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Employee recognition · 

7 minutes

Cormac O'SullivanPiggy

Strategies and Tips to Improve Employee Recognition

What is Employee Recognition?

Employee recognition is the practice of acknowledging and appreciating employees for their hard work, accomplishments, and contributions to an organization. This process aims to boost employee engagement, satisfaction, and productivity, ultimately leading to a better employee experience. Recognizing employees for their great work is essential in creating a culture where employees feel valued, motivated, and committed to their jobs.

The 3 Types of Recognition


Day-to-day recognition is an ongoing process that involves acknowledging employees for their daily contributions and accomplishments. This type of recognition can include verbal praise, a quick email or message, or a simple "thank you" for a job well done. Day-to-day recognition can have a significant impact on employee experience, as it helps to create a positive attitude and work environment.


Informal recognition is more spontaneous and occurs outside of structured programs or processes. This type of recognition can be a small gift, a team lunch, or an impromptu celebration for achieving a milestone. Informal recognition is crucial for fostering a sense of camaraderie and teamwork among team members.


Formal recognition is structured and typically involves a formal program or system for acknowledging employees' achievements. Examples include annual awards ceremonies, work anniversaries, or performance-based bonuses. Formal recognition helps to reinforce company culture and values, while also showcasing top performers and their accomplishments.

The 5 Pillars of Employee Recognition


Personalized recognition ensures that each employee feels valued and appreciated for their unique contributions. Tailoring recognition to individual preferences and needs demonstrates that you genuinely care about the employee and their work ethic. This may include offering personalized rewards or recognition messages.


Equitable recognition means ensuring that all employees have equal opportunities to be recognized and rewarded for their hard work. This approach helps to create a fair and inclusive work environment, where employees are motivated to go the extra mile.


Authentic recognition is sincere and genuine, stemming from a true appreciation for an employee's efforts. When giving recognition, be specific about the employee's contributions and the impact they had on the organization. This approach helps to create a more meaningful and impactful employee experience.


Fulfilling recognition addresses the emotional and psychological needs of employees, helping them feel more connected to their work and the organization. This type of recognition can include opportunities for personal and professional development, as well as chances to contribute to meaningful projects.

Aligned with Company Culture

Recognition should be consistent with and reinforce an organization's culture and values. This alignment ensures that employees understand what is expected of them and how their actions contribute to the company's overall success.

Why Employee Recognition is Important

Increased Employee Productivity

Research shows that recognized employees are more productive, as they feel motivated and engaged in their work. According to a Gallup study, employees who receive regular recognition are more likely to be highly engaged and productive.

Higher Retention of Quality Employees

Employee recognition plays a significant role in retaining top talent. A survey by TINYpulse found that employees who feel valued are less likely to look for a new job, leading to lower turnover rates.

Create a Positive Work Culture

Employee recognition contributes to a positive work culture by fostering a supportive and collaborative environment. A study found that recognition is strongly correlated with positive workplace experiences, leading to increased employee satisfaction and engagement.

Increased Sales, Revenue & Profits

When employees feel recognized and valued, they are more likely to go above and beyond in their work. This increased effort can lead to higher sales and revenue, ultimately boosting profits. In fact, a study by Willis Towers Watson found that companies with effective recognition programs experience higher financial performance.

Decrease Average Cost per Hire

Employee recognition can help reduce the average cost per hire by increasing employee retention and reducing the need for frequent recruitment. A study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that organizations with robust recognition programs have a lower voluntary turnover rate, leading to lower recruitment costs.

Employee-Based Brand Equity

Employee recognition can also enhance an organization's reputation and brand equity. Recognized employees are more likely to become brand ambassadors, sharing positive experiences and promoting the company to their networks.

How to Give and Improve Employee Recognition

Incorporate All 3 Recognition Types

To create a well-rounded recognition program, be sure to include day-to-day, informal, and formal recognition methods. This variety ensures that employees receive consistent and meaningful recognition.

Vary the Way You Give Recognition

Mix up your recognition methods by incorporating both monetary and non-monetary rewards, such as gift cards, time off, or public acknowledgment. This approach caters to different employee preferences and keeps recognition fresh and exciting.

Recognize Individuals as Well as Teams

Both individual and team recognition is essential for fostering a sense of belonging and teamwork. Recognizing entire teams for their accomplishments can boost collaboration and collective success.

Facilitate Regular Recognition

Create a system that encourages regular recognition, such as weekly or monthly acknowledgment meetings, to ensure employees feel consistently valued and appreciated.

