Skip navigation.


Recognition Ideas

Research shows that recognition is more powerful than any motivator. More often than not, cash bonuses get spent on bills, and perks are soon forgotten, but recognition becomes a memory that is re-lived time and time again, continually building high performance. People may not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

  1. A large calendar can be posted. Call it the celebration calendar and use Post-Its and written notes of recognition tacked onto specific dates to honor contributions made by team members.
  2. A special message to say thank you or recognize an accomplishment -- it can be a letter, poem, or a song.
  3. Announce employees' achievements in team or staff meetings, group email, departmental bulletin boards, or other public venues.
  4. Ask him or her to be a mentor to a new hire.
  5. Bring him a cup of coffee or favorite morning beverage.
  6. Bring something back from your next trip for each employee.
  7. Buy lunch for her and three or four coworkers of her choice.
  8. Celebrate a promotion with an item that will be useful to an employee in a new position; for example, a new supervisor might like a new day planner.
  9. Celebrate service anniversaries as close to the date as possible.
  10. Copy senior management on your thank-you note to the employee, to advise them of an employee's efforts/accomplishments.
  11. Create a banner strung across the work area to publicize a contribution or accomplishment (can be for an individual or a group).
  12. Create a homemade funny trophy that is appropriate to what is being recognized.
  13. Create a yearbook for your team with pictures and stories of accomplishments during the year.
  14. Deliver candy or other snacks to your troops on a certain day every week. Take the opportunity to learn what your people are working on and recognize their good behavior.
  15. Flowers sent to work or home.
  16. Give a day pass to your employee's favorite golf course, spa, or country club.
  17. Give her the latest book that relates to her career.
  18. Give him a book from his favorite author.
  19. Give him a box of his favorite chocolate bars.
  20. Give him a standing ovation from the entire team.
  21. Give him a subscription to his favorite magazine (not just business-related).
  22. Give him golf lessons.
  23. Give him movie tickets.
  24. Give him or her tickets to a ball game.
  25. Give out traveling awards like a rubber chicken or other fun item.
  26. Give the person an extra long lunch break, either immediately or in voucher form.
  27. Give the person the choice of the next project/as
  28. ment to work on.
  29. Greet employees every morning, reinforcing the message "I'm glad you're here."
  30. Have a department break in honor of her.
  31. Have a monthly breakfast meeting in an outside location. Invite your team, share ideas and recognize at least one person.
  32. Have a picnic, either indoors or out, in honor of the person.
  33. Have a recognition box in your office. When someone does something outstanding, let him choose a reward out of the box-everything from a free lunch to an oil change.
  34. Have a special daily sponsorship of them somewhere on the radio such as NPR (visit NPR.org to donate).
  35. Hire a limo for an outstanding employee.
  36. Hire a maid service for a month for an outstanding employee.
  37. Hire a personal chef to prepare dinner for an employee and her family for a night.
  38. Honor employee sub-groups in your department with their own day or week (e.g., Student Worker Week, Custodian Week) and present them with flowers, candy, breakfast, etc. during that time.
  39. Improve your employee's working conditions with a nice new chair.
  40. Interview your people and capture their wisdom. Compile the quotes and stories in a booklet and hand it out to new hires.
  41. Let him or her park in your parking space for a week.
  42. Name a star after a "star" on your team.
  43. On a new employee's first day, give her a card that says you're glad she's joined the team and what impressed you most during her interview.
  44. Organize a department-wide water-gun fight in the parking lot in her honor (on a casual day).
  45. Pass around an office trophy to the employee of the week.
  46. Plant a tree in their honor.
  47. Present a Life Saver Award (packs of Life Saver candies and a gift certificate) to an employee who pitched in during an emergency or staff shortage.
  48. Print out and present a team member a "long lunch" certificate for a two-hour break.
  49. Put together a scrapbook of memories for an employee who is celebrating a milestone anniversary. Give each person on the team a blank page to fill out with stories or pictures of their experiences with that employee. Then, after the public recognition moment, the individual has not only a treasured award from the company but something from her coworkers that captures their feelings.
  50. Put up a bulletin board in your department and post letters of thanks from customers (internal and external).
  51. Recognize highly skilled employees with increased responsibility that will develop new skills that may be helpful for advancement.
  52. Recognize the importance of a new employee with a large "Welcome!" poster.
  53. Register a special day to them at MyDayRegistry.com.
  54. Remember their special days (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) and write a message in a card.
  55. Say, "Thank you."
  56. Send a handwritten note of praise (not a "thanks for all you do" letter, but a note with specific praise.) -- do this to their spouse/family.
  57. Send a letter of praise to her spouse/family (this is probably the most powerful, untapped recognition we've seen.)
  58. Send out one handwritten note a day to someone who has helped you.
  59. Submit information about your employee's achievement to the editor of your department newsletter.
  60. Volunteer to do his least favorite task.
  61. Wash his or her car.