by Sabrina Son on Jun 25, 2015 5:00:00 AM

Today’s workplace is experiencing a shift from employee recognition as being “nice to have” to “need to have.” A survey by World at Work reported that 88% of organizations have a staff recognition program in place — this can range anywhere from Employee of the Month to bonuses or gift cards. But these traditional methods are starting to grow a reputation for being inauthentic and, frankly, boring.

Pitfalls of Employee Recognition

There’s nothing worse than giving it your all at work and not receiving any sort of acknowledgement for your contributions. One thing that follows in close second is receiving empty praise that has no meaning behind it. Consider these findings fromCareerBuilder and Badgeville:

  • 50% of employees believe increased recognition would reduce voluntary turnover
  • 40% of employees who don’t feel meaningfully recognized will not go above their formal responsibilities

So if you’re going to praise your employee, make it genuine appreciation. Barb Hurley, Operations Manager at Knot So Perfect Designs, explains the importance of employee recognition,

“As the saying goes, an ‘atta boy/girl goes a long ways,’ and it does. Getting a compliment of good job gives the person pride, confidence, and self esteem. It makes you want to continue to do even a better job. People crave compliments as well as approval. When the employee gives 110%, it helps the company or gives a good impression of the company. Why wouldn’t supervisors and managers express appreciation for a job well done? It also makes them look good.”

To give your recognition program a redesign and shake things up, check out these 18 unique ideas that you can try out today.

  1. Lunch drawing

If you have a peer-to-peer recognition program in place (which you should!), enter your employee’s name into a hat every time they recognize their peer. The more kudos they send, the higher of a chance they receive. At the end of the week, draw out two names so those employees can enjoy a meal on the company.

  1. Social butterfly

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

  1. Birthday celebration

Allow employees to use a floating holiday for their birthday. They deserve a day off!

  1. Off-site day

Take the whole team to work off site for the day — work at cafes, libraries, or anywhere with Wi-Fi. You’d be surprised at how a change of scenery can really boost productivity.

  1. Sticky notes

Leave a handwritten note saying “thank you” and why you’re thanking them on a Post-It. Stick it on your employee’s desk so that when they come into work the next day, they’ll be received with a pleasant surprise.

  1. Rotating trophy

Find a fun trophy, stuffed animal, or figurine that you can pass around the office. Give it to an employee who has exemplified one of your organizational values, and let them keep it on their desk for a week. Come the next week, let that employee hand it off to one of their peers who has done the same.

  1. Surprise treats

After an employee has left for the day, stick a candy bar, their favorite snack, or treat in their desk drawer. They’ll be able to start their day off on the right foot after they’ve found their surprise.

  1. Recognition Day

Organize a formal employee recognition day at work. Make a whole event out of it with food, awards, and team-building activities.

  1. Daily wins

If an employee landed a huge account or pushed a new feature live, have them let their peers know. Post it on your internal chat or announce it during meetings. It’s a great way for employees to highlight their own achievements in front of their colleagues.

  1. Project plan

Let employees pick out an upcoming special project to work on. It shows that you trust them to keep accountable for their responsibilities.

  1. Wall of fame

Snap photos of your employee’s accomplishments or take candid shots of them hard at work. Celebrate their contributions by creating a collage showcasing their blood, sweat, and hopefully not tears.

  1. Spontaneous treats

Bring in donuts one morning or chilled drinks on a hot afternoon. Let your employees take a quick break to kick back and relax before they go back to their task at hand.

  1. Show off recognition

Have employees send each other kudos, whether through a peer-to-peer recognition platform or physical cards. Display them around the office so everyone can see all the great things that have been happening around the company.

  1. Send a card

Rather than giving employees a pat on the back or high five, send a card to their home.

  1. Cheer tee

Has someone done a spectacular act or gone the extra mile at work? Have teammates sign a company tee with a thank-you message.

  1. Prize tokens

SOURCE: giphy.com

Whenever you see someone doing something great, give them a token. Make them tradeable for prizes such as a bike, t-shirt, or a gift card to a store of their choice.

  1. Creative day

You’ve probably heard it before — hack day. Let your employees take a whole day (or even just half) to work on a project of their choice. Then have them present it in front of the leadership team so that the top ideas can be implemented into everyday operations.

  1. Commute help

Transportation can get costly when you consider the price of gas, car maintenance, and parking or even just a bus pass. Consider reimbursing your employee a free bus pass or giving up your parking spot for a week.

Some of these ideas may seem little, but it’s always the small things that make the biggest differences. Try a different tactic here and there with recognition to make it truly meaningful. Your employees will appreciate it, and so will your organization’s bottom line.




    • Designing a reward system is very rewarding in and of itself. What’s even more rewarding is to watch their faces light up when they do receive one!


      • I don’t know of one person who doesn’t appreciate acknowledgement! Surprise and spontaneous rewards are some of the best kind!
        Thank you for reading our blog.


  1. I went and bought each of my admins a brightly colored pot of flowers to keep on their desk and can then be planted outdoors. Hint of Spring last week. They all loved it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.