Appreciation & Recognition Awards to Boost Employee Morale

Boost employee morale with these 8 employee recognition award ideas and start a creative revolution in your company today!

November 29, 2023
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For actors, winning an Oscar is the most coveted form of recognition. If you asked an actor fresh out of acting school what they wanted to achieve in their career, winning an Oscar would be on their list. Why? It shows they're valued, the critics love them, and they feel fulfilled.

Now, winning an Oscar doesn't mean the actor is talented or possesses remarkable artistry. It is simply a recognition of their performance in that year. The same actor can have a bad run of performances and never win another Oscar for the rest of their career. We can pick out from this example that recognition and appreciation are based primarily on performance.

It's been proven that numerous high-performing employees are motivated when there is some motivation or reward for their work. This phenomenon is a core part of the human experience. And it can be used to get the best out of your employees. Let’s find out how.

What Is Employee Appreciation and Recognition?

Starbucks Rewards customers get free coffee on their birthdays. Most Halloween parties have an award for best costume. These scenarios seem too far apart, but they're not. They're directly related to appreciation and recognition, respectively.

Recognition and appreciation are similar in definition and practice. However, there are a few noteworthy differences we will discuss.

Let’s start with appreciation. 

Appreciation is primarily a value-based response to a person's performance and organizational contribution. 

Appreciation must have tangible value added to it. It could be a gift, a promotion, or something as simple as a card.

Recognition, on the other hand, involves acknowledging specific achievements, contributions, or performance. It's often tied to meeting or exceeding certain standards or goals, which are inherently linked to the organization's values.

Recognition, whether it's a verbal thank-you, an award, or a spot on the Hall of Fame wall, does more than just celebrate individual achievements. It also echoes the organization's values and creates an environment where striving for excellence and aligning with these objectives is consistently acknowledged and encouraged.

Why Is Employee Appreciation and Recognition Important?

Starbucks Rewards program is the world's most successful rewards program, with over 60 million participants worldwide. The program is so lucrative that it drives approximately 50% of business for the coffee-making giant. 

How's this possible? Starbucks has simply mastered the art of appreciation and recognition

In the most subtle ways, they've built a culture of rewarding and appreciating their customers. This culture has, in turn, rewarded the company with loyal customers and an attractive bottom line. 

They have achieved so much with things as simple as a name assigned to a cup of coffee and the free birthday coffee we already discussed. This is just a glimpse of how vital appreciation and recognition are to any organization. 

In employee-employer relations, appreciation and recognition can have similar results. In fact, stats show that businesses with value-focused reward systems are twice as likely to drive or reinforce business goals. 

Recognition creates motivation. And that motivation helps spur your employees to be the best version of themselves, boosting their activity and productivity.

So, how do you praise and recognize employees? 

An excellent place to start is making staff recognition awards a part of your company's culture. You can set up a simple employee recognition award program that rewards staff when they achieve a milestone or complete a task.

What Are Some Employee Appreciation and Recognition Ideas? 

  1. Tangible Rewards

Appreciating your employees with tangible physical rewards is a great place to start building your organization's reward system. Tangible rewards are easy to come up with and don't require too much preparation. Here are a few you could start with:

  • Performance-based bonuses
  • Gift cards or vouchers
  • Cash prizes
  • Weekend getaways
  • All-expenses-paid trips
  • Adventure experiences
  • Custom merchandise (e.g., company-branded apparel or accessories)
  • Tech gadgets (e.g., headphones, smartwatches, or tablets)
  • Office equipment upgrades (e.g., ergonomic chairs, standing desks)
  • Books or e-books related to personal or professional development
  • Concert or theater tickets
  • Spa or wellness packages

2. Personal Development Opportunities

You might have heard this quote, "The reward for hard work is more work." It’s true, sometimes. However, this does not mean you should pile on more work on your superstar employees. Helping a high-performing employee get better is another way to reward hardwork. It's arguably the best idea on this list — for your business, anyway.

You'd be rewarding your employees and also building the capacity of your workforce. In essence, you would be killing two birds with one stone. Here's a list of a few ideas that'd help.

