How to Build Successful Employee Award and Recognition Programs

According to a Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report, only 24 percent of respondents say that employees in their organization are engaged.

That’s especially concerning, considering that they also found “a highly engaged workforce can increase innovation, productivity, and bottom-line performance while reducing costs related to hiring and retention in highly competitive talent markets.”

On the bright side, the report finds that recognizing high performers is considered to have a powerful effect on employee engagement.

At 1338Tryon, we help you build an employee engagement program with strong promotional marketing. A well-made employee recognition program can be your ticket to active employee engagement and the business success that follows. 

Related: Case Study: Attract New Customers

Why Does Public Recognition Matter?

People need to know that their work is valued and vital to a company’s success. Private recognition can be gratifying, but public recognition sends a strong message. It shows that everyone should appreciate a valuable contribution.

On top of that, for everyone to benefit from recognition, and not just the employee being recognized, other employees need to see that value is rewarded. It’s also an excellent way to get a clear picture of what is considered a valuable contribution.

Why Informal Recognition Isn’t Enough

An informal recognition fails to make crystal clear what kind of contributions are valued. If it’s done in private, then the recipient may feel somewhat encouraged, but they won’t feel as encouraged as if all of their coworkers were there to witness their recipience of accolades. Most people enjoy receiving recognition for their merits. 

When people see coworkers or peers acknowledged and rewarded for high performance or other merits, it’s natural that they should also like to receive a reward – be it verbal praise, time off, material gain, etc. – and are incentivized to strive for excellence in their work and actions.

Types of Rewards

Recognizing employees can take several forms. Employee awards might include a token of some kind that reads “Employee of the Month,” a gift card, special privileges, public praise, and more.

Why Are Monetary Rewards Not The Way to Go?

When asked, people are likely to say that the thing that would motivate them more is more money. An article published by the Harvard Business Review found a less than 2% overlap between pay and job satisfaction levels. The study found that when a reward is tangible and foreseeable (such as an employee knowing exactly how much more they will be paid), motivation for performing an interesting task decreased by 25%. 

The study found that people are more likely to enjoy their job and be engaged if they focus on the work itself and less likely to enjoy their work and find job satisfaction if they focus on the compensation aspect. 

Related: How to Put Together an Onboarding Kit

Traditional Awards

Traditional and time-tested rewards like a watch, a metal or plaque, or a figurine can be a great way to give employees a tangible representation of their accomplishments. A popular choice is our Faceted Crystal Circle – Medium. Follow the link to see how we can customize your order. 

A reward or gift showing that you have put time and thought into it adds sincerity to your message and the offered praise. If it’s been re-gifted, it’s unlikely an employee will feel very encouraged by it. 

Gift cards can also be a tool in your belt to motivate employees. If the employee to be recognized loves a particular store or restaurant, a gift card to their favorite place can be a two-fold reward, giving them something they can enjoy using and showing awareness familiarity of who they are as a person and what their interests are. 

Giving employees some power to express their preferences is a great way to make them feel that the recognition program is oriented towards their engagement. Have a special meeting and invite employees to brainstorm together what kind of recognition rewards they’d most enjoy.

Each workplace is different, and this is an effective way to involve employees in the process. A coveted parking space or break room privilege might motivate your employees, but you have to ask them to find out!

Items With Emotional Value

You can also take advantage of the natural prestige that exists within the office. An admired figure like a boss or CEO can make recognition strike home by adding brand voice. They can choose a product like a branded notebook, hat, or bag to drum up excitement.

The CEO or other upper-level management should write or otherwise deliver a brief message thanking the employee for their excellent work. This message can be included alongside a personal gift, like a Moleskine notebook personalized with the company logo and the recipient’s name. 

Related: 8 Corporate Gifts for Your Employees

Criteria for Employee Recognition Programs


Recognition programs need to be as straightforward as possible. A well-designed program can motivate people before, during, and after the recognition itself. It can inspire both the recipient and all the other employees.

On the other hand, a few design flaws in employee award programs can dilute their effect and waste their potential.

First, make sure that your program recognizes people at well-known intervals. Every time you reward someone’s good work, it will help remind everyone that someone will be rewarded again next time, and it could be them.

Try to reward people for good discretionary behavior. If you reward someone for something that no one else can do, the other employees might feel like they can’t compete, so they might as well ignore the rewards program.

For example, if you reward someone for a fantastic feat of computer programming, other employees without those skills might not feel included.

On the other hand, if a programmer goes the extra mile to help their whole team on a project, that would be a perfect opportunity for a reward. Everyone will feel that teamwork is appreciated and that they might be rewarded next month by being a great team player in the coming weeks.

On top of that, try to find a variety of things to reward. When employees see that they can be rewarded for good behavior of all kinds, it motivates them to behave well in every way, rather than in only one narrow domain.

Motivate Your Workplace!

We hope this review of employee recognition programs has been helpful. To find the right gifts and awards to give your employees or learn more about personalizing your workplace, 
check out our website!

Related: Case Study: Employee Appreciation Gift

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