Updated: September 27, 2022

24 Employee Recognition Program Ideas & Examples in 2023

You found our list of the best employee recognition program ideas.

Employee recognition programs are methods of recognizing the accomplishment of deserving employees or teams in a company. Examples include gift cards, company outings, and anniversary celebrations. These activities aim to boost workers’ morale, retain talent, and create a bond between workers and the organization. Acknowledging your employee’s achievements and efforts can also boost the bottom line and increase ROI.

These programs are examples of employee engagement strategies similar to team incentive programs, and showcase the importance of employee recognition.

This list includes:

  • employee anniversary recognition programs
  • awards for employee recognition programs
  • creative names for employee recognition programs
  • top performer recognition program ideas

Let’s get to it!

List of employee recognition program ideas

Making workers feel valued, respected, and appreciated is key to the success of an organization. From creating a wall of fame and holiday shopping sprees to social recognition, here are our best employee recognition program ideas and examples.

1. Highlight in the company’s marketing materials

Highlighting employees in the company’s marketing materials is a great way to recognize hard work and rising talent. You can work with the marketing department to determine the channels to spotlight employee achievements.Here are some ideas

  • An employee will appear in the company podcast and share their career journey
  • An employee will write an article that you will publish in the company’s monthly newsletter
  • Gift employees and share the pictures and a thoughtful message in the company email

You can give workers a specific topic to talk or write about or give them the freedom to choose what they want to talk about, such as career advice or personal facts. Surprising employees with a mention in marketing materials is a sure way to motivate them.

Here is a list of get to know you questions you can use to generate content.

2. A wall of fame

Creating a wall of fame where you recognize employees for their excellent work is among the best top performer recognition program ideas. Simply create a board where you post top achievements alongside pictures. Introducing a wall of fame is an inexpensive and thoughtful way to boost employee morale. You can dedicate an area that is easily accessible to other workers and customers.

Check out more office bulletin board ideas.

3. Birthday celebrations

Celebrating workers’ birthdays is a great way to let employees know that you value them. Most often, celebrating every employee’s birthday may not be feasible. However, you can have combined birthday parties for employees who have a birthday that month. Monthly birthday parties are a fantastic way to create team bonding and introduce new workers to the workforce. Be sure to have a birthday cake, snacks, and drinks.

Here are more office birthday party ideas.

4. Employee wellness initiatives

Employees’ wellness initiatives are a great way to boost employees’ overall health. You can choose incentives that improve workers’ mental and physical health. You can personalize wellness perks by recognizing the interests of workers.

For example:

  • Gym subscriptions
  • Hiking subscriptions
  • Spa days
  • Access to nutritionists
  • Sports equipment such as running shoes, yoga mats, and workout apparel
  • Access to mental health talks and seminars

Employees who maintain wellness practices report better physical and mental health.

For more inspiration, check out this list of employee well-being ideas.

5. Equipment and gadgets

Purchasing equipment or gadgets to make an employee’s work easier is a great incentive. The devices or equipment will motivate workers and save time that workers can use in more productive endeavors.


  • New computer
  • Tablet
  • Noise-canceling headphones
  • Power banks
  • Laptop stand
  • Wireless keyboard

This incentive will motivate other employees to work harder and smarter.

6. Personalized swag

Swag is any prize or gift item that a company personalizes and offers to clients, employees, or prospective customers. If you want to build your brand and still recognize your team’s efforts, then practical and functional personalized swag is the perfect employee recognition idea.

Examples of employee recognition swag:

  • Notebooks and planners
  • Backpacks
  • Toiletries
  • Coffee or tea mugs
  • Fitness gear
  • Branded apparel

Instead of offering one swag item, you can provide personalized swag boxes. Be sure to research employees’ interests and package the swag in attractive bags or packages. Swag will boost your employer brand and promote employees’ appreciation and recognition.

Check out this guide to swag box ideas and this list of swag sellers.

