Talent Management

40 Employee Recognition Ideas For Your Praiseworthy Staff

Published by in Talent Management

We work a lot. A lot a lot.

In fact, assuming that you work 40 hours a week over a 50-year career, you’ll spend more than 10 years of your life at work alone. That’s not ten years of a 9 to 5 job. That’s 92,120 hours of work in a lifetime. And that’s assuming you never take any overtime! Yikes.

Employee Recognition Ideas For Your Praiseworthy Staff Header Image

With all that work to be done, it would sure help if you were good at what you were doing. But how can you know if you’re good at what you do if nobody ever tells you? That’s where employee recognition comes in.

Employee recognition ideas

Employee recognition is the praise, acknowledgement, and appreciation given to employees in the workplace. And it’s effective. In fact, receiving praise in the workplace has benefits like increasing productivity, fewer absent days, better teamwork, and higher employee loyalty.

That’s partially because the human brain loves being praised. And while they love praise, negative feedback can sting, especially when criticism is delivered more frequently than praise. That balance can be difficult to strike, since humans tend to default to the negative.

All the more reason, then, to be super aware of the praise you give, and to find creative ways to recognize rockstar employees in your own office. Here’s 40 employee recognition ideas to help you get started. They’re in no particular order, and include a good mix of cost and effort levels.

40 Employee Recognition Ideas For Praiseworthy Peers

1. Open praise sharing: Don’t just praise your employees to them in private. It will mean more to them to be publically recognized. Praise in front of peers and superiors.

2. Breakroom snacks: Do your employees have their own getaway? Stock it with special snacks when the team’s done particularly well.

3. Wall of fame: The modern version of an “employee of the month” wall.

4. Siblinghood of the travelling trophy: One idea for peer-to-peer recognition is to have a trophy (be it serious or silly) that employees award one another for jobs well done. Each recipient keeps the trophy until they see someone else who deserves it.

5. Long lunch: What’s the normal lunch period at your office? Double it one day for a deserving employee.

6. Pet days: If your office space allows it, have a pet day where employees can bring their well-behaved dogs or cats with them for the day.

7. Sweets: Nobody will ever complain about cookies, cupcakes, or donuts in the office kitchen or common room.

8. Peer-recognition drawings: Have a submission form where employees can nominate their coworkers for a special monthly drawing, perhaps for a gift card or coupon to a local lunch spot.

9. Work from home days: If it works for your industry, hand out coupons for work from home days.

10. Handwritten letter: A handwritten letter explaining exactly why you’re proud and how an employee has made an impact on the company can mean more than anything else. These gestures can feel more personal than a mention at a meeting or a picture on a wall. Pro tip: never start a thank you letter with “Thank you for…”. Start with literally anything else and the letter will write itself.

11. Reflexive recognition: See something you like? Acknowledge it right away to help reinforce the employee: here’s how.

12. Catered breakfast For employees who show up early, offer an occasional hot, catered breakfast at the office.

13. Half-day: Everyone daydreams about leaving after lunch. Let it happen!

14. Get creative with gift cards: You’ve seen the old Starbucks-and-McDonald’s standbys. Have you considered offering a gift card to Grubhub or Amazon? Go the extra mile by finding out what your employees like to do for fun to get more milage out of gift cards.

15. Casual Tuesday: Forget casual Friday. Declare a casual Monday or Tuesday to help your staff let their hair down after a challenging week.

16. Company-facing praise: Praise publicly, starting with internal bragging. If you have a newsletter, mass emails, or regular all-hands meetings, praise successful employees with them, making sure the company knows of a job well done.

17. World-facing praise: Does your company have a website? Use it to spotlight employees who are out there crushing it. Not only will your employees feel good, but it will help display your authenticity and success to your clients.

18. Thank-you meeting: Call an employee in for a meeting purely to thank them. Don’t muddle the meeting with other work or criticisms. It’s not a performance review. Just thank them sincerely and let that be it.

19. Company apparel: Got company swag? Give tees or sweatshirts to employees doing well.

20. Software benefits tracking: If keeping track of this list is starting to seem daunting, check out employee recognition software to help keep your employees happy and your benefits flowing smoothly.

21. Award ceremony: An old standby for a good reason, award ceremonies are a chance to treat your employees to a fun formal evening, and a chance to highlight those who have excelled with a special night.

22. Gamified thanks: Interested in going digital with thanks? Some employee recognition software, such as Peoplecart and Hoopla, offer gamified recognition to add a sense of fun.

23. Mug full of treats: Have any company-branded coffee cups lying around? Stuff one full of little snacks and sweets and leave it on an employee’s desk with a small thank-you card after a win!

