Workplace & culture

Developing effective employee rewards and recognition programs

Learn ways you can design and implement employee rewards and recognition programs that will have a positive impact.

Let’s talk about employee recognition, shall we? An employee recognition program is a formal initiative implemented by a company to acknowledge and reward employees for their outstanding performance, noteworthy achievements, and worthwhile contributions. Recognition is often given on a shared platform accessible to all internal employees. 

But why, you ask? The main purpose of an employee recognition program is to boost the motivation and engagement of your staff, in turn improving their overall performance—it can also go a long way toward boosting talent retention

Knowing how to design and implement rewards and recognition initiatives that will have a positive impact on employee morale and workplace culture is an invaluable skill in today’s work landscape—and one that spells good business to boot. 

How recognition impacts engagement and motivation

If you have any doubt that recognition efforts actually impact employee engagement in any meaningful way, consider that an employee who has been recognized is 63% more likely to stay at their current job for the next three to six months. At the same time, 65% of employees haven’t received any form of recognition for their good work in the last year.  

It’s simple, really: when employees are recognized for their contributions, it reinforces their positive behaviors and encourages them to continue performing at a high level. In turn, engagement is enhanced, job satisfaction rises, and the motivation to excel finds new life. 

Types of recognition

There are many ways to recognize and appreciate your staff. Some of the most common forms of recognition include: 

  • Verbal. While not difficult, expressing acknowledgment and appreciation of an employee’s accomplishments, contributions, or positive behaviors by praising them in person, or by publicly recognizing their achievements during a team meeting can do a lot for employee morale. 
  • Written. Thank-you notes, emails, formal letters, social media announcements, or other written forms of communication are all fantastic ways of expressing gratitude for and recognition of your most important asset—your people. 
  • Tangible rewards. You might acknowledge employees’ exceptional performance (and/or their important milestones), by gifting them with tangible items like certificates, trophies, plaques, gift cards, or monetary bonuses. Such rewards serve as symbolic tokens of recognition and can reinforce a sense of accomplishment and motivation among employees.  
  • Peer-to-peer. Peer-to-peer recognition (whether via an online platform or some other feedback-collection mechanism) is a system in which employees recognize each other’s efforts, share positive feedback, and express gratitude for mutual support and collaboration within the workplace. 

The argument for personalized recognition

Personalizing employee recognition is a great way to demonstrate that your organization genuinely values and understands its employees as individuals—and appreciates their unique contributions and preferences. 

Personalized recognition is tailored to individual employees’ preferences and can come in many forms, from flexible work arrangements to additional time off, special assignments, or opportunities for professional development.  

If you want to find more effective ways to enhance the emotional connection between your employees and the company, personalized appreciation is the way to go. When done right, it fosters a sense of belonging, motivation, and bonafide loyalty.

How company culture can support recognition 

A positive and inclusive company culture can play a crucial role in supporting your employee recognition efforts—by fostering an environment in which recognition is valued and encouraged, and by creating a solid foundation for acknowledging others. A strong culture of recognition also ensures that recognition efforts are aligned with the company’s goals and values. Finally, a supportive company culture promotes transparency, open communication, and that old gold standard, peer-to-peer recognition. 

All of this being said, building a culture of recognition takes time and commitment from leaders and the long-term participation of engaged employees. 

Consider the following tips for fostering a culture that values and encourages recognition in the workplace: 

  • Set a positive example. Leaders should lead by example—by actively recognizing and praising employees in order to set the tone and encourage others to do the same, you’re building the kind of culture you most need. 
  • Make recognition common practice. To reinforce a culture of appreciation, integrate recognition into daily work routines by encouraging managers and employees to submit feedback, celebrate small wins, and acknowledge all contributions. 
  • Celebrate. From employee milestones to important achievements, successes should be celebrated openly and collectively as a way of reinforcing the value of recognition and creating a fun and positive atmosphere. 

How to implement a recognition program at your company 

It takes a significant amount of planning to implement an employee recognition program that people believe in and want to use. Below are a few key steps to getting started.  

1. Define your goals

Clearly establish the goals and objectives of your recognition program. Decide what types of behaviors, achievements, or contributions will be recognized and define how they align with the company’s values and strategic objectives. 

2. Design your program structure

Determine the types of recognition, eligibility criteria, and/or rewards or incentives to be offered to your employees, as well as how often, and what platforms will be used. 

3. Garner support

Get support from senior leadership to ensure the recognition program has the necessary resources, budget, and organizational backing to succeed—and to last. 

4. Launch it

Launch the program with a well-communicated campaign. Share program details, expectations, and benefits with all employees through various communication channels—such as email, town hall meetings, or dedicated launch events. 

5. Offer training

Provide training and guidance to employees on how to effectively give and receive recognition. Offer resources, workshops, or online modules to educate them on the program’s purpose. 

6. Measure the success of the program

Analyze performance metrics and indicators related to employee engagement, productivity, and retention, and compare the data—before and after program implementation. Collect feedback from employees via regular surveys or focus groups to gauge their satisfaction, and identify areas for improvement. And, no matter what, always monitor the level of participation in the program. 

Ultimately, you’ll want to evaluate and refine the recognition program over time based on feedback and changing organizational needs. Keeping it fresh and aligned with the evolving dynamics of your workplace is key to its overall relevance and effectiveness, and, by extension, the ongoing participation of your people. 


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