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15 Thoughtful Employee Recognition Ideas

8 min read
Zoe Brankin
Zoe Brankin

With the job market becoming extremely competitive as of late and the UK unemployment rate at an all-time low, companies are now scrambling to hire and retain the top talent that their industry has to offer. 

Employee recognition is one of the most critical drivers of creating a happy, productive and stable work environment. Businesses that have formal recognition practices in place have a massive 31% lower staff turnover rate.

However, while you may be familiar with the importance of employee recognition, it can sometimes be a struggle to implement it authentically and consistently.  

Luckily, we’ve got you covered. We’ve compiled a list of tried and tested thoughtful employee recognition ideas for making your employees feel valued and appreciated! 

Ready to build a thriving company culture full of satisfied employees? Let’s dive in.

Key components of employee recognition

Before you implement any of the examples found below, you’ll first need to develop a strategy for employee recognition. Your employee recognition ideas and efforts should be:


Don’t wait too long before you acknowledge exceptional work or efforts from an employee. They’ll want to hear praise or be rewarded soon after the fact. Otherwise, it can lose meaning, and the employee may already be focused on the next thing. 


General or vague recognition can be just as useless as no recognition. When you recognise an employee, ensure that you’re specific about why you recognise them. This also leaves it open to other employees to mirror this behaviour you have previously rewarded. 

It’s also worth doing it in a way they’ll appreciate as an individual. Gifting a bottle of wine to a tee-total Gen Z might not land as well as you hoped. 


Patting your employees on the back once a year simply isn’t enough. Sure, grand gestures don’t have to come around too often, as this could actually cause them to lose their impact. But some small tokens of thanks – even if it’s just an email of praise – should be a regular thing. 

What should employees be recognised for? 

You might think it would be nice to recognise every good thing your team accomplishes, but it could backfire as your employees may feel it’s inauthentic and formulaic. Take the time to recognise both big and small achievements through both formal and informal methods. 

If you’re struggling to know what to recognise your employees for, then here are a few tips: 

  • Has someone in your team shown initiative? This could be solving a complex problem, taking on a challenge outside of their job description or helping develop something new. 
  • Team members may often participate in fundraisers for charity, and you could take the time to recognise their excellent work. 
  • Received some excellent feedback from a customer regarding someone in your team? Let them know! 

When working on your recognition program, take time to measure the results by gathering feedback from your team, as this will allow you to make any necessary changes to fine-tune the scheme. 

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15 employee appreciation ideas for your recognition program

It can be both informal and formal when it comes to meaningful employee recognition, and it’s best to use a healthy mix of the two. 

It’s also important to keep in mind the personality of the employee. Some may love recognition-based rewards where they’re posted on the company’s social media channels for their good work. Others not so much. 

Employee recognition doesn’t always need to be a hefty bonus (although they do go down a treat). Here’s a list of thoughtful employee recognition ideas, ranging from simple gestures of thanks to some creative approaches that will lift your employee’s spirits.

1. Positive feedback 

We hinted at this one earlier, but we couldn’t not include it here. It might sound obvious, but many employers fail to do this regularly! If you thought a piece of work or a project was good, let the employee or team who worked on it know. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Keep it simple with an email or shoutout in a team meeting. 

2. Employee awards

A regular value recognition scheme where you put the spotlight on an exceptional employee ensures that you’re consistently showing your appreciation. You could acknowledge your people company-wide, then offer them a voucher for their favourite restaurant. 

This will incentivise them to work hard every day, with the reward within sight and reach! Different companies will implement this in different ways: at Zappos, employees choose a co-worker each month to award with a gift card. Not only do staff get recognition, but it’s a great way to build team morale. If you use Mo, our Nominations feature makes this process completely seamless.

3. Lunch out

Whether it’s an individual or a whole team who went above and beyond, a lunch out is a great way to show your appreciation. Not only will the employees love a good meal, but it also presents the opportunity for meaningful conversation about the work done and where it can go from there. Here at Mo, as we’re a remote team, we send every employee and their immediate team a £20 voucher within Mo on their first day for them to spend on a Deliveroo meal of their choice so that they can eat together.

4. Company socials 

After a long day’s work, employees often want to go out with their co-workers to let their hair down. Some companies will provide free drinks on Fridays or take them on a night out. But remember, not everyone likes to drink! Schedule some alcohol alternative socials like bowling, pizza nights, etc. At Mo, some of our socials have included things like virtual Easter egg making, and even a team trip to Thorpe Park for a bit of team bonding on roller coasters!

