10 Employee Recognition Award Ideas To Motivate Your Team

We've put together 10 award ideas that will help recognize team members for their hard work and dedication.

February 13, 2024
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Motivating an entire team to work together can be a tough thing to do. While managers may come up with plans, routine meetings, evaluations and other incentives, it's important that the team members themselves know exactly how much they're appreciated on a daily basis. 

Recognition and appreciation have a dramatic affect on company culture and making sure it's a part of the regular employee engagement experience is key.

With this in mind, we've put together 10 unique awards ideas that could be implemented by managers or even independently by employees themselves to recognize other team members for their hard work and dedication.

Interested in learning more about how Assembly can help your company with peer to peer recognition? Book a demo today!

5 types of employee recognition

  1. Structured Recognition
  2. Unstructured Recognition
  3. Monetary Rewards
  4. Public Recognition
  5. Surprise & Delight Rewards

1. Structured recognition

This is the most common type of employee recognition program. It typically involves giving out points or badges that can be redeemed for company merchandise or other perks. The advantage of structured recognition is that it's easy to administer and set up, but it doesn't offer much in terms of creativity or personalization.

2. Unstructured recognition 

This is a more personalized approach to recognizing employees. Instead of using a points system or other predetermined criteria, managers can simply recognize employees whenever they feel they deserve it without worrying about whether they have enough points to redeem anything. 

The disadvantage here is that managers might not always be able to find an appropriate opportunity to praise their employees in this way.

3. Monetary rewards

Cash bonuses and gift cards are common ways to recognize employees' efforts and accomplishments. While they're often tied to financial metrics like profits or sales quotas, they can also be awarded based on specific achievements such as completing a project ahead of schedule or going above and beyond in customer service.

4. Public Recognition

Public recognition is similar to formal recognition in that it's given in front of other people and often involves handing out awards or certificates (or even just putting someone's name on a wall). But instead of giving something a bonus or gift certificate, public recognition involves recognizing someone in front of their peers or the general public.

5. Surprise & Delight Rewards

This is a small gift or gesture that's given to employees out of the blue. The best part about these is that they can be as simple or elaborate as possible. There's no rulebook for giving employee awards or recognition ideas like this one!

What employee recognition awards can be offered to motivate employees?

Employee recognition awards are a great way to show your employees that you appreciate them and their contributions to the company. 

A survey by Great Place to Work showed that 37% of respondents would be motivated to work more if they had personal recognition. In addition, an article by Oracle Netsuite shows that 69% of workers would remain at their jobs if their employers offered more rewards and recognition.

Here are some of the top reasons why you should give employee recognition awards:

  • Employee recognition awards encourage loyalty and engagement
  • Employee recognition awards help motivate employees to improve their performance
  • Employee recognition awards are a great way to show your employees that you value them and their contributions to the company

Sign up for Assembly's Recognition Flow today and make it a part of every employee's experience to feel valued for what they do. Book a demo to learn more.

What awards can you give to employees?

Awards are a great way to reward employees for their contributions, and they can be used in various ways. They can be used as a simple thank you for doing an exceptional job, or they can be given as part of an incentive program to award employees who help drive specific behaviors and outcomes.

Here are some common employee awards categories for staff recognition:

Recognition awards: These are usually small tokens given to employees who have done something worthy of recognition. They may include a certificate, trophy, or T-shirt with the employee award titles and company logo. Recognition awards are often used to recognize people who go above and beyond what's expected, such as taking on extra responsibilities or completing tasks that weren't originally part of their job descriptions.

Incentive awards: These are tangible rewards given out based on performance against goals or other criteria defined by management. Incentive awards can range from cash bonuses for reaching sales targets to gift cards for improving customer satisfaction scores over time. They're often tied directly to specific behaviors that will help drive better results for your business, such as meeting sales targets or increasing customer happiness scores each month.

Service awards: Service awards are given to employees who have been with your company for an extended period of time or have achieved specific milestones during their tenure at your company. Service awards can be given out at any time that is convenient, but they should not be given out too often, or else they will lose their impact.

Occupational recognition awards: These awards are specific to recognizing employees for their achievements in their respective fields or occupations. Examples of occupational recognition awards include the "Top Salesperson of the Year" award or the "Innovation Champion" award.

Progress award: This award recognizes employees who have shown consistent progress and improvement in their performance or skills. It can be given to individuals who have overcome challenges and demonstrated a commitment to personal growth and development.

Most Improved Employee award:This award recognizes an employee who has made significant improvements in their performance over time. It highlights outstanding performance and their dedication and efforts to enhance their skills and contribute to the organization's success.

Academic Performance award: This award acknowledges employees who have demonstrated exceptional academic achievements while working for the company. It can be given to individuals pursuing further education or professional certifications.

