Employee Recognition Ideas

We've written about the importance of employee recognition and why it's critical to implement it within your organization. Nearly eight in ten millennials within a study from Office Team say they'd be looking for new opportunities if they do not feel appreciated by their colleagues or leaders. Considering that millennials make up the largest generation in today's workforce, this could present a real problem. Recognition can lead to lower turnover rates, increased productivity, and happier employees. It's no secret employers should adopt significant employee recognition strategies to increase their bottom line and improve the overall employee experience.

At Projections, we've had decades of experience helping organizations create involved and focused workforces, new hire orientation, leader & supervisor training, and union organizing campaign tools. Our top-rated video, websites, and eLearning tools have proven effective for a multitude of companies. We've compiled a list of some of the best employee recognition ideas we could find that will help your organization to increase employee retention and improve overall workplace culture. Below is a list of opportunities for recognition, along with some impactful and unique ideas and recognition gifts or awards -- so you can increase employee engagement and positively impact your organization.

Opportunities for Areas of Recognition

SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, shared a toolkit for managing employee recognition programs that shared the many opportunities for employers to recognize their employees. They shared, "although organizations typically recognize employees' length-of-service milestones and instances of a strong individual or team performance, many organizations are beginning to focus on other, less traditional areas for recognition." Their suggestions included the following:

  • The ability to manage or champion change.
  • Innovation.
  • Systems improvements.
  • Customer or client retention. 
  • Morale-building.
  • Talent acquisition and retention.
  • Market diversification.
  • Technological advances. 
  • Significant personal development.
  • Actions that embody the organization's core values.

Since it is relatively easy to find opportunities to recognize employees for specific milestones and performance-based achievements, these additional opportunities to recognize team members are a great resource to keep on hand! We'll share a few more occasions and circumstances for awarding employees with recognition, gifts, or simply showing appreciation below.

employee recognition gifts

How To Show Recognition to your Employees

Now that you know why recognition is so important, how it can positively (and negatively) impact your organization, and you have some ideas for areas to show recognition to your employees, we will get into the "how." Below are some great ideas for employee recognition gifts and awards; a little effort can go a long way! Here are ten unique employee recognition gifts/ideas for employers to show their appreciation for team members you may not have thought about!

Unique Employee Recognition Gifts and Ideas

  1. "Time Off" coupons or time away from the office - Give your employee a coupon for some time away from their office, or better yet, let them know they can have the rest of the day off. Make sure to tell them why they're being rewarded with some time away!
  2. Secret Santa style recognition - Peer-to-peer recognition can be incorporated in a number of ways, but a fun way for team members to recognize one another with a surprise note of recognition or even a gift with an agreed-upon spending limit.
  3. Office makeover/upgrade - This idea works for employees in the office or working from a home office. Employers can gift an essential office item in need of an upgrade, like a new chair or a piece of art or wall decor. Ask your team member for their input, or give them a spending limit to grab something they already want/need!
  4. Incentivize giving feedback - It's hard for employers to request feedback, and it can also be equally as uncomfortable or difficult for employees to provide it! You can offer coffee, lunch, or a small gift card for employees who participate in surveys, offer feedback, or even ask questions in a meeting or share thoughts in a suggestion box.
  5. Ask employees to share their favorite ways to be recognized - This may seem like an obvious suggestion. Still, personalizing recognition for different team members based on what they want can make a huge difference in the way they feel appreciated. Determining their "love language" (or their favorite way of being appreciated) can be a fun way to get to know employees better.
  6. Team bonding activities - Depending on your organization's size, it's a fun idea to reward employees by doing some sort of team bonding or team-building activity. Things like visiting an escape room, going out to dinner, or even treating team members to a happy hour can all be fun ways to provide employee recognition outside of the office!
  7. Offer training/career advancement opportunities - An often overlooked form of recognition, employees can be provided with opportunities to advance their career or further their training. This is especially impactful to team members who want to take on a more significant role; leadership training can be extremely beneficial and beneficial to both your employee and your company!
  8. Branded company "swag" - Not only does this encourage employees to advertise for your company throughout the day, a company-branded coffee mug is a practical gift that can be used daily!
  9. Flowers or a house plant - Since so many employees are newly remote and could likely use some additional connection and recognition, sprucing up their home office with a plant can be a fun way to liven up their space and thank them for their hard work. Just make sure there are no allergies, and be aware of plants that may negatively impact pets in the home.
  10. Treat them to a lunch delivery - With services like DoorDash and Instacart, you could treat your employees, if they are working remotely, to a lunch delivery at home. Food can be a great way of showing your appreciation and recognition to team members.

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Train Your Leaders to Show Recognition

Ultimately, as humans, we thrive off when we receive appreciation and recognition for a job well done and time spent working hard on a task. Couple that with the information from an Achievers study that shared that 44% of workers stated that they changed jobs due to a lack of engagement and recognition, and it's no secret that it can be detrimental to your organization to not have some sort of an employee recognition program in place! If your workplace could use some guidance with recognizing and retaining team members, A Better Leader's training titled "Praise & Recognition" is the perfect solution. Your leaders will understand why praise and recognition are essential and how they benefit employees on the job, learn tips to become more praise-proficient at the moment, and more!

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About the Author Jennifer Orechwa

With over 25 years in the industry, and now as IRI's Director of Business Development, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a culture of engagement. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.

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