Employee recognition - How to define it and how to celebrate it

17 / 04 / 19

Work environments nowadays are extremely competitive and those businesses with the winning edge are those with the most productive, skilled and well-trained staff. This aside, these employees won’t perform to their best ability if they aren’t motivated. And this is the very reason employee recognition programs are vital in the workplace and should be an innate part of any company culture. Essentially, employee recognition is acknowledging performance in order to re-inforce certain behaviours and practices, which results in improved performance and positive business results as a consequence.

One of the biggest motivators for employees is to be recognised for performance and while many would relate reward and recognition to monetary gains such as bonuses or gifts for example, it can also be as simple as compliment, a ‘thank you’ or similar. It’s important to establish a structured process which makes the program easy to run for you but also for your staff to use. It lets your employees know that you’re serious about rewarding their achievements. Make sure you:

Make everyone eligible

Every single employee, whatever the level, should be eligible for your employee recognition program. You should never exclude anyone. It may be however, that for different levels, departments and/or roles you need to create differing and relevant recognition programs.

Define criteria

What behaviours or actions should be recognised? The more clearly you design and communicate the eligibility criteria, the easier it is for employees to understand and contribute accordingly.

Provide equal opportunity

Anybody who performs at the level stated in your defined criteria should receive the reward. At times, if money is an issue within a business, a draw may be taken to select one ‘winner’ from the list of those who performed to the stated level. But again, this must be communicated clearly from the outset.

Reward in a timely manner

You should aim to reward the employee/s as close to the action/s as possible. There’s no point waiting for months after the action, because momentum is lost and this could in fact, have an adverse effect on your employees. Remember, recognition reinforces the behaviour you want to encourage. There is a place for monthly and annual recognition schemes, but depending on your business, rewards can be as frequent as daily.

Set standards

Now, this is an important one – Recognition schemes such as employee of the month, aren’t always effective. The reason being is that it can often be perceived as ‘someone’s turn’ to win the award as they haven’t had it yet and this really isn’t an effective scheme or beneficial to anyone. However, if you were to set standards such as objective figures for example, it will be far more effective and motivating.

So which types of recognition programs could work for your business?

A recognition wall

A designated place within your office where you can shout about outstanding employees. This is a great way of celebrating performance in a very visual way for all to see and also encourages your employees to share in one another’s achievements and support one another. It could also inspire some friendly competition which is extremely healthy for any team or business.


Going back to the point we made earlier about offering ‘timely’ rewards, vouchers are a great vehicle for this. They’re instant and they’re low-cost but they can provide an instant morale boost. If you were to present them in front of peers, they can provide motivation and that all important friendly competition, communicating a message to all, that hard work pays off.


A simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way and quick and inexpensive token could be an e-thank you or printed thank you certificate. Make sure you include the reasons for the recognition and you can send this quickly and easily to the recipient.

Training and development

You obviously want to retain valuable employees and so it’s imperative you invest in their careers. Show a vested interest in them and structure personal development plans to extend their knowledge and skills. Training and development is another subject which we will cover in later months, however, this is a huge part of employee recognition. Employees will see your commitment and will be far more likely to remain loyal to your company and your brand. And of course, you benefit with an expert, well-trained workforce.


Of course bonus schemes can form part of your recognition program and these are a great way of improving productivity and motivation. When you understand what you want to achieve, you should carefully consider the factors the bonus scheme should be based on. Make sure you document your criteria so that everyone is clear.

Impromptu toasts to success

It’s important to celebrate success. This could be following a successful software roll-out, new product launch or similar. Whatever the success may be, celebrate it – order pizzas, toast with a bottle of fizz or take the team out for dinner. Even just a mention in company meetings or within your internal newsletter can go down well. Just ensure successes don’t go unnoticed.


You could run an annual (or any time frame) awards ceremony. Pick categories for the awards and your employees can vote for the winners. This can be an evening of celebration and a time for you to publicly appreciate contributions to your company.

Work anniversaries

This is a great way of celebrating company loyalty. So, why not recognise key milestones. Some companies offer extra benefits such as holiday or even gifts for this type of award.

An effective recognition programme can be used to demonstrate value and appreciate your staff and can ensure you get the best efforts from your employees each and every day. In return you will promote goodwill, staff satisfaction, loyalty and retention. Your business will thrive with an efficient, well-trained and skilled workforce.

Sounds simple doesn’t it? But it’s hard implementing people programs when you have the ‘day job’ to concentrate on and so if you’d like additional support with your recognition program or any other HR matter, please contact me on: 01453 297557 or email enquiries@peepshr.co.uk.

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