Employee recognition plays a big role in creating the sort of workplace people want to show up and be a part of every day. There are countless ways, big and small, that you as a boss can show your appreciation for staff by recognizing their efforts – but sometimes those reward schemes get a little complicated.

Luckily, the caffeine-fueled team at Corporate Essentials has always got your back (#shamelessplug). Today, we are dishing out 25 simple, bite-sized helpings of employee recognition. Pick one and run with it, add others over time and bask in the glow of a more satisfied, engaged workforce.

1. Get to know each employee’s hobbies and interests

Right off the bat, get to know your people as people. This is the first item in our list because so many of the other ways you can practice employee recognition stem from knowing who your staff members really are and what they like to do. It is far easier to connect with and reward the employees when those higher up in the firm know what motivates and interests the rest of the staff.

2. Create programs which align with employee interests

While we would not suggest you create a special club for every single hobby that people in your building like to do, a great way to boost employee recognition is by creating reward schemes and activities that cater to the interests of your teams. Running clubs, perks related to favorite restaurants and volunteer programs that benefit organizations your employees are already involved with are just a few examples.

3. Recognize achievements made inside and outside the workplace

Some people take their hobbies very seriously. If you have ever attended a Tae Kwon Do tournament or local softball league game, you probably have an idea just how seriously some folks take their leisure time. This is why celebrating off-site achievements can be just as important to your teams as throwing a party when they pull off a successful product launch.

It is about supporting, and recognizing, the whole person. Setting aside a bulletin board in the break room or a column in the newsletter to list monthly achievements by staff is a simple, effective way to recognize their effort – wherever the accomplishment happened.

4. Reward all staff with tasty snacks

Everyone needs to eat, so save your team’s time (and money) by providing amazing in-house treats in your break room.

Go a step further and let the team that meets a set target each month choose a featured snack or drink. This encourages more interaction between the teams as they vie for top honors, but also gives people ownership over the break room menu. At the same time, staffers feel valued and rewarded because they are able to enjoy a little pick-me-up whenever the need arises.

5. Rotate and reinvent your incentives

When you feel like your staff is being “well rewarded,” it is easy to grow complacent about the recognition and rewards you offer. This is an easy way to fail at providing employee recognition. Avoid the risk of boring rewards by having a revolving program.

Offer seasonal selections – people are more likely interested in coffee mugs during winter and water bottles in the summer, for example. Or simply find new things to add to the mix once or twice each year.

6. Offer a series of smaller rewards rather than one large elusive prize

Another thing that leads to failure in employee recognition schemes is having unattainable prizes. When people are slogging away trying to achieve a milestone for the whole year, it is easy to lose sight of the reward they are working toward.

Instead, offer a series of incremental rewards. This reinforces the focus and dedication your employee is putting into the program. At the same time, it provides more readily attainable perks along the way, which might just engage more people over time.

7. Offer great office coffee and other treats to fuel success

One of the most passive rewards you can offer is a solid office coffee service for your break rooms. The list of reasons this is an employee reward that pays dividends is extensive, including: saving time, saving employees money, improved productivity through frequent breaks and decreased stress and sickness through better hydration.

8. Recognize individual contributions to success by name

When someone contributes to the successful deployment of a new solution or an amazing product launch, do not just thank “Team X” for their contribution – call out the individuals that made it happen. Thank Leena for her spreadsheet savvy, thank Devon for his file recovery skills, thank Tina for her positive attitude and thank James for his epic coffee brewing abilities. Everyone has something to offer, great employee recognition capitalizes on those unique contributions.

9. Add employee “shout outs” in the newsletter or Slack group

One hallmark of a company people really want to work for is their ability to communicate. Use the newsletter or company-wide Slack group to call attention to personal or professional milestones and achievements of staff.

10. Donate to a charity chosen by employees

Whether you use this as a friendly competition between teams or simply as a great reward for individuals achieving a specific target, making charitable contributions to organizations that are supported by your workers is a great form of employee recognition.

Not only are you giving your firm some decent exposure as a sponsor of good work in your community, but you are showing your employees that you listen to their interests, and value their commitment to the workplace.

