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20 Creative Employee Recognition Ideas for Leadership & Peers

Recognition comes best with a quirk. Here are the best creative employee recognition ideas for the leadership and colleagues for a happy workplace vibe.

Rewards and Recognition
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10 Min read
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Last Updated on
March 27, 2021
“Hey, thanks for the amazing effort you put into the presentation. It stuck to the point and delivered our pitch just right. You were built for this!”

It took you five seconds to read that sentence. It’d take you barely fifteen seconds to say it out loud to someone, and guess what—it’ll take a long time to forget for the person you say this to. Employee recognition is a timeless process, and it’s evolved from handing out cash-filled envelopes to making the workforce feel at home. While conventionally fun employee recognition ideas are all about monetary gratifications and carrots and sticks, the new generation of employees isn’t wooed by it.

The new era of employee recognition involves creative, funny, quirky, and legit out-of-the-box means of making people feel appreciated and involved in the workplace. But it’s not just about the twentyish creative and fun employee recognition ideas that are shared below, but some requisites that must be religiously followed to bring the spirit of recognition alive, rather than the spectre that it is in most organizations.

Before Implementing Creative Employee Recognition Ideas, lay its Cornerstone.

Do you wonder why every other piece reminds you that recognition is a round-the-clock process? Because it often gets ignored. The creative recognition ideas do no good if done once a year. Be it a customary lunch or a festive bonus, and there couldn’t be just ONE thing your employees look forward to throughout the year. Here are some requisites that lay the cornerstone of your employee recognition framework:

1. Regularity is the key

A culture without regular strands of recognition is gloomy and morbid. It doesn’t give the person coming to work a reason to hustle except their paycheck. Of course, too much recognition leads to inflated egos and empty praises. Still, a regular recognition culture keeps things uniform and doesn’t result in hoarded compliments and thank-you notes at one point in time.

2. Recognizing at the right time

Recognition delayed is an opportunity denied— opportunities of motivation, zest, and sense of belongingness to the receiver. Recognition doesn’t always involve a pat on the back, but it comes with constructive criticism, which is a perfect way to wrap one’s feedback. If it is forgotten and left out for another day, its value is lost.

Also Read: 50 Quotes on Employee Recognition

3. Keep it specific

A bland “thanks” or “good job” without reason doesn’t cut it and gives the receiver of recognition a feeling that their effort wasn’t worth paying attention to. Remember the specific things like “I loved the infographic on slide #12” or “your research about sales equilibrium was rather succinct” to give the person being recognized a better feeling about what they did.

4. Establish a Employee Recognition Platform

These pints of praise and recognition can’t be dropped into people’s IMs and inboxes at all times. With a virtual connect being the dire need of organizations due to remote ops and cross-functional teams, and engagement platform would comprehensively deliver the culture of recognition.

Xoxoday Empuls, the all-in-one solution to employee recognition, engagement, and rewards, help build a winning culture. With 360-degree recognition capability, driving productivity and performance is simpler and happier.

Recognize your peers, superiors, subordinates, and work-BFFs with value cards, tokens, and Empuls points, which can be redeemed at a comprehensive catalog of perks, experiences, offers, and vouchers. This makes employee recognition simpler as any organization member can use creative and fun employee recognition ideas to acknowledge a job well done in a public forum such as Empuls. Want to know more? Check it out, or give it a whirl with a free trial.

Now let’s move on to the best employee recognition ideas that must be at your fingertips.


20 Best Employee Recognition Ideas for Managers & Peers

Top to Down Recognition Ideas

1. Constructive Feedback

While critical feedback gets more eye-rolls than enthusiastic smiles, positive feedback makes people stronger. Constructive feedback doesn’t highlight the problem but gives a solution to it (and is often topped off with a job-well-done remark). Managers and people on the high table should donate due time to every personnel stuck in a tizzy. Employees getting regular, constructive feedback is 3x more engaged than those who don’t, highlighting its importance.

