Recognition Ideas

15 Thoughtful Employee Recognition Ideas

Zoe Brankin
Zoe Brankin
April 7, 2021
10 min read

Recognising employees is important for a good employee experience, but it can be hard to think of creative ideas. When busy, it’s easy to go back to old ideas or ignore recognition altogether.

Employee recognition is one of the most critical drivers of creating a happy, productive and stable work environment. Businesses with formal recognition practices have a massive 31% lower staff turnover rate. We have 15 thoughtful employee reward and recognition ideas that work!

What is employee recognition?

To recap, employee recognition acknowledges the accomplishments and hard work of individuals, teams and entire workforces within a company. Regular recognition will improve retention by ensuring that everyone feels valued and appreciated.

Why employee recognition is so important

If employees feel underappreciated, they will be less productive, prone to burnout, and more likely to leave the business. Don’t believe us?

  • Recognition can boost happiness, and according to a study from Warwick University, happier employees are around 12% more productive.
  • According to Glassdoor, 53% of employees say they would stay longer at their company if their boss appreciated them better. 
  • Employees who feel less appreciated are 131% more likely to lose faith in leadership and the company’s core values found Wildgoose
  • 82% of employees wish they received more recognition in the workplace, according to Achievers
  • According to Gallup, employees are four times as likely to feel engaged when their organisation recognises them.

The employee recognition statistics numbers speak for themselves.

Key components of employee recognition

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


Don’t wait too long before you acknowledge exceptional work or efforts from an employee. Your employees will likely be looking for recognition soon after the fact. Otherwise, recognition can lose meaning. 


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. 


For employee recognition to be effective, you need to give it consistently. Recognition can’t be a one-off exercise. You need to measure your program’s success regularly to know whether your efforts are working.

This doesn’t mean you have to show gestures of appreciation every single day. You should recognise your employees when they hit their targets, achieve their goals or have a personal milestone.

What should you recognise employees for? 

If you recognise every good thing your team accomplishes, it might come across as inauthentic and formulaic. Take the time to recognise big and small achievements through 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. This will allow you to make any necessary changes to fine-tune the scheme. 

It’s also important to encourage peer-to-peer recognition, not just top-down recognition. This builds a culture where everyone feels valued.

15 employee appreciation ideas for your recognition program

Meaningful employee recognition can be both informal and formal, 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 that you post on the company’s social media channels. 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 to lift your team’s spirits.

‍1. Positive feedback 

We hinted at this one earlier, but we couldn’t include it here. It might sound obvious, but many employers fail to do this regularly!

If you like a piece of work or a project, let the employee or team who worked on it know.

You could do this in person, via a shout-out in a meeting, a handwritten note, or use a tool to create a ‘wall of fame’. However you do it, showing appreciation for the little and the big things is sure to make your people feel good.

2. Employee awards

A regular employee award schedule ensures that you’re consistently showing your appreciation. You could acknowledge your people company-wide, then offer them a voucher for their favourite restaurant. You could offer standard ’employee of the month awards’, or think a bit outside the box. How about ‘most inspirational’, or ‘most entertaining’?

This will incentivise them to work hard every day, with the reward within sight and reach! You could make this peer-to-peer by asking employees to nominate their nominees for each award.

For instance, 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

A lunch out is a great way to show your appreciation to either an individual or a team. Not only will the employees love a good meal, but it also allows for meaningful conversation about the work. 

Here at Mo, as we’re a remote team, we send every employee and their team a £20 voucher on their first day. Employees can spend this 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.

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 a theme park!

5. Celebrate birthdays 

At Mo, we always say to celebrate the moments that matter most to your employees. More often than not, one of those important moments in an employee’s life will be their birthday.

You can celebrate with cake in the office, giving gifts, or even offering a ‘Birthday Day Off’. You will never have to miss a birthday when using our platform, as we will remind you. 

6. Work anniversaries

You can reward an employee’s loyalty and hard work in several ways. One option is to give them a yearly salary increase. Another option is to provide them with an extra day off each year. Additionally, you can choose to give them a gift card as a reward. 

In Mo, you can use our Occasions feature to automate this. Mo will remind you to post a Moment to acknowledge work anniversaries (and birthdays).

7. Company swag

One great employee rewards idea is 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 you give out branded hoodies, it also works as free marketing. 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. This shows that you care about your employees’ 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 to 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 employees are active on social media, they might enjoy a shoutout from the company’s pages. Singing their praises online gives your people a chance to show their friends and family just how great their company is! Public recognition can be a really powerful way to show that you appreciate your employees.

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. Sharing on a Slack or Teams channel, company intranet or in a newsletter allows the employee to praise those who 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 start later the next day could be that boost they needed.

Or if your employee has just finished up on an exhausting months-long project, why not send them home a couple of hours early? 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 suggest things they would enjoy the most, then choose those that align with your company’s culture and values. 

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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. You could also celebrate a particular moment in their lives such as a work anniversary, birthday or another important milestone.

Celebrations don’t have to be elaborate. There are many great platforms out there in which you can send gifts straight to employees’ doors. These include letterbox flowers, candle-making sets, seed planting kits, care packages, cocktail kits and much much more.

For gifts to be effective, get to know your employees on a personal level. This will mean that the gift has the best impact!

How to have impact through employee recognition

Don’t just recognise the top performers

For your employee recognition ideas to change your culture for the better, you fairly distribute the praise. All too often, it’s the top one per cent of high performers who get all the glory. This can be counter-productive, leaving the rest of the organisation feeling under-appreciated.

Be genuine and sincere

Genuine appreciation goes a long way in making employees feel valued. When recognising achievements, be specific about what the employee did and why it matters. Instead of generic praise, highlight their unique contributions.

Public vs. private recognition

Striking the right balance between public and private recognition is crucial. Public acknowledgement can inspire a sense of pride and camaraderie among colleagues, while private recognition ensures a personal connection. Also, pay attention to how the individual feels about being recognised publicly or privately. They may hate the idea of being the centre of attention, so be sure to tailor your approach to the individual employee.

Encourage peer-to-peer recognition

Peer-to-peer recognition fosters a strong sense of community and collaboration. Encourage employees to acknowledge each other’s efforts, promoting a culture of mutual support and appreciation. It doesn’t just have to come from the leader or manager of a team.

Align employee recognition ideas with your values

Connect recognition to your company’s core values and mission. This helps employees see the bigger picture and how their contributions contribute to the organisation’s overall goals. If you use a tool like Mo, you can select which company values your recipient has displayed. This enables you to truly showcase your culture.

Use employee recognition software

Finally, to streamline your employee recognition ideas into one place, you can use an employee recognition and reward tool like Mo. Mo makes it easy to recognise employees in whatever way works best for you.

We offer public and private praise options, and you can elevate moments of recognition with optional rewards. You can redeem rewards at a wide variety of retailers around the world. Strict budget controls enable you to get peace of mind over your spending.

Put employee recognition into action at your organisation

Employee recognition is a wonderful tool that should be practised at every company. It’s a way to motivate and engage your people, showing that you value everything they do. We hope you have been able to find inspiration in this article for your program!

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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. Your complete toolkit for connecting and motivating teams in the new world of work. Book a demo with our team today.

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