11. Order catered lunch once a month

Well-fed people are happy people, and when it comes to crunching numbers ahead of a deadline, laying on something delicious can do a great deal to elevate the mood.

You see, employee recognition is about far more than doling out awards to high achieving staff members. Quite often, recognizing people for the effort they are putting into your firm’s success is something you can do readily with an occasional meal. Bonus points for those who manage to engage staff by taking suggestions for the next month’s featured feast.

12. Create a positive company culture

Many of the suggestions we have for employee recognition strategies are similar to those you use to work toward establishing a great office culture. One of the best ways to be sure people feel acknowledged, valued and understood is to create an open company culture. Practice clear, honest communication with your staff at all levels. Encourage people to engage with one another, collaborate and share ideas. And, most importantly, recognize their efforts.

13. Encourage staff bonding

While working together to build a raft out of egg cartons and milk bottles is not the right activity for everyone, there are plenty of ways you can encourage teams to learn more about one another. Create opportunities for staff to work together in regular office settings, as well as through other activities.

One of the most under-rated resources for encouraging cross-department working and other staff collaboration is your break room. By creating an environment where people feel comfortable lingering over a great cup of coffee, you are encouraging people to play a quick game or talk about the weather. And those small moments of interaction create strong teams, which in turn builds a stronger company.

14. Incorporate games into the work day

We have mentioned games before, and this is why: people need mental breaks. Something as simple as having a large-scale Jenga or Kerplunk game setup on a designated table in the break room so people can stop by and make a few moves whenever they’re grabbing a snack allows everyone to take part in one activity, without asking the whole team to leave their desks at once.

Having in-house Words With Friends tournaments, or offering people the opportunity to take part in bingo and quiz nights can also be great ways to engage staff and let them flex their expertise away from their desks. These friendly competitions can be a great way boost your employee recognition game.

15. Promote peer recognition

Another great way to engage your teams with one another and bolster employee recognition is by encouraging staff to give one another props for great contributions to projects, and just general run-of-the-mill work tasks. Peer recognition can range from simple shout outs in team meetings to bigger gestures like award nominations.

The idea is to provide people with the opportunity to acknowledge and praise their coworkers for their effort. This helps boost your company culture by providing validation and acknowledgement for work, and fostering an air of openness and thankfulness between colleagues.

16. Encourage staff members to nominate Employees of the Month

Halo companies have the attraction they do for job seekers for many reasons – and one of those reasons is the level of employee recognition coworkers are able to offer one another. By making the Employee of the Month process about coworkers nominating one another rather than bosses choosing a winner each time, the insight of people involved in the day-to-day work that goes on in your firm is valued. Employees who feel valued are more likely to feed the company culture of reciprocal value and support.

17. Point out a coworker’s great ideas

Encouraging people to praise one another’s effort in the workplace is a huge component to any successful employee recognition scheme. So, do it! Lead by example and give kudos to those around you who provide good information, inspiration and innovative thinking about the ordinary things that go on around your building. Take this a step further and make a point of thanking those who offer similar praise and props to their colleagues.

18. Show coworkers your appreciation with little favors

Saying please and thank you can get you a lot further in life than your 10-year-old self ever imagined. The truth is, little things do mean a lot – and when it comes to employee recognition, this is also the case. So take the time to offer people simple favors now and then to recognize their contribution to your workplace experience on any given day. If you are headed to the break room, ask them to join you – and when they decline for one reason or another, offer to bring the back their favorite little something.

Grab extra highlighters if you know their favorite green one is working poorly. Just do something, some little thing, that takes two seconds off their workload – you will be amazed the difference small, simple favors can make to someone’s day.

19. Leave a kind note on a colleague’s desk

On a similar note, say thanks to people who help you get something done ahead of a deadline. Or, compliment their contribution to a contentious meeting you were both involved in earlier. But, take the extra step of writing it down and leaving your comment for them to find later.

This is an excellent way to concretely show employee recognition without spending money or making a big scene. It is a tangible show of your genuine gratitude. Notes are also an excellent way to just say hi or even tell someone a silly joke you cannot seem to get out of your head.

