10 Ways to make your Employee Recognition Program a Success

by Kylee Stone Apr 25,2022

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

Regardless of your company’s size, having an employee recognition program in place will motivate employees to do their best work and enjoy their job more. The key to a successful employee recognition program is making it personal and meaningful to each employee involved. Many companies have employee recognition programs in place to help promote their employees’ work and motivate them to continue their great work. But not all employee recognition programs are created equal. Employee recognition programs are intended to let your staff know how much you appreciate them and to encourage them to keep working hard toward the company’s goals. It is known as the Employee appreciation program. But many business owners don’t realize that simple bragging rights rewards, like gift cards and employee of the month plaques, are not enough to really make an impact on your employees’ motivation levels.

Having an employee recognition program can be one of the most effective ways to get your employees engaged and loyal, but it’s also one of the most difficult things to pull off successfully, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. While there are countless ways to approach this, the following are 10 of the most effective strategies you can use to build this type of program at your company and make it something your employees will look forward to participating in on a regular basis.

1. Create goals for the employee recognition program

This will help you monitor your progress while keeping you motivated to stay on track. For example, if one of your goals is to cut down on employee absenteeism, you can measure how many days employees call out sick before implementing a recognition program. If, after introducing your program, your absences have gone down, pat yourself on the back and keep up with what’s working! If they haven’t gone down or stayed steady, try revising your approach. This works especially well if you hold quarterly meetings and conduct quarterly reviews of your employee recognition program.

Corporate recognition programs are the most important. Don’t forget about non-monetary rewards: for offering incentives for exemplary work, money isn’t always king. In fact, according to an annual survey by consultancy firm Towers Watson, companies that offer non-cash incentives are more likely than their cash-centric counterparts to report high levels of employee engagement (61% vs. 48%). So, consider rewarding high performers with gift cards for their favorite restaurants or movie theaters; tickets to local sporting events; merchandise from their favorite retailers; spa treatments; weekend getaways; etc.

Just make sure that whatever you choose is relevant—and not too expensive—to your business culture and industry so as not to alienate any potential recipients.

2: Create Metrics for Employee Recognition Program

Another effective way to measure your recognition program is to set up a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that measures and tracks employee performance over time. For example, you might track total sales per person or the number of customer service calls for each employee, then award different levels of recognition based on their KPI performance at year-end. You could also create a point system where each type of recognition can earn points towards a grand prize at year-end. This method gives employees an incentive to perform well while allowing you to track their progress throughout the year and tie it back to specific awards that they earned later in time. It’s another great way to increase participation and help your employees recognize one another. So the Recognition programs for employees is very essential. 

Also read: Benefits of talent management software for your business

3: Give Small Incentives with immediate impact

Sometimes a small token of appreciation can have a big impact on employee performance. When you receive an email from a client saying, “You saved my job with that recommendation,” you know it is worth it to recognize your employees when they go above and beyond their role as opposed to just being an employee. Buy lunch for all staff members or give them gift cards, etc. are simple yet impactful ways to show your employees how valuable they are to your company. By giving something that has an immediate impact, you show that your company values their contributions and rewards them for working hard. This will surely inspire higher performance in your team members, because they now know what their efforts will cause personally, i.e., recognition and reward! It also motivates them to continue providing excellent service.

Remember, these gifts don’t have to be elaborate—simple tokens of appreciation like mugs or key chains can be very effective too! This list was compiled by some of the top HR professionals at leading companies and has been designed keeping in mind today’s fast-paced world where time is money and productivity is key. Each idea would help increase efficiency while simultaneously strengthening relationships between managers and their teams. These tips would work best if implemented holistically rather than piecemeal, making sure that each idea supports each other within its scope and adding value by creating a positive environment within your organization.

4: Make the Employee Recognition Program Social

You’re probably already aware of how powerful word-of-mouth marketing can be. The best way to make your employee recognition program social is by encouraging nominations for awards and asking employees to share on social media about their experiences. If you don’t have a company social media account, start one immediately! You’ll find that as people become familiar with it, it will get easier and easier to convince them to share information about your company. You could also encourage employees who are recognized in an email or via posters at work (or both).

Remember–use your marketing power wisely. Think carefully about what you want to say and how you want to say it before posting anything online. Also, consider having different rewards for each category of award. For example, if someone wins Employee of the Month, they might receive a gift card from Amazon; if they win Employee of the Year, they might receive tickets to a show or something else more special. By giving out different rewards depending on which award someone wins, not only do you increase participation in your program, but you also create excitement around winning certain awards and drive engagement among employees who may win nothing at all!

5: Create a Fun User Experience

Employees are thrilled to be recognized for their achievements, but not if it’s in a boring way. So, try to make things more fun by holding an entertaining competition and rewarding winners with small perks like company swag or a nice dinner out. Then encourage everyone to get involved. The more enthusiastic your team is about your recognition program, the better response you’ll get from them. After all, it’s not called employee appreciation for nothing!