5. Celebrate birthdays 

At Mo, we always say to celebrate the moments that matter most to your employees and more often than not, one of those important moments in an employee’s life will be their birthday. It can be having a cake in the office, chipping in as a team for a gift or even offering a ‘Birthday Day Off’ as one of your perks! You will never have to miss a birthday when using our platform, as we will remind you. 

6. Work anniversaries

Whether it be an attempt to reduce turnover of staff or the simple fact of wanting to celebrate your employee’s work anniversary, then you can do so by formally recognising it with a pay rise that grows every year, an additional days holiday after X amount of years with the company or by sending a voucher. In Mo, you can use our Occasions feature to automate this, and remind you to post a Moment to acknowledge work anniversaries.

7. Company swag

Never underestimate the power of a free hoodie. Mugs, notebooks, t-shirts, pens or even socks are all fun little ways to reward your employees. Plus, if it’s branded, it also works as… *cough* free marketing *cough*. Look to the big players such as TikTok, who are known for handing out branded merchandise to reward employees.

8. Professional development opportunities

If you want to impress your employees and attract top talent into your business, you could offer professional development opportunities to show that you care about their careers. This could be in the form of covering the cost of professional certification courses, purchasing online training courses and more. 

9. Wellness days

Looking after your employees’ mental health should be a top priority. The discussion around burnout and the effects of stress has become more prevalent in recent years, so it’s important to show that you’re listening. 

You could host a lunchtime yoga and mindfulness session, or some companies even give time off. Nike gave their US employees a whole week off to destress amidst the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

10. Surprise treats

Honestly? Getting into work and seeing a heap of doughnuts and cookies in the company kitchen can brighten anyone’s day. Whether it’s for a job well done or just because! Receiving these little surprises is a lovely way of showing your employees that they’re valued. 

11. Social media praise

If your employee is active on social media, they might enjoy a shoutout from the company’s pages. Singing their praises online gives them a chance to show their friends and family just how talented they are and how great their company is! 

12. Encourage employees to share their wins 

If you want to make recognition part of your company culture, why not start a team meeting with a weekly win? If an employee landed a difficult contract or helped get a new feature off the ground, encourage them to share it! 

This also allows peers to recognise their accomplishments as well. Showing gratitude and support for team members goes a long way! Posting it on a Slack channel, company intranet or in a newsletter means the employee has the opportunity to give praise to those who may have helped them get there. 

13. Early finishes/late starts

Let’s imagine your team has organised a huge networking and conferencing event. Telling them to have a lay in the next day and come in a few hours later could be that boost they needed.

Or if they’ve just finished up on an exhausting 6-month project, why not send them home a couple of hours early? They probably won’t do much in those last few hours at work anyway, plus letting them get home to their loved ones is a reward in itself. 

14. Celebrate employee appreciation day

National Employee Appreciation Day is celebrated on the first Friday in March each year, and it’s the perfect chance for you to show your employees just how much they mean to you. If you’ve missed it, feel free to organise something just for your business – whether that’s recognising an employee’s major accomplishments over the last year or years of service. 

Appreciating your employees doesn’t have to wait until the first Friday in March. Why not do something nice to show your appreciation once a quarter? This could be organising for an ice cream truck to come during a heatwave or even a food truck. Encourage your employees to give suggestions for what they would enjoy the most, then choose those that align with your company’s culture and values. 

15. Gifts

Suppose you’re willing to take your employee recognition program a bit further. You could consider sending out gifts when your employees have gone above and beyond your expectations or to celebrate a particular moment in their lives such as a workiversary, birthday or another important milestone.

These don’t have to be elaborate, but there are many great platforms out there in which you can send gifts straight to their doors, such as letterbox flowers, candle making sets, seed planting kits, care packages filled with their favourite treats, cocktail kits and much much more! To work effectively, you will need to know your employees on a more personable level to know which gift will have the best impact on them!

Take employee recognition to the next level with Mo! 

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Mo is an employee recognition and engagement platform that can help leaders improve collaboration and morale, reduce employee churn and drive change. 

Our platform creates a vibrant culture by developing team habits, encouraging people to celebrate success, recognise results and appreciate colleagues.

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