20. Volunteer to relieve a coworker of a hard task

When someone seems overburdened, or even is just having a hard day for personal reasons, a great way to acknowledge that you understand and witness their struggle is to unburden them of a piece of work that you could easily accommodate. Because everyone in your workplace has different strengths and weaknesses, this can be a great learning opportunity for other staff.

By finding ways to help others lighten their load, your team members can come to a better understanding of how their skill sets intertwine and make the entire team stronger. Also, by stepping in and offering assistance with a particularly pesky piece of work, you are adding to the employee recognition piece because you are acknowledging your staff as whole people who have needs in addition to their workload.

21. Make the next pot of coffee

There is little in life that people find more disappointing than getting to the break room and having to wait for the coffee to finish before they are able to enjoy that boost they crave. Knowing the office coffee is the best coffee around helps feed the overall company atmosphere – being able to rely on each other to have the common courtesy to refill the pot so no one is left short elevates your employee recognition credibility significantly.

After all, it is one thing for you to take the time to recognize the skills, effort and dedication that go into keeping your company running smooth – if your staff recognizes the little things they can do to improve one another’s workplace experience, that is a true victory for all.

22. Recognize co-workers’ birthdays and anniversaries

Another great – and simple – way to your employee recognition arsenal is by recognizing important dates for your staff members. Have a birthday bash each month and let the staff whose birthdays fall within that period choose a special treat for everyone to have in the break room.

Always maximize your opportunities to celebrate long-term ties to your firm, particularly when someone hits a numerically satisfying “work-a-versary” milestone like the 5, 10 or 15 year mark. And, where possible, celebrate other big life achievements for your people – weddings, babies, key anniversaries and degree completions are great examples of achievements worth celebrating.

23. Show a coworker that you need them

While it is important for everyone to feel like they play a valid, essential role in the business, it is equally important for those people to understand how their jobs are interwoven to complete the basket that is your firm.

Take time to again lead by example, and explain to your people how their work makes your work possible. Explaining to people how their work is relevant to yours, particularly when it does not seem directly connected, is a huge part of validating the workplace experience for many team members.

This can be especially true for new hires or those with less professional experience.

24. Acknowledge a coworkers long hours by taking them to lunch

Sometimes people feel that it is impossible to take a break. Unfortunately, these are usually the people who most need and deserve a little down time. So, as the boss, take the opportunity to “force” people to kick back a little and invite them to an off-site lunch as a reward for their efforts.

This can be difficult, as you should never extend an invitation if the staff members are unable to leave their desk due to a heavy workload, so use your discretion. To help, be sure that the team has the necessary supports in place to enjoy the break you are offering and complete their tasks without increased stress or worry over the deadline.

This holds true for many perks that companies offer. When considering such things, always make sure you give people the opportunity to enjoy the recognition you are trying to provide or it can backfire.

25. Celebrate small wins

In any competitive business it can be easy to get bogged down in big picture performance issues. But, we encourage you to celebrate the wins where you find them, regardless of how small they might seem. While we are not suggesting you throw a party at 10 AM just because everyone managed to make it through the scrum without losing focus, perhaps having a quick donut break at 11 is a good idea for those who were in early, working hard to get advance drafts together for that meeting tomorrow.

Some weeks, it might even be worth celebrating the fact that the printer held up for all three days you needed to print meeting packets. The point here is take your victories where you can. By celebrating the little things, you have more opportunities to highlight good work around you in all its forms.

As you can see, there are more opportunities to recognize employees in your firm than you initially thought — and we are only getting started! If you are looking to boost the impact of your employee recognition scheme one way or another, feel free to contact our team here at Corporate Essentials. We have almost two decades of solid experience providing break room solutions that reward and inspire staff in businesses like yours, and we are always glad to share our insight about what makes a great corporate culture.

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Joe Simonovich

About Joe Simonovich

Joe has a strong background in marketing and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). The start to his career as a customer service representative has given him a unique foundation and different perspective on almost all business-related situations. Joe is now the Chief Growth Officer (and Director of Creating Awesomeness) at Corporate Essentials. He brings a unique skill set and a hands-on approach to any leadership role and believes that hustle is simply a way of life.