7. Bonuses

Bonuses are monetary rewards that you give your team members to recognize good work. These awards are influential top performer recognition program ideas since the nature of the payoff is immediate. Offering bonuses is also effective in maintaining workers’ engagement and morale.

If you choose to offer bonuses to recognize employee efforts, ensure you put structures in place. For instance, you can offer 5% of profits generated in sales over $10,000 and 10% for deals worth $100,000 as bonuses.

8. Gift cards

If you are unsure of the perfect awards for employee recognition programs, then take advantage of gift cards. The versatility of gift cards makes it the best way to recognize a diverse workforce. Gift card options are limitless and allow workers to purchase items they want.

Examples of gift cards ideas:

  • Spa gift cards
  • Grocery
  • Tech items
  • Apparel
  • Food

For more variety, you can use gift cards from platforms that allow employees to redeem the cards at different merchants.

9. Experiential rewards

Experiential rewards are opportunities that you can give employees to have an experience that they have always wanted. You should base experiential rewards on an employee’s interests rather than general workforce interests. Experiential rewards allow employees to experience something they love without worrying about the cost.Examples:

  • A chance to drive on an F1 track
  •  Horseback lessons
  • A yoga retreat
  • Zero gravity experience
  • Glass blowing lesson
  • Stand-up comedy session
  • An art gallery visit
  • Season tickets to basketball games

Experiential rewards leave a lasting impression that can be difficult to achieve with monetary rewards. You can ask employees to narrate the experience to other team members to motivate other workers.

10. Free meals

Offering free meals is an employee recognition idea that your workers will love. You can start by researching each workers’ favorite food or restaurant.Examples of free meal ideas:

  • Offer a lunch coupon at a high-end restaurant
  • Bring teams their favorite food at work
  • Buy morning coffee for one week
  • Provide free meal deliveries for an employee’s family

You can take the idea of the free meal a notch higher by setting a lunch date with the CEO. Deserving workers can enjoy conversations and light-hearted moments with senior leaders. Be sure to highlight collective team achievements and individual contributions toward the company’s growth during the lunch date.

11. Cash

Cash may not be the most creative way to recognize your employee’s efforts. However, straight money is effective in publicly thanking and recognizing employees for their efforts in the company. Cash also motivates other employees to work hard and receive a similar incentive.

Cash rewards should be strategic and commensurate with employees’ efforts and contributions. Hence, you may not have a uniform cash reward system in the company. For instance, issuing a $100 note to an employee for millions worth of sales will only demotivate your workforce. As such, set parameters for cash rewards that will motivate and recognize workers’ efforts.

Here are more staff incentive ideas.

12. Early dismissal

Time is a valuable gift that you can offer employees to recognize their work efforts. You can surprise your employees with work-from-home days or an early release for a job well done. A one-week early dismissal will be noticeable and motivate other team members.

For instance, you can surprise employees who work from 8 am to 4 pm with an early release of 1 pm for one week. Employees are free to take the rest of the day off, rest, or run personal errands. Be sure to give a significant early dismissal. Giving a 30-minute early release may not be substantial enough to motivate workers.

13. Wheel of awards

A wheel of awards is a wheel that an employee can use to determine their reward. You can create your wheel of awards in the office or use an electronic version. Ensure to include basic and extravagant gifts in the wheel. Each time you have an employee that you want to reward, let them spin the wheel and select their preferred rewards.

You can switch up the rewards every so often so they do not get monotonous. Let other workers watch and cheer as an employee spins the wheel. You can motivate the team members by stating the reason for the reward.

You can draw more inspiration from these virtual gameshow ideas.

14. Company outing

A company outing is the best bet if you are looking for employee recognition ideas for large teams. Treating your team with outdoor activities boosts team bonding, removes the monotony of in-office work routines, and shows the company’s appreciation for employee efforts.Here are some ideas:

  • Go-kart racing
  • A beach getaway
  • Hiking
  • Comedy show
  • A sporting event- football, basketball
  • Kayaking
  • A two-day camping trip

These company outing activities will increase your team’s morale as team members have a fun day out of the office. You can use the opportunity to onboard new members. Team outdoor activities also help to break down barriers among employees and create a great work environment.

