Craft Meaningful Employee Recognition With the Right Words

You’ll always be able to find the right words to praise your employees with these phrases in your back pocket.

March 22, 2024
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Follow the simple and effective employee recognition ideas we’ve outlined here and you’ll always be able to find the right words to praise your employees for going above and beyond.

Fail to recognize your employees for their hard work and you’ll seriously struggle to improve engagement, productivity, and retention in your organization.

But sometimes it can be hard to find the right words to celebrate a teammate – especially when things get busy.

Read on for some examples you can use for inspiration next time you go to praise an employee.

The research-backed benefits of recognizing your employees

Before we get into the actionable employee recognition ideas, let’s take a quick look at the impact of employee recognition.

Here are a few research-backed benefits of staff appreciation:

  • 40% of employed Americans say they'd put more energy into their work if they were recognised more often.
  • 37% of workers believe the most effective thing their employer can do to cause them to produce great work is to recognise them.
  • 53% admitted they would stay longer at their company if they felt more appreciation for their work. 

In short: recognizing your people with the right words can boost team collaboration, employee retention, work motivation, and employee happiness – while reducing employee burnout.

And yet: 59% of employees say they’ve never had a boss who “truly appreciates” them. 

Let’s look at the five steps to effective recognition that is bound to leave your teammates feeling appreciated. 

A simple employee recognition framework 

The most effective appreciation shares these five ingredients:

It’s specific and genuine

As we’ve already seen, a simple “thanks for the great work!” can have a huge impact on employee engagement.

But your praise will mean even more to your teammates if you’re celebrating something specific.

It doesn’t take an expert in human psychology to know how much more words like these will mean to an employee and a simple “thank you”: “Great work on the presentation! I loved the joke you opened with. And you did an amazing job keeping eye contact with the audience!”

It’s timely

You might be tempted to make a note of all the great things an employee does and then praise them for it all at once during your next one-to-one.

But this could actually be counterproductive. 

And that’s because respondents in one survey reported an average of 50 days since they last felt recognised in any way at work. 

Recognize your people as soon as you spot them going above and beyond to make sure you don’t make the same mistake. 

It highlights personal qualities

Some people are the social glue that holds your team together. Some hit deadlines like clockwork. Some always come up with unique and imaginative solutions. 

Your people are sure to feel appreciated for who they are – not just what they do – if you go out of your way to highlight their personal qualities when you’re recognizing them. 

It connects to your company values

Only about half of employees strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work, according to a Gallup poll

Tying the praise you give your teammates back to your organization's core values whenever you can will help them understand what’s expected of them. Plus, it will help draw a clear line between their work and the overall success and vision of the company. 

It’s full of gratitude

Most of us seriously underestimate the power of gratitude.

In a series of studies, researchers had participants write letters expressing their gratitude, then predict how their words would make the recipients of those letters feel. The writers significantly underestimated how happy their letters would make their recipients feel – and overestimated how awkward they would feel about it, too.

Don’t fall into the same trap in your business. A manager can make an employee’s day by letting them know how grateful they are. And if you’re worried about making your employees feel awkward, the research shows that simply won’t be the case.

Employee recognition language examples

Want to make sure your recognition means as much as possible to your employees?

These simple phrases can go a long way:

“Thank you”

Sounds a bit simplistic, right? But did you know 70% of employees say that motivation and morale would improve “massively” if managers simply said “thank you” more? 

Ask your leaders and managers to add a simple “thanks” to their recognition vocabulary to instantly boost engagement across your business.

“I appreciate your hard work”

It pays to be explicit when it comes to any kind of communication. Something that’s obvious to you might be news to your colleagues.

How often do you tell your teammates how much you appreciate their hard work? If not, it might well be something that’s obvious to you but they’re unaware of…

“You always go the extra mile”

There are employees who always do the bare minimum. And there are employees who always make sure things get done right – no matter how long it takes.

Giving your people a shoutout when you spot they’ve gone the extra mile will encourage them to become the kind of employee who always makes sure things get done right.

“We can always rely on you”

Your teammates who keep their heads down and reliably deliver quality work on time are often the ones who go unnoticed. Highlighting their reliability is a surefire way to make them feel seen.

“Thank you for being such a team player”

Collaboration is the cornerstone of any successful business. So, be sure to always recognize your employees when you spot them helping out a teammate.

“You always respond so well to feedback”

There’s an old adage that you should hire for attitude, not skills. An employee who is receptive to feedback will quickly have a much sharper set of skills than one who refuses to take feedback on board, after all. Celebrate that attitude and your business is bound to benefit.

“Your attention to detail doesn't go unnoticed”

Spotting a typo in a slide deck or a wrong number in a report isn’t ever the kind of work that gets a lot of fanfare. But having someone on your team who you can always rely on to spot an embarrassing mistake before a project goes live is a huge boon. Praising their attention to detail will let them know this crucial work doesn’t go unnoticed.

“You’re a pleasure to work with”

Celebrating a teammate for what they’ve done can mean a lot to them – especially if they worked hard to achieve it. But it won’t come close to how much it will mean to them if you celebrate who they are as a person. 

Being pleasant to work with is a seriously undervalued trait in the workplace. Letting your people know how much you enjoy working with them is bound to mean a lot to them – and signal to the rest of the team how much you value that trait.

“Thank you for asking for help when you needed it”

It takes a lot of maturity and confidence for an employee to hold their hands up and say “I need help”. And it can stop a problem from blossoming into a full-blown crisis, too. Always sing the praises of a colleague for having the courage to ask for help.

The final word

Follow the simple and effective employee recognition ideas we’ve outlined here and you’ll always be able to find the right words to praise your employees for going above and beyond.

None of these positive feedback examples exactly what you’re looking for? Simply tell our Employee Recognition Assistant who you want to recognize and what you want to praise them for and it will help you craft a thoughtful message celebrating their hard work in minutes.

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.

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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?

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