5 Employee Recognition & Reward Ideas to Help Retain Talent

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With frequent change in the workplace, and with more employees working from home or remotely than ever, showing employee recognition as a manager or company may be getting more difficult than easier. That doesn’t mean you should push the important task of showing appreciation to the wayside, though.

You need to reward employees for accomplishments big and small. You also need to show appreciation for employees just because. These are people you work with every day. They need to know they are doing a good job, and when they do, it helps they are recognized for it.

In this blog, we’ll talk about why you should reward employees, when you should do so, and, finally, share some ideas of how to show employee recognition inside and outside the workplace.

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Why Should You Give Reward Employees?

Simply put, humans need to feel like they are loved and seen. From a business perspective, employees whose work is acknowledged are more likely to be motivated to complete more work than those who aren’t acknowledged.

“Paying attention to the work and efforts of our colleagues not only provides us with much-needed human connection, it can also heighten their motivation and perseverance,” Dr. Craig Dowden, an author and executive coach, says via Psychology Today.

Appreciated and recognized employees are productive and happy employees. When you reward and recognize employees, you also have a better chance at retaining them, too.

When Should You Recognize Employees?

The simple answer to when you should recognize employees is “often.” There is not one schedule you should stick to when giving employees the appreciation they deserve. Some employees, you may find, do better and are more motivated when their work is shown appreciation more frequently than others. It also depends what sort of reward employees are receiving (which we’ll talk about more soon). Words of affirmation are a lot easier to share frequently than cash bonuses.

There are also different scenarios after which you’d reward employees, such as after bigger moments like:

  • hitting certain milestones or goals
  • completing lengthy projects
  • having better-than-expected financial quarters or years

Maybe even more importantly, though, employees should be recognized when they make smaller contributions, too, like if they:

  • came up with a good idea of how a function should run
  • took initiative on a project or with their own professional growth
  • did a good deed in the workplace or in the community

The consensus is, though, that employees need to feel recognized and appreciated. As a manager, you should appreciate employees for the work they do consistently. It doesn’t have to be every day, but employees shouldn’t go months without any recognition from their leaders.

When is that last time you showed an employee they were appreciated? Here are some employee recognition ideas to use the next time you want to show team members they are appreciated.

5 Employee Recognition Ideas

1. Cash/Tangible Rewards

Show your employees they are appreciated by giving them cash bonuses or physical rewards that make a real impact on their financial situation or general lifestyle.

Often, companies will put rewards programs for employees in place, meaning if they hit certain goals or benchmarks, the employee will win prizes or cash. However, you should also treat these types of rewards as a way to truly recognize the employee beyond just their work or performance. Surprise your employees out of the blue when they’re not expecting it–not only when they hit goals they’ve been working toward.

Pending your budgets, these rewards for staff can range from a couple dollars for a coffee or lunch all the way to thousands of dollars worth of cash bonuses or fully funded vacations. Gift cards, useful appliances, company swag, and tickets to local experiences are all great tangible rewards to give to employees.

These are good reward ideas when your team or company overachieve financial goals, leaving room in the budget surplus to spend on showing employees they are appreciated. Let them know when the company wins, everyone wins. As hiring managers and supervisors, you can also work certain rewards programs into your budget so it doesn’t come as an unexpected financial windfall. (We’ll also discuss how there are plenty of low-budget or free recognition ideas, too.)

2. Wellness Gifts

Stress and anxiety are massive problem in society, and they extend to the workplace. Sometimes, work may be the cause primary someone’s stress and anxiety. This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While stress at work comes naturally through deadlines and other factors, make sure you’re doing your best as a company to make sure your workplace isn’t the biggest point of stress for employees. This can be done proactively through generous paid-time off policies and offering mental health resources, but it can also be done on a whim to show employees you care about their health and well-being.

When you give employees days off for accomplishing their work, you’re also showing trust in them they’ll still be able to do future work in a timely manner. All this is happens while giving employees a better balance between their personal and work lives.

Similar to a tangible gift idea, give employees a day at the spa after completing big projects on stressful deadlines. At the beginning of a week, tell employees you’ll have Friday off–paid–because they’ve been working so hard. Create local partnerships with gyms or fitness class so employees have an outlet to work out some of their life stress should they choose that route.

Allow your employees to relax. Let them take time off, not only after hitting big milestones, but during stressful stretches, too, to recognize their worth to the company. Your employees’ health should be at the top of your priority list. For instance, Insight Global just announced free counseling and other mental health resources to all of its employees. If your employees are healthy and thriving at work, that hopefully leaves employees the opportunity to be their best selves outside of work.

A man with cucumbers on his eyes relaxing in a spa on a bed.

3. Affirmations/Promotions

Many people thrive on words of affirmation. This comes in the form as a simple “thank you” for completing a task or a “you did a great job on this” when they turn something in. These types of positive employee feedback go a long way toward showing an employee they are appreciated.

You can also let people within the company and outside of it know you appreciate the work an employee has put in. This can come in the form of:

  • Nominating an employee of the month
  • Spotlighting an employee on your company website or social media
  • Sending an internal newsletter to the company with the story of how an employee has positively impacted business

This public praise gives employees (and prospective employees) a good example of what your company is looking for in a team member. It may motivate employees to work just as hard or efficiently as the person being praised. Obviously, it lets the person being recognized know they are a model employee, too.

Eventually, these bits of praise and affirmation will only go so far. If you are consistently praising an employee for their good work or stepping up, that may be a sign they deserve a promotion or raise.

4. Team Outings/Parties

Team outings can be used as team-building exercises, but you can also bring employees out to events to show you recognize the work they’ve done. Some of these outings include:

  • Lunch or dinner
  • Night out at a bar (with certain number of drinks/food paid for)
  • Engaging events like TopGolf or bowling

While leaving the workplace–especially during the day–can be nice, you can also host parties at the office. Even simply buying team members lunch or turning the workplace into an event space for an afternoon can help with employee engagement and also show you appreciate the work they’ve done.

These sorts of rewards, while common, go a long way in recognizing team members hitting goals or simply acknowledging you see them more than just people who work in your office.

Team members having a party in the office, with one woman holding a drink in her hand.

5. Office Perks/Improvements

All of the aforementioned employee recognition tips have talked about rewarding employees for doing their jobs, but how about giving your employees rewards that help them do their job better, too?

There’s a cliche from the days before paperless was the way to go that a getting a new printer helped boost morale through the office. However, a new printer sounds kind of nice, right? Or new laptops? Or new technologies or tools that help your employees get their job done better and faster?

It’s hard from a bandwidth and financial perspective to stay up-to-date with the latest technology advances in your field. You can show your employees you recognize the work they’re doing, though, by investing in their ability to do their job more efficiently and with less headaches.

Perhaps after you hit a financial goal, you can invest in a certain program a couple team members have been wanting to use. Or, you can even proactively reward employees with a new program or computer to show you’re invested in how they’re doing their job. Either of these scenarios will show your employees you care, and that’s the end goal here.


Show employee recognition in various ways. Obviously every company has different budget constraints or freedoms, but there are hundreds of ways to provide rewards for staff that make an impact. This can be done as tiny as telling an employee they’re doing great work, or you can provide impactful cash bonuses for a job well done.

Feel out how often each employee needs praise and recognition, too. Sometimes, an entire team may get a boost from the smallest gesture. Show you care.

If you need help with your company culture, check out Insight Global’s culture consulting division, Compass, for more information on how to improve office moral and build an effective culture.

Need help finding talented employees? Visit Insight Global's Staffing Services page to get started.