10 Types of Employee Recognition and Rewards for Your Team

It’s important to have a proper incentive and employee recognition strategy in place. It keeps your team motivated to produce the best results they can.

Even if your workforce is now fully remote. Certainly, just because your employees are out of sight doesn’t mean their efforts can be kept out of mind. As per a recent report, a “lack of recognition” is the third biggest reason people leave or would consider leaving their jobs, and 82% of employees wish they received more recognition for their work.

Simply put, to keep every employee engaged, productive, and motivated to give their best, you need to make sure their contributions don’t go unappreciated.

Keep reading to learn about the different types of recognition and rewards you can give to your workers to boost their productivity and performance.

Why Is Employee Recognition Important?

As trivial as it may seem in the grand scheme of things, effective employee recognition is arguably one of the biggest drivers of business success. It impacts your employees:

  • Engagement at work
  • Loyalty to your company
  • Productivity and performance
  • Motivation and morale
  • Sense of purpose

Furthermore, in a survey of 1,017 people about how their job satisfaction affects their sleep, well-being, and overall contentment with life, 70% of respondents satisfied at work were also satisfied with their sleep. So, being recognized for your work not only translates to better job satisfaction and productivity. But also better sleep and well-being.

You’re likely tracking your expenses on advertising, office equipment, and various other overheads. Still, you may fail to realize just how much a lack of recognition costs you in terms of higher employee churn and poor productivity levels. Along with lower employee motivation and sense of purpose.

For example, regarding employee churn, the cost of not giving due recognition is much higher than you might think. Take a look at the simple calculation below to understand just how much a high turnover can cost your business each year.

So if you haven’t already, it’s about time you take the steps to give due recognition and reward your employees for all their contributions.

Besides, providing frequent and timely employee recognition is how you become a good leader.

Types of Employee Recognition

First, let’s look into a couple of ways you can give your employees the recognition they deserve.

1. Private Recognition

Certainly, for relatively small everyday achievements, private recognition is a quick and easy way to give kudos to your employees. Here are three ways to give private recognition.


Besides your usual annual or quarterly bonus system, giving small on-the-spot bonuses is a neat way to give private employee recognition.

You (or a team lead/manager) can give a bonus when an employee makes a significant contribution. Employee recognition given at the right time has the biggest positive impact, as the action is appreciated when it’s top-of-mind.

As such a bonus is small by nature, senior staff can provide them often. Therefore, resulting in numerous instances of recognition. And thus, bumps in motivation and morale) without significantly altering an employee’s overall remuneration.

Written Praise

Don’t underestimate the power of a well-written and thoughtful “thank you” or “well done” note, be it handwritten or digital. Certainly, it can make your employee’s day and reinforce their connection with your company. Therefore, it instantly lets them know that their hard work isn’t going unnoticed.

Written praise not only shows your appreciation for their hard work, but it reinforces employees to keep giving their best.

Verbal Praise

Verbal praise is the simplest and perhaps the oldest form of employee recognition that you can (and should) give your workforce every day. Its informal and impromptu nature makes verbal praise effective and meaningful.

You can also give verbal praise during a formal employee feedback session or performance discussion.

Moreover, it’s a good idea to encourage all your staff to give their colleagues such peer-to-peer recognition whenever they can. Let them know it doesn’t cost anything to thank and appreciate someone for their efforts.

2. Public Appreciation

When shared publicly (such as over email or the company-wide Slack channel), recognition drives motivation further for everyone. Therefore, leading to more of the same positive behavior in the future from other employees too.

Here are a few ideas to publicly praise your team members when they go above and beyond to complete a challenging and/or crucial task.

Company Newsletter

If you have a company newsletter, then you can highlight success stories of employees — what they did well and how it was super valuable to a project. So their peers can try to emulate the same in future projects.

Surprise Parties

A good ol’ surprise party is another great way to give public appreciation. For example, this can include a surprise congratulatory announcement praising the employee’s achievements. Followed by an in-office party with their favorite snacks or a team lunch at their favorite restaurant.

A Wall of Fame

This tactic may sound a bit too archaic, but who’s to say you can’t have a digital wall of fame within your existing project management software? Add complements from peers and clients with star ratings for your best performers of the month.

A wall of fame adds an element of gamification and friendly competition as colleagues would love to get their name on the top of the leaderboard.

Gift of Recognition

Many employees like to be recognized for their efforts with personalized gift cards over plain cash, as it shows a personal touch from the employer.

So, handing out a gift card to their favorite local store or restaurant in a public setting (in-person or over a company-wide email) along with a thoughtful message is another great way to encourage employee giving.

Types of Employee Rewards

Here’s a list of employee awards and rewards ideas to supercharge your employee recognition program.

3. Employee of the Month Awards

One of the most standard types of award, the employee of the month award, recognizes those workers who outperformed others in the workplace in a given month.

Giving personalized awards of recognition such as this boosts healthy competition, engagement, and productivity; and also enables you to recognize your top talent so you can further nurture their skills.

For a successful employee of the month program, make sure to clearly define and communicate what you’re looking for in employees to be eligible to receive this award.

