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10 Ways to Promote Employee Recognition

While numbers have declined since the Great Resignation in 2022, 44.5 million Americans quit their jobs in 2023. 

Most of these employees went to new jobs rather than leaving the workforce. Why are so many people looking for new roles? Higher wages and remote work were key drivers, but so was a lack of recognition. 

Even before the pandemic, research showed that only 33 percent of employees strongly agreed that they received recognition or praise for good work in the past seven days. And employees who don’t feel recognized are 2x as likely to say they’ll quit in the next year.

Recognizing employees costs very little but makes a significant difference in turnover, performance, and employee engagement.

It literally pays to recognize good work.

What is employee recognition?

What does it look like to recognize your team for good work?

Employee recognition can take many forms. You want to avoid the overused and often-mocked pizza party, but otherwise, you can adapt employee recognition to fit each team member.

Many people enjoy being recognized publicly. You can do a shout-out in a team meeting, share the employee’s great work in a group chat, or send a mass email. Other team members would find it embarrassing to be publicly recognized, and those employees you should recognize privately, in one-on-one conversations and emails. 

But this doesn’t only apply to individuals—employee recognition and rewards are an excellent way to show appreciation for teams, business units, and other groups within the organization. 

What can you recognize employees for? Here are some ideas:

  • Taking initiative in solving problems or mediating conflict
  • Efforts in running company committees or employee resource groups
  • Improving morale or results
  • Work that resulted in positive customer feedback
  • Mentorship or leadership efforts
  • Displaying helpfulness and teamwork
  • Improving a skill or completing a professional development program

Recognition doesn’t have to cost anything—simply recognizing excellent work is motivating— but if you can give a tangible reward like a gift card or cash, that’s even better. You never know someone’s personal situation, and those rewards can make a bigger difference than you realize.

It’s also important to advocate for an employee’s career advancement according to their goals. This shows that you appreciate their contributions and are willing to share those contributions with leaders within your organization. 

Why is employee recognition important?

Often, a story is better than statistics, and an employee from Workhuman shared their experience of being recognized within their first few days on the job. His boss sent an email and a financial reward, and fellow employees welcomed him and thanked him for going the extra mile. He said, “I had never felt so energized, motivated, and appreciated as I did in those days after receiving my first award.”

You can bet that the employee was far more likely to go above and beyond in the weeks after that recognition, and you can create those same feelings and results in your team. 

Another important part of employee recognition is that it needs to be done consistently. You don’t want to show appreciation once a year. Instead, make sure you’re recognizing effort regularly throughout the week, quarter, and year.

Employee recognition is one of the strongest drivers of employee engagement. It also improves morale, productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. Improving those aspects of your company culture helps your company thrive and drives bottom-line results.

How to recognize employees in your organization

Employee recognition is a vital part of developing a strong company culture, attracting and retaining top talent, and driving better results for your organization. Practically speaking, how do you do it?

There are various ways to recognize team members, and not all will fit every individual. Remember, it’s important to tailor your method to each employee to match what they’re looking for in terms of motivation and appreciation. These approaches can be ad hoc or part of a formal employee recognition program.

Lunch with the boss

Many employees enjoy one-on-one time with their manager that isn’t focused on performance improvement. So why not take a high-performing employee to lunch as a reward and recognition? 

This works for employees who enjoy public praise and those who prefer one-on-one thanks. For those who like public recognition, you can announce your lunch and publicly praise them for their efforts. For those who don’t, keep things quieter while showing appreciation for their work.

Extended breaks or lunches

Another great reward that shows recognition is additional time off. While you might not be able to offer a vacation day, offering a half-day or additional time for a break or lunch is often appreciated by employees and can help motivate them.

Your team members may enjoy a long lunch with friends, run errands, or do personal things that people often struggle to fit into their schedules. Regardless of what they do, they’ll appreciate the extra time.

