What Type Of Recognition Do Employees Want?

Workplace wellness
Estimated read time: 6 mins
Published: 16/08/2022

When it’s done right, employee recognition can have huge benefits for businesses. It’s a no-brainer; nowadays, it’s more important than ever to show your team how much you value their hard work and achievements.

Read on to learn how recognition motivates employees and how to create an employee recognition program of your own.

How does recognition motivate employees?

Employee recognition is about acknowledging the successes, accomplishments and hard work of individuals and teams, creating an emotional connection, level of trust and mutual respect between management, leaders and team members.

An important part of any people management framework, creating an employee recognition program not only improves individual engagement but can also boost productivity, company reputation and employee retention. That can mean a lower turnover and improved sales for businesses.

How to improve employee recognition: 20 types of recognition employees want the most

  • Start at the top

According to research by Gallup, the most memorable recognition ‘comes from an employee’s direct manager (28% of respondents) or the CEO (24%).’

In any organisation, praise has to come from the top. If a business is trying to promote employee recognition, senior management need to ‘walk-the-walk’ in order to help create this culture. If they are vocal with their praise, then other people within the businesses will do the same.

  • Give instant, specific praise

When someone has done something well, like given a great presentation or completed a particular piece of work, don’t leave it until a formal review to tell them. Be as specific as possible about what was done well, and how they could replicate it in future.


Does recognition motivate employees? A woman shakes her boss’ hand after receiving praise as part of their employee recognition program.


  • Be personal

If you’re going to give praise, make sure it’s personal – there’s nothing worse than a generic one-size-fits-all email template from the CEO or MD. If you’re a smaller company, a quick phone call or face-to-face meeting can be a great way to deliver praise. In a larger company, a personal email will suffice.

  •  Acknowledge when whole teams have done well

Employee recognition doesn’t just have to be given to an individual; sometimes it’s just as rewarding to offer praise to a whole team. Recognise how each member of the team has contributed, be clear about the success, and vocalise to the entire company why it was successful. This can help to inspire other teams, too.

  • Be vocal

If someone’s done something well, shout about it. Take the opportunity to tell the whole team on an all-hands meeting, in-person or on a call, or send an email about a particular success. If you let people know about a great achievement in the business, chances are other employees will follow suit.

  • Express an interest in professional development

Recognition doesn’t always have to come in the form of direct praise – taking a clear interest in an employee’s development indicates that you’re invested in their future at the company. This doesn’t always have to mean spending lots of money on courses or qualifications. It can be just as valuable to sit down to discuss what they’d like to achieve at the company, projects they’d like to be involved in or new skills they are interested in learning from another team member.

  • Give bonuses

Employee recognition doesn’t necessarily have to come in a monetary form, but a bonus is a sure-fire way to show you value an employee. At Work.Life, we have a quarterly ‘spot bonus’ awarded to a few team members who perform especially well. The reason(s) for them receiving the bonus are added to our quarterly wrap-up presentation to ensure the whole team are made aware of their great achievement.

  • Align employee recognition with your core values

If you’re serious about creating an employee recognition program, make sure it aligns with your company’s core values. Your values should be a guideline for your employees to understand the behaviours you value as an organisation. If employee recognition becomes a key part of your value proposition, everyone is made aware of how important it is to the business and will likely take it more seriously.

  • Recognise birthdays

Never forget to celebrate employee’s birthdays. Showing appreciation on a birthday can help individuals feel valued and noticed – not to mention it’s a great way to get everyone involved in singing ‘happy birthday’ or sharing a cake.

  • Create an employee of the month award

When employee appreciation starts from the top, recognition culture also can trickle down into teams. When team members recognise each other’s achievements, it can help boost individual confidence and encourage teams to bond.

One of the simplest ways is an Employee of the Month award, which can motivate employees and boost morale. There doesn’t need to be a huge prize involved – try an extra ½ day holiday, or a mascot that’s passed on to the new winner each month. Just make sure that the criteria for winning, and who will select the winner is made clear to everyone.


How recognition motivates employees; employees enjoy pizza and drinks as part of the employee recognition program.


  • Try public recognition

There are plenty of ways to encourage team members to recognise great achievements: a bowl where team members can anonymously add a compliment about someone’s work, a points-based recognition feed like Kazoo, or a feedback feature on your HR platform. Our platform Hibob has a live feed feature where you can instantly post about a great achievement for everyone to see.

  • Employ a dedicated member of staff

If you’re really focused on how to show recognition to employees, have someone focus their time on improving your employee recognition programme. At Work.Life, we have a Team Engagement Officer. One of their key responsibilities is to work on creating clear channels of feedback and initiatives to recognise hard work and achievements. Having a go-to person for improving employee recognition ensures that it won’t get forgotten and will stay at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

  • Survey your employees

If you’re unsure what type of recognition employees want, send out a survey to your staff to find out. It’s easy to assume that everyone would want a monetary bonus – but that might not be the case. For some team members, extra holiday, learning & development opportunities, or the chance to do something with their team might be more of an incentive. Send out an online survey to find out what your team would value most, and use this to refresh or create your employee recognition programme.

  • Have perks for everyone to enjoy

Employee recognition isn’t always just about rewarding individuals for one great achievement – it can also be beneficial to have perks everyone can access. Gym memberships, retail discounts, the opportunity to work flexibly whenever employees want to; these can help with talent recruitment and employee retention. They are great ways to show whole teams you value their hard work and commitment, and are willing to invest in their happiness at the company.


What type of recognition do employees want?; employees make a toast and celebrate with prosecco as part of the employee recognition program.


  • Create clear performance metrics

In order to improve employee recognition, it’s important to show how to get there. Make sure there are clear KPIs set in every team (as these will likely be different in sales, marketing, operations and so on). There may be times that employee recognition is given as a surprise, but generally, ensure employees know what they can do to reach a certain goal, and what they’ll get when they reach it.

  • Recognise milestones

Smart businesses know that employee retention saves a lot of money. Celebrating long service or milestones can act as an incentive for employees to stay at your company. These could be 3-year, 5-year, 10-year, and 20-year milestones – and ensure each has a slightly more significant award.

  • Keep up employee recognition

When work gets particularly busy, employee recognition can slip. If you’re serious about improving employee recognition, it’s important to keep recognising your employees to ensure they feel valued and engaged. If you drop off, so will your team’s motivation.

  • Try whole team wins

Have some challenging KPIs you want to hit one quarter? To incentivise the whole team, try setting a goal to hit with a prize at the end. Survey the whole team to find out what would be the favourite – it could be a whole team trip away, or a small bonus for everyone. Then, make sure everyone is aware of the prize, you could put a poster up on the wall and update the whole team each week on their progress. 

  • Recognise other employee achievements

Recognising employees doesn’t have to just be work-related; sometimes, other talents can be just as important. Maybe someone has done something amazing outside of work or is trying to raise money for charity. Telling the whole team about it can help to create strong bonds and demonstrate to individuals that the company is invested in them as people, not just as employees.

  • Shout out on social media

It’s one thing being vocal about achievements internally – but why not take it one step further and put it on your company’s social media? A ‘congratulations’ to the Employee of the Month winner or an announcement about a new staff member joining can help individuals feel valued within the business. It’s also great to show the outside world how much you care about your staff.


Learn more about how recognition motivates employees

Employee appreciation can ultimately affect productivity, retention and staff satisfaction – so it’s a worthwhile investment for any business.

Read more Work.Life employee engagement blogs and learn ways to recognise, motivate and support your employees:

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