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Employee Recognition Award Ideas

Many businesses have instituted at least some kind of employee recognition program to boost engagement, but they may not be doing all they can to ensure their employees are more than just satisfied with their work situations. Less than one-third of American workers are engaged at work, reports performance management consulting company Gallup, and the firm states that one of the most meaningful ways to recruit and keep top talent is by showing work is valued through recognition. Employee awards, given for outstanding performance and to celebrate milestones, should be an essential part of your business strategy.

List of 21 Inspiring Employee Recognition Award Ideas

  1. Employee of the Month Awards
  2. Work Anniversary Awards
  3. Department MVP Awards
  4. Teamwork Awards
  5. Most Improved Award
  6. Employee Choice Award
  7. Above & Beyond Award
  8. Sales Awards
  9. Employees' Choice Awards
  10. Most Creative Awards
  11. Safety Awards
  12. Leadership Awards
  13. Character Awards
  14. Mentorship Award
  15. Innovation Award
  16. Diligence Award
  17. Customer Service Award
  18. Outstanding Achievement Awards
  19. Top Performer Awards
  20. Mileston Awards
  21. Meeting Awards

There is more to reaching - and maintaining - higher levels of employee engagement than just giving your top salesperson a nice bonus, setting up small incentive programs or providing the occasional team lunch for a job well done. If you want to keep your top performers motivated to obtain meaningful achievements for your organization, recognition is key. The key to success is to recognize your employees for all the hard work they may do over a given period and let them know that everything they do at the office is invaluable to keeping the whole ship afloat.

With that in mind, setting up an awards program that clearly defines a number of categories in which employees can get proper recognition for their efforts will give everyone something to strive for, whether they've been around for years or they're just starting out at the company. As an added bonus, presenting the recipients with their prizes as part of a big awards ceremony can make the recognition feel even more special.

From an employee of the month award, to awards given at an annual party to recognize unique accomplishments, there are plenty of ways to incorporate employee awards into a business schedule. Whether your business is new and growing, or your employee award ideas could use a refresh, here are employee recognition ideas that will thrill employees and impress those beyond your company, as well.


creative employee awards and recognition ideas

Learn More about The Top 21 Employee Award Ideas

Engage Employees with the Top 21 creative recognition award ideas. These award categories will help you hit the ground running with these awards, and ensure your employees remain engaged on an ongoing basis:

1. Employee of the month (quarter, year, etc.) Awards

Recognizing top-flight, all-around achievement is the bog standard in business: Many companies have such an award in place, and it's therefore a good place to start with your own recognition program. However, you can get a little more creative with it, or more clearly define what you're looking for in an employee who will be eligible to receive such an award.

It's worth noting that if you're giving out an "employee of the week" award, that should perhaps count toward a larger "employee of the month" prize, which can then be plussed-up to "employee of the year" recognition, with bigger rewards at each step of the way. That's a great way to keep even people who are already top achievers engaged.

2. Years of Service and Work Anniversary Awards

Recognizing employees when they reach important milestones is important and makes them feel as though the many years they may have put in were worth it. As such, you should create a database of every employee's start date and either give them unique presents individually on the anniversary of those dates, or at the awards ceremony closest to them. This is just a great way to say "thank you" for all the years of hard work they've dedicated to your business.

For long-tenured employees who have put in years or even decades with your company, taking the opportunity to celebrate employee's aniversary – 5, 10, 20 years, etc. – with an award and more can be a great idea. This kind of employee recognition, which could be accompanied by a staff party or more formal award presentation, is not only a great way to show how much you respect and appreciate that worker, but also to encourage people to stick around so that they can one day earn a similar reward for all their hard work.

Awards for employees who have been around for years are an excellent idea for worker engagement, but so too are notable rewards for every work anniversary. Depending upon the size of your team, you might only have a handful of such anniversaries to celebrate per month, so giving that employee something simple to show you value the time and effort they’ve put in over the previous year.

3. Employee MVP Awards

Depending on the number of employees atyour company, each department may be large enough that they often are a team on to themselves. If your company is large enough that awarding an individual standout employee within each department makes sense, MVP awards are a great title for those whose respective department can't live without.

