Employee Rewards and Recognition Ideas [2024 Updated Guide]


Do you understand the importance of praising an employee for a job well done?

During a very challenging year, we learned a lot about the positive impact that fun and easy employee recognition can have on employee motivation and team morale.

To acquire and retain top performers, you must build a workplace culture where employee recognition is the everyday norm. This essential guide provides the basics of employee rewards and recognition and how to support a culture that engages and retains employees.

In this guide, you’ll get to learn:

  • Importance of rewards and recognition to employees
  • Alarming stats on rewards and recognition
  • Ideas for recognizing employees
  • Implement a best employee recognition program
  • Real-life examples

Let’s get started with our In-depth guide:

Table of Contents

What Is Employee Recognition?

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

Workplaces are transforming dynamically. With the changing scenario, employee recognition is not a mere task that managers tick off from their to-do lists. Offering timely (and regular) rewards and recognition is a necessity.

According to Wikipedia,

“Employee recognition is the timely, informal or formal acknowledgment of a person’s behavior, effort, or business result that supports the organization’s goals and values, and exceeds his superior’s normal expectations.”

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

It could be a simple thank you, a high-five, a special shout-out during the meeting, or even a bonus or gift for a job well done.

Who can give recognition?

Ideally, every employee in an organization should be able to give each other recognition.

Will recognition work for my team?

A BIG Yes. It builds stronger teams, cultivates rich company culture, and encourages employees to do their best work.

Remember, If you fail to show your employees that you notice their contributions and how much you value it, they will never give you their best.

Employee Recognition Vs. Rewards

employee rewards vs recognition

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.” – Mother Teresa

Now the question arises: Are employee rewards and recognition the same?

Not at all. There are some subtle but critical differences which we have illustrated as follows:

Rewards are tangible.Recognition is intangible.
Rewards are transactional and have some monetary value attached to them.Recognition is relational and has an emotional value attached to it.
Rewards are tied to goals and accomplishments.Recognition can frequently happen at the moment.

Employees need both rewards and recognition to feel fully satisfied with their job.

Amazing Statistics on Employee Recognition and Rewards

“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” –Stephen R. Covey

Even though employees receive a salary, they still get a spark of joy and excitement when offered a genuine and spontaneous gift and appreciation.

Here are some compelling findings from research and industry surveys on employee rewards and recognition:

1. According to this study, 37% of employees consider recognition is must.

2. 94% of HR professionals agreed that an effective rewards and recognition program helps drive business results and increases employee retention. (Source)

3. Well-designed rewards and recognition programs can drive an 11.1% increase in average employee performance. (Source)

4. 83% of HR Leaders say an employee recognition program benefits organizational values. (Source)

5. 53% of people said feeling more appreciation from their boss would help them stay longer at their company. (Source)

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

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

8. According to Gallup’s research, lack of recognition is one of the most common reasons why employees leave an organization.

9. 59% of employees feel they’re not being rewarded effectively. (Source)

10. A survey found that 47% of employees want to receive a personalized reward spontaneously. (Source)

11. According to Acuity Training 15% of employees cite ‘lack of motivation’ as the reason for resigning from a job.

Statistics on Employee Recognition and Rewards infographic

Recommended Read: 50 Employee Recognition Statistics You Need to Know

Why Rewards and Recognitions are Important

“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.” –Doug Conant

A well-implemented employee rewards and recognition program has the power to impact employee engagement, turnover, productivity, morale, and purpose.

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

benefits of employee rewards and recognition

1. Retention

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

Employee turnover costs more than you think. Between posting a job, screening and interviewing candidates, assessments, negotiating, relocation bonuses, and paying referral or signing bonuses…just the cost of filling a position adds up.

Employee recognition and rewards are great ways all employees appreciate and respond to. It’s a critical step in reducing turnover.

Recommended Article: Key Employee Retention Statistics For 2022

2. Productivity

Authentic recognition and positive feedback boost employee engagement. In turn, employees are more productive. Take the time to appreciate employees, it pays huge dividends on your bottom line.

Studies have shown that a simple expression of thanks by someone in authority led people to be 50% more productive!

Create a culture of feedback with EngageWith

3. Morale

When managers understand the true purpose of employee recognition, it improves their morale on an individual level. High morale inspires greater productivity, creativity, and overall satisfaction.

A recent SHRM survey found that 65% of employees say the respectful treatment of employees at all levels is a very important contributor to their job satisfaction.

