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50 Rewards and Recognition Ideas to Boost Employee Recognition [2021 Updated]

19 min read
Last Updated on 31 May, 2021
50 Rewards and Recognition Ideas to Boost Employee Recognition [2021 Updated]

Employee rewards and recognition have become a critical component of every successful business in today’s date. Its unique way of adding value to your employees’ achievements is what made it popular. And HR leaders are trying their best to leverage it further through new rewards and recognition ideas.

The concept of giving out accolades and rewards has been there for ages. When an individual is acknowledged for their good deed, they feel elated. This inspires them to keep getting better and binds them to greater goals.

Overall, the positive effects of recognition and rewards are many. And it’s becoming an integral part of the company culture of various organizations.

According to a survey conducted by, Happiness study, 58% of respondents said that receiving even a simple “Thank you” or “Great Job” regularly from their managers positively impacted their morale at work.

I guess you’re smart enough to get my point here with this stat. So, next time any of your team members do well, don’t forget to say those words of appreciation.

Before we proceed with the R&R ideas, there’s one more important thing I would like to cover up.

Though we are mentioning rewards and recognition as one term, there are differences!

Let’s have a quick look at some of them.

What Are the Differences Between Rewards and Recognition?

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However, despite all these differences, both rewards and recognition form a potent combo.

A thoughtful reward or recognition presented properly at the right time can help in establishing employee engagement in an organization.

Recommended Article: 7 Effects of Employee Recognition on Business

Let’s move ahead and look at some of the best rewards and recognition ideas that I’m sure will boost your employee engagement levels.

You can choose the ones you think will be best for your workforce. In general, a little thought goes a long way. Always.

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50 Rewards and Recognition Ideas For Motivating Employees

1. Gift of Gratitude

This is probably one of the most suggested actions that you'll come across to show your gratitude to your employees. Everybody craves some appreciation, and the impact of a verbal or handwritten "Thank You" is unparalleled to any other form.

So, make sure you don't miss out on saying thank you to your deserving employees.

Recommended Article: Appreciation Mail To Team For Better Morale

2. Sing those Happy Birthdays

Sending a generic email on birthdays of your employees (although is better than nothing), is not enough. You gotta make them feel special on their special day. And the good old “happy birthday to you” song and a cake never fails to make your employees feel recognized. If you have a huge workforce and it isn’t possible to do so, at least make it a point to send a handwritten note.

Also, celebrate personal milestones like wedding anniversaries, Work anniversaries, Promotions with your employees.

Recommended Article: 33 Remarkable Birthday Wishes For Employees

3. Meet, Greet and Eat

Are you always in a formal business environment while interacting with your employees? Do you not get to see all your employees regularly?

It’s definitely time to make some changes. Add room to your calendar for those outdoor team lunches. A good meal brings out the best moods. Outdoor team lunches can be a great opportunity to enhance communication within the organization.

Recommended Article: 32 Company Outing Ideas To Strengthen The Bond Within Your Team

4. Recognition Delayed is Recognition Denied

Your employees are digital natives and they are used to experiencing instant results in all spheres of their lives. They want to be recognized and they want to be recognized right away.

How to do it?

By adopting a digital R&R platform similar to Vantage Rewards. This AI-powered platform is mobile-friendly and helps you acknowledge your employees instantly.

So, if you notice anything recognition-worthy, do it right away. Sometimes small gestures like a "well done" or "Congratulation" text at the moment are more effective than something relatively bigger done later.

Recommended Article: The Art of Giving Recognition at Work

5. Peer to Peer Recognition

Recognition from peers holds unique value. Sometimes peers are more aware of the work of their co-workers than managers/ in-charges. They are the ones that work alongside, and they have a more impersonal relation with each other. They often see qualities that managers overlook.

Healthy peer-peer recognition is a key to make your organization come to life. It can be done quickly by conducting surveys among employees and recognizing the ones with maximum votes.

Vantage Circle’s Reward and Recognition program even allow peers to instantly recognize colleagues individually. Schedule a free demo to see how!

Recommended Article: What Is the Role of Healthy Peer Relationships at Work?

6. Feature Your Employees in a Short Film

Most people love to see themselves on the screen. Make a small 5-10 min video and let your employees be the stars. Ask them to share their experiences and likes/dislikes about the company.

You might very well be surprised to see the number of voluntary participation. Such practices make your employees feel more connected and “part of” the company.

And, of course, make sure you share the video with everyone once it’s ready.