A rotating trophy

Whether you have a regular monthly recognition event or just like to show appreciation for specific results in a fun way, consider a rotating trophy. It could be a sports-style trophy or something fun like a stuffed animal, plastic figurine, or another item that would be meaningful to your team. 

For example, football teams often have a “turnover chain” that a defensive player wears around their neck when they cause a turnover on the field. Even if it’s only worn for a couple of minutes, the whole team enjoys the fun of putting in on the winning player, and the player gets a significant charge out of it.

Connect rewards to professional development

Another way to reward team members is for professional development, which can improve their skills and productivity and advance their careers. For example, if your organization has a leadership training program, you can have a specific reward tied to completing it.

You can also advocate for your employees who have completed training by connecting them to mentoring and shadowing opportunities within the company and helping them apply for career advancement opportunities. 

Have a physical or digital wall of fame

When you notice that a team member is putting in extra effort and making a difference, you can recognize them by having a “Wall of Fame” in the office or online.

If a team member doesn’t want public praise, you’d simply give them a private thank you, but for others, a Wall of Fame can be a great way to be appreciated and get praise from the team and leadership.

A digital Wall of Fame can help you motivate your team if you have remote or hybrid team members or if your team prefers electronic communication. For more traditional office environments, a wall with pictures can be a great form of recognition.

Read more: 15 Virtual Employee Recognition Ideas

Handwritten notes

One reason employees don’t feel appreciated by company-wide annual events is that they feel impersonal and unfocused on any particular accomplishment. To show that an employee’s work matters, consider writing a handwritten note to say thank you.

Very few people receive handwritten notes or cards, so it shows that you took the time to think through the recognition. 

Employee recognition parking

Giving prime parking to an employee can be a great way to recognize hard work if you can do so. For example, you might be able to work with building management to reserve an up-front spot for high performers. Or, if you have a great parking spot, you can let an employee use it for a day or week.

People love great parking, and you might be surprised how motivated they are to earn it.

Recognition from upper management

In some organizations, employees don’t always have a chance to talk to upper management. So why not bring in personal recognition from an upper-level manager for high performers? 

Whether it’s a written note from an executive, a conversation, or even lunch, spending time face-to-face with senior leaders can help employees feel special and appreciated.

Write a LinkedIn recommendation

LinkedIn recommendations are a great way to recognize an employee’s work on a project or important initiative or their excellent performance in a new role. This is a way to publicly recognize someone without causing the kind of fuss that can embarrass some employees.

A LinkedIn recommendation can help an employee who applies for a promotion or new position within the organization, so you’re not only recognizing them, you’re helping them grow.

Do a GIF challenge

For employees who like to be recognized publicly, consider starting a conversation on a chat or an email where you invite everyone to share the GIF that showcases how they feel about their fellow employee or their accomplishments. 

This allows team members to join in, shows appreciation in a fun way, and is a lighthearted way to increase team bonding. The team members who aren’t being honored that day will enjoy the experience and work harder so they can be next!

Invest in your team to drive morale and results

There’s no doubt that putting your team first helps improve engagement, employee retention, morale, and more. A great work culture makes it easier to attract and retain top talent and makes it more fun to come to work.

One of the key ways you can put your team first is by creating a culture of continuous learning and growth. You’ll have a lot of great opportunities for employee recognition and you’ll be helping team members upskill and reskill so they can grow in their careers.

A culture of learning requires the right foundation, which is why so many companies use WorkRamp’s Learning Cloud for new hire training, employee development, leadership training, and more. 

Discover how WorkRamp can help you uplevel your team and create a culture of learning. Contact us for a free, personalized demo. 


Complete the form for a custom demo.

Anna Spooner

WorkRamp Contributor

Anna Spooner is a digital strategist and marketer with over 11 years of experience. She writes content for various industries, including SaaS, medical and personal insurance, healthcare, education, marketing, and business. She enjoys the process of putting words around a company’s vision and is an expert at making complex ideas approachable and encouraging an audience to take action. 

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