Give Recognition When It's Not Expected

Surprise recognition can be particularly impactful. Catch employees off guard with unexpected praise or rewards to make the experience more memorable.

Dedicate Days to Employee Recognition

Designate specific days, such as Employee Appreciation Day, to celebrate employees and their accomplishments. This can help to create a positive and celebratory atmosphere in the workplace.

Give Clear and Frequent Opportunities for Development

Providing employees with regular opportunities for personal and professional growth is a powerful form of recognition. Offer training, workshops, or mentorship programs to help employees advance their skills and career.

Make It Genuine, Personal, and Impactful

When giving recognition, be sincere and specific about the employee's contributions. Personalize your message to demonstrate your genuine appreciation for their work.

Facilitate Peer-to-Peer Recognition

Encourage employees to recognize their colleagues for their achievements. Peer-to-peer recognition can foster a supportive work environment and help employees feel more connected to their team.

Invest in a Formal Recognition Program

Consider implementing a formal recognition program to ensure that employees receive consistent and structured recognition for their efforts.

Give Recognition in Real Time

Acknowledge employees' accomplishments as they happen. Immediate recognition can be more meaningful and help reinforce positive behavior.

How to Create & Implement an Employee Recognition Program

Decide What It Is You Want to Recognize

Identify the specific behaviors, achievements, and milestones that you want to recognize in your program. This can include performance goals, teamwork, or innovation.

Fine-Tune What Your Goals for the Program Are

Establish the objectives of your recognition program, such as increasing employee engagement, boosting productivity, or improving retention.

Align Your Goals, Culture, and Recognition Tactics

Ensure that your recognition program aligns with your organization's culture and values. This alignment helps to reinforce the desired behaviors and attitudes among employees.

Find the Right Recognition Software or Platform

Select a recognition software or platform that suits your organization's needs and can help you manage and track your program effectively.

Outline Your Processes and Policies

Develop clear guidelines and policies for your recognition program, such as eligibility criteria, nomination processes, and reward options.

Brand and Design Your Program to Fit Your Culture

Create a unique name and design for your program that reflects your organization's culture and values. This helps to create a sense of ownership and pride among employees.

Determine the Budget and Scale of Your Program

Establish the budget and scale of your recognition program, taking into consideration factors such as the number of employees and the types of rewards you plan to offer.

Officially Launch Your Program

Introduce your program to employees through a company-wide event or communication, ensuring that they understand the program's purpose and how it works.

Analyze Your Results and Improve

Regularly review the impact of your recognition program on employee engagement, satisfaction, and productivity. Use this data to make improvements and adjustments as needed.

Examples of Successful Employee Recognition Programs

General Motors

General Motors' GM Recognition program rewards employees for their performance, innovation, and teamwork. The program includes various recognition methods, such as peer-to-peer nominations and formal awards ceremonies.


Perkbox offers a comprehensive employee recognition platform that allows organizations to create customizable and branded recognition programs. Their platform includes features such as peer-to-peer recognition, rewards, and analytics.


Zappos is known for its unique and creative employee recognition initiatives. These include peer-to-peer bonuses, "Hero" awards, and "Zollar" rewards, which employees can exchange for various prizes.


Typeform's employee recognition program focuses on peer-to-peer recognition and includes features such as "Kudos" cards and a dedicated "Wall of Love" where employees can leave positive messages for their colleagues.


Hubspot's employee recognition program includes both individual and team recognition, as well as various reward options, such as bonuses, trips, and public acknowledgment.


Siemens' employee recognition program offers employees various rewards and incentives for their achievements, including financial bonuses, awards, and development opportunities.


Apple's recognition program includes employee achievement awards, service anniversary gifts, and peer-to-peer recognition, all designed to celebrate employees' accomplishments and dedication to the company.


Nike's employee recognition program focuses on creating a culture of appreciation and offers employees various forms of recognition, such as performance-based bonuses, career development opportunities, and team celebrations.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines' employee recognition program includes a variety of initiatives, such as peer-to-peer recognition, service anniversary awards, and company-wide celebrations. Their "Winning Spirit" awards recognize employees who consistently demonstrate the airline's core values.


Employee recognition is a crucial component of a positive employee experience. By incorporating various recognition methods and tailoring them to individual preferences, organizations can create a culture of appreciation and support that leads to increased employee engagement, satisfaction, and productivity. By following the strategies and tips outlined in this article, you can improve employee recognition in your organization and ultimately enhance your bottom line.

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