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10 Employee Recognition Examples From Thriving Workplaces

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Updated on 

April 12, 2024

Check out these employee recognition programs from companies where recognition improves workplace culture. Here are 10 employee recognition examples from thriving workplaces.

In times of great uncertainty and high turnover, companies need to build a strong company culture to improve employee retention and attract top talent. Consistent employee appreciation and recognition are some of the best tools to build a strong company culture.

Our Global Culture Report shows when employees feel recognized and appreciated at work, there is an 18x increase in the probability of great work. And, employees who develop strong connections at work are 11x more likely to stay with their organization for another year (and 3x more likely to stay three more years).  

Data from O.C. Tanner Institute on recognition from the Global Culture Report : 18x increased probability of great work when employees are recognized

Building a best-in-class recognition program doesn’t have to be impossible. By incorporating a few key elements, companies can create effective, meaningful recognition programs that help employees feel appreciated, connected, and want to stay.

Here are ten companies that built thriving cultures by breathing new life into their employee recognition programs. Read about these employee recognition program examples to find the secrets to their success:

1. Make recognition an experience.

Recognition should be more than a transaction; it should be an experience. NewYork-Presbyterian built a fun, exciting employee recognition program that creates recognition moments which reflect their culture of respect.

Their program includes Mobile Appreciation Stations around their hospitals so employees and leaders can create genuine and personal recognition experiences through notecards that include a personal recognition message, eCards, points, and nominations through their recognition platform.

These powerful recognition experiences have led to employees feeling more valued and reduced attrition in NYP’s hospitals.

2. Create a flexible program that grows with your company.

Bayer Canada is a highly innovative organization—so only a highly innovative system would work for them. Their original recognition program was based purely on monetary rewards, but for a company that’s always growing, they needed a more flexible recognition program that could grow with them. Their “You Make Life Better” program was the solution.

This adaptable system cultivates a culture designed to evolve as the unique needs of Bayer’s diverse people evolve. Employees are now quickly and effectively rewarded for innovation and great work, resulting in a 92% employee engagement rate.

Statistic Callout: Employee Engagement Rate. Employees are now quickly and effectively rewarded for innovation and great work, resulting in a 92% employee engagement rate.
A flexible recognition solution, like Culture Cloud, provides a variety of tools to recognize, ensuring there’s always a meaningful and effective way to say thanks.

3. Base your recognition program around your company values.

Recognition should be given when employees demonstrate what’s important to the company. AGL Energy wants their people to believe in their purpose of renewable energy and be part of achieving their strategic objectives together. With that in mind, they built their recognition program around that purpose and their company values.

It was important to create a recognition program that drives their objectives of prospering in a carbon-constrained future and building customer advocacy, so they included a series of recognition categories in their program that reinforced their values and supported those objectives.

By recognizing employees daily and using public recognition, AGL helps employees feel appreciated and reinforces their company values by sharing stories of how employees are living those values.

4. Build connection with recognition.

After years of workplace disruption and a continuation of remote work, employees are feeling more disconnected than ever from their organizations and each other.

Heritage Bank uses recognition to build connection and community with their employees and customers. Their recognition program enables leaders and employees to recognize whenever they see great work happening.

Whether it’s thanking someone for displaying a positive attitude in hard times, recognizing an employee for helping a customer or colleague, or celebrating a work milestone, Heritage Bank believes their recognition program can help with encouraging employees and building connection, especially during tough times.

Leaders read the recognition being given across their branches and share stories with their teams of great work happening in the organization. This creates a sense of community for employees and keeps them connected, no matter where they work.

“Our workforce has embraced the Celebrate Great program as an effective way to quickly and immediately share stories of great performance and to stay connected with each other across multiple regions.”  
–Sabrina Robison, SVP Chief Human Resources Officer, Heritage Bank                                    

5. Center your entire culture around recognition.

Ohio Living set itself apart by centering their entire workplace culture around recognizing and appreciating their employees. They make their people-oriented culture their number one priority—so much so, that every new employee’s first day is dedicated solely to introducing them to it. The organization knows that when they put their people first, their people put their patients first.