  • Skill development workshops
  • Leadership training programs
  • Industry-specific seminars
  • Educational Assistance
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Sponsorship for professional certifications
  • Online course subscriptions
  • Mentorship programs within the company
  • Opportunities for cross-training in different departments
  • Grants for research or independent projects
  • Book clubs or reading groups focused on professional topics

3. Flexible Work Arrangements

That expectant feeling we have when it's close to lunch or coffee break is precisely why flexible work arrangements are an excellent idea for employee recognition. These rewards offer convenience and ease. They make it easy for organizations to attract high-value employees and entice high-performing newcomers

Allowing your employees to work remotely, or giving them off days for crushing their milestones will increase their enthusiasm while boosting their productivity. Here's a simple list to work with: 

  • Flexible hours or remote work options
  • Additional paid time off
  • Extra vacation days
  • Half-days off
  • Extended weekends
  • Compressed workweeks (e.g., four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days).
  • Time off in lieu for extra hours worked.
  • Option for job sharing.
  • Early leave on Fridays.
  • Childcare support or facilities.

4. Health and Wellness Benefits

There are three most human-centric niches today— health, wealth, and relationships. Leveraging or providing support in these three areas sparks an emotional response in people. 

Healthcare is one of the ways you can show appreciation. This could include:

  • Gym memberships
  • Wellness programs
  • Spa day or massage therapy vouchers.
  • Workshops on stress management or mindfulness.
  • Subscription boxes with healthy snacks or wellness products.
  • Fitness gear or equipment (e.g., resistance bands, yoga mats).
  • Entry fees for local charity runs or fitness challenges.

5. Public Recognition Initiatives

Everyone likes a pat on the back, especially in front of their colleagues. It feels good to be noticed for your hard work. Sharing these moments with the team can lift everyone's spirits and show that good work doesn't go unseen. Here are some ways to give shoutouts to your top performers.

  • Employee of the month/quarter/year
  • Wall of fame
  • Shoutouts in company meetings or newsletters
  • Spotlight interviews or profiles on the company website or intranet.
  • Special awards for specific accomplishments (e.g., Innovation Award, Team Player Award).
  • Social media mentions or features.
  • Hosting celebratory events to honor achievements (e.g., team lunches, parties).
  • Certificates of appreciation or achievement.
  • Recognition pins or badges for different milestones.

6. Team-Based Recognition

Working as a team is not as easy as it is. Being able to collaborate and build products with diverse groups of people is hard work. To help keep the team spirit, it's always best to celebrate the team as a whole, even though individual awards are also a good idea. 

Approximately 74% of U.S. employees who receive praise in team settings feel both valued and essential to their organization.

You can boost your team's confidence by rewarding them with:

  • Team-building retreats or workshops.
  • Group bonuses or incentives.
  • Team lunches or dinners at a special restaurant.
  • Custom team merchandise (e.g., matching t-shirts or accessories).
  • Reserved relaxation or recreation spaces in the office (e.g., a special lounge or game room).
  • Tickets to entertainment or sporting events for the team.
  • Team subscription plans

7. Milestone Celebrations

Milestones are an excellent opportunity to celebrate your employees without too much hassle. Long-term employees who are loyal and committed to your company are ideal for these situations. You can try out: 

  • Personalized commemorative items (e.g., engraved watches or plaques).
  • Special badges or pins indicating years of service.
  • Bonus or financial incentives tied to tenure.
  • Featured profiles or interviews in company newsletters or websites.
  • Anniversary parties or celebrations in their honor.
  • Personal milestone celebrations: weddings, birthdays etc.

8. Employee-Driven Awards

Letting employees take the lead in recognizing their peers adds a personal touch to awards. When team members nominate and vote for each other, it fosters a sense of community and mutual respect. 

A few examples you can work with include:

  • Peer recognition awards (gift cards, trophies, or special desk decorations).
  • Project-based achievement awards (certificates, bonus payouts, or team outings).
  • Motivational mock awards like "Most Caffeinated" mugs or "Office DJ" certificates.
  • Employee nominations for special achievements (reserved parking spots, spotlight features in company communications, or lunch with leadership).

Create Winning Reward Programs With Assembly

You can quickly build a great employee reward system for your organization with the ideas we shared here. However, we kept an ace in the hole for last. 

With Assembly, you can virtually replicate all the recognition and awards we’ve discussed without breaking a sweat, from public recognitions to peer-influenced awards and customized rewards too.

Keep that spirit going.

Join Assembly today.

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

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?

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