Best Employee Recognition Ideas In 2023

Best Employee Recognition Ideas
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Increase engagement, boost morale, and reduce attrition with an employee recognition program. When it comes to retaining talent, nothing beats a creative, personalized appreciation gift. However, many recognition efforts come across as inauthentic or even self-serving—trust us, your employees see right through “special rewards” tied to meeting quotas. To avoid this fate for your program, be creative, keep programs timely and tailored to the workplace, and have a smart mix of individual and team rewards. You will appear sincere in your efforts to make employees feel valued in this manner. So, in this post, we’ll take a look at some of the fun virtual awards and employee recognition ideas that can be used on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis.

What is Employee Recognition?

The accomplishments and hard work of individuals, teams, and entire workforces within a company are recognized through employee recognition. The goal is to establish a connection between employees and the organization so that everyone feels respected, valued, and appreciated. Ideally, rewards support the work that employees do and recognize who they are as people while remaining true to the company’s values.

Peer-to-peer programs where people give kudos to their colleagues, rewards for excellence in customer service based on client feedback, and bonuses tied to suggestions that increase revenue or cut costs are a few examples of fun and virtual employee recognition-based awards ideas.

What is the Best Way to Recognize Employees?

Providing regular, timely, and specific feedback is the most effective way to recognize employees. It’s not enough to show appreciation to everyone once a year, though an all-staff outing is great for morale. Instead, recognition should be given regularly, whether weekly, monthly, or quarterly, and as soon as possible after the event that prompted the salute.

What Should Employees be Acknowledged for?

While it would be nice to recognize everything your employees do, too many generic compliments will come across as insincere and formulaic. Instead, use formal and informal methods to recognize both large and small achievements. The goal is to communicate the value of employee success.

Recognize employees for:

  • Taking the initiative to solve problems outside of their job functions and create new systems or processes.
  • Charitable efforts, both internal and external to the community.
  • Boosting the morale of their teams.
  • High-quality work that attracts positive customer feedback, reduces costs/improves products and services
  • Their abilities, mentorship, and thought leadership initiatives.

You must assess the outcomes of your program to fine-tune your recognition efforts. The most efficient way to collect data is to include “employee satisfaction ratings” as part of manager evaluations in your human resource management system (HRMS).

Awards for Employee Recognition Ideas

Nowadays, employee appreciation is a hot topic.
Many businesses do an excellent job of employee appreciation, and their employee retention rates prove it. No matter if you’re here because you’re always looking to improve or because you’ve been watching talent leave, we’ve got some recognition ideas for you—specifically, employee award ideas.

These are the tried, true, and tested most amazing employee recognition awards ideas for appreciating your staff on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. I hope you enjoy it and use some of the ideas!

#1. An employee of the Month (Quarterly, Year, etc.) Awards

Recognizing top-tier, all-around achievement is the industry standard: Many businesses already have such awards in place, making it a good place, to start with your employee recognition program. However, you can be a little more creative with it, or more clearly define what you’re looking for in an employee who will be eligible for such an award.

#2. Years of Service and Work Anniversary Awards

Recognizing employees when they reach significant milestones is important because it makes them feel like the many years they have put in were worthwhile. As a result, you should keep a database of each employee’s start date and give them unique gifts on the anniversary of those dates, or at the awards ceremony closest to them.

#3. MVP Employee Awards

Depending on the number of employees at your company, each department may be large enough to function as a team unto itself. If your company is large enough that recognizing a single standout employee in each department makes sense, MVP awards are a great title for those whose departments couldn’t function without them.

#4. Teamwork Awards

Because replacing salaried employees can cost nearly 10 months’ salary per employee, retaining loyal employees is extremely valuable to your business. Employee awards based on work tenure milestones are one way to give employees who have been with you a long time something to look forward to the longer they stay.

#5. Most Improved Awards

While rewarding your top performers is a great idea for obvious reasons, there is also a clear purpose behind recognizing those who go above and beyond to take their game to the next level. Whether attempts to improve as an employee come in the form of redoubling efforts to buckle down and tackle large projects, or because the person sought additional training or certification to truly excel in their chosen area of focus, companies should recognize such initiative for the invaluable addition it can represent for an office.

