Ideas For Employee Recognition: 11 Unique and Creative Ideas

Bins of candy, ping pong tournaments, and snacks aside, what matters is that your team feels appreciated. That’s where ideas for employee recognition come into play.

This can be as simple as taking a few minutes to say thank you to an employee who went above and beyond.

Recognizing outstanding work is one of the most powerful ways to make employees feel appreciated.

In this article, I’ll give you some ideas for employee recognition and how to show your employees some love.

1. Host an awards night

Recognize your employees with a fun and thoughtfully planned evening of fun. Hosting an evening awards event to celebrate employees’ achievements is a classic choice, and it’s easy to see why.

Often best suited to larger companies, an award ceremony brings together the winner and their colleagues and peers. 

Everyone gets to congratulate the winners on their success and mingle with each other out of office hours—perfect for team building.

The best part? You get to choose what kinds of award categories you use. Get some trophies for the best performer, like “Employee of the Month.”

Set up and have a few drinks with some nibbles and ask everyone to bring their partner.

Create custom awards and take-home gifts, then designate a presenter to introduce each honoree, give the award, and say thank you.

End the night with a slideshow to appreciate your team members.

2. Offer paid holidays or trips 

It is standard practice to recognize and thank employees on important birthday milestones like five, ten, and fifteen years of service.

Ensure that your culture encourages employees to take time off during other special events, such as birthdays, holidays, and even days off.

If you’ve got the budget for it, giving employees paid time off can be a great way to incentivize them when they reach a milestone.

Offer employees a paid vacation day or a trip to a nice destination. This can be a particularly valuable reward for someone who has never been on vacation or hasn’t had a holiday in years.

3. Support the commute 

Commuting to work can be a huge hassle, so anything that makes it easier is greatly appreciated.

Whether getting to work is a five-minute walk or a 45-minute drive, supporting the commute can make a big impact on employee happiness.  

Other ideas for supporting the commute include offering telecommuting options for part or all of the week, having flexible hours, and creating a ride-share program.

Additionally, you may even consider sponsoring Uber or Lyft credits.

By providing this support, you’re taking an intentional step forward in helping your employees avoid the stress of commuting.

Since 65% of people experience commuting stress, you can boost companywide well-being by covering a few bills.

4. Allow employees to win prizes

If you can’t give everyone a raise, offer some fun and special recognition to give back to the employees who are going above and beyond.

Employees want to know that they are being appreciated. Employees want to know that they’re doing a good job and that you recognize and value their efforts.

One way to make them feel seen is by allowing them to win prizes. Creating a fun recognition campaign in your office doesn’t need to be complicated. 

There are so many ways to say “thank you” to your employee, and one of the best ways is by allowing them to win prizes.

A gift card, complimentary lunch or happy hour, or even a day off could be prizes for an employee raffle. You can decide how often you would like this to happen, but ensure it fits your employee budget.

5. Offer ongoing training

Employees want to learn and grow. This is especially true when starting a new job. Your employees want to succeed, so give them a chance to do so with ongoing training.

Don’t assume that new employees know your company’s processes and expectations. Create learning opportunities at the start of their employment, and have refresher courses throughout the year.

Training helps people feel like they are growing and increasing their skills, which is directly linked to job satisfaction.

In addition to improving your employees’ performance, offering training opportunities will keep them from stagnating and increase their happiness at work.

Workplaces that offer ongoing training help employees grow and thrive and benefit from stronger, more loyal employees.

Beyond basic job training, businesses can offer employees opportunities to learn new skills and build their careers.

As workplaces undergo digital transformations, digital skills training and career guidance are essential for employees to take advantage of the latest technological advances rather than be disrupted by them.

6. Create an employee Wall of Fame 

According to one of Chron’s articles, 79% of workers say praising a job well done motivates them to work even harder.

Furthermore, finding creative and meaningful ways to honor and recognize employees can motivate them to work harder and retain them.

When you’re searching for ideas for employee recognition, everyone’s first instinct is to reward them with cash.

Having no plan for recognizing your employees can mean your rewards feel insincere, or worse, no one notices. This is why an employee wall of fame might be a good idea.

A proud employee will happily share their success with co-workers, friends, and family. Incorporate a “wall of fame” for your employees that showcases their latest achievements, milestones, and success stories.

Make it relevant to the work in the office, but don’t shy away from sharing personal achievements.

7. Email a thank you note to the staff

If your staff hears from you only when you need something or have to make a critical comment, you could strengthen the culture of fear in your office.