2. Tête-à-tête over Lunch

A lunch with the CEO is deemed the highest honor in many organizations, and it is a great employee recognition idea. For an idea well presented, a target accomplished, or a big win, the manager, can take the individual or the team out for lunch and talk about everything but work. Both parties showcasing their off-work sides and a personality that might not be reflected in the workspace.

3. Value-based Rewards

An organization’s mission, vision, and values make it what it is, and value-based rewards exemplify the members who take them to heart, inculcating them in their work ethic. Value-based rewards encourage the employees to learn about the organization’s ethos, find a way to inculcate it in their daily doings. Based on that, they can be rewarded with praise and reward.

4. Company Swag

Swag as a tchotchke is statistically a big hit across all generations and turn out to be an amazing prize on how to recognize employees. Swag as a step is a great choice to recognition and reward in public, and in the case of remote employees, they can always be shipped as a must-have hoodie, water-bottle, or some stationary. Add this up with a personal note from the CEO, and you got yourself a handy recognition hamper.

5. Public Recognition

Nothing gets across sharper than public recognition, and it’s a fact. Public recognition or accomplishment via an award or certificate is the most preferred mode of bagging praise for employees, and that’s what the managers should strive for. When it comes from the high power, public recognition lifts an employee's status in their mind. The others get the inspiration to get recognized themselves, making it a great creative employee recognition idea.

6. Experiential rewards

A three-day retreat to a resort sounds like the ultimate token of recognition, and experiential rewards give just that. Not only do the receivers find experiential gifts convenient and unique, but there’s a memory attached to it that, unlike any tangible thing, doesn’t fade away. The weight that these gifts carry makes them look rather befitting, coming from the high-level managers or on the organization’s behalf.

Many organizations prefer a point-based recognition, which can be put towards experiential rewards by employees, giving them the freedom of choice.

Find out how it works>>

7. A New Vending Machine

The best form of recognition is one that gives your workforce a reason to hustle harder. Metaphorically, a new vending machine, a popcorn stand, or anything can be put to use as a creative employee recognition idea by coining it to the result of all the efforts put forth by the team. This brings out the best in your workforce, and every day they look at it, they have a sense of pride—mission accomplished.

8. Picnic Day

With the onset of jam-packed workweeks and tectonic full-day shifts, a getaway with the employees is always a good idea. Often termed as “company retreats,” these lowkey picnic days are perfect for recognizing employees after a quarter that went well or one that could’ve been better. With the managerial figures involved in an activity such as this, picnic day would be a great recognition for employees and their efforts, which earned everyone a day of fun.

9. Manager of the Week

This recognition—often celebratory—has the potential to be the game-changer. This individual employee recognition idea can be the right pedestal for your organization’s think tanks who’ve got big plans and ideas to bring forth. It’s all about how to recognize employees from every quarter—be it team-wise or in the whole organization—and give them managerial authorities for a week. Watch great things happen as ideas transcend into reality.

10. Health and Wellness Perks

Exclusive perks are a customary way of recognizing employees, and they can’t be written off. Health and wellness perk the hour’s need, as every working person needs to take care of their mental health to balance between themselves and their jobs, let alone their family lives. From something as therapeutic as a spa session to Employee Assistance Programs, all of it helps.

Do note that while health and wellness can be a recognition tool, something like the Employee Assistance Program is a bare necessity and accessible to all. Recognition doesn’t always flow from top to down. Peer-to-peer recognition is a substantial part of workplace culture and here are some creative and the best employee recognition ideas to appreciate your colleagues.


Peer-to-Peer Recognition Ideas

11. Give them a Shout-out

Your peers deserve praise for what they do, and it’s not just to improve culture, but because it has a huge impact on financial productivity—almost 35%. Giving them a shout-out for quick help on a project, a simple “good luck” before a behemoth sales pitch, or congratulating a good stab at a writeup helps keep employees engaged. Doing it on a platform such as Empuls brings it into the whole organization's ambiance, transcending the recognition to a new dimension.

