Employee Recognition Programs: A Complete Guide

Employee recognition programs are as much a requirement for organisational management as for individuals’ basic needs. Regardless of time or context, recognition is a higher-order need. Employees desire good pay and benefits, recognition, esteem, and social status, as well as recognition and appreciation for their efforts.

80% of respondents believe that Employee Experience is essential for providing excellent customer service.

Following the principle of “happy employees equal happy customers”, every organisation can benefit from improving its employee experience.

Employee recognition programs intend to recognise, reward, and motivate employees while creating a positive workplace experience. Such programs honour individuals who exceed expectations, recognize team accomplishments, and celebrate important dates such as anniversaries, birthdays, and special events. Employee recognition programs can facilitate employers in meeting their business objectives while increasing employee engagement.

This article discusses at length the importance of employee recognition programs, its uses and benefits, and the advantages of digitising the entire recognition process in a hybrid model. This way, teams can cross-collaborate, replace physical gifts with virtual currency, awards with badges, certificates with e-certificates, and automate rewarding incentive calculations using digital platforms.


Employee recognition at workplace

  • What is an employee recognition program
  • Value of employee recognition program

Approaches to recognition

  • Personal recognition
  • Recognizing contributors
  • Work performance
  • Work processes

Types of Recognition

  • Formats
  • Forms of employee recognition

Implementing employee recognition

  • Creating an Employee recognition program
  • How to develop an Employee Recognition Program?

Employee Recognition in the Digital Age

Employee Recognition at the workplace

What is an Employee Recognition program? 

An employee recognition program is a formal or informal system that recognises and rewards employees for their contributions and achievements within an organisation. The goal of this program is to show genuine appreciation for employees’ hard work and dedication, to motivate them to continue performing at their best and consequently foster an appreciation culture in the workplace.

Value of Employee Recognition programs

Employee recognition programs are valuable management practice that greatly impacts people and organisations. Recognising and rewarding employees for their contributions can help boost the following:

An employee recognition program can help to combat several challenges that organisations may face, including:

Approaches to Recognition

An employer can recognise and reward employees in varied ways. The concept is to take a holistic approach that includes recognising and appreciating employees as full-fledged individuals as well as professional workers. Select a system that is meaningful and valued by each employee. Employee recognition programs are most effective when they feel personal and tailored to the employee’s specific needs and preferences. Some employees, for example, may value public recognition, whereas others may prefer more tangible awards, financial bonuses, time off, and special perks or privileges.

Personal Recognition

Employee recognition is as much a valuable management tool as it relates to the growing need for recognition, as expressed by today’s workers. Not only is recognition important for job performance or workplace mental health, but it is also important for human dignity and social fairness. Lack of recognition is a significant risk factor for workplace psychological stress and anxiety. The humanistic and existential perspectives of recognition exhibit openness to the individual and acknowledges people, their being, their distinct character, and their existence. For example, provide workers with support services, such as onboarding or job relocation, to ease the transition phase.

Recognising contributions

Another strategy is to view employees as carriers of intelligence, emotions, and expertise. Employees may occasionally fall short of expected results despite their best efforts and expertise. Recognizing their participation, commitment, and contribution level through daily interpersonal connections and gestures would be highly motivating. Employees feel a sense of belonging to a community when they are appreciated for their unique way of doing things, dedication, originality, ingenuity, and thoroughness. E.g. Involve dedicated employees in decision-making to increase their self-esteem and personal competency. Allowing for customised setups and flexible work schedules assists them in maintaining work-life balance and provides them with a great deal of happiness and satisfaction.

Work performance

Another effective method for rewarding and appreciating employees is recognizing them based on their work performance. It is more concerned with how employees carry out their responsibilities than with the people themselves or the results they produce. It is primarily concerned with the employees’ behaviour, skills, effectiveness, benefit, and value in their daily duties. Work performance recognition focuses on employees’ work processes, particularly the creativity, innovation, and continuous improvement they bring to their work methods. Coworkers who have experienced the job and its difficulties are better suited to recognize and appreciate the day-to-day work performance of employees. Peer recognition is thus a helpful way to maintain effort-reward balance. The approach can be practised in formal and informal formats, e.g. a compliment from peer and bonus awards for outstanding contributions.

Work processes

Recognizing employees for their work processes is an approach that focuses on the end product of employees’ work and their contribution to achieving corporate goals. The recognition is conditional and is directly related to the organisation’s mission, objectives, and culture. It is primarily concerned with the employees’ job dedication, behaviour, skills, effectiveness, benefit, and value in their daily duties, which set them apart from the competition. Being valued for their unique creativity, innovation, and contribution to achieving results increases their sense of usefulness within the organisation. For example, a compliment, appreciation, or gratitude expressed for how well they perform their duties, their methods, efficiency, benefit, or importance of the work’s outcome, and their commitment and contribution.

Types of Recognition

Companies are employing multifaceted strategies to ensure that their employees feel valued. Let’s look at how companies can create a brilliant culture of recognition. Employee recognition implementation formats can be classified into the following categories:

Recognition Formats


The social component of recognition involves the relationship an organisation and its employees have with the community as a whole and various trades and professions. This recognition can be seen in the company’s regard for a specific organisation and its social value or social groups recognizing the role and contribution of particular professions to society, e.g. caregivers. Employees’ volunteering spirit, which stems from their awareness of their community’s needs, also demonstrates social recognition. It is their way of giving back to the community. By displaying service awards on social streams, participants can be encouraged to like and comment on recognition and awards, making the award experience more socially interactive.

