Six creative ideas for employee recognition

A one-size-fits-all approach to employee recognition doesn’t work. Think about employee recognition ideas your individual employees will appreciate

Employee recognition is crucial for retaining and motivating staff. When you recognize your employees’ efforts and achievements, they’ll want to continue achieving for your organization. However, a one-size-fits-all approach to employee recognition doesn’t work. Think carefully about recognition ideas your individual employees will appreciate. These six creative employee recognition ideas will set you off on the right path.

1. Start with praise—it’s free

Don’t underestimate the power of praise. Simply telling your employees they’ve done a good job can be incredibly motivating. In 2016, Gallup asked workers which types of workplace recognition meant the most to them. The top two rated responses cost nothing at all: public and private recognition.

Public recognition or acknowledgment via an award, certificate, or commendation was voted the most memorable type of employee recognition. There are several ways you can publicly acknowledge the work your outstanding employees do. You might recognize employees in your regular staff meetings or company emails. You might also feature valuable staff members and celebrate their achievements publicly on your social network channels.

Gallup found that the second-most memorable type of employee recognition was private recognition from a boss, peer, or customers. Further Gallup statistics show that the most memorable private recognition comes from an employee’s direct manager, followed by a high-level business leader or chief executive officer.

Be creative with your verbal and written praise. Make sure your positive feedback is personal, highlighting the projects the staff members worked on and what they individually brought to these assignments. Being specific with praise reinforces positive behavior and shows employees that you know what value they’re bringing to your company. Make sure you also let your employees know exactly what their efforts mean to you.

2. Surprise them with a personal favorite

Most of us have a favorite food treat we love to snack on. Leaving a surprise treat is a great way to recognize people who love to snack. Learn which snacks the employees doing great work in your organization really enjoy. Speak to your department managers or other members of their team if you’re not sure whether someone prefers chocolate bars or chips.

Then when outstanding employees have left the office for the day, leave their favorite treats for them on their desk or computer keyboard. They’ll feel special when they discover their surprise treats and start the day with a spring in their steps.

3. Start a peer-to-peer award program

Peer-to-peer recognition programs encourage your employees to recognize and champion the good work others do within your organization—and they provide valuable insight into which employees impress others in your business.

Create a private channel for people to nominate their peers for an award—be it email, a private form, or the like. Provide instructions at your company all-hands meetings about how to submit a peer’s name and what relevant information to include, such as: What behavior or contribution is being recognized? How would the nominee like to be celebrated? Peers often know best what will delight their colleagues, so let them take the lead on suggesting a reward.

4. Recognize those who support, not just achieve 

While the efforts of people who achieve within the workplace are typically recognized, it’s easy to ignore the people who do the recognizing. Yet these people deserve to be celebrated for the positivity they bring to your organization. These employees are the champions that motivate others to achieve while rarely seeking glory for themselves.

Turn the tables by treating these supportive employees to a free lunch. Whenever someone recognizes another employee for their efforts—perhaps via the peer-to-peer program mentioned above—put the champion’s name into a hat. The more people they recommend, the more chances they’ll have in the draw.

At the end of a set period, like a month or a week, draw two names from the hat and send the lucky supportive workers for a lunch on your company’s tab. Alternatively, you could send the most supportive worker and the employee with the most number of peer recommendations out to lunch.

5. Create a token system 

A token system is an easy way for employers to make sure each one of your valuable workers gets recognized with gifts they really want. Employees can save up these tokens, then cash them out for a prize they want, much like they redeemed saved prize tokens from video arcades as kids.

Distribute prize tokens whenever you see someone doing good work and when you receive recommendations from your department managers and peer-to-peer recognition program. Your employees will feel motivated to do good work in the hopes of earning the rewards they have their eyes on.

Make sure you have a diverse array of redeemable prizes to appeal to workers with a range of tastes. Some prizes might include dinner vouchers for local restaurants, movie tickets, gift cards for local businesses, and tangible items like electronics and children’s toys.

6. Offer a change of scenery

Oftentimes you’ll want to reward your entire workforce for a job well done, particularly after landing a new client or completing a project on a tight deadline. However, most traditional office rewards see short-term productivity diminished as you all take a day off to have some fun.

If you can’t afford time away from the daily grind, consider treating your staff with an off-site day or period of time. As more organizations become connected to Wi-Fi, you’re no longer limited to the confines of your office.

You might hire out a café or take your workers to the library. Or perhaps you could take out a WeWork membership and utilize its custom office spaces. These innovative spaces have all the office facilities you need, like super-fast Ethernet and Wi-Fi internet connections and business-class printers. But there are also additional perks like free beverages, from micro-roasted coffee to beer, Lunch + Learns informative catered lunches, and networking events.

Psychologist Sherrie Campbell argues that changing your environment can greatly increase your productivity. Working somewhere new makes work itself feel new again, and that will reinvigorate your workers. It will also help them think in different and more innovative ways, which can only be good for your business. This type of employee recognition is a win-win for your organization.

How your employees benefit from recognition

Employees that are recognized and rewarded for their efforts enjoy a number of personal and professional benefits.

Stress reduction. Employees that work in businesses with rewards programs tend to be less stressed. That’s because an employee recognition scheme shifts the focus in a workplace away from problems and challenges and towards positive achievements and efforts. This shift helps employees feel less overwhelmed by what has and could go wrong.

Increased loyalty. Employees that work in businesses where outstanding work is rewarded are also more loyal than those where achievements aren’t acknowledged. Feeling unappreciated is a common reason for departing an organization. Part of this business loyalty is the feeling of empowerment and inclusion employee rewards systems provide.

Increased motivation. Employees are more motivated when they know their efforts are appreciated and feel like they’re working for something more than a paycheck. This is vital, considering that praise rated more memorable and motivating than financial gain for employees in the 2016 Gallup poll.

How your business benefits from employee recognition

Employee recognition isn’t just good for your outstanding employees. It’s also good for your organization as a whole. Two high level benefits to your business are:

Good culture. Employee rewards initiatives create a supportive workplace culture and reinforce positive behavior within your business. When employees know they may be recognized for their efforts and achievements, they naturally raise their own performance in the hope they’ll also receive some positive attention. This sets a higher standard across your organization.

Better customer service. This higher standard benefits some of your business’s most important assets: your customers. Customers notice employees that are enthusiastic about their jobs and serving people better. Conversely, they also notice employees who seem frustrated or disheartened by their jobs.

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