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14 Impactful Employee Recognition Ideas to Improve Workplace Morale & Retention

Recognizing employee contributions is essential for maintaining morale and reducing turnover at your organization. One survey found that for 37% of people, the most important part of their work life is employee recognition. Still, 65% of employees report that they’ve not received any form of recognition for excellent work in the past year. Yikes!

Here are 14 impactful employee recognition ideas you can begin implementing today to boost retention and morale at your company.

Idea 1: Values-Based Rewards

Need a way to reinforce company culture and values effectively? Reward your employees when you notice them exemplifying company values (such as open-mindedness, attention to detail, and focusing on the greater good). However, make sure to do so promptly — that way, it’s clear what behavior is worthy of the praise.

Doing so encourages other employees to align with values if they aren’t already, and it reminds them that company culture isn’t a facade — it’s reality. 

Idea 2: Shoutouts at Large Meetings

Most companies regularly host all-hands or similar meetings where large groups of employees are involved. Taking this time to give kudos is an employee recognition idea sure to improve morale. 

Most of us enjoy being recognized publicly for our efforts. This gratifies the employee who did an excellent job, and it allows others to learn what behaviors are worthy of such praise. Public praise should encourage everyone to strive towards similar efforts.

Idea 3: Constructive Feedback (of All Kinds)

A list of employee reward and recognition ideas wouldn’t be complete without taking a moment to address the importance of (constructive) feedback. Feedback of all kinds should be shared regularly and immediately — this allows employees to learn and correct (or maintain) their behavior right away.

Importantly, feedback should never bash or belittle anyone. Its only purpose is to help people grow and become better versions of themselves. All feedback should be constructive, meaning people can take action and improve.

Idea 4: Experiences

Depending on the extent of your company’s budget, your list of employee recognition ideas can incorporate experiential rewards. These types of rewards include vacations, outings to concerts or amusement parks, piano lessons, or anything in between. 

This is a common tactic at sales companies to reward the highest performers, but any organization can play around with this. Certain technologies also allow employees to choose the experience they earn based on their preferences.

Idea 5: Company Swag

What’s one employee recognition idea that helps foster pride in your company? Try company swag! Not only does this serve as free advertising, but most of us love getting free stuff. Swag can include mugs, t-shirts, sweatshirts, notebooks, or anything else.

Some companies that give swag to their employees include Google, Facebook, Adidas, and Under Armour.

Idea 6: Meals Out

Free food? Count us in! Inviting employees out for lunch or dinner is an excellent reward and recognition idea. There are two approaches you can take for this:

  • A large-scale meal out rewarding many people at once
  • A small one-on-one meal out with you and your employee

Both tactics provide benefits. A larger group allows employees to intermingle and get to know more of their coworkers, where a one-on-one meal provides more meaningful conversation.

Idea 7: Mental Health Day(s)

2020 (and 2021) have been trying years for most of us. Sometimes, even if people don’t want to voice it, your employees could use a surprise day to themselves. Consider offering company- or team-wide mental health days when your employees perform particularly well. 

Related: All About Employee Development And Why It’s Critical For Your Company’s Success

Idea 8: Thoughtful Notes

Have you ever received a note left somewhere as a surprise? It probably made you feel pretty good! One creative employee recognition idea is to leave these notes at your employee’s desk, computer, near their favorite mug, or anywhere else they’ll find it.

You can also send a card to the employee’s home.

Idea 9: Company-Wide Volunteer Day

If one of your company’s values is giving back to the community, consider a sponsored volunteer day as one of your employee recognition ideas. Not only is this excellent bonding for coworkers, but it gives people a day to focus on something other than work.

You can sponsor beach cleanups, soup kitchen or animal shelter volunteer days, or anything in between.

Idea 10: Surprise Snacks

Again, free food! Everyone loves that. You can take the time to bake homemade goodies as one of your reward and recognition ideas. Be conscious of any allergies and go from there.

You can also purchase these snacks if needed, but the homemade touch is always a meaningful one.

Idea 11: Social Media Shoutouts

Public praise works. Giving your top-performing employees shoutouts on social media is an excellent way to make them feel valued in their community. Plus, most of these employees will want to reshare the post, providing further exposure for your organization.

Take the time to write a thoughtful caption that includes a bit about the person you’re shouting out, what their contributions have been, and perhaps a quote from them about their time at your company.

Idea 12: Wall of Fame

Consider making office wall space for an employee wall of fame. Did someone do something outstanding? Put them on the wall of fame and explain their contribution! This is a tried-and-true employee recognition idea that has been around for decades.

Any sort of public recognition tends to leave a lasting impression and make people feel valued amongst their peers.

Idea 13: Employee Care Package

Who doesn’t appreciate a care package? Try sending personalized care packages to your top performers. There are plenty of companies that can take care of the details for you, but make sure you personalize the box, so it has items your employee will appreciate.

You can include spa items, snacks, trinkets, gift cards, or anything else in the care package.

Idea 14: Recognize Work Anniversaries

Work anniversaries are to the corporate world what birthdays are to friends and family. One excellent employee recognition idea is to make a point of celebrating work anniversaries. 

Have your employee’s entire team sign a card, buy a cake or other goodies, and make time for a small celebration. You can even give this person some company swag or other free items!

We hope this list of employee recognition ideas inspires you to thank your people for their most essential contributions. Watch the culture of your company change when you do!

Is your company looking to recruit new senior leadership? Jennings Executive can help. We bring decades of experience to the executive recruiting field and will find the best people to lead your organization. Learn more today!

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