Employee Recognition Ideas: How to Recognize Employees For a Job Well Done

Recognition is one of the most powerful tools in the HR toolbox. Discover how to celebrate your team most effectively.

January 24, 2024
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Ever wonder how the most successful organizations motivate their people to go above and beyond each and every day?

The answer might surprise you.

It’s not more money…

It’s more recognition.

Don’t believe us?

Read on to find out why celebrating your teammates is the most effective way of encouraging them to do their best work every day – and some simple employee recognition ideas you can start implementing today.

Plus, find out how a chatbot can help you find the right words to recognize employees for a job well done in seconds…

What is employee recognition?

Employee recognition is when an organization celebrates its people for work they’ve done or what they bring to the business. 

While an employee of the month award is the classic example of employee recognition, it really comes in all shapes and sizes – from a shoutout on your company social pages to a simple “thank you” from a manager. 

Four big benefits of employee recognition

Skeptical that praising your employees can really make that much of a difference to your business?

These research-backed benefits of employee recognition might change your mind:

Encourage your people to do their best work

What would you say is the most powerful way to motivate people to work harder?

Money, right?

Incredibly, recognition actually outweighs performance-based rewards such as “pay me more” and “give me a promotion” as ways people say their employer could get the best from them.

Plus:

Which all points to one thing:

If you’re not making employee recognition a priority in your business then you’re missing out on one of the most powerful ways to motivate your employees out there.

Boost engagement (and not just for the employees getting praised)

A big reason that praising your people is such an effective way of motivating them to do their best work is because it throws rocket fuel on your employee engagement levels.

In fact, recognition is such a powerful engagement booster that research even shows an employee will get an engagement boost from simply seeing one of their colleagues getting recognized by a leader. 

So, you’ll boost engagement across your entire business by making it a habit of publicly praising your peoples’ hard work. 

Improve employee retention

If an employee isn’t getting the recognition they feel like they deserve then it’s only natural for them to start thinking about finding a job where their efforts will be appreciated a bit more.

In fact, an incredible 79% of people who’ve quit a job say a lack of appreciation was one of the main reasons they left. 

Which is why making regularly recognizing your employees a cornerstone of your company culture will do wonders for your employee retention rates

It helps create a culture of collaboration 

Collaboration is the lifeblood of any successful business.

In fact, 86% of workers say ineffective collaboration and communication is the main cause of workplace failures.

And research shows that putting a peer recognition system in place – like Assembly’s employee award nominationsmotivates employees to help their colleagues more often. 

Of course, it’s no mystery why people are more likely to go above and beyond to help out their colleagues when they work for a company with a strong culture of praise and recognition. Which is why it’s such an effective way of helping combat the collaboration and communication problems that derail most work projects.

Seven simple but effective employee recognition ideas

It’s clear from the research that recognizing your people for a job well done can do wonders for your business.

But the fact is: very few organizations make it a habit.

In fact, respondents to one survey said it had been an average of 50 days since they last felt recognised in any way at work – while a Gallup poll shows that 65% of employees haven't received any form of recognition for good work in the last year.

Want to start seeing the benefits that come from recognizing your employees in your business?

Here are a few simple and effective employee recognition ideas you can start using today:

Lead by example

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that research has revealed the most meaningful recognition comes from a person’s line manager – followed by acknowledgement from a senior leader or CEO.

After all, if your boss – or your boss's boss – spots your great work and praises you for it, that could have a direct impact on how likely you are to land the next pay rise or promotion you go in for.

Plus, 84% of people say the way leaders behave is the single most important factor influencing behavior across their organizations. So, the quicker your leaders are to praise their teammates, the more likely your people are to follow in their footsteps. 

So, to make sure your employee recognition program has the biggest impact, make sure to train your managers to be quick to praise their direct reports. And be sure to include shoutouts for your teammates’ great work in each of your CEO and Executive updates.

The more often managers recognize their teammates, the more you’ll feel the benefits of employee recognition in your business.

Focus on unconditional praise

In the West, we’re conditioned to measure our worth as people by our achievements. That’s why Forbes publishes a Rich List every year rather than a Spent the Most Time With Their Loved Ones List. 

Nowhere has this attitude permeated deeper than in our work lives, with so many of us measuring our worth not just by how much we earn – but how much we earn in comparison to our peers. 

In fact, an eye-opening study revealed that most people would rather earn £50,000 a year while their colleagues make £25,000 than earn £100,000 a year while the people they work with get £250,000.

Luckily, there is a way to help everyone in your organization overcome our society-wide preoccupation with comparing ourselves to our peers: unconditional praise.

Unconditional praise is when you recognize someone for who they are, not what they’ve achieved. Praising a teammate for always having great attention to detail is a great example of unconditional praise – it’s a celebration of who they are as a person, not what they’ve done.

This kind of praise reinforces that their self-worth – and the value they bring to your business – doesn’t hinge on whether or not they hit their KPIs. And this can have a tangible impact on your employees’ happiness and performance at work, not to mention their mental health.