4. Purpose

Recognizing employees’ work and their contributions encourage a sense of purpose. It helps employees understand how their work ties to the company values and how their efforts matter.

Frequent and instant recognition reminds everyone that they’re all working toward a shared goal.

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

Types of Employee Recognition and Rewards

“An employee’s motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager.” –Dr. Bob Nelson

Employee recognition and rewards will vary from company to company, and how you appreciate employees will depend on your company’s needs. Let’s take a look at seven key types of recognition:

1. Micro recognition

Micro-recognition is an amazing tool for making positive, measurable changes quickly. It refers to appreciating and providing feedback immediately in response to a task or behavior. Micro Recognition is the perfect way to support organizational values on a regular basis and make employees feel valued without requiring a ton of time and resources.

2. Formal recognition

Formal recognition is a structured program with defined processes for how to nominate someone for an award.  Typically these programs have an award ceremony to publicly recognize employees in a formal setting.

3. Informal recognition

Informal recognition is given to individuals or teams for progress toward milestones, achieving goals, or completing projects. This may come in the form of a pizza party, potluck, or a trip to the pub for happy hour—a low-cost memento presented spontaneously.

4. Peer-to-peer recognition

Source: GIF

With peer-to-peer recognition, team members feel empowered as their efforts are recognized by one another daily. They feel a sense of belonging to the organization and are motivated to perform their best. 

Recommended Article: Peer to Peer Recognition at the Workplace [2022 Updated Guide]

5. Bonuses

Bonuses are one of the most popular types of employee recognition. They range from small to large, depending upon the contribution and task accomplished by the employee. Bonuses are monetary rewards that managers can give to their team members or even vice versa. Since the nature of the reward is immediate, bonuses help employees stay motivated.

6. Career growth Recognition

By taking a proactive approach to your employees’ career growth and professional development strategies, you can improve employee retention rates.  You can recognize their significant career growth and associate it with different phases in an employee lifecycle.

7. Top-down Recognition

Leaders have a critical role in promoting a recognition culture at work. Leaders create a set of company core values and want employees to stick with them.

When an employee show behaviors in their day-to-day job that mirror company values, you must recognize their dedication to creating an impact on employee morale.

Want to engage a hybrid workforce with a global rewards and recognition platform?

Employee Incentives and Gift Ideas

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Now that you understand how important employee rewards and recognition are, get inspiration from these creative employee incentive ideas.

1. Reward points

Create a point-based reward system for ongoing recognition. Employees are awarded points for every time they do a great job. Also, allow employees to redeem their points for gifts. You could offer a variety of rewards for the employees to select from.

2. Gift cards

There is no end to the choice of gift cards that you can give to your employees. Be it Amazon, Flipkart, or beauty brands like Bodyshop, etc., you can choose from any of them depending upon the preferences of your employees. Alternatively, you can also gift them a meal voucher or a spa coupon that could make it a perfect day for them.

3. Surprise gift bag

You can make the whole gift-giving fun by curating a few combinations of gift hampers for your employees. The hamper can have items such as gift vouchers, office essentials, phone covers, water bottles, chocolate, cookies, etc.

4. Company swag

Company swag kits are a great way to build team culture and engagement. What can you include in this kit?

– T-shirts

– Water bottles

– Socks

– Mugs

– Tech Accessories

– Sneakers

– Notebooks

– Stickers

Personalized Scrapbook

(Company branding logos on all the products)

5. Online classes

There’s a plethora of online classes and courses out there for every subject under the sun. The best part is that an online course platform allows you to take classes from the comfort of your own home, without having to worry about commuting or any other inconveniences. Offering sponsored online classes of their choice to employees make for a great corporate reward option. 

6. Cab credits

If your employees travel to work or otherwise, offer them cab credits. Help them cut down on their commute expenses.

7. Free event tickets

Event tickets are another great, custom-tailored reward you can offer to your employees. Is a cricket match being organized in your employee’s city? Give them free tickets to witness the thrill and craze with their own eyes.

8. Vacation benefits

You can offer vacation stipends to improve an employee’s long-term health and well-being. Paid time off allows employees to spend quality time with family and friends and return to work recharged.

9. Subscription

We live in a world of subscriptions, right from Spotify Premium to Apple Music Plus, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Zomato Gold, and many more. Everyone these days has a playlist that is jarred by the occurrence of an ad. Or, they are missing out on some great content in their free time.

10. Book club

Have a few bookworms on your team? Having a book club can bring coworkers together in wonderful ways. Let them choose the book format — whether it’s an audiobook, ebook, or printed book.

