Close

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. By using this website you agree to our use of cookies. Learn more.

 
Topic: Appreciation

8 best practices for virtual employee recognition experiences people love.

Image of the back of an employee's head while they are on a virtual meeting with their team members.

In 2020, we’re all learning to use video conferencing to work, connect, and celebrate together. While recognition may look and feel a little different on a screen, it’s still an essential part of work life. Especially when we’re all working apart, we need the bonding experience that appreciation brings. Recognition not only helps remote employees feel valued and seen, it also helps frontline employees stay connected to their remote coworkers. Recognition can be that little spark of good news, encouragement, and celebration that reminds employees they can take on anything and succeed, even a global crisis.

Whether it’s celebrating big accomplishments, extra effort, or career anniversaries, use these best practices to create amazing recognition experiences for your people screen-to-screen.

1) Schedule or set aside a time specifically for the recognition.

Put a specific time on the calendar to call out great work or celebrate a career anniversary. Shout outs during normal meetings are great in a pinch, but to create a truly memorable experience, recognition deserves its own special space and time.

For service anniversaries, consider delivering any awards, brochures, or certificates to the employee’s home, then hold the actual presentation virtually. For celebrating accomplishments, make it a surprise, and email the certificate or award after the presentation.

2) Turn on your video.

We might be suffering from Zoom (or MS Teams) burnout, but during a recognition presentation, seeing everyone’s faces and smiles contributes to the meaningfulness of the experience. Make it feel as close to the real thing as possible by having everyone on the call visible in real time on the screen.

3) Invite other team members to speak.

Here’s a best practice that doesn’t need to change just because we are physically separated. During your virtual meeting, give peers a chance to tell stories of team victories, battles won, and all the times when the recipient’s great work carried the day. Be sure to ask participants in advance and remind them to block out the presentation time on their calendars.

A fun way to include additional peers in a recognition moment is to have them send eCards or comment on the individual’s recognition moment through a social wall (if your recognition program has one). A mobile app, like O.C. Tanner’s Great Work app, makes it easy for peers to do this even when they may be away from their computers.

4) Invite leaders to participate, too.

Our research shows employees are anxious to see and hear from their leaders during the 2020 global pandemic. Remote employees may not be seeing their senior leaders on a regular basis. An invitation to help celebrate a team member is a great way to give leaders face time to bond with employees.

5) Include the family.

This is a good idea during the best of times. But right now, if the employee happens to be working from home, there’s a good chance that family members are in the next room. Whether it’s a spouse, kids, or their four-legged family members, invite them to join the celebration and hear all the good things the team has to say.

6) Get creative.

Play a song. Send the recipient a pizza or a box of fresh cookies. Do everything you would have done in person, just do it through video. Then tell the recipient why your team can’t live without them. Don’t let a little distance rob you of your culture-building traditions.

7) Leverage fun Zoom backgrounds.

For one of our employee’s service anniversaries, her team customized each of their Zoom backgrounds with pictures of the recipient, quotes, and messages of congratulations. Use a photo of the recipient’s favorite candy, band, animal, etc. It’s a small, personal detail that leads to big impact when everyone’s starting at the screen.

8) Keep recognition top of mind.

Bonus tip for recognition program administrators: In all the changes and uncertainty, it’s easy for leaders to forget to plan a celebration for great work. Build the expectation that leaders publicly recognize great work in a personal and meaningful way. For service anniversaries, send reminders to leaders that their employee’s anniversary is coming up, along with instructions on what they need to do to prepare. If you’re using something like our Yearbook offering for service awards, remind leaders to write a comment and to invite their teams to comment. A little bit of planning can make a considerable impact on the recipient’s experience.

For service anniversaries, consider delivering any awards, brochures, or certificates to the employee’s home, then hold the actual presentation virtually. For celebrating accomplishments, make it a surprise, and email the certificate or award after the presentation.


Whether you are recognizing in person or virtually, the fundamentals are the same: invite others, plan ahead, and create a special moment for the employee. Recognition is a positive, memorable, repeatable experience that is core to your workplace culture. We need it now more than ever.

Get more helpful tips, new research, and insights on our COVID-19 Resource Page 

* Please make sure to fill out the required fields.