This is similar to "employee of the month" awards, but it recognizes the people who represent the best their individual departments have to offer. Whether that's human resources, sales, production or even janitorial staff, hard work deserves to be recognized and rewarded no matter who does it.

Determining who these MVPs are could help you whittle down the field for that top weekly, monthly or annual prize, as well. Working with department heads who will already have a strong grasp on performance management will allow you to identify the best candidates.

4. Teamwork Awards

Retaining loyal employees is extremely valuable to your business, because replacing salaried employees can cost nearly 10 months’ worth of salary per employee. One way to give employees who have worked with you awhile something to look forward to the longer they stay is to hand out employee awards based on milestones of work tenure.

It's always important for departments or those within the company as a whole to be able to work well together, and as such it's vital to recognize the people who have a positive impact on morale. It's not that everyone needs to be a cheerleader for teams to have success. As long as there are one or two clear leaders who go out of their way to ensure everything runs smoothly - whether in terms of the actual work being done or simply managing interpersonal relationships - it's easier to pull in the right direction.

Rewarding people who take the wheel on such endeavors is a great way to encourage more strong, positive collaboration.

5. Most Improved Awards

While it's a great idea to reward your top performers for obvious reasons, there's also a clear purpose behind recognizing the people who put in the extra effort to take their game to another level. Whether attempts to improve as an employee come in the form of redoubling efforts to buckle down and tackle big projects, or because the person sought additional training or certification to really excel in their chosen area of focus, companies should recognize such initiative for the invaluable addition it can represent for an office.

6. Employees' Choice Awards

While many managers often take it upon themselves to tackle the job of trying to motivate employees, that shouldn't be seen as solely their responsibility. In many cases, an employee who works well with others and positively contributes to the company culture overall deserves to be recognized.

With that in mind, it's a good idea to ask around for nominations, either formally - through a suggestion box or online form - or informally via normal conversation. The idea that this award was given to the winner after careful deliberation among their coworkers, rather than supervisors, could make it all the more meaningful. Peer recognition often feels great because you know it's people you work with every day seeing what you do and saying, "That represents the best of us."

Associate Appreciation

Sidekick Salute

You’re a Gem

High Five Award

Team Player Award

Ripple Effect Award

Key Contributor

On Point Award

PROPS

3 Cheers

#Cheers

Tip Your Hat

Stellar Success

Galactic Gratitude

Round of Applause

Thumbs Up

7. Most Creative Awards

Just as there are many different kinds of creativity, there are many different avenues where you can take an award for creativity. For instance, you could recognize someone who came up with a unique, creative solution to a problem that had been tough for a department to tackle, as their contribution may have unlocked a previously unexplored area for growth.

Likewise, you could take creativity in a way that's a little more straightforward to recognize an employee who was the driving force behind a great real-world advertising or social media campaign that helped improve your bottom line. Don't feel you have to marry yourself to one type of creativity to have a great award of this type.

8. Above and Beyond Awards

Every manager likes an employee who goes the extra mile to get something done, helps a coworker with a problem or takes on special projects on a regular basis. Recognizing that kind of effort will likely encourage others to follow in the award recipient's footsteps, and if you can get even a handful of employees to give just 5% more effort, the cumulative effect on your bottom line will likely be noticeable.

Exceeding Expectations

Ace of Initiative

They Did What? Wow.

Look out world, success is here.

Cruising and Crushing it

Cloud 9 Collaborator

Highest of High Fives

Exceeding Everest

Hyper Helper

Bringing it Beyond

WOW Award

High Five Award

Beyond the Call of Duty

#Excellence

#Respect

Spot Award

9. Safety Awards

For companies where workplace hazards are common, it's important to keep a strong safety record so you don't deal with workplace injuries or have to shut down operations. With that in mind, incentivizing safety - and rewarding the employees who are often the best at upholding those standards - may go a long way toward ensuring all due caution is taken with any work-related task.

Workplace safety around hazardous materials or equipment isn't always easy to uphold, so it's critical to recognize those who excel at it, and also keep a watchful eye out for areas that could present a risk to themselves or coworkers.

