How to Create an Effective Employee Recognition Program


Are you aware that 65% of American workers are searching for a new job? If you’re hoping to retain your best talent, you need employees to know that you want them to stay. From incentives to public honors, there are plenty of ways to communicate how much you value your crew.

Stick around to learn how to create an effective employee recognition program!

What Is an Employee Recognition Program?

An employee recognition program is a structured way to honor employees. You can honor them for achieving milestones, goals, and anything else significant. The corporate wellbeing program contributes to positive employee culture and may just help with retention.


If you’re hoping to inspire your employees to keep pushing toward the next revenue goal, offer rewards. From bonuses to quirky prizes, you can show your employees that you see their contributions to the company.

Offer Multiple Levels of Recognition

The best recognition programs provide multiple outlets for employee recognition. These can range from small-scale shout-outs on Slack to bigger award banquets. And, of course, you’ll want to have a range of recognition opportunities in between.

Does your company hold an annual holiday party? Use this platform to recognize some of the most significant achievements. These could include when someone hits a tenure milestone or launches a new product launch.

You may need to differentiate between recognition vs. incentives. For instance, you can dangle an incentive, such as a one-time bonus, to your sales team. This could be for the person who secures the highest revenue clients in a month.

The above example would be an incentive attached to a very specific goal. On the other hand, a reward is something that might not be advertised in advance. If you see good performance, you can hand out a reward on a whim!

Encourage Employees to Recognize Each Other

Yes, having a manager or director spotlight an employee’s good work can be a source of motivation. But employee recognition often has the most meaning when it comes from a peer. As part of your program, make it easy for employees to lift up each other.

Set up channels on your internal communication platform for this very thing. For smaller companies, it might make the most sense to have a company wide channel devoted to spotlighting good work.

But in bigger organizations, include team-specific channels, too. These can be more informal spaces where people post positive messages about their colleagues.

Ask managers and directors to get the ball rolling with some shout-outs. But try letting the shout-outs occur organically, if possible. You might be surprised by how quickly others respond!

Figure Out What Rewards Should Look Like

In some instances, it might be appropriate to offer a promotion or raise. You also can provide a one-time bonus if an employee lands a big client. But in most instances, you’ll want smaller rewards — and some variety.

For instance, you could offer a selection of gift cards to stores at the nearby mall. Or you could provide enough money to pay for a meal for two at a nice restaurant. For high-achieving first responders, you can offer fire coins as a personalized way to honor their service to the community.

Send out a survey to employees after the program has been up and running for a few months. Find out which rewards made them most motivated. And ask for suggestions for future rewards!

Explain the Program to Employees

Your employee recognition won’t gain much traction if no one knows about it. That’s why you need to do some internal marketing and embed it within your culture. Send out an email announcing the program, and follow up with an in-person or video meeting to offer details and take questions.

Managers will play a critical part in the program’s success by encouraging their team members to participate. They can lead by example and spotlight someone’s good work at a weekly meeting. When employees start seeing recognition as a recurring part of their workday, they’ll be more likely to join in.

To boost engagement, may want to allocate some budget money to individual departments. Rather than always delivering recognition on a bigger scale, reduce the scope, too. Let department managers who know their people best reward employees for good work.

As an example, consider your product development division. They could reward an employee who troubleshoots an ongoing glitch in your software. In the same vein, your customer success team should have money to reward an employee who prevents anticipated customer churn.

Be Consistent and Persistent

Most of all, you need to have enough buy-in from your company leadership so the program lasts. Nothing would look worse than starting an employee recognition program that fizzles out within a year.

Establish a committee featuring personnel from diverse departments to oversee the program. Task them with reviewing the budget, sending reminder emails, and drumming up interest. Encourage them to review existing rewards and find ways to make adjustments for greater success.

You might have an active Slack channel for peer-to-peer recognition. But maybe it would be appropriate to highlight some of the best moments via a companywide email or Zoom presentation. Get feedback from employees so you can refine your employee recognition program and make it even better!

Create a Good Employee Recognition Program

When you invest in creating an employee recognition program, you create an opportunity to create a better company culture. Determine the means through which you’ll offer recognition, and make it as easy as possible for employees to honor each other. Figure out your budget for rewards, and make sure your employees are aware of the program.

Need more tips to improve your workplace climate? Check back soon for new articles.