Employee Recognition Programs - Tilson


Employee Recognition Programs

Training & Performance | November 2021

Recognizing and rewarding employees for their hard work is a key factor in boosting employee engagement at your organization. Despite the importance of employee recognition programs, 45% of U.S. workers reported that they haven’t been recognized at work in at least six months, according to a Deloitte survey.

Implementing an ongoing employee recognition program at your workplace can boost your employee engagement and assist with attraction and retention efforts. Read on to learn more about what these programs are and how you can implement one at your organization.

What are employee recognition programs?

As the name suggests, employee recognition programs are formal programs designed to recognize and reward employees for doing a good job. Often, each organization has its own unique version of an employee recognition program. Common programs include:

  • Years of service recognition
  • Exemplary achievement recognition
  • Noteworthy performance recognition
  • Peer recognition
  • Innovation recognition
  • Core value recognition

Recognition in these programs can include formal written thank-you cards, paid time off, gift cards, company merchandise, all-expenses-paid vacations, cash bonuses and trophies. Some organizations choose to host companywide staff appreciation events to thank their employees for their hard work too.

Regardless of how you structure your employee recognition program, the most important component of a successful one is that it recognizes employees for their contributions.

Benefits of Employee Recognition Programs

In addition to boosting employee engagement at your organization, employee recognition programs can raise morale, increase productivity, and improve attraction and retention efforts. In fact, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management and Globoforce, 68% of HR professionals believe that these programs positively affect employee retention.

Moreover, these programs have the potential to reduce stress, absenteeism and turnover. In short, when employees feel valued by their company, they’re happier and more productive. Happy employees are also more likely to tell prospective employees that your organization is a great place to work. Finally, employee recognition programs can motivate employees to continue working hard even if opportunities for advancement are unavailable and the budget doesn’t allow for compensation increases.

In today’s tight labor market, having a reputation as a company that treats its employees well and rewards them for working hard is a key way to attract and retain top talent.

Getting Started

If you’re considering implementing a formal employee recognition program at your organization, it can be difficult to know where you should start. To get started, you should create clear, written policies and guidelines explaining the program. Things to cover in these guidelines include:

  • Eligibility requirements
  • Award approval process
  • Variety of awards/recognition available
  • Limits on recognition (frequency)
  • Award thresholds

Once you’ve developed these guidelines, you should communicate the new program and its stipulations to managers and employees. Your communications should include the program’s criteria as well as examples of the types of behavior that would warrant recognition or an award. This way, employees and managers are clear on the program’s guidelines. Doing so also promotes transparency and understanding of what an employee must do in order to receive recognition.


Like many other work-sponsored programs, there are considerations you should be aware of before you implement an employee recognition program at your workplace. One of the most prominent considerations is that all employees are different, and it’s unlikely that they’ll all be motivated by the same recognition rewards. As such, you’ll need to offer variety in the types of recognition rewards you endorse.

Additionally, you’ll need to implement an employee recognition program that can easily be adjusted as circumstances require. For example, a new project may pop up that requires employees to work harder. To reward their hard work, you may want to add a recognition program in response to the new project’s demands.

Successful Employee Recognition Program Example

In the vast majority of cases, you’ll need to take a multifaceted approach to employee recognition programs in order for them to be successful. Many successful programs include peer-to-peer recognition programs, core value recognition, years of service recognition and year-round excellence recognition. Here are some ways to recognize employees for each type of recognition program.

  • Peer-to-peer recognition—Create communications that employees can send each other to recognize a job well done. If possible, allow supervisors or managers to be automatically copied on the communication so they can acknowledge the peer recognition.
    • To incentivize participation, consider entering employees into a monthly or quarterly prize drawing. Each time they send or receive a “job-well-done communication,” their name will be entered into the drawing.
  • Core value recognition—Create a form that managers can use to nominate their direct reports who exemplify your company’s core values to win an award. These awards can be distributed on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis.
    • To maximize the sentimental value of receiving these awards and recognition, consider giving award recipients a trophy or gift card.
  • Years of service recognition—What better way to promote employee retention than to thank your employees for another year of service on their work anniversary.
    • Rewards could include a catered lunch, gift card, thank-you note or public announcement.
  • Year-round excellence recognition—A perfect way to recognize high performers is to present them with a larger-than-normal reward to thank them for their commitment to a full year of operational excellence.
    • Rewards could include a cash bonus or an all-expenses-paid vacation, if your budget allows.

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