Everything About Employee Recognition

A Comprehensive Guide to Employee Recognition


This is the ultimate guide to employee recognition for HR professionals and business leaders.

Employee recognition is crucial to retain and motivate your people. But how to recognize employees? How do you build an effective employee recognition program? How to avoid challenges like low participation or program burnout? 

Use this guide to create a successful recognition culture. Here, you’ll learn:

  • What recognition is and why it matters.
  • When and how to recognize employees.
  • How to build an effective recognition program..

Let’s get started:

What Is Employee Recognition?

What Is Employee Recognition?

In simple terms, employee recognition is the open acknowledgment and appreciation expressed for employees’ contributions to their organization.

By ‘contributions,’ we don’t mean big milestones and high performances. It can be for day-to-day tasks, efforts, ideal behaviors, or a small help. Of course, everyone likes to be appreciated for their efforts. 

Employee recognition is a way to let them know that you notice and appreciate their efforts. This act will boost employee morale and reinforce behaviors that align with company values.

When you implement an employee recognition program, you give employees a way to celebrate each other’s achievements.

Top-down recognition: In this recognition model, the employee’s supervisor, manager, or leadership team notices and appreciates their contributions.

Peer recognition: In a peer recognition model, managers and co-workers are all empowered to recognize and reward the contributions of their peers. You see a teammate do something valuable, then praise them for it. Simple!

Read More: Peer to Peer Recognition at the Workplace [2021 Updated Guide]

Why Is Employee Recognition Important?

Why Is Employee Recognition Important?

We have an expanding millennial workforce, a competitive war-for-talent, and a Global crisis like the ongoing pandemic – it is more critical now than ever to focus on employee recognition.

Let’s have a look at some benefits of employee recognition in the workplace.

Higher employee retention

All employees appreciate and respond to recognition actively. As a result, it helps in reducing turnover. A study by Bersin & Associates found that organizations with recognition programs that were highly effective at improving employee engagement had 31% lower voluntary turnover than those with ineffective recognition programs.

Increase productivity

Recognition boosts employee engagement, which, in turn, increases productivity. Studies have shown that a simple expression of gratitude by someone in authority led people to be 50% more productive!

Strengthens company values

Recognition helps employees understand how their work ties to the company values and how their efforts are valued. 83% of HR Leaders say employee recognition strengthens their organizational values.

Improves employee morale

Recognition keeps employees motivated, happy, and they feel good about their work. It reduces stress and can decrease absenteeism. SHRM found that 65% of employees feel the respectful treatment of employees at all levels is a very important contributor to their job satisfaction.

Employer branding

Positive Recognition promotes employee advocacy. Happy employees become active ambassadors of your organization thus helping you attract great talent to your company.

Read More: The Importance of Employee Recognition In improving Employee Engagement

Types of Employee Recognition and Rewards

Types of Employee Recognition and Rewards

Looking for ways to recognize employees? To help you launch your employee recognition efforts, we collected some employee recognition ideas that are easily doable in the workplace.

  • Shout Out on Social Media
  • Handwrite a Letter
  • Surprise Day Off
  • Take Your Team Out For a Lunch
  • Give Positive Feedback In Meetings
  • Home Delivery
  • Showcase Your Employees Success Stories
  • Gamify the Workspace
  • ‘A Day In the Life of Employee’ Interview
  • Offer Learning Opportunities
  • Provide Work From Home Option
  • Encourage Your Employees to Work on Special Projects
  • Celebrate Work Anniversaries
  • Take Your Team on a Trip
  • Ask for Feedback
  • Create Your Company’s Wall of Fame
  • Recognize Employees’ Other Talents
  • Run a Press Release
  • Start a Mentoring Program
  • Recognize the Value of Helping Others
  • Make a Personalized Employee Award Certificate
  • Cheers From Peers
  • Recognize Non-Work Achievements
  • Launch Wellness Programs
  • Team Trophy

Read More: Employee Rewards and Recognition Ideas [2021 Guide]

How to Build a Successful Employee Recognition Program

How to Build a Successful Employee Recognition Program

Most of the employee recognition programs have some fundamental issues: 

  • Ill-defined purpose
  • Non-alignment with company values 
  • Lack of clarity about the program 

So how can we avoid these issues?