12. Sticky Notes never get old

A sticky note's surprising persuasiveness is such that a set of experiments proved that they prove to be more influential than an email or an IM, as per HBR. When it comes to recognition, the very same principle applies. Sticky notes are great for recognizing your peers, ranging from having an amazing day to a luscious sandwich, and it’s all good for the employee’s motivation to get through the day. And the best part? The creativity is limitless.

13. Virtual Party

With remote work becoming the chartbuster of coming decades, virtual parties celebrating wins, both big and small, are great safe spaces to revel the occasion. Wondering how to have a virtual party? Here are the best remote team building activities that bloom the culture of recognition from the couch.

14. Boast the Gems on the Company Website

A company’s website is the front door of every prospective and existing stakeholder in the business. When it showcases your teams' name and pictures (other than the top-level managers), it will make for a great morale booster for every member of the organization. Boast about them on the company website and tell your teams about it—they’ll be ecstatic.

15. Breakroom Boss of the Week

This is one such creative employee recognition idea that brings the fun quotient in. Recognize the month’s top performer or vote them in as the “Breakroom boss of the week.” They decide the breakroom menu for lunch, have a say in what snacks come in, decide what music’s playing, and so forth. Not only does it glorify recognition, but it also forges new relationships that transcend for the best at the workplace.

16. Homemade Treats

Since peer recognition is all about strengthening the bonds of companionship, homemade treats are a great box to open on the table. Not only is it a great icebreaker, but it’s got all the ingredients of goodness, friendship and breaks the hierarchy when everyone dives into it. Time to hit the best bakesmith on your team!

17. Social Media Recognition

Did you know that almost 90% of your colleagues are connected with their peers on LinkedIn and Facebook? Social media recognition is an untapped place wherein peers look for a distraction from the workplace because, let’s face it—everyone scrolls through social media at work. Many organizations have a prominent presence on social media without actually being there—as work BFFs share posts, likes, and comments about their work anecdotes with the world.

This organic publicity is great for the organization and its culture and can be channelized to attract talent with the culture.

18. Celebrate Birthdays, Anniversaries, and more

From shimmery desks on birthdays to heart-warming greeting cards on wedding anniversaries and baby showers, the celebration is the essence of culture. Celebrating life milestones is crucial, and this can be done virtually and tangibly—brownie points if the management pitches in and make them extra special.

Also Read: 30+ Birthday Wishes for Employees

19. One for the Trophy Cabinet

Trophies and mementos might be obsolete, but this creative employee recognition idea revolutionizes it. Gift your peers some stuffed toys that resemble their work ethic, personality, inside jokes, and everything around it. It makes for a great memory, and it’ll always come up as a story to tell in the future, keeping your teammates in a jolly mood every time they look at it.

20. The Gift of Choice

When it comes to recognition from peers, it has to be memorable in the highest order. Recognition paired up with a gift of the receiver’s choice would be the perfect way to top it off. Be it gift vouchers or simply some points-based currency that can be splashed on an exquisite catalog, it’d make for a memorable gift that would recognize your peers’ efforts in what they do - especially as an employee rewards and recognition idea.

Revolutionize it all with a stellar Employee Recognition Platform

When it comes to employee recognition, it's always a case of "how do I begin" for CXOs and HR. A dedicated recognition platform keeps it all in check. Not only does it make recognition a part-and-parcel of every employee's day, but regular recognition is bound to get results. Increased employee productivity, a positive experience at the workplace and a high eNPS score are some of many benefits of a comprehensive employee recognition platform.

If you are thinking "what are my options?" then give Xoxoday Empuls a whirl. It's all in one engagement platform takes care of employee rewards and recognition ideas, employee motivation, sharing big wins and small and more. To put the cherry on top, all of these recognition ideas can be tried out on Empuls!


Ready to put these Creative Ideas to Use?

Recognition is a timeless art, and it would only make your organization’s efforts better than what they are at the moment. When the organization keeps up with it the right way, it shows in the efforts.

In case recognition feels like a tough task, you can always take the help of Empuls—the all-in-one rewards, recognition, and engagement platform. Talk to us for a demo or start a free trial.

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