Here is a list of company outing ideas.

15. Holiday shopping sprees

You can take your team on a shopping spree without limiting their choices. In this exercise, employees receive a budget and are free to pick items for themselves, children, friends, and other family members.

A shopping spree to the mall or the nearest clothing store will enhance bonding and let employees know that your company recognizes their outstanding work.

Holiday shopping sprees are one of the best end-of-year employee recognition ideas. However, you can also adapt the idea to fit any time of the year.

Here is a list of end-of-year budget ideas.

16. Social recognition

Highlighting employees’ achievements on social media platforms showcases the impeccable talent you have in your company while also recognizing top performers. In addition, praising an employees’ accomplishments on social media platforms can also boost professional networks, which is a plus for your company.

You can combine social recognition with gift ideas such as company swag. For best results, share pictures of the employee on social media platforms alongside a thoughtful message of appreciation.

17. Virtual employee recognition ideas

Recognizing virtual workers with simple yet thoughtful ideas is a great way to make them feel appreciated. Virtual employee recognitions will also motivate other team players to work hard. Examples of virtual employee recognition ideas:

  • Free subscriptions- For instance, free TV subscriptions allow remote workers to catch up on their favorite shows in their free time
  • Meal deliveries- You can partner with a courier provider and deliver free meals for one week or one month to deserving workers
  • A surprise work break- Let virtual workers take a two-day break from work
  • Home office refresh items- You can let virtual workers pick preferred home office items such as stationery, notebooks, an iPad, a cute desk plant, or a mousepad.
  • A personalized “thank you” digital card
  • A company-wide appreciation email. You can also give a company-wide shout-out in the company’s activity stream
  • Virtual experiences such as stand-up shows, music festivals, and concerts.

Recognizing virtual employees may seem difficult. However, incorporating these touches will make employees feel appreciated.

Here are more virtual employee appreciation ideas.

18. Anniversary celebrations

Employee anniversary recognition programs are often forgotten. Yet, these occasions play a considerable role in recognizing an employee’s contribution to a company’s growth throughout the years. You do not have to celebrate an employee’s work anniversary annually. Instead, set structures where you celebrate workers after one year, two years, five years, 10, 15, or 15 years of service.

If you want to celebrate annual work anniversaries for every employee, small recognitions like a company-wide email or a small gift will do. Employees will also love office parties and unique anniversary gifts such as paid holidays, sabbaticals, and office revamps. Employee anniversary recognition programs are a show of employee appreciation for their work. It will also help you to retain top talent and reduce employee turnover.

Here is a list of the best gifts for employee work anniversaries.

19. Recognize hobbies

You can recognize your employees’ work efforts by supporting their hobbies and talents. For instance, if an employee love playing guitar, then you can reward them with a new instrument.Other hobbies that you can support include:

  • Dancing- Pay for dancing classes for employees
  • Singing- Give employees time off to attend a singing competition
  • Cooking- Pay for cooking classes, purchase cooking equipment
  • Photography- Surprise the employee with a camera
  • Drawing- Pay art lessons for an employee

Supporting employees’ hobbies will help them stay connected to their interests. Employees will also recognize the positive gesture and stay focused on their jobs.

20. Interactive sessions with the CEO

Letting your deserving employees spend the day with the CEO or top management is a great way to recognize their work and ensure they learn more about the company. Where a whole day is not possible, you can let employees have interactive sessions with the CEO, accompany them to a meeting, or have a virtual interactive session.

An interactive day with the CEO is a great way to ascertain that the company value’s employee’s work. You can base the interactive sessions with the CEO based on tenure, performance, and vital company values.

For similar ideas, check out executive team building activities.

21. Professional development

Offering workers opportunities to build their careers is among the best top performer recognition program ideas. If an employee sharpens their professional skills, then your company will also benefit.

