Employee Recognition Explained: What Is Employee Recognition

Oct 11, 2021
Employee Recognition Explained: What Is Employee Recognition
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Dr. Bob Nelson, a motivational speaker and best-selling author once said, "Take time to appreciate employees and they will reciprocate in a thousand ways." This reciprocation includes higher productivity and greater loyalty.

Sixty-three percent of employees who were regularly recognized indicated they would be unlikely to leave their job. Recognition also increased productivity, employee engagement, and performance by 14%.

Employee recognition is a great way to show your employees how much you appreciate them. Wondering where to start? Or what an effective employee recognition program would entail? Read on to find out more.

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What Is Employee Recognition?

Employee recognition is a way to acknowledge the exceptional work of your members of staff. It rewards behaviors that reflect company values. This can help employees achieve your company's mission and vision.

This ultimately results in greater productivity and increased profits. This public recognition usually has a rippling effect. It encourages other employees to work together to achieve individual and company goals.

There are both formal and informal activities you can do to recognize staff members.

Types of Employee Recognition

Traditionally, employee recognition is top-down. A manager or supervisor acknowledges the great performance of an employee. It can also involve staff recognition where a team lead recognizes the stellar performance of his/her team or workgroup. 

You can also expand this to include peer-to-peer recognition as well. This allows co-workers or teammates to recognize each other. Ideally, recognition should involve all the above.

However, regardless of the type of recognition in the workplace, it should have the following criteria for optimal success

  • Ample resources committed

  • Straightforward and easily understood by all involved

  • Aligned with your company's mission, vision, and values

  • Rewards that are commensurate with the achievements

  • Take place soon after the employee attains the achievement

  • Well-executed

  • Continuously evaluated for relevance

Clear communication of the program is also important. You should introduce new employees to your recognition program during onboarding.

Line managers can then reinforce the program's elements. They can also take this opportunity to clarify any uncertainty employees may have.

Most importantly, an employee recognition program should never be static. It should evolve as both internal and external changes take place.

Don't be afraid to get input from employees. Surveys are a great way to do that. You can alter your program based on their feedback.

Examples of Employee Recognition Programs

Here are some great examples of employee recognition programs:


Monetary rewards can be a great incentive. However, you should tie them to specific performance measurements.

It's also best to balance bonuses with other types of rewards. Remember, money is not always a motivating factor for everyone.

employee recognition

Appreciation Days or Events

Dedicate a day or event to your employees that's all about them and their achievements. This could be as simple as a company-wide email or announcement acknowledging the employee. It could also include an appreciation bonus in that month's paycheck.

More formal programs can highlight an employee for a month or quarter. This can encourage others to improve their performance to get similar recognition.

how to recognize employees

Outdoor Activity

Rewarding employees with outdoor activity is great for team recognition. It provides a change of scenery from the four walls of the office.

It also allows employees to engage with each other in another environment. You can also use it as a team-building activity.

employee recognition examples

Employee Care Package

This type of package, as the name implies, can truly show an employee you care. It can include gift certificates, snacks, games, and a handwritten note from you. An employee would appreciate the items even more if they reflect their personality and lifestyle.

employee recognition programs

Organization-Wide Acknowledgment

This type of recognition should be based on the employee's personality. Some members of staff shy away from public recognition while others bask in it. Remember, it defeats the purpose if the recognition embarrasses the employee.

However, for those staff members that welcome it, consider displaying their photos via digital screens or a recognition wall. You can also make a company-wide announcement at the weekly staff meeting, or over the intercom.

Don't discount the effect of traditional rewards. Employees love to proudly display plaques, trophies, or certificates at their desks or in their offices.

employee recognition ideas


For shyer employees, a one-on-one lunch is a perfect way to say thank you. If they're up to it, an activity with just their team or department members may be acceptable. Whichever it is, ensure you make it about them by choosing a location or setting they would enjoy.

employee recognition quotes

Acknowledge Time Dedicated

This recognizes milestones that are significant to your employees. These include work anniversaries or promotions. It's a great opportunity to remind them that you're glad that they are a part of your organization.

