Top 7 employee recognition ideas for managers & teams

Written by: Cailin Woodward & Erika Khanna | Edited by: Alison Robins | Illustrated by: Max Prevo
Published on October 15, 2020 | Reading time: 6m

Part of your job as a manager during these unprecedented times is to keep employee engagement high. One way to do this is to get creative in your employee recognition ideas. Offering meaningful recognition will help keep your team’s morale high because employees perform best when they know that their contribution has a positive impact.

Managers, it’s time to lead by example and implement some creative employee recognition ideas to build a culture of appreciation and value. 

Check out Officevibe’s recognition guide for best practices on appreciating your team!

Download our Employee recognition guide.

image of the guide Employee recognition revisited

Why remote employee recognition is important, especially right now

Employee appreciation increases empathy, productivity, and activates a positive company culture. This is especially true for teams who work remotely. Here’s why: 

  1. Encouragement during tough times: Recognition balances negative emotions that develop from working remotely during a crisis. It also sets the bar for your team to develop recognition habits amongst themselves.
  2. Improved employee retention: According to a 2018 study by SHRM , 68% of HR professionals claim that their current employee recognition program helps with employee retention.
  3. Increased employee engagement: Employee engagement increases when teams know they feel valued. Making recognition a habit increases their productivity and motivation.
four symbols of recognition

7 employee recognition ideas to keep your remote team engaged

Build your team’s engagement and morale. Develop a positive employee experience by putting these recognition ideas into action.

1. Give specific recognition in your virtual 1-on-1 meetings

During your next 1-on-1, prepare an example of something your employee recently did well. Explain its impact.

Reflection exercise: 

  • How has this person influenced/helped me recently? 
  • How has this person’s work, attitude, or actions positively affected your remote team?
  • Has this person exceeded expectations?

2. Pay it forward: encourage employee recognition in a virtual group setting 

As a manager, you support your team. But they also support one another. While formal recognition resonates, so does informal recognition.

Think about it. Every day, people use social media for public recognition amongst friends. A similar approach in a professional context is possible. Use communication tools like Slack or Teams to share how each team member has impacted the other. Make this a habit to create a positive collective dynamic

At Officevibe, we programmed a Kudos “formula” through Slack to ensure that every moment of recognition is thought out and thinks beyond reaching goals to demonstrating company values.

3. All aboard the kudos train

Give kudos to one team member in a shared Slack channel and ask them to pass it on. Here’s example of staff recognition:

Example of kudos train

Thank you, [Team member] for your [help, positive attitude, support, ideas, or other]. Thanks to your contribution, [describe impact]. Please pass on a kudos to someone else on the team who has impacted you this week!

Bonus: You can also use this tool to celebrate a teammate’s work anniversary!

4. Name and recognize team members when presenting cross-team or company-wide projects

Great leaders don’t take all the credit. Citing engaged employees publicly demonstrates that you value their contribution. It also validates asking for help when it’s needed. 

Exemplify that a great idea can only be executed with multiple people applying their strengths. Pass the mic to others who have contributed. Allow them to recognize another outstanding employee, and so on. Recognizing effort and good work builds team morale, confidence and employee satisfaction.

5. Address remote work directly, point out where your team is doing well

Recognize the context in which your employees are working. Point out where they are doing well. When it comes to remote work, let them know that you understand the difficulties during this time, appreciate them for being part of the solution.

Topics you can cover: 

  • Team collaboration 
  • Communication 
  • Support for one another

Bonus: Increase employee engagement by asking teammates to share remote work productivity hacks. Sharing hot tips helps connect your team!

6. Make employee recognition in virtual meetings dynamic and fun

  • Share recognition without naming the person. Have team members guess who it’s for. 
  • Develop categories for recognition, like an awards show.
  • Have employees submit recognition or “kudos” for their colleagues.

Getting creative inspires people to do their best, and jump in when help is needed.

Here's how we do peer-to-peer recognition on our team!
Here’s how we do peer-to-peer recognition on our team!

7. Celebrate milestones together, even from afar

Even while remote, employees are celebrating big milestones such as work anniversaries or the end of a big project. 

  • For big milestones and work anniversaries, ask people to chip in for a meaningful gift.
  • Have the team sign a card using a virtual collaboration platform like Miro
  • Host a virtual coffee break to celebrate wins. Ask everyone share what at least one thing they’re proud of.

Download our Employee recognition guide.

image of the guide Employee recognition revisited

Tips for giving employees effective and meaningful recognition

Ask remote workers how they want to be recognized

In a new context of work, people might need more, or different forms of recognition from their managers. Instead of trying to guess, take the time to ask each employee:

  • What kind of recognition is most meaningful to you? 
  • What does motivating recognition look like to you?

Recognize employees on a regular basis

A 2017 report from Gallup shows that if 60% of employees were recognized daily, managers could reduce absenteeism by up to 27%. Checked-out employees exist in virtual offices too, although they’re difficult to track. Regular recognition can help prevent this.

Make recognition authentic and from the heart 

Gift cards and money do not always provide lasting impact. Instead, offer personal verbal or written feedback on a person’s performance that is explicit about the job they did, and the impact it had.

“Thank you for helping me on Project X today despite your busy schedule. The impact of your help for me personally was Y, and for the team was Z!”

Deloitte shows that 54% of employees would prefer to be recognized with a “Thank You,” versus 7% who would prefer a gift.

Encourage recognition across the board

Colleagues, managers and executives benefit from recognition too! Promote peer-to-peer recognition across the hierarchy to build a meaningful culture of recognition all around.

Recognition isn’t limited to a top-down approach. Let your team know that part of their job is to support one another. Express how you value their participation. Doing this builds positivity and an overall satisfactory work environment.

Offer recognition to individuals who work behind the scenes

A lot goes into a project. Remember to recognize those who may not be seen but who still provide valuable contributions.

Encourage your team to highlight habits, projects or tasks that were achieved by those who fly under the radar. Not only with this hone their leadership skills, it further develops a sense of empathy within the team.

Offer recognition to individuals who work behind the scenes

How Officevibe can help:

  • Track employee engagement metrics like Recognition Frequency and Recognition Quality from managers and peers via anonymous feedback.
  • Collect weekly feedback from employees on how they’re feeling and what they need from you as a manager.
  • Receive a simple visual team engagement report that gives you a high-level view of where your team is happy, and areas that need improvement to keep them engaged.

Try: Host a brainstorm when your survey shows low metrics, and encourage direct input from the team. Take advantage of the brilliant minds in your company to find a solution.

Try Officevibe for free

With all that’s happening in the world, it’s crucial to keep your team’s motivation and engagement high. Employee appreciation takes time and effort. Use these tips and refer to the recognition guide to boost employee appreciation in no time.