Vertical and horizontal 

Recognition can be expressed either from the top down or from the bottom up. The recognition relationship that forms between the manager and the employee or team distinguishes vertical and hierarchical interactions. This recognition can be expressed from the top down or the bottom up. Traditionally, recognition is given from the top down, with an employee’s supervisor, manager, or leadership team witnessing and appreciating their contributions. Because these leaders make decisions, they are in the best position to evaluate employees for their contributions to the company.

Everyone, including those in positions of authority, requires and values recognition. Managers, too, need and value appreciation in order to be motivated. Bottom-up recognition is a style of interpersonal communication and appreciation that extends from employees to managers or higher-ups.

Horizontal recognition refers to the appreciation culture that develops between peers and team members. This type of recognition is especially important because colleagues who share the workplace and jobs are the ones best placed to evaluate the quality of work performed. Peer recognition appears more trustworthy in their eyes because it is not influenced by management.


Clients, suppliers, consultants, and partners are among those who benefit from external recognition. Recognitions sent to people other than their own organisation for good service delivery or exceptional external roles create a memorable reward experience; it is a source of meaning and motivation for them. This type of organisation takes a “relational” or “client” approach to program recognition, creating value, improving communication, and increasing program benefits.


The concern for employee recognition is expressed at the organisational level through policies and programs that state the organisation’s intention to recognize the work performed by its members. It is about the structural elements of recognition, i.e. value, policy, mission, goal, and other policies set by the companies. Organisations must enforce their stated policies to show appreciation for employees’ contributions.

Forms of Employee Recognition

Implementing Employee Recognition

Creating Employee Recognition programs

Recognition can take many forms and approaches, but putting in place the right type of recognition program is critical to giving your company a competitive edge. Here are some examples:

Developing an Employee Recognition Program

Developing an effective employee recognition program can help to improve morale, increase retention, and boost productivity. Here are some steps you can follow to develop an employee recognition program:

Step 1: Create a Recognition Program Development Committee

A recognition program development committee can help develop and design the program. Managers and employees must work together on program development and administration to ensure that all groups’ interests and preferences are represented and incorporated. To ensure equal representation, departments have an employee representative on the committee.

Step 2: Determine the Purpose of the Program

Define the purpose of the program so that the recognition committee can design a program that effectively meets the employees’ needs and preferences. The goal is to create a recognition program that is fair and flexible, meets the needs of employees, and formally recognizes and rewards their efforts and accomplishments.

Step 3: Establish Award Themes and Selection Criteria

Defining specific themes and achievement criteria for an employee recognition program ensures that employees understand why an award is being given and set goals to achieve them. An employee opinion survey can significantly help the recognition committee identify preferred types of awards, establish nomination and selection procedures, and determine the frequency and method(s) of award presentations preferred by employees. Inform all employees about the selection criteria and award themes in advance.

Step 4: Establish a Selection Committee for the Recognition Program

The Recognition Program Development Committee will decide how to form the selection committee. They should include employees from each work group or department to ensure free and fair representation. Establish the final decision-making body for the award. Further, define voting procedures, which may include nominations review procedures. Some committees use a numerical ranking system to evaluate nominations.

Step 5: Establish Award Eligibility and Frequency

Following the selection of awards and categories by the Recognition Program Development Committee, the next step is to select criteria that specify who is eligible to receive an award. The committee should tailor each department’s eligibility criteria to its specific work environment. Some factors to consider for eligibility, for instance, include employee status (permanent or temporary), length of service, frequency of awards, and other nomination policy details.

Step 6: Determine the Types of Awards and Publicity

Awards should be tailored to the department’s resources and employee preferences expressed during the award program’s development. Digital flexible rewards and e-gift cards, wellness points with flexible redemption options, online Perks and benefits, and monetary and paid leave awards are all possible rewards that the management can dole out. Giving employees appropriate recognition requires public announcement of award recipients. Social media is a valuable and cost-effective tool for marketing the award and recognizing the award recipients.

Step 7: Program Establishment and Monitoring

Once the Development Committee’s work is complete, the administration approves the recognition program. It is now time to begin the recognition program. Evaluate and track the employee recognition programs to ensure that it meets the company’s and its employees’ needs. Finally, obtain employee feedback and suggestions for program enhancements. The committee should assess the program on a regular basis to determine its effectiveness and outcomes.

Employee Recognition in the Digital Age

Digital recognition programs make it simple to support, recognise, and connect with your employees. Thanks to the significant benefits of digital recognition, companies all over the world are increasingly relying on technology to power their recognition programs, thus incorporating recognition into their culture. 

A digital recognition system is a convenient tool for real-time meaningful engagement and team communication in the modern workplace, where teams are frequently located in different regions and follow different time zones and work schedules. The highly visible digital platform has advantages such as being simple to use, allowing users to recognize and nominate each other online, encouraging engagement, file sharing, broadcast recognition activity, and supporting your company as it scales. Digitising the recognition program ensures that recognition is:

Employee recognition is undeniably an important corporate practice. After all, it influences employee performance, increases willingness to take on more responsibility, encourages ethical behaviour, and fosters a healthy work environment. As a result of improved morale and performance, the performance management system is more effective.