Thanks to their investment recognition and culture, Ohio Living was able to lower infection rates, readmission rates, and improve patient outcomes, nursing satisfaction, and nursing turnover.  

6. Make every recognition reward personal.

Recognition awards should be meaningful—and personal. Roto Rooter realized this when they needed to provide rewards and recognition trophies to nearly 3,000 employees spread over multiple locations across the United States.

Every Roto Rooter recognition award is specifically created with the employee’s individual location in mind, ensuring their employee’s great work is appreciated with unique gifts that reflect their individual preferences.

After their recognition program refresh, 75% of Roto Rooter employees say they love their awards, and over 66% plan to keep and display them.

Great examples of employee recognition awards that are personal include customized awards, awards with personal messages from peers and leaders, and symbolic awards that reflect the company’s culture and history.

7. Reach every employee with recognition.

Recognition efforts need to reach every employee for peak impact. 3M wanted to bring its global approach to business to its recognition program—and make sure that each employee had the opportunity to give and receive recognition no matter their location or their access to a mobile device or computer.

Their solution? Everyday Wins. It's their global peer-to-peer recognition program built on a foundation of equitable, accessible recognition. Within Everyday Wins, team leaders can build out Initiatives that connect business goals with meaningful recognition. Whether it's an eCard sent from one employee to another or a team award for achieving a safety goal, recognition at 3M connects every employee to their teammates and the company's vision and values.

After the launch of their unified recognition program, 94% of their 93,000 employees have used the system. And in 2022 alone, 3M employees experienced nearly 2 million recognition moments.

8. Offer timely, immediate recognition.

Research shows there is a 71% decrease in feelings of appreciation when recognition is not given after employees make an extra effort—which means recognition’s impact diminishes the longer you wait to give it.  

Employee recognition has been a longstanding part of Southwest Airlines' company culture. To make sure employee recognition is shared immediately, on land or in the sky, all employees can access, send, and receive recognition through a mobile app, which is loaded on all company issued mobile devices, or by giving physical recognition cards.

Since it is so easy to share employee recognition on the spot, Southwest Airlines has seen a 97% engagement rate on their SWAG (Southwest Airlines Gratitude) employee recognition program.

Research shows a 71% decrease in feelings of appreciation when recognition is not given after employees make an extra effort.

9. Build a multidirectional appreciation system.

As a bank that caters to entrepreneurs, The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) knows a thing or two about innovative ideas. In 2016, they took their old, top-down recognition strategy to new heights by launching a program that centered around peer-to-peer recognition.

When companies encourage peer-to-peer recognition, they experience 2X greater odds of retaining employees. BDC’s new recognition program, “Exclamat!on,” allows their colleagues spread across Canada to recognize and reward each other for great work—in both English and French.

10. Integrate recognition

The best employee recognition program examples are from companies that have integrated and embedded recognition into their culture.

Indegene’s Aspire program does just that. Indegene uses API connections to integrate the Aspire employee recognition program throughout the company. They stream real-time recognition instantaneously on television screens in the lobbies of all their offices around the world, so clients, potential candidates, and business partners can see the great work employees are doing when they visit an Indegene office.

The recognition feed is also prominently displayed on the homepage of their Intranet along with a link to the Aspire program so employees can easily recognize at the same time and place as they access other programs for work. There’s a citation library available so managers can find examples of recognition messages they can customize for their employees.

This integration has led to an overall happiness score of 75% on Indegene’s employee survey, and a 3% increase in recognition satisfaction, even in the middle of a global pandemic.

Integrated recognition contributed to an overall happiness score of 75% at Indegene.                                                

Revolutionize your own recognition program

Now that you’ve seen some great employee recognition examples, it’s time to revolutionize yours. Use these companies’ examples of employee recognition awards, programs, and strategies to inspire your own thriving workplace culture that can help you keep your best talent.

Use this guide to start revamping your own employee recognition program, or find a partner to help.

More than 3,000 companies all over the world trust Culture Cloud by O.C. Tanner to help them attract and retain talent, strengthen teams, and build exceptional workplaces. Learn more at octanner.com.

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