Employee Recognition Program: The Complete Guide [2022 Updated]

Employee Recognition Program

We know it’s not easy to retain your employees, but the employee recognition program can help you.

According to research, not getting enough recognition is one of the primary reasons for employees to move on to greener pastures. 

Timely. Regular. Instant. 

That’s how your employees want to be recognized and appreciated. 

Feeling overwhelmed? 

Let us help you get back into the game.

Here is our in-depth all-in-one guide to creating an employee recognition program and make your team happy at work.

What Is Employee Recognition?

One of the biggest mistakes that HR managers and leaders make when it comes to employee recognition is confusing it with rewards and incentives.

But recognition doesn’t mean rewards. It’s an open acknowledgment and expressed appreciation for employees’ contributions to an organization.

That’s it!

It’s all about telling them that you notice and appreciate their efforts and work. It could be a simple high five or a thank you note or a simple message on social media.

You don’t need to spend money on gifts or incentives for them. They just want to see that you noticed their work.

According to Officevibe study, 82% of employees think it’s better to give someone praise than a gift.

Dale Carnegie defined it best:

“People work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise and rewards.”

Why Is Employee Recognition Important?

According to studies, a lack of recognition is one of the most common reasons why employees leave an organization.

According to Cicero, 69% of employees would work harder if they felt their efforts were better appreciated.

As companies struggle to find top talent, the simple act of recognizing an employee in a meaningful and memorable way is the missing link that can transform productivity levels, lower employee turnover, and create a sense of belonging to the company.

83% of HR Leaders say an employee recognition program benefits organizational values.

Ian Fuhr, founder and CEO of the Sorbet Group, says:

“If you do not treat people with the respect they deserve, do not expect any kind of commitment to your productivity goals and target.”

When asked what leaders could do to improve engagement, 58% of professionals endorsed giving recognition.

recognition stats
Image Source

That’s why an employee recognition program is so important for your company.

Here are some reasons why you should build the best employee recognition program:

Attracting talent. The best talent is looking for a workplace culture that recognizes and appreciates their people.

Employee Retention. Gallup found employees who are not adequately recognized are 2x more likely to say they’ll quit in the next year.

Culture. Employee recognition is an effective way to improve the relationship with company leaders.

employee happiness

Performance. Recognition is more effective than a salary bonus at encouraging people to give their best at work.

Employee Recognition and Appreciation Ideas

Recognition and appreciation will vary from organization to organization, and how you appreciate employees will depend on your unique company needs. 

It could be a company-sponsored outing, a thoughtful email, or a gift card to their favorite store.

Here are some employee recognition ideas :

Public Recognition: Appreciating on social media, certificate, award, etc.

Private Recognition: From a Boss in 1-to-1 meeting, from a peer, private email, etc.

Bonus: Gifts cards, incentives, surprise gifts, etc.

Promotion: Increase the team size or scope of work.

In this in-depth guide, you’ll discover 20 creative employee recognition and reward ideas. 

Now that you’ve got an understanding of what recognition is, why it’s important, and how it looks, you’re probably curious about how to build your own successful employee recognition program!

employee recognition software

How to Build a Successful Employee Recognition Program

Want to have a recognition program for your organization that actually works? Here are employee recognition program best practices:

1. Define Your Vision

  • Do research about the benefits that a recognition program can bring to your company. Read all the tips, tricks, and best practices and implement them into your program.
  • It’s important to have a cost estimation (including hidden costs) of recognition programs.

2. Build a Team

Your next step is to build a team to help you implement the program. Appoint a few people who will be responsible for the implementation, managing, and establishment of a recognition program.

When building your team, look for people with the following characteristics:

  • Good knowledge of the program benefits.
  • Positioned as a team leader.
  • Should have an interest in the program.
  • Believes in company values. 

3. Understand the Characteristics of Recognition

Next step is understanding the characteristics of recognition program:

Timely: It is considered a good practice to recognize someone as soon as the deed is done.

Frequent: Don’t wait for a huge milestone or achievement to give recognition. Celebrate small wins.

Specific: Specific recognition helps employees understand exactly which of their efforts contributed to their company’s goal.

Value-based: Think about how a contribution lines up with your company values.

4. Define Clear Program Criteria

If you’re starting a recognition program, you should be clear about what behaviors or actions you’d like to see from recognition programs and how they impact business objectives.

Answer some of the important questions first:

  • What type of behaviors should be rewarded?
  • How the said behaviors should be rewarded?
  • How often should employees be rewarded and appreciated?
  • Who should recognition come from?

5. Hear Employees Voice

Make the process fun! Encourage your employees to better understand the types of rewards they’re most interested in.

Brainstorm ideas with your team. Once you’ve drafted ideas for creative rewards, send a survey to employees and ask everyone to rank the options.

Make employees aware of the program, how to use it, the benefits and encourage them to give their feedback and inputs.

