People Management
6 min.

10 Ideas to Improve Employee Recognition at Work

Véronique Forest
Last updated on 6 Dec. 2023
Published on 26 May. 2020
Employee being recognize for her good work by her colleagues
Employee being recognize for her good work by her colleagues

Employee recognition and appreciation are essential to improving motivation and engagement at work. Understanding this can help you make your workplace significantly more positive and agreeable for all.

Table of contents

Employee recognition programs are already widespread. And they tend to work well. They improve engagement, which then reduces turnover. As a matter of fact, research from Deloitte shows that companies with effective recognition programs were less likely to face high turnover rates. Additionally, employees who are more motivated and engaged tend to be more productive.

That being said, I believe every employer should invest time into appreciating and recognizing their employees’ work. And it doesn’t have to be complicated at all.

This is why I put together this list of 10 simple staff appreciation ideas to inspire you to update your recognition program or create your own from scratch.

1. Say “Thank You” More Often

Thanks. It’s so simple, yet it can make a huge difference. We often underestimate the power that such a small word can have on an employee’s mood. Take the time to thank the people you work with. Some of them might not need that extra push to perform. But for most, it can have a significant impact on their motivation.

Recognizing somebody else’s good work by saying “thank you” is really simple. It should be the first idea you bring into your workplace.

2. Acknowledge Great Work

Team meetings are the perfect opportunity to acknowledge great work. Congratulate employees who went above and beyond expectations. Don’t let their efforts go unnoticed.

Better yet: acknowledge efforts that aren’t part of your employees’ daily duties. Is someone often cleaning up the lounge even though they don’t have to? Are they always volunteering to buy coffee? Time to let them know you’ve noticed and that you appreciate it.

Here at Agendrix, we have what we colloquially refer to as our kudos box. It allows us to give shout-outs to our colleagues to underline any nice thing they’ve done. Every other month, during our all-hands meeting, we read out those small anonymous notes in front of everyone else. No nice gesture goes unnoticed.

A bit of recognition makes all the difference.

Improved recognition. Stronger sense of belonging. Better retention.

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3. Surprise Your Employees

A little spontaneity never hurt anyone. Let your staff leave early on a beautiful summer day or close the office for an hour to lunch outside. Happy employees are more motivated and productive at work. Don’t underestimate the importance of your team’s happiness.

Act within your means. Can’t close your store early? No worries. Bring your employees coffee or hot chocolate to start their day off on the right foot. Even better, add a day off in the time bank of your employees to thank them for their hard work.

4. Value Their Opinions

Your employees want to be part of the team and feel that their opinion is truly valued. Besides, since they are right in the middle of day-to-day operations, they can give you great advice. Who knows, their point of view could even help you solve certain problems.

Don’t limit yourself to asking for their opinion on small matters either. Get their input on a number of different subjects. In the end, you’ll create much stronger relationships, and your employees will see that you’re always open to comments and suggestions.

5. Spoil Them Every Once in a While

Did anyone say free food? Most people will certainly appreciate having free snacks made available in the employee lounge. Have your employees been working very hard in the past few weeks? Feeling particularly generous today? Use every opportunity to spoil your team with a little something.

Bring muffins, candies, or chocolate for everyone to enjoy. Your team will surely appreciate it.

6. Invest into Your Employees’ Professional Development

Nothing says gratitude for one’s work like spurring them to further develop their abilities. Create a scholarship to incite your employees to continue their studies, pay for additional training, have them attend seminars, etc. On top of being happier, employees who are better trained perform better.

If you get involved in your employees professional development, they’ll be more likely to feel committed to their work. They’ll be more motivated and will probably develop a stronger sense of belonging. And, as it turns out, this is a great way to reduce turnover rates. Everybody wins!

7. Celebrate Anniversaries

Whether it’s your employee’s birthday or their 1-year anniversary working for your company, every event is worth celebrating. Keep it simple with a card or an email. For the more significant events, you could buy a personalized gift or order cake for everyone to enjoy.

8. Redecorate the Employee Lounge

Is your break room reminiscent of a hospital cafeteria? It might be time to bring out your inner designer. Your employees deserve a nice place to relax and fully enjoy their break. Provide them with a comfortable space. And make sure that space stays clean and inviting.

More than just a place to eat lunch, the break room can and should become a place where it’s good to be. Put together a reading spot with a shared library. Have a designated area where people can rest and recharge quietly.

9. Allow Longer Breaks

Your people really have been going above and beyond as of late? They’ve achieved all of their monthly goals? Is it particularly nice outside today? Give them longer paid breaks. They’ll get to recharge, take a walk outside, socialize, etc. They’ll come back for work with even more motivation.

This idea is relatively cheap and easy to put into action, too. Adopt it during key moments where you feel like your employees could really benefit from it. Better yet, adopt it when there’s nothing in particular to be grateful for, simply because you feel like it.

10. Celebrate More Often

Who said the only time for office parties had to be Christmas? Plan a team activity once a month. No need to have an excuse to celebrate. See it as an opportunity to strengthen relationships between colleagues.

Your activity of choice can be as simple as a happy hour. Provide drinks and snacks, and there you go. If your budget allows, plan a special activity: eat at a sugar shack, join a wine tasting, go to an escape room, etc.

Ask you employees what they’d like to do. Better yet, put together a committee in charge of those events.

Employee Recognition Should Come Naturally

In the end, recognition should be sincere, spontaneous, and grounded into a strong corporate culture. Your employees will notice if recognition feels forced. Take the time to get to know each of them personally.

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