There’s no doubt that putting together an employee recognition program can involve some serious work. But if you want your team members to be motivated by it, then you need to make sure they feel included from start to finish. For example, instead of simply announcing which employees won awards each quarter at a meeting, consider setting up competitions anyone can enter and giving prizes for the best ideas instead of only those who made it through to the final round. Fun ways of doing so include quizzes and games that test employees’ knowledge on certain key topics—for example, having participants guess how many hours have been spent on different marketing campaigns—or even asking them to write haikus about important developments in their teams’ areas of responsibility over a period.

6: Share Company Pride Across All Employee Recognition Channels

Remember, it’s your employees who work tirelessly to make your company a success. The more opportunities you give them to show off their love for your business and learn more about what they do, the better it will be for all involved. After all, improving employee engagement is one of many benefits an effective recognition program can bring. So don’t just include employee recognition tactics like fun contests and exciting rewards—use them as an opportunity to share company pride across every channel. Create an employee newsletter that keeps employees up-to-date on everything happening at HQ or host webinars during lunch hour or before/after shifts in which new employees get schooled on key aspects of your business and honored staff members receive accolades from management. You could even create a custom internal app that includes a calendar of events and forums where people can ask questions, build relationships with coworkers, and keep track of how much time they’ve spent working toward specific goals.

Just remember: You’ll need to keep these channels updated regularly so employees have fresh content to consume whenever they check in. If you’re short on time, consider outsourcing certain elements (like updating an app) while keeping other responsibilities (like creating content) within your control.

7: Start Using Gamification

Gamification refers to applying game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts. Basically, it means using concepts like competition, instant feedback, and goals to make a process more engaging for users. It’s often used in consumer apps, but there are many ways to use gamification when building internal systems. Here’s an example of how you could do that with your employee recognition program: Give your employees points they can redeem for rewards when they complete goals related to their performance at work. The faster they reach these milestones (and thus progress through levels), and/or the higher their score is by doing so, creates an incentive to be more engaged with the performance. You could even give certain team members bonus points based on how well they help others achieve their goals. And if someone doesn’t contribute or engages negatively? Take away some of their points! You might even consider incorporating leaderboards into your system—you can create one where all team members see who has earned the most points, and another where managers only see which individuals have reached certain milestones first. This way, managers know who is performing well without having to ask for updates from every single person on staff individually.

Also read: 10 Characteristics of the Most Effective Performance Management System

8: Include Recognition in Performance Reviews

Sure, you’re giving your employees an annual review, but do you really talk much about all of their successes? If not, start including recognition in these formal conversations. Encourage employees to name things they are proud of and reward them for it. That’s one way to make sure that everyone feels appreciated for what they do. With employee motivation being such a big part of how successful companies operate, undoubtedly recognition programs play a huge role in keeping workers happy and motivated at work. However, many managers struggle with creating effective programs. As a result, some companies miss out on opportunities to boost employee engagement levels by improving existing rewards or adding new ones based on employee needs.

There are many ways to implement a program for employee motivation—and keep it fresh—so you can feel confident that you’re doing everything possible to encourage performance at work among your team members.

9: Send Personalized Thank-You Notes

Nothing feels better than having someone take an interest in you, and that’s exactly what a personalized note can do. When employees receive a personalized card or letter thanking them for their hard work and achievements, it shows that management truly appreciates their contributions. It will also motivate them to continue contributing to your company’s success. Team-building activities are a great way to boost morale and create stronger bonds between coworkers. If you don’t have time to plan these events yourself, hire an outside facilitator who specializes in team-building exercises. They know how to get people working together as one cohesive unit. And even if they don’t come up with creative ideas on their own, they can help guide you through brainstorming sessions until everyone is on board with at least one idea.

10: Always be grateful

Yours does not need to be a big company to have recognition programs. You can start one with just a few of your employees and make it public. For example, if you know Joseph does extra work for your company by staying late or coming in early, you could recognize him as an employee of the month by letting everyone know what he has done. Then on his birthday, give him an expensive gift card or take him out for lunch and tell everyone how thankful you are for his dedication. Tell them how hard he works! This is a great way to show gratitude and recognition at no cost to yourself. In fact, all it takes is simply being grateful to your employees in front of others!

Employee recognition programs can be a great way to boost employee morale and productivity, but you have to do them right if you want to see the full benefits of your efforts.

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Kylee Stone

Kylee Stone supports the professional services team as a CX intern and psychology SME. She leverages her innate creativity with extensive background in psychology to support client experience and organizational functions. Kylee is completing her master’s degree in Industrial-Organizational psychology at the University of Missouri Science and Technology emphasizing in Applied workplace psychology and Statistical Methods.

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