#6. Employees’ Choice Awards

While many managers take on the task of trying to motivate employees, this should not be seen as solely their responsibility. In many cases, an employee who works well with others and contributes positively to the company culture as a whole should be recognized.

#7. Most Creative Awards

There are numerous ways to receive an award for creativity, just as there are numerous types of creativity. For example, you could recognize someone who devised a novel, creative solution to a problem that had previously been difficult for a department to address, as their contribution may have unlocked a previously unexplored area for growth. 

#8. Extraordinary Service Awards

Every manager appreciates an employee who goes above and beyond to complete a task, assists a coworker with a problem, or regularly takes on special projects. Recognizing that kind of effort will likely inspire others to follow in the recipient’s footsteps, and if you can get even a handful of employees to put in just 5% more effort, the cumulative effect on your bottom line will be noticeable.

#9. Awards for Outstanding Customer Service

Employees in customer service positions serve as the first point of contact between your company and the general public. They are your brand and reflect how your customers perceive your business. Rewarding customer service representatives with unique employee award recognition ideas that highlight their talents will demonstrate how much they are appreciated.

#10. Outstanding Achievements

When employees go above and beyond the scope of their job to produce exceptional work for your company, recognizing them with an award helps to reinforce your investment in your employees and what they produce for you. You could make an award even more special by choosing a functional item the award recipient will appreciate, like a candle holder or wine in a personalized wine box.

Virtual Employee Recognition Ideas

Virtual Employee Recognition Ideas are ways to recognize online staff for hard work, commitment, and positive attitude on a weekly or monthly basis. For instance, peer-to-peer rewards, social media shoutouts, and virtual birthday parties. The goal of these gestures is to make employees feel seen and valued, which increases job satisfaction and retention. These are also referred to as “virtual employee recognition ideas.”

#1. Give employees lunch or sweet treats as a surprise.

Providing meals on busy workdays shows your employees that you care about them and value their extra efforts. You don’t have to go all out; ordering pizzas or leaving snacks in the common area can suffice. If you plan, subscription services like SnackNation and Eat Club will deliver snacks and allow employees to order their preferred meals.

#2. Celebrate birthdays.

Employees who don’t mind making public displays of affection will enjoy celebrating their birthdays. Request that a manager brings a cake for the entire team to share, send a gift, or give that person a day off. Since there’s an app for everything nowadays, check out Bonusly or to automate birthday reminders and rewards.

#3. Recognize employees on social media.

Giving employees a shout-out on company social media feeds is a simple way to publicly thank them. Share a shout-out on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media platform where your company has a presence. Encourage clients and coworkers to add positive comments. You’re also putting a human face on your business for customers and social followers.

#4. Offer extended breaks.

Rewarding employees with longer breaks is a simple way to recognize their hard work. Consider providing an extended lunch break for individuals or teams on specific days, depending on the structure of your company. Don’t forget to make sure someone can cover if the employee, for example, is in a customer service role.

#5. Encourage long-term employee sabbaticals.

Sabbatical leaves aren’t just for academics. By providing sabbaticals after five, seven, and ten years with the company, you allow your most senior employees to pursue personal causes or interests such as taking a class, traveling, doing charity work, writing a book, or volunteering.

#6. Disburse a rotating trophy.

Purchase or make a fun trophy — such as a plastic superhero figurine, stuffed animal, or even a life-size cardboard cutout of the CEO — to pass around the company whenever someone new is recognized. Give it to an employee who has demonstrated excellence, such as behavior consistent with company values, and allow them to keep it at their desk for a week or another predetermined period.

#7. Host an employee appreciation day.

National Employee Appreciation Day is held on the first Friday of March. You can host an appreciation day on this day or any other day of your choosing to publicly show your team that you care. An experiential day trip with team-building activities or an awards ceremony recognizing major accomplishments or years of service to the organization is both possibilities. Ask your employee what would make them feel appreciated for other virtual recognition ideas.

#8. Offer opportunities for professional development.

