Topic: Employee Recognition


How to Give Meaningful Employee Appreciation in 2024

Check out our employee appreciation guide to learn what to give, when to give, and why employee appreciation matters.

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Updated on 

May 29, 2024






As a leader, as a team member, it can be hard to know how to give appreciation. Here’s a guide to help you create meaningful personalized recognition experiences for every occasion. Each of these tips comes from global research from the O.C. Tanner Institute and our work with thousands of clients worldwide.

Recognize early and often and integrate recognition into the employee experience and your workplace culture to build belonging, engagement, fulfillment, and loyalty.

Frequent, personalized recognition increases odds of employee engagement by 9x and great work by 13x.
— 2023


WHY: To welcome a new hire

WHEN: Throughout an employee’s first year (30, 60, 90, 180 days, and beyond)

IMPACT: Introduces new employees to your culture and community, builds belonging, and shows appreciation for their expertise and choosing your organization as a place to work

WHAT TO GIVE: A gift that introduces employees to your company and culture, like a welcome email or eCard, small symbolic award, or company swag box

HOW TO GIVE: Use your company’s recognition program throughout onboarding to introduce new hires to recognition tools, mail a swag box to their home before they start, and/or present a symbolic award in person on their first day with your team

A selection of onboarding experiences designed by O.C. Tanner. Includes a welcome message, a company-branded swag box, and custom merchandise

Everyday effort

WHY: To say thanks when a team member helps you out or does something special (lends a hand outside of their job scope, gives insight that inspires others, drops everything to tackle an emergency project, demonstrates resilience, etc.)

WHEN: Typically given weekly (at least every other week)

IMPACT: Increases feelings of appreciation and teamwork; builds belonging, connection, and workplace community; reinforces effort along the way

WHAT TO GIVE: Awards that show gratitude and appreciation, like eCards, emails, handwritten notes, verbal thank you, points, gift cards, experiential gifts (spa, movie tickets, etc.), or a treat or meal out

HOW TO GIVE: Via email or in person (in a team meeting or one on one), specifying the impact their work had on coworkers

A selection of experiences for celebrating everyday efforts, including an eCard thank you message, points to redeem in an online catalog, and options for gifts from the catalog (gift cards and treat baskets)

Small victories and big wins

WHY: To celebrate small accomplishments (making progress on a special project, overcoming an obstacle, collaborating successfully) and big results (exceeding goals, innovating, completing a big project)

WHEN: Typically given every 1–2 months when you see great work happening

IMPACT: Shows how their work is making a difference and increases feelings of opportunity and success; encourages innovation and builds fulfillment and community

WHAT TO GIVE: Mementos and awards that symbolize the achievement, like points used to select personally meaningful gifts and gift cards, or custom/personalized symbolic awards for bigger wins

HOW TO GIVE: Publicly in a meeting or small recognition moment with leaders, specifying how work benefited teams and the company

A selection of gifts that can be redeemed in an online award store like Culture Cloud by O.C. Tanner. Points are sent to employees and they can buy awards like headphones, chocolates, tech, and more

Highest achievements

WHY: To reward the highest achievements (significant innovation, transformational or breakthrough work, top performance, etc.)

WHEN: Annually or every couple of years

IMPACT: Inspires greatness, aligns to purpose, increases pride and feelings of success; strengthens belonging, community, and fulfillment

WHAT TO GIVE: Something highly memorable and symbolic, like a symbolic award paired with a gift of their choice, a VIP experience, and cash as appropriate

HOW TO GIVE: In front of coworkers, teams, senior leaders, and even family or friends, in a special meeting or company-wide event, specifying how the work benefited their teams and the company

A selection of experiences for celebrating high achievements such as a custom designed symbolic award, a nomination award certificate, and an online award store

Career milestones (including retirement)

WHY: To celebrate an employee’s life at work

WHEN: At career tenure milestones (1, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, etc. to separation/retirement)

IMPACT: Strengthens belonging, connection, community, fulfillment, and loyalty; increases feelings of ownership in the company and motivation to help the company succeed

WHAT TO GIVE: Awards that symbolize an employee’s career, like symbolic awards, a custom Careerscape, experiential gifts, or a keepsake like Yearbook with peer and leader comments and a gift of the employee’s choice

HOW TO GIVE: Involve peers, leaders, and even family in a recognition moment to commemorate an employee’s contributions over the years—connect their work to purpose, appreciate their impact on teams, and demonstrate how the employee contributes to the success of the team, organization, and customers

An image showcasing the various ways to celebrate career milestones using Culture Cloud by O.C. Tanner. This includes an online and print Yearbook with personalized notes from coworkers, and custom symbolic awards to mark the occasion.

Team success

WHY: To recognize teams when they complete a project, innovate, or achieve something together (and to celebrate wins and progress along the way)

WHEN: Multiple times throughout the year

IMPACT: Builds belonging, community, connection, and sense of team

WHAT TO GIVE: Experiences and awards that bring the team together, like team celebrations, symbolic awards, points, and gift cards

HOW TO GIVE: In a meeting as a team, but specifying the role each individual member played to achieve team success

A selection of gifts for celebrating team successes, including an online thank you message, hand written notes, gift cards, award points, and more

Company celebrations

WHY: To celebrate company achievements and milestones (industry or calendar holidays, company anniversaries, financial goal reached, new product launches, a big client win, etc.)

WHEN: At least 4 times throughout the year

IMPACT: Builds belonging, community, pride, and feelings of appreciation

WHAT TO GIVE: Awards that include everyone and connect employees to the company, such as company swag, a meaningful gift, points, gift cards, or symbolic awards

HOW TO GIVE: In a company celebration with senior leaders

A selection of gifts for celebrating as a company, including a custom swag box and a Group Deposit experience on Culture Cloud by O.C. Tanner

Life events and occasions

WHY: To celebrate an employee’s personal life event (birthday, new home, new baby, promotion, new skills, or a personal achievement like running their first marathon, etc.)

WHEN: Throughout the year

IMPACT: Strengthens wellbeing, fulfillment, community, and connection

WHAT TO GIVE: Personal awards like eCards, gift cards, or thoughtful, relevant gifts

HOW TO GIVE: One on one or as a team

A selection of experiences for celebrating life events and other occasions, including gift cards, points to redeem in an award store, and an online employee recognition tool to send appreciation to teammates
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