7. Gift of Acceptance

Employee recognition is all about emotionally connecting with your employees.

A great yet simple gift that you can give others is the gift of acceptance.

Practices like proving Business cards to your employees, putting your staff on your company’s websites make your employees feel accepted by the organization.

These are lesser known drivers of employee recognition.

Business cards are generally handed to employees who need to have face-to-face interaction with clients. But the rest of your employees might want to have them too. (They definitely do!)

Business cards hold social stature and moreover they come in handy and serves many purposes.

Same goes for putting your team on the website. They feel part of the bigger picture!

I will highly recommend you to implement it ASAP.

8. Recognizing the Creative Minds with Creativity

There are employees who consistently bring new ideas to the table or add a dab of creativity to whatever work they do. These are generally the ones who are truly passionate about the job they do and are always trying to give their best. Let them know that you appreciate their efforts. Make it a point to acknowledge them from time to time.

Such recognition will naturally motivate others to express their ideas and go an extra mile. So, if you don’t have an award reserved for them, do it now.

And while rewarding these particular people go creative! (Here are some corporate gifting ideas).

Recommended Article: 50 Best Words of Appreciation for Employees

9. The Classic Wall of Fame Moment

Having a wall of fame in the office where the achievements or accomplishments are displayed for the entire staff will be an absolute topping on the employee recognition cake. It will make the appreciation even more notable and valuable.

You can also have digital screens with a live feed on Recognition, Birthdays, anniversaries, etc., in prime locations of the workplace.

10. Promoting Wellness at the Workplace

Promoting wellness in the workplace is a step that can help an organization in many ways.

You can reward employees with free or subsidized gym memberships for keeping themselves healthy. Also, you must appreciate their health achievements to keep them motivated and inspire others to take up a healthy lifestyle.

Apart from benefits such as improving employees’ health and well-being, reducing absenteeism, and increasing productivity, it presents a caring image of the company.

A sound corporate wellness program is a must-have in an organization.

When such extra efforts are taken for improving the wellbeing of the employees (outside their work) they naturally feel valued, cared for, and hence, recognized.

Recommended Article: 21 Cost Effective Wellness At Workplace Ideas For 2021

11. Primo Parking

If your workplace reserves prime parking spots for the executives, then it can be used as an employee reward scheme too. You can use this reward scheme to leverage employees to adopt environment-friendly commuting methods like carpooling and so.

Also, by letting your employees enjoy such premium privileges, you can make them feel how important they are.

12. Recognize Punctuality

Punctuality is a trait that sets an individual apart from the rest. And having employees who are both punctual and diligent in the workforce is no less than a blessing.

Hence, acknowledging employees for their punctuality and diligence becomes very important. Recognizing and rewarding such traits within the workplace motivates the employee to do it and encourages the rest of the workforce to follow the same.

Recommended Article: 10 Ways To Develop Strong Work Ethics Among Employees

13.Outdoor Meetings

Sometimes, small changes can have a profound impact. Changing the setting of the work environment has proven to show great results.

We all know that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. While it might not always be feasible to take days off, it is totally possible to get to a middle ground.

Change is good for the soul. So, don’t hesitate to take those long mundane meetings to an outdoor setting once in a while. It will automatically make those meetings less appalling.

Recommended Article: 32 Company Outing Ideas To Strengthen The Bond Within Your Team

14. The Magic of Gift Cards

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If someone says Gift cards don’t work anymore, don’t believe them!

They surely do. All you gotta know is what should that Gift Card contain.

Gift cards are available for all sorts of products and services. From shopping to traveling to dining. They are available for almost everything you can think for.

What makes gift cards unique and better than cash is that they ensure your employees have a guilt-free spending. Because they are given gift cards and not cash, they must take the opportunity of treating themselves rather than spending the money on something more useful (one that doesn’t end up feeling like a reward).

A relevant and thoughtful Gift card has the ability to leave a lasting memory in the minds of the receiver.

15. A Chance to Pay back to the Society

Most people want to make their contribution to society or the environment.

Wouldn’t your employees just love it if the company donates for a social or environmental cause in their name? They certainly would.

It will be a very thoughtful gift, and your employees will not only feel recognized by you, but they’ll receive recognition from different quarters as well. Such recognition can give a unique, incomparable joy!

Recommended Article: Foster Your Business With Corporate Social Responsibility

16. Practice What You Preach

Another great way of appreciating your employees is to have some special rewards or awards that reflect your company values.

