Employee recognition programs are a critical part of employee retention and engagement. Everyone likes to feel appreciated, including your team members. 

As an HR manager, you should aim to have a solid employee recognition strategy that reflects your company’s values and acts as the foundation for reaching organizational goals. With a recognition program that is centered around what matters most to your staff, you’ll contribute meaningfully to employee happiness and corporate wellness.

These ideas we provide will help you learn how to recognize good employees so you can get started on developing a program of your own. 

What Is Employee Recognition?

Employee recognition refers to the act of providing formal or informal acknowledgement of an employee’s positive behavior, business result, or efforts that support a company’s values or goals. Recognition typically takes place once an employee has exceeded normal expectations.

The goal of this act is to reinforce good practices, behaviors, or activities that ensure better performance that aligns with business goals.

Why You Need an Employee Recognition Program

Here are a few reasons why it is important for you to have an employee recognition program to encourage employee happiness and job satisfaction in the workplace:

It Improves Employee Retention

Hiring, training, and motivating your employees is all a part of the employee cycle. You likely put a great deal of effort into the employees that you hire, which is why it is important to keep them long term.

The best way to do this is through employee recognition strategies and incentives. The recognition and incentives you provide helps them feel appreciated for the work they do. Appreciation encourages employees to put more effort into their work because they’ll feel like they make a difference in the workplace.

In fact, a recent survey found that 40 percent of Americans say they would put more effort into their work if they were adequately recognized for their efforts.

It Encourages a Culture of Self Improvement

Employee recognition programs often encourage employees to do their best so they can reap the rewards. A good way to recognize your best employees involves providing them with ample opportunity to make themselves better at what they do. 

This means you could incentivize learning and reward those who take the time to work on improving their wellbeing. Recognizing employees comes in many forms, and you may choose to provide recognition beyond work tasks.

For instance, if you have an employee wellbeing program that provides a holistic approach to wellness, you can recognize employees that successfully complete and participate in wellness challenges.

It Boosts Employee Morale

Your employees are your company’s most valuable asset. Letting your team know that their hard work is recognized and appreciated helps to motivate them. 

Sometimes boosting your employees’ morale with recognition is as simple as saying hello in the morning and goodbye at the end of a work shift. 

Additionally, expressing sincere thanks or providing a heartfelt apology if there was a misunderstanding can be incredibly helpful. These gestures of recognition may seem small, but they go a long way to increase employee happiness and overall corporate wellness.

It Improves Productivity 

When you invest in your employees and instill them with a sense of pride in their work, they’re more likely to stay engaged in their day to day. Creating a positive workplace that includes a culture of recognition makes your staff feel welcomed and ready to work every day. 

The appreciation you show them will give them a sense of control of their responsibilities, and they’ll see the value of their hard work more clearly.

Types of Employee Recognition

Here are a few types of employee recognition programs you can use in your workplace:


This is the most popular type of program. Top-down recognition focuses on executives and managers providing feedback and praise to the employees that report to them.

This is a good model because leaders in decision-making roles often have the ability to give monetary rewards, like promotions or raises.

These are also the best individuals to assist employees with their career growth plans. However, it may be difficult for leaders to keep track of and reward every valuable contribution. 

This means top-down employee recognition focuses on big-picture objectives, and a leader’s praise can emphasize the importance of an employee’s accomplishments.


A peer-to-peer recognition system focuses on empowering managers and employees to recognize the contributions of everyone on the team. Employees who are co-workers are better able to understand each person’s specific contributions and the impact they have since they work with them every day.

Managers also need praise, and with this recognition type, everyone in the company provides feedback and has a voice to express acclaim.

This system works well with an employee recognition program that has a nomination system where anyone can nominate someone else for a reward for going above and beyond.


This kind of program is centered on when an employee has a work anniversary, a birthday, they transition into a new role, or when some other major event occurs.

This recognition type generally highlights milestones with special celebrations, but it ignores recognition for day-to-day work.

Organizations that use this employee recognition type often use it in conjunction with other programs.

6 Employee Recognition Program Ideas

Employee recognition doesn’t have to cost your organization a lot of time or money. There are many ways to make employees feel valued using your existing resources.

Here are some ideas that will help you develop your employee recognition strategy:

Determine Eligibility Requirements

Your employees need to know how they can get awesome perks from the work they do. This means you must decide who is eligible for recognition rewards and when they will be given out. 

You may consider questions like the following:

  • Can an employee receive the reward more than once?
  • Are full-time and part-time employees eligible?
  • Who selects the winner of the reward?
  • Can team members involved in the selection process be eligible as well?

Use an Employee Recognition Software

Employee recognition software is technology that makes it easy to track concepts like employee job satisfaction, purpose, and efficiency as you manage goals and projects.

These kinds of software make regular feedback more measurable, strategic, and consistent. It also contributes to a positive culture where recognition becomes the foundation for employee happiness.

Conduct Employee Surveys

Ask your employees what type of recognition or rewards they’d like to receive. For instance, you may send out an employee survey asking questions about your employees’ preferences when it comes to incentives and recognition.

Let’s say most of the responses you received from the survey were about physical wellness and exercise. You may look into incentives like gym membership discounts or studio classes to help your employees focus on their wellbeing.

Select the Rewards You’ll Give Out

This is the fun part! Use your employees’ feedback to select the rewards you’ll give out to top performers. Refer to your budget to see which rewards your organization can afford. 

Whatever the reward is, large or small, make sure it is meaningful.

Your employees should know what they are being recognized for, and they should see that thought went into selecting the reward.

Talk to Your Employees About the Program

Let everyone on your team know about the amazing new perks you have for employees who complete top-tier work. Generate some excitement and be sure to send a follow up email about the new program. 

Inform them on key information, like:

  • What they must do to become eligible
  • When the first nomination period will be
  • How to use employee recognition platforms

Revise the Program as Needed

Practice the program you have in place, and see how your employees respond to the rewards and incentives you provide. Revise the program if you run into any challenges or if you notice participation is low. 

You’ll want to make sure you are not demanding more than your employees can handle in order for them to receive recognition. Keep practicing and revising your employee recognition program until you get it right.

Employee recognition is often something that should be done every day in small ways. Employees want to know that their employers support their goals and wellbeing.

The best way to do this is to incorporate your employee recognition strategy into your wellness program. This will get your team excited about the work they do while also improving their own wellbeing to stay happy and healthy.