Superbly Safe

Silver Shield Award

Constant Caution

Expert Accuracy

Safety Star Award

10. Customer Service Award

Employees in customer service roles are the front line between your organization and the public. They are your brand and are a representation of how your customers feel about your company. Rewarding customer service individuals with titles that exemplify their gifts will show them how much they are valued. Recognizing employees who can keep customer's satisfied helps increase your organization's customer satisfaction scores.

Calmer of Storms

Customer Whisperer

Client Comforter

Platinum Service Award

Diamond Service Award

Customer Hero Award

Consider it Done Award

Fire Fighter Award

Chief Happiness Director

Circle of Joy Award

First Class Service

Star Service

Customer Care Award

Customer Kudos

Star Award

11. Top Performer Awards

Creative award names for your recognizing your top performers will make your star performs shine and feel they have truly earned an elite status with their awards.

President’s Circle

Chairman’s Award

President’s Award

Executive Choice

Leadership Award

Pinnacle Award

Summit Award

Paramount Achievement

Five-Star Honors

Limelight Award

Spotlight Award

Standing Ovation

Capital Achievement

Hero Award

Superstar Award

Shining Star Award

Leadership Impact

Circle of Excellence

Hall of Fame

Honor Club

Diamond Club

Leaderboard Award

12. Outstanding Achievements

When employees go above and beyond what their job description entails to produce exceptional work for your business, showing gratitude with an award helps to reinforce your investment in your employees and what they produce for you. You could make an award even more special by choosing a functional item the recipient will appreciate, like a candle holder or wine in a personalized wine box.

One-off awards that aren’t expected are pleasant surprises. Psychological conditioning studies show variable ratio reinforcement, which means behavior that is reinforced positively after an unpredictable number of times, is highly effective because all employees will continue to perform because they might be rewarded at any time. This type of employee recognition can produce significant rewards for your business.

13. Employee Milestones

Retaining loyal employees is extremely valuable to your business, because replacing salaried employees can cost nearly 10 months’ worth of salary per employee. One way to give employees who have worked with you awhile something to look forward to the longer they stay is to hand out employee awards based on milestones of work tenure.

You could give out desk accessories like personalized paperweights, business card holders, or letter openers to team members as gifts on their work anniversaries. These types of stylish employee awards are functional and long-lasting, and may be proudly displayed in an office for clients to see. Co-workers who see employee recognition ideas like these that are given out may be more inclined to stay at your company, because they demonstrate that you value dedication.

14. Team Meeting Awards

Make meetings something to look forward to by including a recognition aspect. For frequent meetings, giving inexpensive tokens of appreciation like a branded mug or coaster is an easy way to express thanks for a job well done. For less frequent meetings that involve more people, like a monthly company-wide meeting, you could choose a few bigger awards to hand out to significant contributors or give a more substantial employee of the month award.

When your staff knows that meetings they go to will include a fun, bonding experience like the handing out of an award, they’ll bring a positive attitude to meetings and will work harder in the meantime in hopes of being recognized. Even small gestures can make a big impact in maintaining motivation.

Hosting a social event outside the office is definitely a time to unwind, but integrating a positive segment of the party like employee awards is something your staff and their guests will appreciate. All-staff parties are great ways to execute employee recognition in front of more of your team, so that employees can learn about how co-workers they might not work with on a daily basis contribute to the company.

Including employee award ideas for work parties is also wise because anyone who doesn’t work for your company, but who is in attendance, will see that your business values its staff. Whether you have invited clients to the party or allow your employees to bring spouses or partners, employee recognition will show outsiders that your business is a great one to work for. This might help increase referrals for your company or at least improve public relations for your business.

Make Employee Awards Part of Your Work Culture

When you're trying to put together an awards program, it's a great idea to make sure you have the right gifts picked out for all winners. Something tangible and memorable, like branded awards or customized company clothing, will help employees remember why they're working so hard - as well as how much you value their contributions. Successories will always be able to help you find the right products to meet your team's needs - and your budget.

From boosting the morale of your team, to keeping top performers at your company, to increasing productivity of staff, to gaining a great reputation, giving employee awards provides so many benefits for within and outside of your business. Use your annual work calendar as a place to start identifying times when employee recognition through corporate awards, glass trophies, personalized plaques, and more should be included. Don’t forget to keep some employee awards on hand for spur-of-the-moment recognition, as well.

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