How to Up Your Employee Recognition Game in 2021

thank you note

✍🏻  Kirsty Scott

It’s 2021; employee recognition is essential in any business. 

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

am i good enough

With ongoing lockdowns and social distancing measures looking like permanent features of our current society -  half of the employed population are working remotely. 

What does this mean? An increase in employees feeling detached and neglected.

    How can you prevent this? By implementing a recognition scheme that increases productivity, decreases turnover, and enhances employee morale.

    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 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. 

    virtual party treats

    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. 😋

    cinnamon bread

    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.

    employee galleryAirBnB Office, photo taken from This is Design Thinking

    I know, impressive right?

    But it doesn't have to fancy, and can be easily adapted for remote teams working from home! 

    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.

    team interaction

    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.

    pug cuddle

    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:

    • Send a coffee delivery to each member of the team
    • Organise a virtual exercise class to break up the day
    • Encourage employees to share their positive vibe of the day

    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 make it unique to the individual. 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!

    thank you very much

    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. 

    thumbs up

    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.