Thank staff who go above and beyond their duties in a genuine and heartfelt note.

Our employer’s appreciation goes a long way toward job satisfaction and engagement. A straightforward idea for employee recognition is to say “thank you” or celebrate a milestone anniversary.

A card expressing great appreciation for a job can mean a lot to employees. You can email them throughout the year or on special occasions, such as holidays or an employee’s anniversary date.

You can also email these thank yous throughout the year in addition to the fun parties and events.

Hang on to that unexpected thank you note that you receive. Recreate them and email them to the staff.

Additionally, ensure that you leave a comment in the subject line so that your note stands out from the rest of their inbox.

8. Give positive feedback

Positive feedback is a wonderful way to thank people for a job well done and reinforce good job behavior.

However, executives and managers often only give negative feedback, meaning employees who perform well can go years without recognition.

By giving positive feedback, you will increase your employee’s gratitude towards you and his company.

As a result, they will perform better and stay with the company longer if they feel appreciated. 

Give suitable types of praise. Successful leaders use specific, tailored feedback to encourage their employees.

In addition, great managers have a responsibility to provide positive feedback to their employees. Don’t hold back; give compliments that are genuine and often.

This doesn’t mean when big goals are achieved, but when you see something worth acknowledging, relay those accolades.

9. Plan a wellness day

People who work out are less likely to relapse into depression, anxiety, or stress and are more productive at work.

Plan a wellness day around their hobbies to recognize your employees with fitness in mind.  

One of the ideas for employee recognition is to take care of the whole person and their health and wellness.

Hold a wellness day where employees have time to focus on themselves, try yoga or meditation, or schedule a massage or reflexology session.

This can also be an excellent way for employees to bond and meet others across the organization in an informal setting.

Wellness days are a great way to break up the work week and re-energize your employees. Let them have some fun with some time away from their screens, like a bowling night or racquet sports tournament.

Treat each other to healthy snacks and have a massage therapist set up shop in your office so they can relax.

10. Social media praise

Incentive competitions and employee recognition aren’t the only ways to show your employees that you care.

If you have many employees, it can be a little daunting to remember everyone’s name—significantly if the team is constantly growing.

Look up some top-performing employees on social media, congratulate them in public, and give them a shout-out.

The attention will undoubtedly make their day. Do you have someone who seems to do it all—and does it well? 

Show them some extra love on social media. Post a photo of them with their team, share an anecdote about their success, or create a gif that celebrates the individual.

People will recognize the hard work and commitment they’re putting in. Besides, your post might even encourage others to recognize that great work themselves.

11. Celebrate employee birthdays

Celebrating employee birthdays and anniversaries is a sure way to show you care. Not only can it improve morale, but it typically improves employee engagement and retention, too.

If a birthday is coming up, start the celebration by having your employees sing “Happy Birthday” to the birthday guy or gal in the morning.

Even if your company is large, the number of employees doesn’t mean it should be impossible to celebrate every employee’s birthday.

Small things also count, and even if you can’t spoil the whole office with a huge party, there are other ways to make them feel appreciated on this special day.

People love to be recognized, and celebrating their birthday is always a big deal, no matter how old they are.

You can also go the extra mile by selecting the best birthday present they’ve ever received.


Why is employee recognition important?

Employee recognition ideas can make people feel like they’re part of an organization and motivate them to do great work. It’s not just for the reward but because they can have a lasting impact.

How often should you recognize your employees with awards?

Recognition should be frequent. It could be monthly or quarterly. When deciding how often to present awards, consider your objectives and budget.

What companies can use these employee recognition ideas?

All kinds of companies. Big, small, multinational, domestic, fast-growing, and mature.

Employee recognition ideas are great for all types of businesses because they emphasize the importance of people within a company—no matter the industry or culture.

Wrapping up

Employee recognition is one of the most important functions that businesses can provide to their employees. This really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

Everyone likes getting recognition for their hard work, and business owners must ensure their employees know they are appreciated. 

I hope you enjoyed my insights into the different ideas for employee recognition. There are many ways companies can be creative with their recognition programs and think outside the box.

I hope this guide has given you some ideas for making your program stand out. The small, simple things increase over time and make employees feel like their employer appreciates them.

In addition to making employees happy, managers should always strive for improvement.

Good managers always seek opportunities to grow. Read the article that outlines the major areas of improvement for managers.

Thanks for reading.