6. Measure Program Effectiveness

Your recognition program impacts many different areas of an organization, including the productivity, business results as well as the brand value. You must measure the effectiveness of the program.

Use data from your recognition program to inform other business decisions. Research if any team or employee is isolated, review how teams are connected, and facilitate collaboration where needed. Once you’ve collected actionable data, make improvements where possible.

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 how to evaluate vendor pricing?

This section will provide you a comprehensive overview on 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 have very little to go on when evaluating potential employee recognition software alternatives. Document your program objectives and describing the intended benefits you want to achieve.

Common objectives include:

  • Improving employee morale
  • Increasing employee engagement
  • Improving employee communication and collaboration
  • Strengthening company culture
  • Living the company’s core values
  • Increasing productivity
  • Improving sales performance
  • Improving employee health and wellness

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 to familiarize yourself with the features best suited to your employee recognition program’s target actions, attitudes, and behaviors. 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 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 achievement.

Anniversary and Birthday Awards

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


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 on the part of the vendor to set up your software/program:

  • Software setup
  • Onboarding
  • Brand customization
  • Training

Subscription fees

Most employee recognition 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 configurations normally provided, expect to pay a little extra.

Step 4: Take Demo

It’s time to book demos with the vendor’s sales team and see how the software looks in person. 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 final cost for our entire solution?
  • How do I measure ROI?
  • How do you keep the employee recognition software fresh and new?

That way, you will know that you are talking with vendors that have expertise and experience to 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 based solely on features and budget that currently match their needs. Instead, think of your buying process as looking for a solution, not software. What you must look for in your future vendor is a partner that will provide you a solution for new needs that will arise in the future.

See if your vendor listens to its customers and delivers the functionalities based on their needs and if it also proactively innovates.

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.

Employee Reward and Recognition Tool

When it comes to getting recognition in the workplace, employees seek fast and instant recognition. In that regard, technology has been a savior. 

What makes for a good employee recognition tool? It should:

  • Meet your team where they’re at
  • Provide rewards
  • Share people analytics
  • Scale easily

Our platform, EngageWith, is an employee recognition platform. 😜👋

Employees can appreciate and recognize peers, juniors, or managers by giving them Kudos or Shout outs for a job well done. 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. Try EngageWith with your team to create a recognition-rich culture. Try our free demo. 🎉

Here’s how this employee engagement tool makes the act of recognizing your workforce easier:

Instant recognition

EngageWith provides an environment where appreciation can occur for a job well done, potentially within moments of completing it, rather than waiting a month to receive a “thank you” note on their desk.

instant recognition

Send pulse surveys

Send personalized or group pulse for your team to involve, respond, and let their opinion be known. Get deeper insights on what employees think and identify areas for improvement. You can also make survey responses anonymous and empower transparency.

create a pulse

Data-driven analytics

You can easily track how many points you have received, how many points you can give, and have previously given to your teammate and redeem gift cards against your points.


Align with company values

You can add your organization’s core values to EngageWith and keep track of how many ‘kudos’ and ‘shoutouts’ have been given with an organizational value you set up. This will help you understand which values your team upholds while appreciating their teammates.

company values

Deeper engagement

You can build a deeper engagement by empowering everyone to recognize their peers, direct reports, and managers.

deeper engagement

Redeemable points

EngageWith is integrated with platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, Ola, Uber. The Kudos and Shoutouts you receive get converted into points for you to redeem on platforms you prefer.

redeem points


Its easy integration with team collaboration tools (such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Chat) has made remote peer recognition easy and convenient.


How do I start an employee recognition program?

In this guide, you’ll get all the best practices to build a modern employee recognition program and motivate your employees.

How important is employee recognition?

When you recognize and appreciate employees’ good work, it confirms their work is valued by others. And their satisfaction and productivity rises, and they are motivated to maintain or improve their performance.

What are the key elements of a successful employee recognition program?

Here are some key elements of a successful recognition and reward program:

– Timely and specific recognition
– Involvement of top management
– Peer-to-Peer recognition
– Integration of core company values

What is the best way to recognize employees?

Here are 24 powerful ways to recognize employees who are doing a great job.

Final Words!

“Everyone wants to be appreciated, so if you appreciate someone, don’t keep it a secret.” – Mary Kay Ash

Recognizing an employee is a sign of respect, and is a very important part of keeping your team engaged. And using a specially-designed employee recognition platform like EngageWith can be an effective way for teams to feel valued, perform better, stay engaged, and more.

We invite you to take a demo to learn more about how you can build a recognition-rich company culture.

culture of recognition

Originally published April 13, 2020 3:56 PM, updated May 26 2021

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.

1 Comment

  1. Great blog indeed!!!
    Rewarding your staff shouldn’t be a challenge – it should be a privilege. With the right tools to hand and an understanding of what your employees value most, you’ll be in a far better position to reward your staff in ways that suit them.

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