5 Effective Ideas to Build A Successful Employee Recognition Program



It’s no secret that many of the world’s most successful organizations take advantage of the positive result in employee recognition programs. TINYpulse has listed Walt Disney, Groupon, Motley Fool, and Zappos as 4 Companies That Have Nailed Their Employee Recognition Strategy.


When recognition programs are used correctly, they can improve employee morale, enrich company culture, increase employee engagement, reduce turnover, and provide a fulfilling employee experience. Employee recognition is a crucial part of great workplace cultures. Where do you begin to build an effective employee recognition program?

It’s no secret that many of the world’s most successful organizations take advantage of the positive result in employee recognition programs. TINYpulse have listed Walt Disney, Groupon, Motley Fool and Zappos as 4 Companies That Have Nailed Their Employee Recognition Strategy.

There can be numerous tips on the internet; however, we have narrowed them down to five. Use this guide to create a successful, sustainable program that helps employees feel valued and appreciated every day at work.

1. Make every employee count

Never leave anyone or a team of employees to feel as an outcast or too incompetent to qualify.  This is especially important to consider when different employees have entirely different responsibilities. Remember that they are assigned to different scope of work. They come from departments with diverse tasks to accomplish. Depending on the nature of your firm’s business, there might be a need for multiple recognition processes. Set the metrics carefully and fairly.  Attendance with timeliness as one of the qualifiers is something that can be true to all.

Anyone who then performs at the level or standard stated in the criteria receives the reward. Depending on budget allocation and restrictions, in a sporadically used approach, every employee who meets the criteria has his or her name added to a raffle. You must give a heads up on how many employees you plan to reward, and that they will be selected randomly from among the employees who met the eligibility criteria. You can also level up the reward and be technologically creative. Your winning employee/s will get the chance to be featured for a month with free digital signage. Physical awards, such as engraved trophies or plaques, can also increase the prestige of the distinction and serve as important souvenirs for the winners.

2.   Develop a case for recognition

Begin with a business case, a study dedicated for an employee recognition program. Give emphasis to both your expected project outcomes and desired business outcomes.

What is your ultimate goal?

What problems an employee recognition program might solve and how solving those problems contribute to business objectives.   Once the objectives are clear to you, convince your leadership team that the remuneration outweighs the costs.

Be equipped. Familiarize yourself with the research-based benefits of employee recognition and its effects on improved employee retention and engagement, reduced turnover, increased productivity, boosted morale, and purpose. Then crunch some numbers! Present your facts through your gathered data.

Bonusly.com presented that despite our fear that an employee recognition program can be really costly; surprisingly, recognition programs don’t have to be over the top to be effective. 81% of companies that include a recognition program in their budgets spend less than 1% of their payroll budgets on these programs. You should also account for the costs of any rewards.

You’ll also want to understand the hidden costs and logistics of homegrown programs. Running to the store every now and then to buy gift cards for your team of five and handwriting notes for each person might be relatively simple to start, but when your team grows to 50 or more, these manual programs can become unwieldy, requiring a whole new level of planning, oversight, and consistency.

3. Consider the characteristics of effective employee recognition programs

Before getting on your feet and you start implementing an employee recognition program, it is important to understand what makes certain employee recognition effective and successful.

employee recognition programs - business people

Gallup’s data reveals that the most effective recognition is honest, authentic, and individualized to how each employee wants to be recognized. In a recent Gallup workplace survey, employees were also asked to recall who gave them their most meaningful and memorable recognition. 

The data revealed the most memorable recognition comes most often from an employee’s manager (28%), followed by a high-level leader or CEO (24%),

When asked what types of recognition were the most memorable:

  1. Public recognition (acknowledgment via an award, certificate or commendation)
  2. Private recognition (from a boss, peer or customer)
  3. Promotion (or increase in the scope of work or responsibility to show trust)
  4. Monetary award (such as a trip, prize or pay increase).

Bonusly.com has enumerated six characteristics of an effective employee recognition program:

  1. Timely (recognition should be swift for a clear connection to positive behavior)
  2. Frequent (frequency translates into more favorable outcome.)
  3. Specific (exactly which of the actions contributed to the team’s goal)
  4. Visible (being recognized publicly magnifies its impact)
  5. Inclusive (helps foster a sense of equity, belonging, and psychological safety for all)
  6. Values-based (encourages teams to work toward the same vision)

4. Hear out your employees and solicit their ideas.

Get your employees involved. Don’t begin with the assumption that you already know what everyone wants. Engage your employees to better understand the types of rewards they’re most interested in.

Once you’ve drafted your ideas for a more creative recognition program, it becomes convenient to get employee preferences by sending a survey and asking everyone to rank their options. Giving employees a say in rewards redemption can increase their personal investment in the program and make recognition even more enjoyable. Brainstorming unique rewards can also be a fun team activity!

You may also want to put together a special team for this mission. Once you receive the support from leadership, your next move is to find your team of champions to help you implement the program. Seek out leaders who will help conceptualize, promote, communicate, implement, and reinforce your organization’s new recognition program.

  • Strive for purposeful, meaningful, personal experiences.

Don’t forget about the personal employee experience, which can be just as important as the award itself. A great experience can last more than any monetary value. You’ll want to encourage leaders and peers to create recognition moments for recipients, with a highly personal and genuine presentation that can include peers.

The online retailer encourages employees to recognize each other’s hard work through incentives. This program allows employees to give each other $50 for going above and beyond.

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