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20 Employee Recognition Ideas to Show Them You Care

December 12, 2019
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Getting all-star employees through the door is only half of the equation. The more important part? Motivating and retaining them. After all, happy employees make good employees — and good business.

Cash bonuses are nice, but research shows they aren’t always the answer. Despite US companies spending nearly a quarter of their budgets on compensation, 80 percent of employees still don’t feel recognized. Going further, 40 percent of surveyed employees said they would work harder if they were. That’s especially true for millennials and Generation Z, who statistically value recognition more than past generations.

There are tangible and intangible ways to motivate employees that go beyond compensation. Here are some creative ways to reward employees.

Intangible Rewards

  • Public Praise: Praise for a job well done is a great way to recognize and motivate employees. Tools that are already built into your company’s HR system, like Lattice Praise, make it easier to share individual successes with everyone.

  • Recognition From Executives: While colleagues and direct managers might be aware of an employee’s achievements, having someone at the executive level acknowledge them adds extra meaning. This can be in the form of a simple email, lunch, or coffee date.

  • Recognition at a Company Meeting: Sometimes it’s important to extend praise beyond digital platforms. Announcing someone’s wins out loud at your next all-hands meeting can make a big impact.

Tangible Rewards

  • Donation to a Charity: We all have causes that we care deeply about. Make a donation to a charity of an employee’s choice to show you appreciate what matters most to them.

  • Extra Time Off: Burnout is a real thing, and sometimes a break is just what someone needs to come back reenergized. Give the gift of time by letting an employee take an extra day off.

  • Work From Home Day: Giving employees the flexibility to work from home shows that you trust them to get the job done. It also saves them from their morning and afternoon commutes.

  • Meeting-Free Days: We all have a lot on our plates — and meetings don’t necessarily help. Within reason, let employees opt-out of any meeting or day of meetings.

  • Team Celebration: Show an employee that their success is the team’s success by scheduling a celebration or bonding activity.

  • Office Treats: A little sweet or savory afternoon pick-me-up requires minimal effort but can bring a little joy to everyone’s day.

  • Conference Tickets: Conferences and events are a great way to expand your knowledge, make connections, and grow your career. Invest in employees’ development by sending them to conferences that can help them professionally.

  • Attend a Creative Class: Personal development also makes for a well-rounded individual. Reward someone’s hard work by investing in an activity or class that they’re personally interested in.

  • Activity Day: Whether they’re wine connoisseurs, music lovers, or sports fans, give high performers a memorable experience at their favorite live event or activity.

  • Assistant for a Week: No one has enough hours in the day to finish their entire to-do list. Help employees be more productive (and develop management skills) by giving them an extra hand.

  • Massage or Spa Day: Work/life balance includes a focus on wellness. Treat employees to a day of detox and pampering after finishing up a stressful project.

  • Subscription to a Magazine, Newspaper, or Audio Service: Reading is something we often wish we had more time for. A magazine, newspaper, or audiobook subscription can help employees read more on their own time.

  • Office Upgrades: Whether it’s a pair of noise-canceling headphones or a new standing desk, give productive employees some upgraded tools for getting the job done. 
  • Gift Cards: While cash isn’t always the most personal gift, it can be a welcome one when accompanied by a personal note of why it’s deserved. Plus, gift cards give employees the chance to indulge in something they may not have otherwise bought.

  • Free Lunch or Dinner: No one likes having that sad, salad desk lunch. Give employees a break away from work with a free lunch or dinner outside of the office.

  • Ride Share Credit: After a long workday, the last thing you want to do is take public transportation or walk home. Give employees rideshare credits so they can get home easily and carry on with the rest of their evening.

  • Coffee for a Week: You might have coffee in the office, but a barista-made espresso drink just tastes better. If an employee thrives on caffeine, make it a little easier for them with some pre-paid coffee runs.

Rewarding employees for a job well done goes beyond traditional compensation. And in a market where employees and job candidates have the upper hand, it’s never been more important to make sure top performers feel recognized. Whether it’s a free massage or fancy dinner, sometimes simple gestures make a big difference.