Employee recognition is all about acknowledging the hard work and achievements of your team members within your organisation. The world of work is rapidly changing and so are the needs of individuals, Gen Z-ers and millennials that would make up most of the workforce in the coming years seek autonomy, sense of belonging and recognition at the workplace. Hence, it is important to embed employee recognition initiatives as part of your reward strategy all while supporting the work your employees do and staying authentic to your organisation’s vision and values.

At a time when employees are working remotely and may be asked to ‘flex’ to adapt to the ever-changing business reality, ensuring that employers recognise their efforts and encourage them is key to long-term success.

A 2019 survey by the World at Work reported that 87% of organisations have a staff recognition programme in place; this can range anywhere from Employee of the Month to bonuses or gift cards. While some organisations opt for traditional recognition, some informal and unconventional ways to recognise employees may achieve the results you need without necessarily breaking the bank.

Here are my top five creative ideas to recognise employees:

  1. Go tech-savvy

    One of the best ways to recognise the hard work in the age of digitalisation is to publicly acknowledge the achievements of the employees on the internet. Use the company website and social handles to recognise and appreciate your employees. That way your stakeholders will take notice of your commitment to your employees and the employee can re-share their achievement on their Twitter or Instagram handle for their friends, families and followers to see! This could be a ‘champion’ page on your website or a one-minute ‘appreciation’ video from the line manager posted on social media. Let’s get creative and give our stars a shout out!

  2. Invest in interest

    While many organisations tend to look at gift cards or spot bonuses to incentivise their high-performing employees, a rather unique way for organisations to do so is to gift employees an experience. This could be an online language course if you know your employee is not this, two tickets to the opera, or scuba diving lessons if they are into adventure. As the crisis triggered by the global pandemic is particularly hitting small businesses, this could also be the opportunity to support local start-ups as well – how about a fresh fruit basket or self-care packages? Depending on the demographic of your workforce, you could also look at offering something as simple as phone credit, or a subscription to channels they may enjoy. While the traditional gift card is a great way to let them buy what they want, buying an experience shows a deeper commitment into the personal interests of the employee and can go a long way in strengthening loyalty.

  3. Life-long learning

    Giving your employees an opportunity to learn is another great way to reinforce your commitment to their personal and professional development. The learning does not have to be job-related, it should be something they have a passion for and believe would help their professional development. It could be enrolling them on a professional course, a partial reimbursement for their tuition fees, sending them to attend a conference like the upcoming CIPD Middle East People Conference & Awards, involving them in a special project outside their work responsibilities or cross-training in a different work function to help them develop new skills.

  4. Ask for assistance

    Appreciation and recognition do not have to be tangible and cost money. Another effective method to appreciate your employees is seeking their advice on special projects, asking them for their opinion and feedback on the way you design your products and services. When you ask your employee for their help, it sends a strong message that you value their opinion and acknowledge their expertise; a great way to boost their confidence.

  5. Hold regular employee appreciation days

    Every month, use the day as an opportunity to recognise the hard work and achievement of your employees. You could even extend the celebration to an entire week and plan something for each day of the week. Activities could include wellness-focused initiatives, team night out, bring your pet to work day, cultural outfit day or even a giant cake with a thank you message for the entire team. In the current context, many of those can still take place virtually!

Finally, my bonus but the simplest tip: Say ‘Thank you’! Do not wait for big accomplishments, every little milestone matters and is the ladder to something bigger so help them climb the ladder with positivity, motivation and confidence. It might sound simple but stopping by their desk to say thank you or leaving a sticky note with a thank you message on their desk can really make employees feel valued.

Recognising your employees not only benefits the individual but also the organisation as it reduces employee turnover, helps retain the talent and succession planning and increases productivity. It also is a vital tool to assist with employer branding and becoming an employer of choice.

Some of the ideas may seem insignificant but it’s the little things that can make a difference. Your employees are your most precious asset so make them feel appreciated on a regular basis and make recognition an integral part of your organisation’s culture. A happy employee leads to increased productivity and a positive work environment that ultimately will lead to a positive customer experience.

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At the CIPD, we champion better work and working lives. We help organisations to thrive by focusing on their people, supporting economies and society for the future. We lead debate as the voice for everyone wanting a better world of work.