Article: 5 Employee recognition program best practices

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5 Employee recognition program best practices

There are hundreds of ways to recognise workplace employees and special occasions.
5 Employee recognition program best practices

Some organisations believe an employee-of-the-month notice and a year-end pat on the back constitute employee recognition program best practices. The truth is, recognition is much more than that. Even a cash bonus, if it doesn’t make the connection to great work, can’t compare to recognition that elevates feelings of accomplishment and belonging. 

Some of the end goals of recognising employees for high effort and quality work include gaining an increase in:

  • Engagement
  • Motivation
  • Productivity
  • Satisfaction
  • Loyalty

A successful employee recognition program achieves these objectives by not relying solely on years of service awards and dismissing other opportunities for employee appreciation. Employees need to feel like valuable contributors to the organisation’s overall success every time great work happens—not just every 1, 5, 10, or 20 years.

O.C. Tanner’s vast experience in both work anniversary and performance recognition means we know that making employees wait or jump through hoops to get noticed doesn’t foster a satisfied workforce—it pushes people away.


Following are five best practices for employee recognition programs.

  • Have a Clear Objective

Be as specific as you can be with your objectives. Why does your organisation want to implement a program that delivers on employee recognition program best practices? What are some meaningful ways you want to recognise employees? Which benchmarks do you want to improve with your program? Having solid answers to these questions will give your team a much stronger foundation on which to build recognitions and relationships.

Here’s a story that illustrates this point:

NewYork-Presbyterian (NYP) had the objective to create a culture of respect to combat tremendous levels of burnout experienced in the healthcare industry. They launched their Everyday Amazing recognition platform “because we at NYP say that this is where amazing things happen, and where amazing works, so we want to celebrate the everyday amazing things that happen here.”

Their program has seen incredible results, such as reducing hospital attrition by three-digit percentage points and skyrocketing overall organisational engagement. It even helped to elevate their Great Places to Work survey responses.

  • List the Criteria

There are many reasons to recognise employees, and you should have no problem coming up with a list of criteria. Here are a few that may jump-start your creativity:

    • Employment milestones
      • New hires
      • Promotions
      • Work anniversaries
      • Retirement
    • Life events
      • Birthday
      • Graduation
      • Coming out/transitioning
      • Marriage
      • Birth or adoption of a child
    • Meaningful Moments
      • Peer-to-peer acknowledgement
      • A job well done
      • Making a good effort
      • Achieving a goal
      • Driving positive change
      • A big client win
      • Administrative Assistant Day
      • Employee Appreciation Day
      • National Boss’s Day


  • Ask Your Employees

Chances are high your HR executives have opinions on the matter. You’ll want to know if they have buy-in on an official employee recognition program and what types of recognition programs resonate with them. Guide the conversations to account for your company’s capabilities, but beyond that, it’s best to listen to what they have to say.

TD Bank Group wanted to simplify and streamline recognition. They needed simpler tools and technology, flexibility, and more choice in the reward items offered. Their program is now being used by over 90% of colleagues, who are also advocates for using it to improve the colleague experience.

  • Implement Your Program

It’s not difficult to implement an employee recognition program when you have the right team taking it one step at a time:

  1. Test a pilot program before opening it up to widespread use.
  2. Customise the platform to suit your company culture.
  3. Communicate the purpose of the program.
  4. Train users on how (and when) to use the platform.
  5. Get the ball rolling by giving out incentives to recognise others.
  6. Regularly encourage program use by publicly publishing achievements.
  7. Hold managers accountable by setting certain goals and tracking usage of the platform.

  • Measure the Program’s Effectiveness

Without proper measurement, you’ll never really know if your employee recognition program is meeting its objective. Measuring employee satisfaction through a survey is one way to do it. Another is using a system like an Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS).

The questions you want to answer may cover topics like:

  • Are the rewards adequate, fair, competitive, and appropriate?
  • Do employees find the program meaningful?
  • What changes should be made to the program?

Examples of Recognition for Employees in the Workplace

There are hundreds of ways to recognise workplace employees and special occasions, but here are just a few to get you thinking about how your organisation can do it (note that many of these can be purchased with points from your program’s online reward store):

  • Tickets to a local concert or sporting event
  • Accomplishments posted on social media
  • Customised trophies or awards
  • Electronic gifts (wireless headphones, smart TV, etc.)
  • All-expenses paid vacations
  • Retail gift cards (clothing, food, music, etc.)
  • Classes or coaching sessions
  • Awards with a special, fun project
  • Yearbook publications featuring photos and achievements
  • Charitable contributions/donations

Keep great employees longer and help your culture thrive. 

This article was first published here.

To find out why employees leave and the top four ways recognition can slow resignation, download this exclusive whitepaper from O.C. Tanner.

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Topics: Employee Relations, Talent Management, #BestPractices

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