Topic: Appreciation

3 Essential Types of Employee Recognition—and How to Use Them

5 employees clapping for their colleague, celebrating a moment of employee recognition.

Learn the three recognition building blocks that will take your employee recognition program to another level.

Dr. Bob Nelson once said, “People may take a job for more money, but they often leave it for more recognition.” As one of the world’s leading experts on employee engagement, motivation, and performance, we think he knows a thing or two about just how important employee recognition really is.

O.C. Tanner recently surveyed employees (from a large variety of companies) on how much recognition they received within the last 30 workdays. Only 27% of employees surveyed received even a spontaneous “thank you” for their work. This is the smallest, easiest way to recognize an employee’s dedication, but many companies simply don’t make employee appreciation a priority.

This is especially troubling since another survey revealed that just a simple, deliberate “thank you” makes employees feel 116% more appreciated—so just imagine how much putting a little effort into your recognition will make them feel!

Let’s take a look at three fundamental types of employee recognition and rewards—and the easy ways you can implement them in your company.

Peer-to-peer recognition

The benefits

• Team members often notice the day-to-day efforts of their coworkers that managers don’t have the opportunity to see.

• Employees who feel a sense of belonging in the workplace are 5.3 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.

• Being recognized by the members of their “second family” is one of the best ways to help your employees feel like they belong in your company.

Employees who feel a sense of belonging in the workplace are 5.3 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.


How to get started

• Start a social media account where employees can post when they see a coworker doing a great job.

• Implement a system where employees earn points that could be traded in for rewards or prizes when a coworker recognizes their work.

• Hold company events and activities where employees can bond with each other and develop personal relationships—this will help them want to recognize each other.

Ways to involve leaders

• Encourage supervisors to lead by example and be open with their verbal praise. Your employees will notice and follow their lead.

• Give supervisors the tools they need to immediately reward an employee who has been publicly recognized by their peers.

• Allow supervisors to recognize and reward the people who consistently recognize their coworkers.

Leader-to-team-member recognition

The benefits

• Employees whose managers regularly acknowledge them for good work are 5 times more likely to stay at their current job.

• When leaders effectively recognize their people, employees have 339% higher odds of believing that their leader is an advocate for their development.

• Employees who feel regularly recognized and supported by their supervisors are significantly more likely to pay it forward and boost up their coworkers.

How to get started

• Ensure all of your supervisors are equipped with recognition toolkits that enable them to reward both individual and team performance.

• Implement an employee recognition program where employees can be regularly and publicly recognized by their supervisors.

• In addition to rewarding exceptional performance with special prizes and awards, encourage supervisors to give written and verbal praise for smaller, daily achievements.

Employer-to-employees recognition

The benefits

• 53% of employees surveyed said they would stay at their jobs longer if their employers showed them more appreciation.

• Recognizing a group’s efforts will help team members bond as they celebrate their united achievements.

Employees feel 355% more appreciated when they receive formal recognition for their accomplishments and performance.  

53% of employees surveyed said they would stay at their jobs longer if their employers showed them more appreciation.


How to get started

• Recognize team accomplishments, such as project completion, goal achievement, and consistent performance. Make sure the entire team is included so they can celebrate and bond together.

• Hold regular celebrations to publicly recognize valuable contributions to your company. These celebrations can include everything from employee-of-the-month awards to team spotlights.

• Don’t let momentous events go unnoticed. Celebrate when your employees hit a company anniversary or milestone.

Ways to involve supervisors

• Ask supervisors to meet with their teams and brainstorm ideas for how they would like to be rewarded.

• Have supervisors regularly report exceptional team or employee performance to ensure you can publicly (or personally) recognize them as soon as possible.

• Ask supervisors to create unique types of recognition awards for employees that are personalized for each person.

Remember, building a successful and long-lasting employee recognition program takes all three types of recognition. This process is more about establishing and developing a culture of recognition than finding a quick fix. Start by giving your employees plenty of opportunities to connect with each other, empower your supervisors, and consistently recognize hard work.

As you begin incorporating recognition into your company, keep this other quote from Dr. Bob Nelson in mind to inspire and power your new culture: “You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within.”

More Employee Recognition Resources

There are so many different ways to recognize, appreciate, and celebrate your employees. Here are more resources for guidance:

Guide to Employee Recognition Programs
11 Employee Recognition Ideas
22 Awesome Employee Recognition Gift Ideas
Tips for How to Choose Employee Recognition Software
Heartfelt Employee Appreciation Quotes to Say "Thank You"
Benefits of Peer to Peer Recognition
Best Practices for Virtual Employee Recognition
Guide to Years of Service Awards
Tips to Celebrate Work Anniversaries
Employee Recognition in the Modern Workplace
Culture Cloud: Enterprise Recognition Software