Encouraging your employees to advance in their careers demonstrates to them that their leaders care about their careers and how it benefits the company. Consider providing post-secondary education stipends, covering professional certification courses, purchasing a corporate MasterClass subscription, or bringing in a service like wiseHer, which provides on-demand expert advice and education.

#9. Celebrate in the small, daily victories.

Follow our advice about being on time by starting all meetings with recognition of recent employee or team wins; it’s a great way to boost morale. Individual managers should take the initiative in this regard.

#10. Establish an employee wall of fame.

A wall of fame can be as simple as creating a space where you put up photos of employees who have done exceptionally well and include what specific action they’ve taken to garner this recognition.

Fun Employee Recognition Ideas

Here is a list of fun employee recognition ideas for hard work and positive contributions.

#1. Online award shows

Many companies honor employees by giving out awards. Just because you can’t get everyone in the same room to hand out awards doesn’t mean you can’t host a ceremony. Invite employees to a Zoom meeting to hold an online award ceremony. Prepare a slideshow with the awards and the winners’ names.

#2. Handwritten notes

The majority of communication in virtual offices is digital. While an email or instant message is nice, writing and mailing a thank you note is a powerful gesture. Be sure to personalize the note and mention specifics about why you are happy to have the employee on the team and shout out their strengths and achievements. You can also include small extras in the envelope, such as origami, magnets, tea or instant coffee packets, or stickers.

#3. Digital gift cards

One of the simplest and most fun virtual employee recognition gift ideas is digital gift cards. You can send e-gift cards to team members’ emails for special occasions like birthdays, workiversaries, and holidays, as an instant reward for having a good idea, or just because. Asking employees for their preferences on gift cards is a good approach or more generic and widely available retailers such as Amazon or Starbucks are good bets.

#4. One-on-ones with the boss

Getting virtual one-on-one time with higher management can be an effective way to recognize employees. These meetings can be more professional, for example, the department head or president congratulating the employee personally on an achievement or the employee getting the chance to pitch projects or ideas to leadership.

#5. Peer-to-peer rewards

The most fun virtual staff appreciation activities are peer-to-peer rewards. Instead of leaving recognition to management’s discretion, this approach empowers team members to show appreciation for coworkers right away.

What are the 3 most creative employee recognition?

Combine our employee recognition ideas to create a thoughtful program that is consistent with company values and meets employee needs.

  • Give employees lunch or sweet treats as a surprise.
  • Honor birthdays.
  • Use social media to recognize employees.

What is the best way to recognize employees?

Small but effective ways to recognize employees

  • Offer shout-outs.
  • Provide opportunities for fun projects or professional/personal development.
  • Take them to lunch.
  • Distribute non-cash rewards.
  • Loosen the reins.
  • Host a contest, party, or potluck.
  • Encourage peer-to-peer recognition.
  • Just say thank you!

What are some examples of employee recognition?

  • Employee recognition gifts.
  • Employee recognition awards.
  • Personal appreciation.
  • Public shout-out.
  • Employee rewards program.
  • Employee anniversary recognition.
  • Team celebration call.

What are the 4 types of recognition?

  • Public recognition. 
  • Private recognition.
  • Promotion. 
  • Monetary reward. 
  • Awards. 

How do I make my employees feel valued?

Ways to make employees feel appreciated

  • Offer bonuses and raises.
  • Implement a corporate gamification system.
  • Allow employee “props” to be given and received.
  • Feed them.
  • Share your appreciation on social media.
  • Create a team award.
  • Offer fitness opportunities. 
  • Give employees extra time off.

How do you praise someone professionally?

How to enhance a colleague’s skills

  • “You are such an amazing problem solver.”
  • “I’m so impressed by your communication skills.”
  • “I’m not sure what we’d do with you and your ideas.”
  • “Many thanks for your assistance with X.”
  • “You have such an incredible work ethic.”
  • “Your abilities brought this project together.”


Employee recognition is an excellent and adaptable tool that should be used in every business. It’s a way to motivate and engage your employees, as well as show your team members that you notice and value their efforts. We hope you found inspiration, whether you want to launch a full program or find small ways to say “thank you” to your employees.


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