply send them a hilarious certificate of punctuality.

Employee Recognition Ideas with Digital Signage

Digital signage are screens that are used in almost every office premise. They are used for greeting guests at the reception with welcome messages or for making presentations during meetings & conferences. But there is another interesting way that you can use these digital displays when they are not playing any important content.

Read on for some ideas for recognizing your employees on digital signage.

  1. A Walk Down the Memory Lane: As your organization grows over the years, your team and team members also evolve. Celebrating a five-year work anniversary of your team or an employee is a fantastic way to appreciate their hard work over the years. You can use your office digital signage to display virtual scrapbooks and slideshows with all kinds of funny pictures at work.

  2. Message From the CEO: In large organizations there is often a disconnect between the employees and the higher authorities. While it is indeed impossible for the CEOs and Chairpersons to have one-on-one interactions with every personnel in a workforce, a kind message from the administration will leave the staff feeling satisfied at work. You can play personalized video messages or long, meaningful letters on employee break room TVs or conference hall screens.

Two employees in an office read a letter from the CEO that is displayed on a large digital signage screen
  1. Family Bonding Time: A large section of the global working population stays away from their families due to work. If you have someone like that in your team, the best way to show your appreciation is to surprise them with an hour-long chat with their family and friends over video call.

  2. Digital Wall of Fame: A physical wall of fame is static, but if you present a digital wall of fame on a screen, you can add multimedia content and various effects to make the employee recognition wall dynamic. Not just photos, you can create short videos on the achievements of your star employees. A digital employee recognition board displays the names & photos of star employees under the title: Wall Of Fame

  3. Surprise, Surprise: Who doesn’t like surprises? At any given time, the digital signage screens at your office shows everything from branding videos to live news updates. What if all the screens suddenly stopped showing all that and displayed a surprise invitation to an office picnic? Wouldn’t it be exciting? A digital screen installed in a workplace shows the message 'Surprise Team Lunch'

More Thoughtful Employee Appreciation Ideas that Work

Here are some more thoughtful ways managements can applaud their workforce and make the employees feel appreciated at work.

  1. The Corner Office: What’s more presitigious than a sitting at the plush corner office with the best view? Give your employees a turn to enjoy the view every time they outperform.

  2. Employee Testimonials: We all run after client testimonials. But, what about the champions at home? Feature your employees’ feedback on webpages, social media, and marketing videos to create a culture of appreciation.

  3. Donate on behalf: Each one of us believes in a cause that we wish we could contribute to. From adopting new puppies to contributing books to an orphanage, the list can be heartwarming, However, financial donations aren’t always affordable. This employee appreciation day, let your employees give back to the society, without having to check their purse.

  4. ‘Bring Your Pet’ Day: Some of your team members secretly wish they could bring along their pets to work. Make your organization pet-friendly: organize a ‘bring your pet’ day. Or better, start a pet creche to tickle your pet-loving employees pink.

  5. Free Advice: Your employees struggle with all kinds of finance management challenges, from tax filing to money management. Provide them free consultations with experts. Your workforce will surely appreciate that.

  6. Reimburse: The list of things that you can reimburse for your employees is long. From bus passes to electricity bills, pick anything that suits your budget and slash that item off of your employee’s ’to pay’ list.

  7. Family Fun Day: Organize a fun outdoor picnic with employees and their loved ones with free flowing champagnes & ice creams for the kids.

  8. Launch a Program: Besides randomly surprising your employees with gifts, & parties, many companies prefer to have an organized employee recognition program with predefined benefits and tiers of rewards for different levels of achievements. Launching a program helps you to allocate your budget and effectively manage your funds.

Over To You!

The list of employee recognition ideas goes on and on. It doesn’t matter whether you leave a small ’thank you’ note or sponsor a week-long holiday trip for your team members, the important thing is to show that you value them. As Bob Nelson rightly pointed out: “People may take a job for more money, but they often leave it for more recognition.” If you create a culture of complimenting people, there will be a culture of motivation. And that will reflect on your organization’s growth.

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Manav Jain

Manav is a content writer for Pickcel and a lifelong learner with a desire to develop content. He combines his curiosity with his experience and creativity to write about the ever-dynamic world of business.

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