Improved version award: This award celebrates employees who have contributed to the company values creating an improved version of a product, process, or service. It recognizes their innovative thinking and problem-solving abilities.

Funny superlatives for work:In addition to more formal awards, incorporating funny superlatives into your recognition awards program, can bring a sense of fun and lightheartedness to the workplace. These awards can be given based on humorous traits or quirks of employees, such as "Best Office DJ" or "Most Likely to Have a Snack Stash."

What types of recognition do employees want?

When it comes to employee rewards and recognition, the old saying "people don't care what you do, they care about why you do it" rings true. We all have different motivators and desires, but some common elements come up in employee surveys about recognition gifts. Here are a few rewards and recognition programs:

Recognition for their work: Employees want to know that their efforts are noticed, even if management doesn't recognize them formally. They want to feel like their contributions are valued, even if those contributions don't seem like much to others who aren't as close to the situation.

Recognition from peers: Some employees crave recognition from their colleagues more than anything else. It's not enough for them to hear from their manager or supervisor how great they are; they want other people who know them well to affirm what they probably know about themselves — that they're doing an excellent job at work.

Recognition for bigger accomplishments (not just day-to-day tasks): If an employee has done something truly exceptional, whether it's closing a major deal or making a significant improvement during an upgrade, they may appreciate being recognized by management publicly and privately. Achievement awards ideas can include company swag, unique an awards ceremony, and public recognition.

10 Best Employee Recognition Awards

Employee recognition awards are a great way to help you recognize your employees in a meaningful way:

So, what are some good team awards? Here are 10 employee award ideas to get you started:

1. Employee of the Month Award: This award is ideal for recognizing employees who have performed exceptionally well during a particular month. It can also be given to employees who have shown exceptional leadership skills.

2. Employee of the Year Award: This award recognizes an employee who has made exceptional contributions throughout the year. This award can be given based on different criteria such as customer satisfaction, sales volume, etc., depending on your organization's needs.

3. Safety Award: The safety award is a great employee appreciation and recognition award for working hard to keep the workplace safe. It is perfect for those who work in manufacturing or construction but can be used in any industry.

4. Top Performer Award: This type of award is given to a person who has gone above and beyond their job description in some way. It could also be a diplomatic way of giving 'best employee awards'. It might be someone who created a new process or product that saved the company money. Either way, it's an excellent way to show your appreciation for their hard work!

5. Innovation Award: Innovation is the cornerstone of progress and success in any organization. The innovation award recognizes those who take risks, think outside the box and solve problems in new ways. This award is perfect for any employee who has recently invented or improved upon a product or service offered by your company.

6. Teamwork Award: This award recognizes employees who work well with others to achieve a common goal or objective. It can be given at the end of a project or as part of an annual performance review process. Nominate your most deserving employees for the Teamwork Award by using Assembly's Team Player Award Nomination Flow.

7. Most Improved Employee Award: This award recognizes an employee who has made significant improvements in their performance over time. The winner is usually selected by management or peers based on their performance reviews and/or peer nominations over the past year, month, or quarter.

8. Leadership Award: This award is given to an individual who has shown excellent leadership qualities. The winner will be chosen based on how they behave in various situations and their ability to inspire others.

9. Quality Improvement Award or Customer Service Award:This award goes to employees who make significant improvements in quality control by implementing new processes or changing existing ones based on feedback from customers or internal audits. Customer service award can be an award title given to an employee who showed next-level customer support with a full focus on the customer experience.

10. Rising Star Award: This award is presented to an employee who has shown exceptional talent, potential, and dedication. It is ideal for a young employee who has demonstrated a high level of competence and potential. It's also great for employees who have been with the company for a while but have just come into their own.

How do you provide recognition that motivates your employees?

There are many different creative employee awards and ways to reward and recognize employees because, at the end of the day, it's much more about creating an environment where employees can feel appreciated for their work. 

A true motivator for most employees, no matter your industry or type of establishment, is the feeling that their employer (and colleague) notices and appreciates what they're doing.  It could be through professional, creative, or even funny awards for employees.

Here are some tips on how to provide recognition that motivates your employees:

  1. Be timely: Recognize employees as soon as possible after they have accomplished something outstanding. This shows that you are paying attention and value their efforts.
  2. Be specific: When recognizing employees, be specific about what they did well and how it positively impacted the company or team. This helps them understand the value of their contributions.
  3. Be genuine: Authenticity is key when providing recognition. Make sure your praise is sincere and heartfelt.
  4. Involve peers: Peer recognition can be highly motivating. Encourage employees to recognize and appreciate each other's accomplishments through a peer-to-peer recognition program.
  5. Tailor the recognition: Consider the preferences and interests of individual employees. Some may prefer public recognition, while others may prefer private acknowledgment. Find the right balance to make it meaningful to each employee.
  6. Offer a variety of rewards: Different employees are motivated by different types of rewards. Provide a range of options, such as monetary rewards, additional time off, professional development opportunities, or even small tokens of appreciation.
  7. Make it a regular practice: Recognition should not be a one-time event. Implement a consistent recognition program that acknowledges and appreciates employees on an ongoing basis.
  8. Celebrate milestones: Recognize employees for reaching significant milestones in their careers, such as work anniversaries or completing a challenging project.

