9 Creative Ways to Step up Your Employee Recognition Game

9 Creative Ways to Step up Your Employee Recognition Game

By Kirsty Scott

It’s 2020; employee recognition is essential in any business. 

But did you know half of employees in the UK feel underappreciated at work

Social distancing measures mean half of the employed population are working remotely, increasing the chances of employees feeling detached and neglected.

So what do companies with fun, creative and consistent recognition schemes see?

  • Increased productivity
  • Enhanced workplace morale
  • Lower turnover

But where to start? How can you show appreciation in exciting and meaningful ways? 

The first things to note are; be creative and never forget the most important person; the employee.

Employee recognition is a huge part of a positive working culture and will reap endless benefits for both you and your company.

Here are 9 engaging ideas you can start using today to recognise your employees, cultivate a positive working environment and show your employees just how much you care.

9 Inspiring Employee Recognition Ideas You Need to Know

1. The power of a virtual party

The recent COVID-19 pandemic is making it harder, if not impossible, to get your employees together to blow off some steam and have fun.

Here’s a tip: keep your plan in place, but take it online. Think virtual staff parties, online post-work drinks and birthday Zoom calls. 

Everyone loves an excuse to party. How about celebrating holidays, sales goals, or just plain old Fridays. It’s always five o’clock somewhere!

Get creative:

  • set a theme
  • make a scavenger hunt
  • organise an online bingo night

teambuilding offers online remote workplace activities from miniature campfires to storytelling workshops. The possibilities are endless and so are the benefits.

2. Treat yo' self

And by yourself, we mean your employees. With baked goods. 

We're all for gratitude in food form (let's be real, who isn't?) and believe when it comes to treats - the sweeter the better!

Small businesses on Etsy - like CunningCookieCo -  are offering a variety of sweet treats delivered straight to you, or your employees. Check out their colourful custom cookies! You can even add a personalised gift message, just in case the biscuits don't say it all. 

Contacting a local bakery or cafe is another great way to send yummy goodies to your staff. From experience, we know that Rose Theatre Café's scrumptious cinnamon buns go down extremely well in the middle of the working day. 😋

These treats will ensure your employees hard work (and their sweet tooth) are recognised, along with supporting independent local businesses. It's a win-win situation.

3. A picture is worth a thousand words

Spice up your workplace and celebrate your employees  with a wall of fame! This is an effective, visual way to celebrate both individual and team accomplishments. 

Encourage employees to celebrate their peers by adding notes of gratitude beside their photos or display team shots for group projects!

We love the design of AirBnB's wall of fame as it highlights their employees while standing out as a statement piece.

AirBnB Office, photo taken from This is Design Thinking

I know, impressive right?

But it doesn’t have to be fancy; grab some string and paperclips, snap some candid shots of your employees and hang them anywhere that suits!

4. Spin it to win it

You hit a target, you get to spin the wheel.

A prize wheel is a fantastic way to motivate and reward your employees. Pair valuable prizes with a well anticipated prize draw and you're on to a winner.

Here are some of our favourite award ideas:

  • Festival or sporting event tickets
  • An afternoon off work
  • Dinner on the boss
  • Extreme adventure vouchers
  • Office movie day

Whether it's a boat tour of the Greek islands or a high-five from the CEO, these prizes will enhance your rewards programme, inject entertainment into your workplace and up your employee engagement no end. 

5. Ready, set, go!

Hackathons will shake up the day-to-day routine and encourage your teams to interact with each other.

But what on earth is a hackathon? Let me explain...

Hackathons involve various teams coming together to conceptualise and develop a new idea. These collaborations usually take between one to three days to complete and can result in basic plans, complete ideas or even finalised prototypes! All ideas are then presented in front of a panel to decide on a winning team.

Make sure to name the event and share it on social media to create excitement among employees before it takes place. Once the winning team is chosen it's important to implement their idea into everyday operations. This will boost workplace morale and let your employees know you not only respect their ideas, but are actively encouraging them to explore them.

6. Mood boosting Mondays

It's Monday morning after an exciting weekend.

The day is passing slowly and you can feel morale dwindling.... how do you pick it back up?

Here at The Thriving Box Co. we're all about good vibes. We think that positivity is key to finding the balance between a relaxed yet productive working environment. 

Mood boosting Monday's can be introduced to any work space where an extra push at the beginning of the week is required. Here are some ideas we've come up with:

  • Buy coffees for everyone in the office 
  • Organise an outdoor activity for staff taking breaks
  • Scribble down a positive vibe of the day and stick it around your workplace

These gestures may seem small, but executed well and often will go a long way!

7. Switch it up

A 'swap day' is something I was introduced to at a boarding school in Namibia. Once a year all employees; teachers, assistants, kitchen and hostel staff, would swap roles for a day. Without telling the students. 

Hilarity ensued among the children as assembly was led by the office members and music teachers transformed into kitchen staff.

However it didn't just impact the students. Each member of staff ended that school day with an altered perspective of their own role and a new found respect for others'.

I think it's time this was adopted by more work communities. Switch it up. Try something new and let your employees (and yourself) have a bit of fun. It's only one day - what's the worst that could happen?

8. Get personal

Generic, status-quo rewards don't cut it anymore. It’s out with blanket reward schemes and in with creative, memorable gestures.

Find out what truly interests your employees and reward them with this in mind. Make it unique to the individual and use methods proven to ensure long term engagement such as personalised gifts, experiential rewards and incentives.

Ideas range from something as simple as a handwritten 'thank you' note to bespoke customised corporate gift boxes!

If you can gift them something personal that also enhances their working environment - you've struck gold.

How about personalised drink bottles or customised notebooks?

The cash-value of a reward no longer counts. A meaningful gift does.

9. Peer-to-peer

Okay, so we've thrown around ideas for management recognising staff. But this appreciation doesn't just have to come from the top. 

Peer recognition can improve employee well-being, increase engagement and create a positive working culture. 

It's easy to encourage positive feedback amongst your workforce; set up a Kudos wall where team members can write and display their recognition of others' work.

We understand offices are pretty quiet right now, but this can be done virtually too! Employees can express peer feedback using business communications apps such as Slack or give virtual Kudos through self-service HR software like breathe.


So what can you take away from all of this?

  • Employee recognition is super important for both you and your employees
  • The best way to implement it is to make it a company habit; little (or large) and often
  • Get creative and think outside the box

Hopefully you're now bursting with ideas and excited to show your awesome employees some well-earned appreciation! After all, they are your most precious assets.