Dec 30, 2021 11:23 AM EST

Complete Guide To Employee Recognition

Complete Guide To Employee Recognition

(Photo : Tumisu from Pixabay)

Various studies in recent years have highlighted the importance of employee recognition in maintaining your team's positive morale and minimizing the turnover rate. 63% of 1,500 respondents surveyed who felt that they were "usually" or "always" recognized have admitted that they are very unlikely to look for a new job at least in the next 6 months. 

Yet, the actual implementation of employee recognition campaigns can be easier said than done. If we rely too much on overused tactics, it might be counterproductive since the employees may feel that the recognition is inauthentic.

With that being said, here we will discuss all you need to know about employee recognition and how to successfully launch your own employee recognition campaigns.

Employee Recognition: The Concept

What actually is employee recognition

As the name suggests, employee recognition is the act of acknowledging and appreciating employees for their hard work and contributions.

Contributions here can mean many things. Positive work performance is one of them, but there are also successful accomplishments of milestones, exemplary behaviors, teamwork efforts, leaderships, tenures, and others. 

However, we can generally divide employee recognition into three major types: 

  1. Recognition of achieving a goal or objective

For example, when an employee or a team successfully executed a project, or when a salesperson successfully accomplished a sales target.

When a team member achieves a specific goal, naturally they'll be happy and excited, but a formal or even informal recognition award can further amplify this excitement. 

2. Recognition of efforts

Employers shouldn't only recognize achievements and high performances, but also efforts and hard work. This includes tenure-based (years of service) awards.

3. Recognition of good behavior

Organizations should also recognize and appreciate good behavior that aligns with company values. For example, recognizing employees that stayed back to support their team members with their work.

Employee recognition can be performed either in a private or public way, but what's important is that it should be meaningful and authentic. 

Different Types of Employee Recognition Methods

We can classify employee recognition methods based on who is giving the recognition: 

  1. Leadership recognition

Leaders hold very important roles in implementing employee recognition campaigns and promoting the culture of recognition at the organization. 

When employees receive recognition from their leaders, they will feel valued, which may leave a substantial impact on the said employee's morale and engagement. 

We can further divide leadership recognition into two subtypes: 

  • Top-down recognition: recognition from senior leadership, for example, handwritten notes from the company's department head or even CEO

  • Direct-report recognition: recognition received from the employee's reporting manager. Since reporting managers are typically more involved in what the employee does on a day-to-day basis, direct-report recognition is often considered more authentic

2. Peer-to-peer recognition

Recognition from peers can actually produce a better impact on employee's morale and engagement than leadership-only recognition. Also, when peers recognize each other's hard work and contributions, it can strengthen trust and encourage better teamwork, which in turn can improve the motivation of the whole team.

Defining Clear Recognition Program Criteria

Clarity is key when it comes to the successful implementation of employee recognition campaigns. If employees aren't sure about what types of actions and/or behaviors will be recognized and appreciated, then it might lead to confusion which can be counterproductive in the long run.

You should clearly define: 

  • What actions and behavior will be rewarded

Effective employee recognition should align well with your organizational values. So, review your business objectives and goals, and based on these goals, decide which actions, behaviors, and accomplishments should be recognized and appreciated. 

  • How will these actions be rewarded?

It's crucial to understand that each of your employees is unique, and they'll have different preferences on how they'd like themselves to be appreciated. For example, some employees might like to be recognized and applauded in public, but for some others, public recognition might be embarrassing and they'd prefer a 1-on-1 lunch. 

Interview different employees and ask for their preferences, and ideally, you should develop specific, personalized employee recognition programs for each.

Also, different actions and behaviors obviously deserve different rewards, so personalization is key. 

Having a versatile employee recognition solution is crucial in facilitating personalization in your employee recognition programs. 

  • Frequency of recognition

In general, regular recognition is the better approach, and most employees would appreciate being recognized in a timely manner and on the spot. For example, as soon as an employee has successfully landed a client with their presentation. However, there are employees that might prefer getting only big and meaningful recognitions rather than frequent, smaller ones. 

What Types of Rewards Should We Offer?

Monetary-based rewards are always popular for a reason: they are effective. In leadership recognitions, you can offer monetary rewards in various forms, including: 

  • Promotions with a salary raise

  • Bonuses

  • Gift cards. Guusto offers a reliable and versatile way to offer gift card awards for your employees

  • Extra paid day off

However, non-tangible rewards like praise and symbolic recognition (i.e. wall of fame, trophies, etc.) are also very important for employees. 

Experiential rewards, where you give the employee an experience (something to do) rather than gifts of money, can also be effective in some cases. Popular experiential rewards including, but are not limited to travel tickets and accommodation, concert/sports event tickets, free meals at famous restaurants, etc. 

Give personalized and varied approaches to frequently and consistently improve employee morale. Again, be consistent with the actions and behaviors you reward, and communicate the reason for rewarding employees clearly. If, for example, an employee receives a raise but doesn't really know why, they wouldn't know how to replicate the action or behavior leading to the raise. 

Ask Your Employees

When launching your employee recognition program, it's crucial not to assume you know all your employees' preferences and wants. The key to a successful employee recognition program is to effectively engage your employees so you can better understand the types of rewards they are most interested in. 

Gather as much information as you can about your employees' wants, for example, whether they'd prefer a gift card over your company's products. You can send out online surveys and ask for feedback about potential recognition rewards, and use the information to refine your plan. 


Employee recognition is not only useful for improving your team's productivity and morale, but you can also establish a culture of recognition in your company. 

Most, if not all types of organizations can benefit from implementing an employee recognition program or improving its existing one to reduce turnover rate and improve your team's performance. 

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