51 Employee Recognition and Appreciation Award Ideas

Employee Appreciation Award Ideas The best way to boost employee morale (and retention rates) is to make sure your staff feels valued and appreciated — and to recognize them when they go above and beyond. All you need is a little creativity, proper planning and a list of ideas to get started. 

Informal Recognition

Even small, everyday wins should be celebrated. Get the whole staff involved in passing around the well deserved "attaboys."

  1. Start a brag book for employees to write in whenever a coworker deserves thanks or praise. Read entries weekly at the staff meeting.
  2. Create a "kudos corner" on the company intranet for staff to share virtual high-fives.
  3. Establish an "Open Mic" time for employees to have free rein of the PA system. They'll have a captive audience to profess their thanks and admiration for fellow coworkers. (A great opportunity for creativity — and a few laughs — as well!) Genius Tip: Use an online sign up to allow for three five-minute timeslots each week.
  4. Print praise cards and provide a stack for each employee. They can be filled out throughout the year and delivered to employee mailboxes for quiet acknowledgement of a job well done.
  5. Purchase a hilariously showy hat that is displayed overtly in the office — until an employee decides to crown a coworker, that is. Staff and clients alike will know that greatness has occurred when they see someone wearing the hat!
  6. Recognize excellence on social media to share praise in front of a bigger audience.
  7. Have each team or department plan a monthly happy hour. Employees must hit their goals to qualify for attendance! Genius Tip: Use an online sign up to help with the planning and assignments.
  8. If imitation is a form of flattery, then invite staffers dress like the coworker they're most grateful to or in awe of. There's nothing like a clone day to infuse a little hilarity in your recognition efforts!

Collect employee charitable donations using an online sign up. SAMPLE

  1. Let staffers express their thanks to each other through love letters. Read them dramatically during a staff meeting with soap opera-esque music playing in the background.
  2. Create a website spotlight for employees who have earned their moment at center stage.
  3. When someone has impressed you, let him know with a simple note — honest, heartfelt and handwritten.
  4. Include a deserving employee in a meeting with higher-ups she wasn't expecting to be invited to.
  5. Surprise and delight by making an effort to truly know your staff as individuals. When a person has gone above and beyond, treat him to a six-pack of his favorite craft beer or the newest book from his favorite author.
  6. After a big achievement, let the employee choose her next assignment. Having some ownership (and being able to work on things she enjoys) goes a long way.
  7. When you're really impressed, and you want to sing a person's praises from the rooftops, let 'er rip. Hire a singing telegram to make a splash with a fun and silly tribute.
  8. Challenge your employees to come up with some fun ways to recognize achievements. You'll be surprised at the great ideas you get when you ask for input.
  9. Embrace the competitive vibe between two internal teams and let them duke it out over trivia. Winning team gets bragging rights, and losers bring doughnuts and coffee the following morning!

Formal Recognition

Of course, planned events and annual awards are fantastic ways to celebrate large-scale achievements. Remember that smaller efforts can be effective too!

  1. Honor a Big Hitter with an end-of-day toast, whether champagne, sparkling grape juice or a cooler full of beer. A brief 20-minute party can really make a person feel celebrated.
  2. Roast employees who hit a big company milestone, and invite participation from all.
  3. Start a companywide competition. Be sure to set clear goals and timelines, provide exciting incentives and get the competitive juices flowing for all.
  4. Do an end-of-year drawing for a coveted prize, whether an Amazon gift card or an extra afternoon off. Employees' names are entered once for every kudos they receive throughout the year.
  5. An annual Awards Show is a great way to add a little fanfare to the holiday party. Give out "Rookie of the Year" and "MVP" awards — even "Best Supporting" and "Biggest Comeback." And make sure to create some of your own awards to add to the mix!
  6. Studies show that peer recognition can be as satisfying as management recognition. Take nominations for the People's Choice Award, and don't forget to pass any detailed feedback to the winner.
  7. Give staff awards a philanthropic twist by letting your MVP choose a nonprofit close to her heart. The company can do some pro bono work or participate in a fundraiser for a worthy cause.
  8. It's easy to celebrate big achievements, but all too often the behind-the-scenes "backbone" types get none of the glory. Initiate a Rock Solid Award to recognize a person who's consistently and reliably doing the job well.
  9. Office superlatives are a fun way to celebrate individual talents. But take it beyond "Best Dressed" and "Most Likely to Succeed." Create your own superlatives and have fun with them, like "Smoothest Talker," "Best in a Pinch" and "Most Likely to Rule the World." You can even include headshots and pass out a "yearbook" before holiday break.