24. Lunch with the boss: A lunch out with the CEOs can feel special, especially for businesses where upper management has little interaction with the rest of the company.

25. Commuting assistance: A gift certificate for a tank of gas or a topped-off metrocard is a big help to people who deal with long commutes.

26. Show-off meetings: If a team has knocked a project out of the proverbial ballpark recently, call a meeting with the relevant people, just to show it off.

27. Social media recognition: Use that company Facebook page or Twitter feed to give a shout-out!

28. Outside achievement acknowledgement: Has anyone at the office had a big win outside of work recently? A graduation, an engagement, an art award? Give them some praise in the office, too.

29. Longevity praise: These days, a year’s tenure at a company can feel like a long-term relationship, but for those who’ve hit three, five, or 20 years, make sure to give special praise on work anniversaries.

30. End-of-year party: When the fiscal year finally ends, use some leftover funds to throw your employees a party. Be it a fancy gala or a simple pizza in the office, what matters is showing your employees that you couldn’t have done it without them.

31. Happy hours: Take the team out for a few drinks on the company’s dime after a tough week.

32. Food truck lunch: Call a food truck to park outside of the building on a nice day, then treat everyone to lunch!

33. After-work ice cream: An especially nice idea for hot summer days!

34. In-work acknowledgement: Did someone pull twice their weight on a report? Put in an acknowledgements page to say so, or give them a shout-out in a meeting in front of their superiors.

35. Surprise bonuses: Scheduled bonuses and raises are great, but there’s something special about an extra $50 in your paycheck you didn’t know was coming. Surprise bonuses are sort of like the corporate version of finding a five-dollar bill in your pocket.

36. Environment control: Do you have some control over your office environment? A few degrees of climate control, or a music system that has a radio dial or an AUX cord? Give an employee a day’s takeover to make the workspace customized their way.

37. Virtual parties If your staff telecommutes or works from home, have a virtual party. Pull up Google Hangouts, order everyone pizzas, and enjoy it over webcam.

38. Praise ambush Surprise! Call a last-minute meeting or pull an employee aside to tell them they’ve done well. Be specific and check their schedule first to avoid making them late for anything. The difference for this is that this is a total surprise to the recipient.

39. Team dinner Take the team out to a nice dinner in the middle of the week as a thank you for a success.

40. Personalized praise: None of these tips will work if you use them on the wrong person. Get to know your employees. Find out what sort of praise will work best for them, and keep track (use a spreadsheet if you need to). If someone hates birthdays, they won’t appreciate a surprise cake, for instance.

What Employee Recognition Ideas Do You Have?

Are you more of a number 30 or a number 15? Have you tried any of these methods? Or maybe you have your own foolproof praise method that I totally missed. Tell me about it in the comments below.

And check out these articles for more awesome talent management tips:

Looking for Talent Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Talent Management software solutions.

About the Author

Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen is a former Capterra analyst.


Comment by Caricature King on

When I saw employee drawings I got excited because I thought YES! They Get IT!
But now, it was a draw….
So number 41 – A drawing of the staff (be it individual or team. Yes a fun artwork, cartoon or caricature that denotes why they received the award.
We have been doing these for a number of years and they are always gratefully accepted and revered by the employee/s. Because they are done digitally, it means there can be a nice take-home copy in a frame and another copy for display on the wall of fame or o0ther location.
See more at https://www.caricatureking.com/awards-caricatures.php
Also great for retirement gifts!

Comment by Marina Wellis on

I like your idea of a praise ambush because it will really help make that certain staff feel a lot special. Aside from that, I think it’s also a great idea to give them a plaque of recognition rather than monetary benefits. Thanks for sharing this. I have a specific employee that I need to praise for loyalty and hard work. I have an idea regarding what to do now. Thanks!

Comment by Nico Brenner on

Thank you for putting all of these great ideas together. Really like the after-work ice cream!

Here’s a way to keep track of who to recognize based on customer feedback (specially useful for frontline teams): https://www.capterra.com/employee-recognition-software/spotlight/157545/Praiseworthy/Praiseworthy

Comment by Naomi Harding on

Good article. I found a balanced approach worked the best. Offering team and individual, private and open praises written and verbal recognition, adhoc “Pizza nights” or a BBQ breakfast I would cook up after routine training or as appreciation for a job well done. Instant reward nominations through a client sceme or I would hold on air radio quizzes for those on shift to participate in if they wished (ranging from 5 to 15 questions) with prizes. End of year thank you gifts and intermittent spontaneous praise and rewards. Most rewards / gifts I would purchase myself to show my appreciation and that I valued their contributions. Reporting praise and recognition to the company and clients for additional performance recognition

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