11. Pet at the office

Having a pet-friendly office has a ton of benefits for employees. Banfield’s PAWrometer™ shows that 67% of employees believe pets help increase productivity. Allowing pets in the office can help in reducing stress and making people friendlier.

pet-friendly office

12. Personalized mugs, keychain, and T-shirts

Who doesn’t love to have a mug on their work desk with their name on it wrapped in attractive packaging? Or even a stylish keychain for their vehicle as stylish as their engraved picture? Personalized stuff is really cool to have around and makes your employees feel loved and valued by your organization.

13. Yoga classes

Reward your employees with a yoga class or other fitness program membership. The goal is to create a culture where employees choose to live a healthier lifestyle.

14. Plant subscription

Give your employees a plant subscription box. We recommend low-light, easy-care plants like succulents and cactus!

15. Meal home delivery

Take away the burden of cooking for a week. Bring in vendors to offer meals ready to take home or pay for a week’s/month subscription for a meal delivery service like Freshly. If they want to go the extra mile and cook it themselves, try a meal-delivery service like Hello Fresh.

Recommended Article: 80 Employee Benefits Ideas for Remote Workers [2022 Guide]

employee recognition platform

Employee Rewards & Recognition Ideas

“Take time to appreciate employees, and they will reciprocate in a thousand ways.” –Dr. Bob Nelson

What rewards do you provide at work? Here are some types of rewards and recognition for employees that they will love:

1. Thank you note or card

One of the easiest and most effective ways to recognize great work is by handwriting a thank you letter. Or just leave a sticky note saying “Thank you message” on their desk. 

2. Celebrate employee anniversaries and birthdays

If you want your employees to have a sense of belonging in your organization, you must make their journey valuable. One of the best ways to do this is by celebrating their birthdays and anniversaries. Send them personalized emails or arrange a small team get-together to cut the cake.

Facebook (called Faceversaries bombards employees with custom balloons and shout-outs on social media. For Facebook veterans, this is an essential point of pride. A great idea to create interactive social media post for your employees.


3. Surprise day off

Source: Giphy

If there is one thing that employees love, it is a day off. Recognize the hard work your team puts in every day by offering them a surprise day off. While this will motivate them to perform their best, it will also display your caring nature as an organization.

Costco, a retail giant, the company shuts shop on Thanksgiving, allowing the workforce to spend time with family right in the middle of the holiday shopping season.

4. Wall of fame

How about a wall of fame with pictures of your top-performing employees? You can either arrange this for individual teams or an entire floor. Pick a board and just put it over a wall. Now, put up the pictures of your top-performing employees either in a team or from the entire office. This employee recognition idea works by the power of social influence.

See how SnackNation does this:

wall of fame

5. Performance-based recognition

Performance-based custom awards have continuously proved to be a compelling source of recognition for a long time. For example, some of your team members might have helped improve social media engagement rate significantly. Therefore, they must be rewarded for their due efforts.

6. Appreciate non-work achievements

Sometimes non-work achievements must also be recognized by the organization. They might be creating something, helping an entire community get educated, volunteering, or anything else. Let everyone know about these people by celebrating their achievements at work.

Limeade’s “Make Others Great” monthly award recognizes an employee who exemplifies the kind of collaboration and teamwork it takes to help make others great.

7. Award certificates

There is nothing better than letting an employee know of their hard work and value to a company. Create a personalized employee award certificate using certificate templates.

8. Website or newsletter feature

Showcase your employees’ stories or milestones in your company’s newsletter or blog page. Consider including a spotlight section in the Newsletter where employees know the company’s top performers’ stories. You can also create a dedicated one-page website to feature your employees’ milestones and achievements. It’s not just easier to create but will be easier to distribute among several channels.

Disney showcases every promotion and employee success story, at every opportunity they get.

9. Shout out on social media

Simply post a pic of your employees on social media and brag about their achievements. Employees naturally spend a huge amount of time on various social media platforms. Let them flaunt their recognition on these platforms. You can use various social media posting tools to help you with it.

Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, regularly calls out exemplary work done by the company’s global team.

social media praise

10. Lunch with CEO

Scheduling a lunch date each month where employees can earn a place at the dinner table with the CEO is a great way to recognize their contributions. 

11. Provide professional development

Offer your employees training and other relevant resources that help them advance their careers. You must encourage them to continue their education and even help pay for it.

12. Team trophy

A team trophy is a souvenir of all the hard work teams have put into accomplishing a project. Make recognition memorable for your employees by giving them a team trophy.