Brainstorm a bit. What is that unique idea that your product or services are trying to sell? Are you rewarding your employees who are religious followers or believers of that very idea?

Let’s say you’re an Indian ethnic wear fashion brand. Wouldn’t it be cool to reward the most stylish or fashion-forward employee once in a while?
Of course, it will be. ( You can thank me later.)

17. Celebrate Work Anniversaries

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Celebrating employee milestones like their work anniversaries is a great way to acknowledge your employees. Most of the times, employees tend to forget how far they have come in their professional lives while remaining busy with their work.

However, surprising them with an anniversary present or throwing them a small party at the workplace will, sure enough, do the job here. The job of instiling the thought of how important they’re and how much their work has helped in business growth.

Recommended Article: 23 Awesome Ways To Make Every Employee Work Anniversary Memorable

18. Recognize "Chasing Hobby"

Employees have their own likes or hobbies to keep themselves stress-free and motivated outside their cubicles. These may include anything from cooking, dancing, singing, painting, etc.

Giving your employees the chance to pursue their hobbies can be a great add-on to your employee reward program. This will let the employees stay connected to their hobbies and also help them stay more focused at their jobs.

19. "Do As You Like It"

When your employees work hard and put all their efforts into their work, they learn and evolve. They tend to know how to run the show and accordingly take proper decisions. Here, nothing would be a much better reward for your hardworking employees than allowing them to do their work the way they like it.

Here, you’ll be having two benefits as an employer-

  • At first, your employees will get the room for making the best decisions to get the work done in the best way possible.

  • Secondly, since your employees will be responsible for their work, they would be even more careful than before with things related to their work.

20. Exude Good Vibe

Implementing employee recognition is an ever-evolving practice, and it requires continuous effort.

To make your employees feel recognized, you will have to build a culture of positive morale in the workplace.

Be it greeting each other every morning, having an open-door culture where anyone can talk to the boss at any time, friendliness, celebrating personal milestones, treating everyone as equal- are some practices that help a lot.

Recommended Article: 14 Fun Activities At Work that your Employees Will Love

21. Social Recognition

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Employee Recognition isn’t something that is meant to be done inside closed doors. Go public while you recognize your employees. When you recognize your employees in a public forum, they get to exhibit their hard-earned appreciation.

Another way of going public with employee recognition is to take it to social media. Your employees naturally spend a considerable amount of time on various social media platforms. They would love it if they could flaunt their recognition on these platforms.

Recommended Article: 6 Notable Benefits of Having Employee Recognition Awards

22. Welcome Suggestions

Employees love it when they are heard. They love to be included in the decision-making process of the company they are working so hard for.

So, when you plan to make changes in the ongoing or upcoming projects, take your employees’ suggestions. Your employees are the ones who deliver the result, so it’s crucial to keep them in the loop at all times.

23. Spend-Time-With-the-CEO Days

A great way of giving recognition to your employees would be to let them interact with the CEO or president of the organization.

They’ll be ascertained that the organization is actually valuing their good work.

There can be special meetings with the chief, exclusively for those who have earned it. It can be based on various criteria such a performance, good attitude, tenure, creativity, etc.

If physical meetings are not feasible, a special video conferencing with the chief will do the trick.

24. Gamify Your Rewards and Recognition Program

Gamification is everywhere!

It is basically incorporating elements of gaming into a non-gaming situation.

Gamification in your employee recognition can be a great idea. It will spur interest and lead to a more effective performance by your employees.

How to do it?

The idea is to make employee recognition an instantaneous and continuous affair. The next step then will be keeping track of rewards and recognition earned by your employees.

Create leaderboards, badges, certificates to acknowledge employees in different spheres of their work-life. Competition can be a significant driving force as long as it is healthy.

25. Be the Educator

Letting your employees share the learnings they acquired in their years of service is another great way to reward and recognize them at the same time. Moreover, every employee appreciation program aims to make the employees feel worthy.

Creating a program letting the experienced employees educate the recruits would showcase their importance for the organization. And also, add up to their reputation in front of the newbies, making them feel good as well.

26. Flexible Choices

Do you know what our employees would love? It is the gift of real choice.

When your employees have the option to choose a tangible reward for a job well done, it will give them the utmost satisfaction. So, next time you want to reward your employees, ask what they want.

Let them choose their rewards as per their preference, and let them have it as long as it fits your R&R plan.

Learn more about Vantage Rewards: A point-based employee rewards and recognition platform

27. Surprises are the Best!

Who doesn’t love surprises! Right?