Organize an employee happy hour with an online sign up. SAMPLE

Staff Appreciation

Staff appreciation efforts don't always have to follow a big company win. In fact, most people would prefer to be appreciated all year long.

  1. There's no better birthday gift than a day off work! Consider making birthdays vacation days in your office.
  2. Fuel passions. Give each employee two hours each week to work on something they're passionate about.
  3. Give your staff a chance to show off their families. Halloween trick-of-treating is a fun way for employees to take their kids from office to office and desk to desk.
  4. Schedule a day of mobile mammograms during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Individual insurance covers the screenings, and employees can have annual scans quickly and conveniently.
  5. Celebrate employee anniversaries with a small gift, whether a coffee gift card, a pedicure or company tickets for the next big game.
  6. Call a meeting in the conference room, hand out Nerf guns and watch the fun ensue as overworked employees cut loose and de-stress with a Nerf War.
  7. Introduce a suggestions box. Simple yet powerful: Let your staff be heard.
  8. Make an effort to get to know new employees. Scheduling a one-on-one coffee or lunch lets them know you care enough to invest your time.
  9. After a big pitch or client presentation that required an all-nighter or two to prepare, dazzle your hard workers with a surprise day off.
  10. Celebrate your employees' personal wins, whether giving a group wedding gift, hosting a baby shower or cheering at the finish line of their first marathon.

Manage employee recognition programs with an online sign up. SAMPLE

  1. In the same way, support them through hardships. Send flowers when they suffer a loss, and be flexible with schedules when family illnesses require much of their time.
  2. Hire a few masseuses for onsite massages. Genius Tip: Use an online sign up to manage appointments throughout the day!
  3. When the work is piling up, have lunch delivered to make sure your people are taking care of themselves.
  4. Stock the break room with board games or even a foosball table if there's room. Employees will appreciate a quick mental break!
  5. Start a mentoring program. Senior employees will feel valued, while junior ones will appreciate the time invested in their future.
  6. Reward commitment to health and fitness. Employees who exercise three times a week can leave an hour early on Friday.
  7. On the first beautiful day of spring, surprise folks with an extra long lunch break.
  8. Celebrate birthdays with monthly birthday parties. Employees will look forward to cake, ice cream and an afternoon break once a month.
  9. Close shop early the day before a holiday weekend, giving your staff a head start on their way out of town.
  10. Choose a charitable walk/fun run and make it an office affair, challenging each department to outdo the others in fundraising or run times.
  11. For Thanksgiving, plan a potluck lunch with all of the traditional Thanksgiving fixins'. Genius Tip: Use an online sign up to ensure you'll have enough pies to go around (and not too much cranberry sauce!). 
  12. Choose a Friday for an office-wide sleep-in. Open the doors two hours later than usual.
  13. Consider quarterly office outings for a little fun and team building. Paint ball and laser tag are always fun options or keep it simple with bowling or a trip to the local trampoline park.
  14. Embrace March Madness and start an annual NCAA office pool. Go casual and encourage employees to wear T-shirts supporting their favorite college hoops team!
  15. Don't wait until the end of the week/month/year. If you see something notable, recognize that person right then and there.
Employees who feel valued and appreciated are proven to be more productive, have a higher level of commitment to the company and are less likely to leave for another job. What are you waiting for?

Brooke Neal is a freelance writer, brand strategist and mom to three little boys.