You can offer deserving employees paid courses that will build them professionally. You can also sponsor a worker’s enrolment in online short courses or certifications. For deserving team players, offer full-time or partial scholarships. Be sure to allow for a sabbatical where needed.

22. Appreciative badges

Offering deserving workers badges to showcase achievements is a clever way to appreciate honored employees and motivate other workers. You can give appreciative badges to the successful worker at the end of a challenge. For instance, you can award a sales department “best salesperson of the month” badge to a deserving employee monthly. As a result, employees will work harder not to lose their badges to other workers.

Other than the mundane “best of” badges, you can have badges with catch and creative names for employee recognition programs.

Some of these include:

  • Because of you
  • Because you matter
  • Take the floor
  • Game changer
  • Here to appreciate
  • Hall of fame
  • Thumbs up
  • Top performer
  • “Brand” Achievers circle
  • Champion club
  • Gold star award

Creative names for employee recognition programs will build a winning mindset that workers do not want to lose. They will also drive excitement among workers and boost motivation to work towards getting the badge. Ensure that the appreciative badge names chosen create an emotional connection with employees and are meaningful and relevant. You can also link the title to your corporate brand, such as “Microsoft Heroes.”

For similar ideas, check out employee of the month ideas.

23. Offer sabbaticals

Offering sabbaticals to long-term employees is a great way to recognize their long service to the company. Employees who have been with the company for over ten years are well deserving of a one-month sabbatical. Senior employees can use their free time to nurture a new skill, tick their bucket list items, and fulfill desires outside work. You can base the sabbatical on your workforce and company structures.

24. Trophies

Trophies are thoughtful awards for employee recognition programs. Trophies will encourage employees to work hard and have the best company’s interests at heart. You can purchase a trophy that you will pass to a deserving employee for one month. Employees will display the trophy on their workstations. After one month, the employee will rotate the trophy to another worthy worker.

You can offer trophies for an employee who has demonstrated excellence in their work, such as an employee who provides the best customer service. Be sure to explain the significance of the trophy before handing it out.


When it comes to boosting workers’ morale and retaining top talent, it is hard to beat a creative and personalized employee recognition idea. To be effective, employee recognition programs should be creative and timely. The best ideas to appreciate deserving workers should be thoughtful, genuine, and provide specific feedback. Also, be sure to consider an employee’s interests outside of work.

Feel free to check out these staff appreciation quotes and books on employee experience next.

FAQ: Employee recognition program ideas

Here are answers to questions about employee recognition program ideas

What are employee recognition programs?

Employee recognition programs are ways to recognize the accomplishment of hard-working employees, teams, and the workforce.

What are the benefits of employee recognition programs?

Employee recognition programs boost workers’ morale, motivate other employees, and enable companies to retain top talent. With the right choice of employee recognition programs, your workforce will feel valued, respected, and appreciated for their contribution to the company’s growth.

What are some good employee recognition program ideas for work?

Some good employee recognition ideas for work include personalized swag, wellness initiatives, work anniversary celebrations, and experiential awards.

How do you create an employee recognition program?

A successful employee recognition program requires solid structures. Structures will ease implementation and motivate workers to achieve the set results.

Here are steps to take when creating a recognition program:

  • Set a workable budget for your monthly or annual employee recognitions
  • Communicate the rules and policies surrounding the recognition program. You also need to let the employees know how the program will benefit them.
  • Aim for timely recognitions. Do not wait to reward a worker months after the desired action or behavior.
  • Offer personalized and relevant rewards. Be sure to switch up recognition ideas to avoid monotony.
  • Be fair and consistent in employee recognition.
  • Evaluate the success of your employee recognition program.

When effectively implemented, employee recognition programs will result in motivated, productive, and happier workers.

  • Twit
  • Linked
  • Email Share
Author avatar


People & Culture Director at teambuilding.com.
Grace is the Director of People & Culture at TeamBuilding. She studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Information Science at East China Normal University and earned an MBA at Washington State University.

LinkedIn Grace He