On the other hand, conditional praise – celebrating someone for something they’ve done, like hitting a KPI or making a sale – can actually be counterproductive. Studies have actually shown that rewarding behavior that’s intrinsically motivated (like doing a great job or being a supportive colleague) with extrinsic rewards (like praise or a bonus) can actually lead to people doing less of the behavior you’re trying to encourage.

While it might seem counterintuitive, you might actually be making your employees less motivated to keep up their good work if you only praise them for extrinsic results like hitting their KPIs. 

So, while celebrating a colleague's great work definitely has its time and place, be sure to mainly focus on giving your people unconditional praise to keep them motivated and engaged.

Make recognition a habit

Studies have shown that recognizing your employees will have the biggest impact if you do it immediately, regularly, and consistently.

In fact, organizations that double the number of employees that receive recognition for their work on a weekly basis experience a 24% improvement in work quality and a 27% reduction in absenteeism.

So, don’t wait until an employee’s next one-to-one to praise them. Train your managers to get into the habit of celebrating their employees as soon as they see them go above and beyond for the team to get the biggest bang for their buck when it comes to praising their people.

Tailor your praise to each employee

Some people seriously appreciate a public shoutout. Others would rather sink into the ground than have a song and dance made of them in front of the whole office. Instead, they’d much rather receive praise in private from their manager. 

So, it’s no wonder that research shows people find feedback most meaningful when it’s specifically tailored to how they like to be recognized.

For the best results, learn how each of your employees likes to be praised and be sure to recognise them in the way they respond to most for the best results.

Here are a few ideas to get your started:

  • A public shoutout on your company LinkedIn page.
  • Leaving their favorite snack on their desk alongside a handwritten note praising them.
  • Presenting them with a thoughtful gift – like a gift voucher to their favorite store – during the next team meeting.
  • Taking them out for lunch for a catch up with their manager.
  • A shoutout in the next CEO update.

Recognize teams, not just individuals

When we think of employee recognition it’s natural to think about celebrating individuals.

But a recent study actually found team recognition can seriously boost employee engagement

So, be sure to take note of the projects each team gets over the line and the results each department delivers. Shouting these wins out in the next all-hands meeting or Executive update can seriously boost morale.

Make it easy for teammates to recognize each other

While the most effective feedback comes from the higher-ups, recognition from peers can still have a big impact on an employees’ engagement and performance levels. 

In fact, you're 36% more likely to see a positive impact on your business’s bottom line if your people receive peer-to-peer recognition alongside manager-only recognition. 

Plus, your employees want to celebrate their teammates, with 44% of all workers choosing to regularly recognize their teammates when they’re given a simple tool that lets them.

Encouraging your employees to shout out their teammates’ hard word – and giving them tools like employee award nominations to make it easy for them to do so – is a simple way to enjoy the benefits of peer-to-peer recognition in your business.

Focus on the little things

Recognizing an employee doesn’t need to mean rolling out the red carpet for a big formal ceremony where you hang their photo on the “Employee of the Month” wall. 

In fact, 70% of employees say that motivation and morale would improve “massively” if managers simply said “thank you” more. Sometimes a quick email giving an employee props for something thoughtful they’ve done can mean a lot more to them – and do a better job of motivating them to do their best work – than a formal award.

And the more specific your praise to a colleague, the more it shows you truly recognize them for who they are. So, be sure to encourage your leaders and managers to make a habit of praising your people for the little things – the things that often go unnoticed and unrecognized, but make your company a great place to work.

How AI can help you recognize your employees

You’re sold on the power of employee recognition. And you’re ready to bake the recognition ideas we’ve shared here into your internal communications strategy

But sometimes it’s tough to find the right words to celebrate an employee properly – especially in the middle of a hectic day when you’ve got a hundred other things on your to-do list.

We know how that feels. Which is why we created the free Assembly Recognition Assistant GPT to help you craft a thoughtful message recognizing an employee’s hard work in minutes.

Here’s how it works:

First, tell our Recognition Assistant who you want to celebrate:

Then our GPT will ask you a few simple questions about what your relationship is to the person you want to praise, what you want to give them a shoutout for, what tone you’d like the message to have, and anything else that might be relevant:

Here’s an example of a Director wanting to give an informal shoutout to their cofounder for their brilliant all hands presentation:

Then hit enter and the Assembly Recognition Assistant GPT will write a message you can use as a starting point or send to the colleague you want to celebrate as-is: 

We created our Recognition Assistant GPT to make it a lot easier for managers and leaders to find the time to praise a colleague during a busy work day. Combine it with the employee engagement ideas we’ve listed here to make it easy to start seeing the benefits that come from celebrating your teammates today.

The final word

Regularly recognizing your employees is one of the most powerful ways to boost engagement, retention, and collaboration across your organization. 

And since it costs you nothing, what are you waiting for? Bake the ideas we’ve suggested here into your internal comms strategy to start enjoying the benefits of employee recognition in your business 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.

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Employee recognition guide