Don’t stay away from surprising your staff (with good food) every now and then. Hectic weeks, big projects, final submission week, or for no particular reason at all, surprising employees with an in-house mini party is a great practice!

Long lunches, Pizzas for all, food-truck treats, ice-creams treats are some great impromptu ways of doing so.

So go ahead, when’s the next surprise Party?

28. Encourage Professional Development

Some of your ambitious employees might want to gain more knowledge in their domain outside their job profiles. As an employer, you must encourage that. You must acknowledge that an individual’s personal growth is just as significant as the company’s growth.

It can be done by sponsoring enrollment in online/offline courses of their choice or allowing a sabbatical to sharpen their skillset.

Recommended Article: An Overview Of Employee Development

29. Performance-based Awards

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Do not knock out the good old Employee-of-the month, Employee-of-the-year awards. They still work very well as tools for enhancing employee recognition.

Performance-based awards have a charm on their own, and they have continuously proved to be a compelling source of recognition for a long time.

Such a time-honored practice that drives motivation must not be ignored.

Let them be the teacher.

30. Time - The Most Valuable Gift of All

Time is the most valuable gift that you can gift your employees. Your employees (just like everyone else) are trying to juggle many things in the 24 hours of the day. Moreover, who doesn’t want some extra time to spend with family or just to relax?

If you reward your employees with the gift of flexible timing, they’ll undoubtedly love it.

Similarly, Bonus time, designated work-from-home days are great ways of rewarding your employees.

Recommended Article: 5 Essential Benefits Of Offering Flexible Working Hours

31. Personalized rewards

Gone are the days when you can apply a “one-size-fits-all” approach while rewarding your employees. They are individuals with different likes, dislikes, and preferences. It’s a great idea to take the effort of going the extra mile to understand their needs and reward your rockstar employees accordingly.

A tailor-made reward naturally creates a lasting impact on the mind of the receiver. When you go out of your way to add a personal touch to your reward, it ascertains a connection between the receiver and the giver.

32. Earn the Badge

Most people may work for money, but they always crave something that purely shows their efforts and hard work. Giving out appreciative badges at the end of every challenge completed is a good way to forward instant gratification.

Moreover, the badges rewarded to the employees would act as proof of all their hardships. And also motivate all the others to give their best and earn it. Thus, leading towards a better work culture within the organization.

33. Acknowledge non-workplace achievements

Who knows if there's a sports champion or an emerging artist in your workforce. Therefore, you must always make it a point to acknowledge an employees' outside achievements as well. This ensures everyone in the workplace is aware of each other’s capabilities. And support them in their endeavors as good colleagues strengthening workplace relationships.

34. Reward them with an Experience

Every one of us has something or the other on our bucket list that we want to experience at least once in our lives. Well, this probably applies to your employees also!

Rewarding them with a once-in-a-lifetime experience would be one of the best ways to express your gratitude for all their efforts at work. Ultimately, they are also working hard to experience all the joy possible, but when such a moment arrives as a reward, it’ll surely uplift their happiness working for you.

35. Pet Care Day

Another great way of appreciating employees (especially those who have got pets) is by rewarding them with something related to the wellbeing of their pets.

This appreciation idea holds great emotional value. When at the workplace, employees act responsibly and care for their work. Their dedication and involvement bring your organization all the success. And what would be better than returning the care they have shown towards their work with some care for their lovely pets.

Simultaneously, you can also allow them to bring their pets to work with no questions asked and have some fun time together.

36. Hand Written Note of Thanks

In the era of e-mails, the value of handwritten notes has only gone up.

Handwritten letters have always been treated to be very special as they contain the conveyor’s true emotions. On the other hand, the receiver can feel and preserve the message with them for times to come. Further, you can incorporate any kind of personalization you want in such a note of thanks.
You can get a handwritten note from the CEO or any top executive and gift it to your employees.

37. Company Swags

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Company swags have been a top choice for employers worldwide for rewarding or appreciating their employees.

This may be anything, like a personalized coffee mug with the company branding or some other cool gadgets. Gifting your employees with company swags also positively affects your employer branding, as most employees tend to share their achievements along with their rewards over social media.

38. OTT Subscription

If you’ve employees working remotely, then this makes for the most fantastic reward option for them. You can ask your employees to give you details about their preferred OTT subscription, and you can gift it to them.

This way, your employees not only get what they want but economically also, it’s one of the most feasible options for rewarding employees, especially in today’s date.