We’re experts at helping organizations introduce employee recognition programs, and here are a few tips to consider when starting a recognition program:

  • Define clear recognition program objectives and criteria.
  • Give employees a voice and choice.
  • Build a team of champions.
  • Get senior leadership buy-in and commitment.
  • Ensure an effective launch and implementation.
  • Measure your recognition program’s effectiveness.

Here are the characteristics of effective recognition:

  • Timely
  • Frequent
  • Specific
  • Visible
  • Inclusive
  • Value-based

Read More: Employee Recognition Program: The Complete Guide [2021 Updated]

Unique Examples of Employee Recognition In Action

Unique Examples of Employee Recognition In Action

It’s not always easy to come up with creative ways to recognize your peers for their great work. For your reference, we have put together a list of unique examples from some of our favorite companies across the globe.

1. Paypal India | Performance-based Rewards

Paypal India’s performance-based awards recognize all full and part-time employees’ actions, behaviors, accomplishments, and performance. 

Employees nominated for this award should display the highest level of good judgment, innovative thinking, commitment, and passion for their job. 

Cash prize awards are Cosmic Kudos (INR 10,000), Blue Moon (INR 15,000), and Shining Star (INR 20,000).

2. FullContact | Paid Vacation

FullContact has a “Paid, Paid Vacation” concept. They offer employees $7500 to go on vacation. 

But there are a few rules: Employees have to go on vacation, or they don’t get the money. They must disconnect as they can’t work while on vacation.

3. Hubspot | Learning Programs

Hubspot believes in employee learning and development, both professionally and personally, to make them better and smarter. Their goal is to enable the employees to always be growing. 

Hubspot provides ongoing learning opportunities like the Free Books Program, the [email protected] online platform, a mini-MBA Fellows program, HubTalks, workshops, and more.

Legal Monkey’s Appreciation Board allows every employee to write comments and positive feedback to fellow staff members. 

The use of social media comes to play subsequently when they share the Appreciation Board comments on their Facebook page and Twitter feed.

5. SnackNation | Crush It Call

Each Friday afternoon, the SnackNation team comes together to recognize another team member’s hard work and efforts during that week. Watch SnackNation’s employee recognition hack – “Crush It Call.”

6. Button | Nemonations

“Nemonations” is Button’s large company-wide recognition for going above and beyond expectations. Each Friday at demos, team members can “nemonate” their deserving colleagues who went the extra mile for their organization that week and they pass around a stuffed Nemo (of Disney’s Finding Nemo fame) to the recipients.

7. Typeform | Spontaneous Applause

At Typeform, whenever someone does something noteworthy (however big or small)—anyone can give them a round of applause. And the whole office joins in. Although most people have no idea why they’re applauding, the employee receiving the applause does. It creates a friendly and more human environment.

Read More: How to Master the Art of Employee Recognition: 11 Unique Examples In Action!

A Buyer’s Checklist to an Employee Recognition Tool

A Buyer’s Checklist to an Employee Recognition Tool

Not sure what features to look for in the employee recognition tool, how to budget for your program, or evaluate vendor pricing?

This section will provide you a comprehensive overview of how to choose your Recognition and Rewards software.

We know you don’t have time to waste. So, we’ve put together this 5-Step quick Buyer’s Checklist. Let’s get started:

Step 1: Detail Your Objectives

Unless you have clearly described your program objectives, you still have a long way to go on when evaluating potential employee recognition software alternatives. Therefore, document your program objectives and describe the intended benefits you want to achieve.

Common objectives include:

And here are some common benefits:

  • Higher productivity
  • Higher revenues
  • Improved customer service
  • Lower turnover
  • Improved health and wellbeing
  • Higher on-time attendance

Step 2: Make a List of Features You Want

With your objectives outlined, you can begin checking which features align with your recognition program’s target goals. You must consider several important groups of features when choosing your recognition software provider.

Here are some of the most common features and what they’re suited for:

Top-Down Recognition

Facilitates spot recognition specifically by managers when employees demonstrate a target action, attitude, or behavior. 93% of employees who feel valued by their employer are motivated to do their best work.

Peer-to-Peer Recognition

Peer-to-peer recognition is 35.7% more likely to have a positive impact on financial results than manager-only recognition.

Goal-Based Rewards

Allows managers to create goals for the team and to reward them for their progress towards their goals.

Anniversary and Birthday Awards

An employee recognition tool should allow employers to recognize and celebrate employees’ work anniversaries and birthdays.