Soapbox’s CEO, Brennan McEachran, speaks highly of the effectiveness of their own employee of the month award:

At Soapbox we employ a number of initiatives to recognize and celebrate the hard work of our team. One of my favourites is the Narwhal award — our version of employee of the month! Every month a new Narwhal is chosen by the previous month’s winner, promoting a culture of peer-to-peer recognition.

Soapbox’s CEO, Brennan McEachran

The Narwhal is also made responsible for planning a social event for the team, which fosters an even deeper commitment to positive work culture within Soapbox. 

Besides a recognition plaque, have a coveted reward such as a day off, reserved parking space for a month, or a generous gift voucher. For instance, Soapbox doesn’t wait for the monthly Narwhal award to celebrate their team. 

We also have a wins channel in Slack actively used to recognize professional and personal wins of all sizes. Every two weeks, we conduct a demo day. And dedicate shout-outs, to give everyone the opportunity to recognize the contributions of their peers, managers, and direct reports.

Soapbox’s CEO, Brennan McEachran

4. Work Anniversary Awards

A work anniversary is an important milestone for an employee and should be treated as such. This is the day when employees typically take a moment to reflect on their experience working at your company. And contemplate their future, and evaluate their growth.

So it’s vital to make employees feel valued. And thank them for the specific impact they’ve made over the past 12 months and throughout their tenure at your organization. You can do this by celebrating their work anniversary. And giving a tangible reward, like a gift card with a short handwritten letter or a nice bottle of wine.

And for long-tenured employees, an award, along with a party and a shoutout, is a must. This not only shows how much you revere that employee. But also encourages junior staff to stick around so they can one day earn a similar award for their years of effort.

5. Teamwork Awards

Awards are not necessarily limited to individuals. A great way to encourage better teamwork and synergy in your organization’s teams is to have a teamwork recognition award.

For example, if your content marketing team is working as a coherent unit to drive impressive traffic to your business website, build brand awareness, and generate qualified leads, be sure to recognize their team efforts.

Below are a couple of creative award titles to give team appreciation:

  • The Team Impact Award
  • The Team Awesome Award

Pair this award with an excellent reward or perk, such as a full-day team outing.

6. Sales Awards

Do you have members in your sales team who keep bringing in new business? Show them your gratitude with lucrative incentives and exciting award titles like:

  • The Chief Closer Award
  • The Sales Maestro Award

7. Employees’ Choice Awards

Being recognized for your hard work by your superiors is great. But peer recognition provides a different sense of achievement that’s just as delightful.

An employees’ choice award involves nominations via a voting box or online form. An award given after careful consideration from peers rather than supervisors makes the recognition more meaningful. It suggests that your coworkers are able to distinguish your standout efforts and see you as the MVP.

Not to mention such active participation to decide the award recipient improves team bonding and employee engagement.

8. Leadership Awards

Certainly, regional managers, department managers, executive staff, and board members who have exemplified exceptional leadership are worthy of a special acknowledgment for their efforts.

Even mid-level employees who demonstrate leadership qualities — such as facilitating seamless remote team collaboration or leading the team through a challenging deadline with creative problem solving — deserve recognition for their leadership prowess.

Another reason to honor an employee with a leadership award may include their unmatched devotion to specific company values or quality standards. Here are a few exciting title ideas to make your leaders feel proud of their efforts:

  • The Like a Boss Award
  • The Head Honcho Award
  • The Gaffer Award
  • The Top Dog Award

9. Customer Service Awards

Your customer-facing teams represent your brand’s values and play a pivotal role in inspiring customer loyalty.

Tracking customer service goals (such as first-response time, customer satisfaction score, etc.); and rewarding front-line workers who ace the most of these goals will show them how much their ability to maintain smooth customer relations is valued.

  • The FireFighter Award: For team members who do a remarkable job of calming disgruntled customers or turning tricky support situations into positive ones.
  • The First Class Service Award: For reps who consistently perform well in terms of customer satisfaction.

10. Top Performer Awards

Certainly, for the consistent top performers in your company who deserve an elite status, this can be the ultimate award category. Make your start performers shine and feel proud with a creative award title such as:

  • Shining Star Circle
  • Hall of Fame
  • Diamond Club

These titles signify they’re now a member of an elite group of the best performers of all time. Top it off with exclusive member perks such as additional paid time off, gym membership reimbursement, professional or personal development subscriptions, etc.

Credit Where Credit’s Due

Employee recognition is not a one-and-done deal; you need to make it a part of your company culture. Your employees are indeed your business’s most valuable asset, and it’s in everyone’s best interest that they know you acknowledge this fact.

Ignoring having an employee recognition program can cost you big time not just in terms of lower productivity and morale but also more significant employee turnover.

So even if your budget doesn’t allow you to spend a lot on fancy gifts and rewards, you must follow at least one or more of the above-outlined ideas to appreciate and reward your staff, as ultimately, it all comes down to making them feel valued.

About the author:

Mark Quadros is a SaaS content marketer that helps brands create and distribute rad content.  On a similar note, Mark loves content and contributes to several authoritative blogs like HubSpot, CoSchedule, Foundr, etc. Connect with him via LinkedIn or Twitter.