39. Promote them as Company Ambassador

Employees who are committed to their work and help align all the others in the workplace to the greater organizational goals deserve to be promoted as an icon for all.

These employees are the real pulse of an organization who thrive to produce the best results. They take the organization’s goals as their own and ensure everyone sails along until the goals are achieved. As such, promoting these employees as your company ambassadors would be like putting the jewel in the crown for everyone to admire and take inspiration from.

Recommended Article: Employee Advocacy: Everything A Leader Needs To Know

40. Upgrading Tools and Resources

The availability of tools and resources plays a vital role in the employees’ day-to-day cycle at work. These tools and other resources act as catalysts in improving their productivity and design thinking.

So, next time if your employees do something great with outdated pieces of equipment at hand, I would suggest you reward them by upgrading their pieces of equipment required for the job.

41. Uber Ride Credit

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This could be a very effective reward that you can give your employees whenever they unlock a new achievement. Or let’s say you got employees who constantly give their best, but they are staying very far. Hence, rewarding them with free uber rides or whatever operates in your location would be something that even your employees would appreciate.

42. Exclusive Opportunity to Pitch their Ideas

This could be the best way of expressing your gratitude to your most creative minds. Allowing them to pitch their ideas in front of the top management could bolster your overall R&D process. This would also be a welcoming move as it would inspire others to deliver meaningful work and grab their chance to share their ideas.

Adopting such a scheme for appreciating your employees would also complement their professional growth within the company.

You can actually turn it into a company-wide event as well so that anyone can participate and try their luck.

43. Write Something Good on Their LinkedIn

It’s always recommended that when you appreciate your employees, you should do it publicly. And if you want others to believe how proficient they are in their jobs, then you can write them a good LinkedIn recommendation.

This would add credibility to them as professionals and showcase you as a great employer who truly cares for its employees.

44. Day out with an Expert

Every professional has a strong desire of getting mentored by the best in their field. People feel good when they get the chance to interact with someone who is more experienced. It fills them with new aspirations and enhances their ideation capabilities. Overall, it’s like getting recharged once again and ready to take on any challenge to get the job done.

Here, you can also ask your employees about their passion and get them someone who can help them nurture it.

45. Spot Awards

Spot award is one of the best and quickest ways to deliver meaningful rewards to your employees. It works the best with a point-based reward system where you can give monetary incentives for praising your employees. The employees can redeem these points as gift cards from multiple brands and e-commerce sites. Thus, making it an effective employee rewards and recognition method.

46. Gift Them With Additional Day-offs

With regards to today’s work culture, there’s nothing more valuable than a day-off for a professional. After putting in all their efforts at work, they need some quality time to rejuvenate themselves or socialize with others.

So, you can consider rewarding your employees with additional day-offs in their quota of leaves and help them maintain a sound work-life balance.

47. Role Shadowing Opportunities

Perhaps this is one of the best ways to help your employees with immense potential learn about the other roles within the organization. You can let the employees be in the shoes of their seniors and experience how they run their operations.

However, you must make it a point that the ones whom these employees will be shadowing don’t feel disturbed.

48. Move Them To Special Projects

Based on the type of achievement, you can consider rewarding your employees by moving them to special projects.

I’ve included this point because most employees wait for that one moment when they can break out from their usual zone and do something more challenging. In that case, you must identify these talents when you’re rewarding them and give them a chance to prove their mettle again wherever they’re assigned.

49. Display your Employees on the Company Website

If you’ve got a relatively small team (let’s say 100<), it would be a good idea to display all of them on your website. For your employees, this would instill inclusion and acknowledge them as an integral part of the organization.

This is also better for your employer branding so that you can attract top talents.

50. Invitation to Attend a Top Executive Meeting

To make your employees feel special for their contribution, you can invite them to be a part of a top executive meeting. Doing this would give them the idea about the importance of their work and show them where they can be if they give their best at work.

At the End

Thinking of employee recognition ideas or rewards is definitely a tricky thing. As an HR manager, you have to take care of various aspects like personalization, budget, etc.

However, no matter what, you must always make it a point to appreciate your employees on a regular basis. And this list was my way of helping you out in appreciating and rewarding your employee in the best way possible.

Which reward and recognition ideas are the best, according to you? Let us know in the comments below.

This article is written by Darshana Dutta. She works as a Content Creator and Digital Marketer at Vantage Circle. She writes extensively on trends around employee engagement and transforming company culture. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com

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Vantage Circle is a simple AI-powered Rewards & Recognition Platform for upgrading your employee experience and engagement for better productivity.