Remember, the most effective recognition is tailored to the individual and aligned with your company's values. By providing meaningful and personalized recognition, you can motivate your employees and create a positive work environment.


1. How can small businesses or startups with limited budgets effectively implement employee recognition programs?

Small businesses and startups can adopt several cost-effective strategies to recognize and reward their employees, thereby fostering a positive work environment without breaking the bank. Here are some approaches:

  1. Personalized Acknowledgment: Simple, personalized gestures of recognition can be highly impactful. Handwritten thank-you notes, public acknowledgments during team meetings, or personalized emails highlighting an employee's contributions can make employees feel valued and appreciated.
  2. Peer Recognition Programs: Implement a peer-to-peer recognition system where employees can nominate and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. This can be facilitated through a simple nomination form or a dedicated bulletin board (physical or digital) where employees can post kudos.
  3. Professional Development Opportunities: Offering opportunities for professional growth can be a powerful form of recognition. This could include sponsoring employees to take online courses, attend workshops, or participate in conferences relevant to their roles.
  4. Flexible Work Arrangements: Recognizing employees by offering flexible work hours or the option to work from home can improve work-life balance, serving as a meaningful form of recognition for their hard work.
  5. Non-monetary Rewards: Small, thoughtful gifts such as company merchandise, books related to personal or professional growth, or vouchers for experiences (like a coffee or lunch) can be cost-effective ways to show appreciation.

2. How can companies ensure fairness and transparency in their employee recognition programs?

Ensuring fairness and transparency in recognition programs is crucial to maintaining trust and motivation among employees. Here are some strategies to achieve this:

  1. Clear Criteria and Process: Establish and communicate clear criteria for recognition and the process by which awards are determined. This helps employees understand what behaviors and achievements are valued and how decisions are made.
  2. Diverse Selection Committee: Involve a diverse group of employees in the selection process to minimize biases and ensure a broader perspective in recognizing achievements.
  3. Regular and Consistent Recognition: Implement regular intervals for recognition (e.g., monthly, quarterly) to ensure ongoing opportunities for employees to be acknowledged.
  4. Feedback Mechanism: Provide a channel for employees to give feedback on the recognition program itself, allowing for adjustments and improvements to ensure it meets the needs and perceptions of fairness among the workforce.
  5. Transparency in Selection: Share stories and reasons behind each recognition, either in company meetings or internal newsletters, to highlight the diverse ways employees can contribute and be recognized.

3. What are some ways to measure the effectiveness of employee recognition programs?

Measuring the effectiveness of recognition programs is essential for understanding their impact on employee engagement and productivity. Here are methods to assess their success:

  1. Employee Surveys: Conduct regular surveys to gauge employee satisfaction with the recognition program and its perceived value. Include questions about how recognized employees feel and the program’s impact on their motivation.
  2. Turnover Rates: Monitor turnover rates before and after implementing or enhancing recognition programs. A decrease in turnover can indicate increased employee satisfaction and loyalty.
  3. Engagement Metrics: Use engagement software or platforms to track participation rates in recognition programs and correlate these with performance metrics. An increase in engagement often correlates with improved performance.
  4. Performance Data: Analyze performance data before and after recognition initiatives to see if there are measurable improvements in productivity, quality of work, or achievement of specific goals.
  5. Feedback from Exit Interviews: Collect data from exit interviews about the outgoing employees' perceptions of the recognition program. This can provide insights into how the program might be improved or its impact on employee retention.

To learn more about what a recognition program can do for you and how Assembly can help, book a quick chat here.

Browse our Free Employee Recognition Guide

Get the foundational knowledge on creating an employee recognition program that boosts employee engagement and helps them feel valued.

Explore Guide

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do and for FREE! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

How much do rewards cost?

At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

Does Assembly offer discounts?

We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

How do I cancel my plan if needed?

If you're on a month to month plan, you can go here and cancel anytime. If you're having concerns or need help setting up your account for success, you can always book a demo with a customer support specialist.

If you're on a longer-term custom plan, you'll need to reach out to your customer support specialist to cancel your account or email us at support@joinassembly.com.

What customizations are available?

Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

What integrations are available?

Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

Could find the answer you are looking for?

Please schedule time with an expert and we will help you to get all your questions answered