13. Gamify the workspace

Nobody wants to walk into a dull workspace every single day. Why not recognize your employees’ hard work by transforming their workspace. Add a basketball hoop or a pool table where they can go and just chill.

14. Write a LinkedIn recommendation

LinkedIn is where an employee represents their professional portfolio. As a leader, you can recognize their efforts to your organization by writing them an excellent recommendation. Give a shoutout to their sweat and blood.

15. Donate to a charity of their choice

Kindness goes a long way in life. When recognizing your employees’ hard work, the excellent idea is to donate to a charity of their choice. This way, you’re valuing your team as well as doing your bit for society.

16. Host a hackathon

We recommend hosting a hackathon (pizza, too)! 🍕🤖Allow teams to hack anything. Let them work on the projects that employees really want to work on but are often pushed aside.

17. Implement a peer recognition program

Make it easy for your employees to show appreciation for each other. Team members work together and spend most of their time with each other – they have more interpersonal contact than their manager. So recognizing your peers is a more authentic approach.

18. Surprise team lunch

Source: Giphy

Employees must have the perks of being associated with your organization. If your team has accomplished a task, take them out for a surprise lunch.

19. Project completion party

Completing a project takes days and nights of work, which must be rewarded well. Celebrate little milestones with a fantastic party for your employees.

20. Provide premium products or tools

You can provide upgraded versions of your tools and products to make your employees’ daily work more efficient.

21. Fun Awards to Spice Up the Workplace

Create light-hearted awards such as “Best Desk Decorator,” “Office DJ,” or “Coffee Connoisseur.” These awards add a touch of humor and camaraderie to the workplace. Check out some fun employee awards here

Designate specific days for themed dress-up events, with awards for the most creative or enthusiastic participants. This encourages team bonding and a sense of playfulness.

22. Peer-Nominated Awards

Allow employees to nominate their peers for outstanding contributions. A committee can then review nominations and select winners for various categories, adding an element of democratic participation.

How To Build A Successful Employee Rewards and Recognition Program

“Brains, like hearts, go where they are appreciated.” –Robert McNamara

By now, it’s clear that having an employee reward and recognition program makes engaging employees a lot easier.

Sound good? Good. Now, where do you start?

 Well, you’re in the right place! 🎉

Here are some best practices to build a successful employee recognition and rewards program:

Recognize your employees

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 Committee

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

The next step is understanding the characteristics of the 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 reward programs and how they impact business objectives.

Answer some of the important questions first:

  • What type of behaviors should be rewarded?
  • How should the said behaviors be rewarded?
  • How often should employees be rewarded and appreciated?
  • Whome 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, and 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 productivity, business results, and 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.

See Employee Recognition In Action!

Looking for a system that allows employees to acknowledge their peers for doing something meaningful? EngageWith is an employee recognition and rewards platform that enriches your company culture. It virtually brings recognition and fun within your Slack, MS Teams, and Google Chat workspace.

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.

Why should you choose EngageWith among so many other Employee Recognition tools? Here’s a comparison chart to understand the difference: Comparing Bonusly Pricing and Features: Here are the Top 4 Alternatives

See Employee Recognition In Action!

Want to see it in action?


Why are employee recognition and rewards important?

Employee recognition and rewards acknowledge an employee for their contributions and promote motivation, job satisfaction, self‐esteem, and other positive outcomes.

What are the key elements of a successful 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 are some guidelines for providing recognition feedback?

When providing recognition feedback, this model –  

As Soon – Timing is important; don’t delay praise
As Sincere – Do it because you are truly appreciative
As Specific – Give details about the achievement
As Personal – Do in person (or handwritten note)
As Proactive – Do not wait for perfect performance

What are some employee rewards and recognition ideas?

In this guide, you’ll find the list of BEST employee Rewards and Recognition ideas in the workplace that will boost employee engagement in your workplace.

How do you show appreciation to remote employees?

Remote employee appreciation isn’t as easy as office appreciation. Introduce a remote employee reward program. It’s a stellar way to show appreciation for remote workers. It will also create a fun atmosphere and friendly competition.

How do you reward employees without money?

In the above guide, we mentioned some ideas on how to reward your employees and stay within our budget. You can easily implement these incentive ideas at your workplace without breaking the bank.

Want to learn more about employee recognition? Here’s a good place to start:

A Comprehensive Guide to Employee Recognition

Originally published on April 19, 2021 10:01 AM, updated Nov 15 2023

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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