10 easy employee recognition ideas (for when ‘thank you’ just isn’t enough)

Keeping your team happy and motivated should be high on your priority list — especially if you want them to stick around. Studies show that 82% of employees are happier when recognized at work, and 63% of regularly recognized team members say they’re less likely to look for another job

Employee retention aside, praising your team also boosts productivity and engagement. And while a simple “thank you” always goes a long way, there are lots of other easy ways to provide additional encouragement and recognition. 

Here are 10 we love:

1. Know what makes them tick 

Recognition may look different to different team members. So, it’s important to learn and understand 

what motivates each employee. 

An easy way to “read the room” is to build a team survey. Check out our article for a simple 4-step process and template. 

Once you know what each team member most appreciates, set up a few ‘recognition’ buckets with each person’s name sorted into that you can look back on when it’s time to say “great job.” 

2. Remember their anniversary 

Recognizing work anniversaries is a simple way to show you appreciate your employee’s efforts year in and year out. Set up a calendar to keep track of when everyone started so you can commemorate the special day. 

Also, call it out on your team communication platform so everyone can celebrate together. You can also offer small gifts like an extra discount for your products, free lunch, or even something inexpensive but fun, like lottery tickets. 

3. Give a Shout Out

If your prize employee enjoys the spotlight, public praise will be well received. Recognizing accomplishments during a business-wide meeting or on your social media pages will likely benefit everyone’s morale.

It also sends the message to the rest of your employees that you notice and appreciate extra efforts. But this is one case in which it pays to know your employee’s personalities — some people would love nothing more than to have their praises sung from the rooftops, whereas others would prefer something more low-key. 

In the Homebase app, Shout Outs make it easy for everyone — managers and employees alike — to recognize one another when they go above and beyond. 

4. Let them control the playlist 

Award someone for their positive attitude by giving them the chance to keep the good vibes going. Take a day off from worrying about workplace tunes and pass the control over to a high-performing employee. 

Tip: Before handing out this award, invite everyone to submit their ideal playlist. This way, you can have it ready to go when the time comes — and you’ll have some time to make sure none of the songs are inappropriate for your space. It’s also an easy way to get to know your team a little better! 

5. Start a peer-driven nomination program 

An “Employee of the Month” program is nothing new, but sometimes this type of recognition can mean more when it comes from peers. Ask your staff to keep an eye out for star colleagues and have everyone submit their nominations at the end of each month. 

This kind of recognition will boost interaction among employees and help create a more positive culture, which is always an added bonus. 

6. Give the gift of surprise

Sure, everyone gets accustomed to ‘Employee of the Month’ awards, but an unexpected praise bomb can sometimes be more impactful. Who doesn’t like an unexpected present just for being a great employee? 

Surprise praise can also be given to your team as a whole. Maybe your sales for the month were exceptionally high, or maybe the staff achieved a new goal faster than expected. Wins like these deserve a mini-celebration like free treats from your local cookie shop or a team happy hour. 

7. Award special assignments

Sometimes, a new and exciting project is the best reward for star employees. While it may seem strange to reward good workers with more work, chances are they’ll appreciate your confidence in their abilities.

Giving your best chefs the chance to revamp your lunch menu, for instance, will reinforce your appreciation for their knowledge and capabilities. This is also a good way to delegate responsibilities and keep your own workload manageable — your entire team will benefit.

8. Offer flexible scheduling

Another easy way to show your appreciation is through preferential employee scheduling. Many team members value flexible work hours, according to a recent Homebase survey. Give them the option to trade shifts and update their availability with a minimal amount of notice.

Other employees may prefer stability over flexibility — especially if they have a family. For them, publishing their schedules weeks in advance will add a little predictability to their lives and their pay.

9. Help them recharge 

Mental health is seen as a high priority for 50% of employees, according to a recent study. Give deserving team members a chance to recharge by creating a “wellness menu” they can pick from, like: 

  • Massages
  • Yoga or dance class pass
  • Reflexology 
  • Cooking class 

You can also set a budget and allow them to pick a wellness activity of their choice. 

10. Be specific

Instead of saying, “thanks for all you do,” explain what you’re thanking them for. This way your team can internalize what types of behavior drive recognition. It’s the most straightforward way to reward good behavior and make sure your employees know exactly where to direct their efforts.

From Shout Outs to flexible scheduling, Homebase provides the tools you need to not only recognize your team for a job well done but also to keep them happy, motivated, and successful


Employee praise FAQs


What can you say to show appreciation for an employee?

When an employee has gone the extra mile in their hard work, you should do the same when showing appreciation. Instead of just saying “good work”, you should give public recognition for their great work in team meetings to foster a positive company culture with the rest of the team. You should also reiterate the positive feedback in the employee’s next performance review.  


What is a good gift to appreciate employees?

A good gift to show appreciation for individual team members after a strong performance should be small but personalized to their character and interests. When you’re looking to reward the whole team for their contribution to your company’s success, you can show appreciation in several ways, from ordering food for everyone to giving them an extra day off.  

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