Table of contents
  1. The Differences Between Employee Recognition, Appreciation, and Incentives?
  2. What are the Benefits of Offering Employee Recognition?
  3. Best Practices for Offering Employee Recognition
  4. Employee Recognition Examples
  5. Recognizing the Benefits

Employee recognition is a way of showing gratitude for a worker’s contributions to an organization. It can include verbal thanks, written praise, and other types of acknowledgment. Recognition of team members’ specific roles, actions, and work is a powerful form of feedback that can help build a positive workplace culture. While employee recognition may feel like something that will occur naturally, creating a framework for formal recognition within your company can ensure that it is a priority practice—allowing everyone to feel seen at work. 

The Differences Between Employee Recognition, Appreciation, and Incentives?

Although these terms are sometimes used interchangeably and all have to do with expressing gratitude for team members, there are subtle differences:

  • Employee appreciation refers to giving thanks to workers for who they are. It is more general than recognition. For example, if you say “thank you for being part of our team; we value your commitment here,” that is appreciation because it focuses on contribution in general.
  • Employee recognition is an acknowledgment of what an employee has done and accomplished. If you say “Thank you for being prepared for the last meeting. You did an excellent job on the presentation, and I appreciated the three thought-provoking questions you left us with,” this is recognition. It is a specific statement with a focus on work done.
  • Employee incentives refer to the gifts, extras, and rewards given to employees. They can be part of an employee recognition program or can be used just to motivate workers and encourage loyalty. Gift cards and small bonuses are examples of incentives.

What are the Benefits of Offering Employee Recognition?

Praising others can stimulate a part of their brains that produces the neurotransmitter dopamine—sometimes called the feel-good hormone. Giving employees recognition is not only beneficial for your workplace culture, it may even help to boost employee motivation and improve business performance.  There are three ways that offering employee recognition may benefit your organization.

  • Professional development and performance. Recognizing the hard work and contributions of your employees can reinforce the type of work ethics, culture, and productivity that your company values most.
  • Improved productivity. Research shows that 69% of employees have reported they would work harder if they were recognized for those efforts.
  • Talent retention. For 82% of workers, recognition is closely tied to their happiness at work. Only 11% of surveyed workers who felt unrecognized reported that they would stay at their current job within the next six months. This indicates that employees who are feeling unappreciated may decide to leave that role or workplace.

Best Practices for Offering Employee Recognition

There are two types of worker recognition you may wish to implement at your company: peer-to-peer recognition and leadership recognition.  Recognition from leadership and management involves managers, supervisors, and others recognizing the work of employees they oversee. Peer-to-peer recognition happens when colleagues acknowledge each other for their work efforts. It is also 35.7% more likely than top-down recognition to lead to better financial results. 

How to incorporate employee recognition into your company

  • Provide examples and systems. Make it easy to provide recognition by creating systems to do so. For example, you can set up Connecteam recognition, which allows employees to earn tokens they can exchange for gift cards from a brand of their choosing. You can also use physical gift cards and thank you notes to recognize the efforts of your employees.
  • Train your employees. Build a culture of recognition and feedback by training your employees, leadership, and management teams about the importance of recognition and how to appropriately provide it. 
  • Lead by example: Leadership recognition is important for positive morale and workplace culture, as is recognizing the efforts of employees from all levels of seniority throughout your organization. 

When to give employee recognition

  • Time it right. Recognition is more impactful when it happens soon after the event that inspired it. Don’t wait to give positive feedback and don’t only give praise for “big” accomplishments. Be generous with feedback. The more everyone sees recognition at your company, the more it becomes a part of everyday operations.
  • Be specific and personal. Don’t get caught up in using corporate language. Use warm and specific language instead to make your gratitude more authentic and foster a good rapport with your employees.
  • Tailor the recognition to the employee. Some employees may be ok to be publicly acknowledged in front of their colleagues while others may prefer a more private expression of gratitude. There may also be a difference in the preference for a more personal acknowledgment—such as a letter—over a monetary reward. You can use a tool such as Connecteam surveys and polls to find out everyone’s preferences.

Download your FREE guide on “6 Pillars for Improving Frontline Employee Retention” ⤵

Effective Employee Recognition Program

Employee Recognition Examples

Acknowledging the efforts of your employees doesn’t always have to come with a big budget. There are plenty of low-cost yet meaningful options available. 

  • Hand-written thank you letters or cards.
  • Verbally acknowledging great work in a meeting or the office.
  • Using the company’s social media as a platform to acknowledge employee efforts.
  • Creating an Employee of the Month display in the workplace or on an online platform.
  • Creating virtual badges or graphics that employees can send to each other as a thank you for great work.
  • A recognition display in the workplace or online that could include their image and a small note about their contribution.
  • A week or a day’s access to a special employee parking spot.

Recognition ideas that require a larger budget

If you have a budget to put behind your employee recognition scheme or want to recognize an extraordinary contribution, there are options that will include a larger investment.

  • Charity donations in a worker’s name to their favorite organization.
  • Recognition events and parties where you can acknowledge the efforts of whole teams, departments, or the entire organization.
  • Special treats—such as coffee or desserts—delivered to an employee’s home or brought provided in the workplace to share.
  • Gifts, including gift cards, subscriptions, movie tickets, and other prizes.
  • Bonuses and cash rewards.
  • Time off or sabbaticals.
  • Company t-shirts and merchandise. 

Recognizing the Benefits

Recognizing your employees may come naturally some of the time, but by including it as a conscious effort, you make sure your workers feel seen.  A recognition plan includes everyone and keeps morale high. It can help your organization to retain top talent, improve productivity, and can encourage employees to thrive and grow—potentially resulting in even more excellence to recognize in your workforce!