Organizational Wellness

10 Creative Employee Recognition Examples

Dec 21, 2023
Last Updated May 8, 2024

Giving your employees a pat on the back may feel like a small thing, but it’s actually a pretty big deal. 

Building a culture of recognition is about more than feeling nice — it can drive measurable results. When employees expect they will receive recognition for their work, research shows, they are three times more likely to be highly engaged in their work. And everyone knows that increased engagement boosts productivity, morale, revenue, and talent retention. So whether you want to prevent turnover or strengthen your organization, an effective employee recognition program is a valuable asset.

The good news is that recognition does not require huge budgets or complex systems. Even small, genuine gestures to appreciate great work can make a difference. These 10 fun and easy ideas will help you start recognizing your all-star employees right away.

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When to Recognize Employees

Expressing appreciation for employees and their contributions is always valuable and doesn’t necessarily require a special circumstance. However, when you’re recognizing someone, there’s usually a specific action, behavior, or occasion to celebrate. Some of the best things to recognize in the workplace include: 

Ten Employee Recognition Examples to Inspire You

Acknowledging how people contribute to the company is not only fun, it helps create a better employee experience and company culture. You can get started with any of these employee recognition ideas.

  1. Host an Employee Recognition Day

Things are better together, so why not recognize the contributions of your entire workforce at once? You can choose to host a company-wide lunch or buy gifts for each employee. The day could include team building activities or an awards ceremony recognizing major accomplishments or years of service to the organization. Even a small get-together or reward can say a lot about where your values lie as a company.

  1. Send a Card

Have you ever received a really sincere letter from someone on your birthday or as a thank you? A handwritten thank-you note is a simple gesture that goes a long way, and it doesn’t take too much time or resources. So long as you truly know your teams, this lets them know you understand the impact they make on your organization and that their effort is visible.

Whether you want to send cards to employees’ home addresses or leave them on their desks, you can recognize your employees with a card. (And maybe a little gift card to sweeten the deal!)

  1. Create an Anniversary Yearbook

A fun way to recognize how long an employee has been with you is to compile photos and other bits of evidence of their contributions over the years, like a yearbook. It can contain notes, photos, and other memorabilia from colleagues and managers. You can include positive feedback people have received over the years, best moments, and more.

This option has a more personal touch and is a unique way to recognize the continued hard work of all team members. It’s also a great reminder to the employee of all of the positive experiences they’ve had at their workplace!

  1. Pass Out a Rotating Trophy

If you want a more ongoing or interactive recognition tradition, putting a rotating trophy into play is especially energizing and fun. Purchase or create a fun trophy — like a plastic superhero figurine, stuffed animal, or even a bobblehead of the CEO. At a set interval, like a quarterly or annual meeting or party, give it to the employee who has worked the hardest, achieved the highest results, or some other high-impact performance marker. Let the employee keep it on their desk for a specified period of time as a mark of appreciation!

  1. Host a Wellness Day or Program

What benefits do employees value the most? Wellness is something everyone wants! In fact, 93% of employees say their wellbeing at work is as important as their salary. 

You can reward individuals or teams with wellness perks, like gym memberships, access to nutrition or meditation apps, or other additional employee benefits. A spa or wellness day offers employees a chance to relax and feel rejuvenated without spending a lot of money. You can even hire massage therapists, nail technicians, or yoga instructors to create a mini-spa experience without the hefty price tag.

  1. Write a Linkedin Recommendation

One of the best things an employer can do is add to someone’s career, strengthening their portfolio. Employees care a lot about their professional development, so you can show someone that you care about their growth by recognizing them on LinkedIn.

This can make an employee stand out from their peers and help them feel deeply valued, and it also shows that your organization has a great culture and gives you a positive social media presence. Nothing says employee recognition like public kudos!

  1. Implement an Employee Recognition Parking Program

Something that seems small can really make someone feel special, and a practical way to do this is to dedicate a couple of parking spots as a reward. Consider reserving a few premium parking spots for employees who have done exceptional work and offer this as a reward or benefit. For workers who use public transportation, companies can offer a monthly pass instead.

  1. Start a Weekly Team Breakfast or Lunch

Consistent recognition says a lot about your day-to-day operations and how your culture shapes the employee experience. A weekly team meetup can happen in the form of bagels on Friday, tacos every other Tuesday, or an offsite lunch at the end of each quarter. The point is to be predictable so that employees can look forward to getting together and know that their everyday efforts are being noticed and rewarded.

  1. Give Surprise Time Off

One way you can surprise your team and get them excited is to offer them extra time off. Apple recently surprised all their employees with an extended paid holiday over Thanksgiving, which really shows appreciation. If they could choose, a lot of people would choose to have more time off to spend with their loved ones, travel, or get things on their personal to-do lists crossed off. 

  1. Offer Professional Development Opportunities

Employees want to continue developing in their careers, and it’s also good to help employees avoid boredom and burnout. As people get better and better at their job, keeping them excited with new opportunities helps. Professional development opportunities could be in the form of free books, Masterclasses, training, and more. 

Employee recognition through continued education is also doubly beneficial as it makes for a smarter, quicker, and more innovative team in the long run. This means you can boost both individual employee development and organizational development!

Appreciating Employees Everyday With Work and Life Wellbeing

Investing in employee recognition efforts can foster a long-lasting culture of gratitude and respect that benefits all members of your organization. When done effectively, genuine appreciation leads to greater satisfaction, improving the wellbeing overall. 

Fortunately, recognizing your employees’ value doesn’t have to start and stop at one-time rewards. Supporting wellbeing with holistic benefit programs is a powerful way to acknowledge employees and their importance to your organization everyday. It shows them that you care about them in and out of the workplace. 

Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist for help rewarding your workforce with wellness!

Company healthcare costs drop by up to 35% with Wellhub! (* Based on proprietary research comparing healthcare costs of active Wellhub users to non-users.) Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to see how we can help reduce your healthcare spending!



Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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