But don't forget other milestones that may be significant to them. These can include birthdays and additions to the family.

employee recognition awards

Wellness Programs

Wellness programs show that you care about more than just the bottom line. It helps to promote a healthy work-life balance for your employees. You can extend wellness programs to every area of the organization:

  • Include healthy snacks in the breakroom

  • Have fitness competitions

  • Promote a buddy system where employees help each other stay healthy

But don't limit it to inside the office. Encourage outdoor activities such as hikes, outdoor yoga, or walking.

employee recognition software

Staff Recognition Program

Being recognized by one's peers is also a great motivator. Implement a program that allows peer-to-peer recognition. The recognition doesn't even have to be work-related.

Employees can highlight kind gestures. This could be something a fellow employee did to get them through a difficult day. It can even be words of encouragement that helped them finish a project.

employee recognition ideas


There may be causes that are near and dear to an employee's heart. Find out if they would appreciate you donating to a non-profit instead of any monetary reward.

This will send the message that you're interested in the things they care about. It also shows that you are willing to help make a difference.

how to recognize employees during covid

Benefits of Employee Recognition

Employee recognition is a win-win situation for both employers and employees. For employees, it fosters pride in their work and gives them a reason to keep on putting forth their best. This increases their level of productivity. It also helps customer service delivery which can result in greater profits.

Builds Trust

An employee who trusts their organization is more inclined to achieve company goals. They look at it as a team effort. They know they have an employer that cares about their welfare as much as the bottom line.

About 90% of employees who received recognition trusted their bosses more as a result. Whereas only 48% of employees who didn't receive recognition trusted their leaders. 

Employee recognition not only builds trust but increases engagement as well. Companies with highly engaged workforces are 21% more profitable.

employee recognition

Makes Employees Happier

When someone compliments you or recognizes your efforts, there's a surge of dopamine in your brain. This creates that good feeling you experience. Feeling good makes humans happy and employees are no exception.

If your aim is to get higher levels of productivity from your employees, then make them happy. Recognition of their hard work can do this. You'll also receive the added bonus of greater loyalty and team collaboration.

employee experience

Reinforces Your Company Culture

You should align your recognition program with your company's mission, vision, and values. This will help to reinforce the company culture you've created. Based on your values, this may be a culture of excellence, success, honesty, and teamwork.

Your program should not only empower employees but should also strengthen relationships. Your employees should have a clear idea of their individual goals. They should also know how this affects company goals.

You should communicate this at the time of onboarding. Reinforcement also helps them strive toward attaining them.

This will promote a culture of success and continuous self-improvement. You can enhance this through positive reinforcement and constructive feedback.

company culture examples

Improves Morale and Employee Retention

Even simple acts of recognition can improve employee morale. This can include expressing heartfelt thanks or apologizing for any miscommunication. Non-work-related gestures also go a long way.

Ask a new mother how she is coping with being away from her newborn. Find out how your new employee is adjusting after moving to a new city. Let them suggest ways that you can help with the transition.

All these gestures foster a caring work environment. It's one that any employee will enjoy being a part of. It will make them less likely to leave.

employee retention

Reduces Costs

An employee that resigns because they're unhappy can cost you a lot. It costs just over $4,000 to hire a new employee and an additional $1,000 to onboard them. That's roughly $5,000 for every new employee you hire.

However, disengaged employees that stay costs U.S companies $450 to $550 billion every year. The solution is clear. 

Ensure you create a company culture that fosters engagement. This includes incorporating effective employee recognition programs.

how to recognize employees virtually

Rewarding Achievements That Increase Performance

Your employees are your greatest asset. They play a pivotal role in the success of your company. As with any other valuable asset, you should nurture and protect them. 

Employee recognition is one of the most effective ways to reward employees. It also builds a culture of excellence. Ensure you create an employee recognition program that adds value.

HRCloud can help you achieve this. Our user-friendly platform includes a Rewards and Recognition solution that your employees will love! Request a demo today!


About Author: This article is written by our marketing team at HR Cloud. HR Cloud is a leading provider of HR solutions, including recruiting, onboarding, employee engagement, and intranet software. Our aim is to help your company improve employee engagement, employee productivity, and to save you valuable time!



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