Software that provides a “currency” that your employees earn with each recognition or award. Usually, points can be redeemed for rewards also available through the recognition software.

Bulk Recognition

If you want to recognize more employees at once, are you able to do it in bulk? This feature is a true time-saver! 

Align With Company Values

Provides a way for managers or employees to identify and connect company values with their recognitions.

Custom Branding

The ability to update the software with your company logo and brand colors.

Data and Reporting

Your recognition software should offer to track all the data in one place – earned points, rewards, gift cards, etc.


Your employee recognition software should provide easy integration with team collaboration tools such as Slack, MS Team, Google Chat, etc.

Some special features include:


Are there leaderboards your employees and managers can use to check the status of your employee recognition activities?

Pulse surveys

Pulse surveys can gauge employee sentiment on a regular basis.

Intuitive and user-friendly interface

The better UI is, the more your employees will feel motivated to recognize others. Look for a solution that provides an easy, seamless user experience.

Single sign-on (SSO)

Check if the vendor supports single sign-on options to provide a seamless employee experience.

Step 3: Understand Vendor Pricing Models

It’s a good idea to understand how software providers may charge for their products and services before starting discussions.

Setup fees

Not all vendors charge set-up fees. This covers any expected efforts required to be made by the vendor to set up your software/program:

  • Software setup
  • Onboarding
  • Brand customization
  • Training

Subscription fees

Most software vendors charge a subscription fee for the use of their platform. Here are some standard pricing models:

  • Flat fee per month
  • Flat fee per year
  • Cost per employee per month

Customization fees

As with all software, if you require customization beyond the basic configurations provided, expect to pay a little extra.

Step 4: Take Demo

It’s time to book demos with the vendor’s sales team and get an idea of how the software performs. We have created a set of questions you can ask all your potential vendors:

  • How do you ensure a positive employee experience?
  • How can you help us announce and promote an employee recognition program within the company?
  • In what ways have you helped your customers?
  • How long is your implementation period?
  • What is your solution’s competitive advantage over others?
  • How does your solution provide a variety of purposeful, meaningful recognition experiences?
  • What is the total cost for the entire software?
  • How do I measure Return On Investment (ROI)?
  • How do you keep the employee recognition software fresh and new?

That way, you will ensure that you are talking with vendors having expertise and experience and can deliver great recognition to your employees too.

Step 5: Making a Decision

How to make a decision about your future recognition partner?

The common mistake buyers make is purchasing solely based on features and budget that currently match their needs. Instead, think of the product as a solution, not software. What you must look for in your potential vendor is a partner that will provide you a solution for new needs arising in the future.

See if these vendors listen to their customers, deliver the functionalities based on their needs, and proactively innovate.

BONUS: Employee Recognition Software Evaluation

The success of your employee recognition program hinges on the support and expertise your vendor provides. We’ve put together a list of all the features you need to build a successful employee recognition program. This checklist will come in handy when you evaluate your employee recognition software:

FeaturesEngageWithSolution ASolution B
Top-Down Recognition
Peer to peer recognition
Goal-based rewards
Bulk recognition
Anniversary and birthday awards
Redeemable point system
Align with company values
Custom branding
Data & reporting
Integration with team communication tools
Pulse surveys
User-friendly interface
Single SSO
Recognition & approval levels
Role-based permission

Many companies are still missing out on the benefits of having a strong employee recognition program, which means you have the chance to gain a significant competitive advantage. The time is now to invest in the future of your organization.

Take a Tour: Learn how EngageWith can create a culture of recognition at your workplace

Role of Technology In Employee Recognition

Employees want frequent, quick, and real-time recognition. It may be hard for you to reach out to each employee and thank them for their efforts. Here is where the role of technology comes into play.

A solution like EngageWith can make it very easy for employers to recognize their employees. In addition, it can make recognition faster, regular, and more frequent. It builds stronger working relationships and a greater sense of belonging. 

It can also be used to celebrate and reward/gift employees on their birthdays and milestones like work anniversaries. Pick EngageWith for your team to create a recognition-rich culture. Try our free demo. 🎉

EngageWith to create recognition-rich culture

Learn More: How to Improve Remote Team Engagement Through EngageWith [2021 Updated]

Pawan Kumar

I'm a Content Marketer at Springworks. I've been featured in many reputed publications and online magazines! I'm an avid reader and movie buff. Let's connect on Social Media.

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