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Surveys & Engagement

Employee recognition program: Ideas to boost team morale

Leapsome Team
Employee recognition program: Ideas to boost team morale
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What separates organizations where employees feel valued from those where team members aren’t sure they matter? An intentionally designed and consistently reinforced employee recognition program. 

What does that look like in practice? Today’s employees are asking for more acknowledgment, appreciation, and input from their managers, whether it’s delivered within the context of a performance management system or as part of an ongoing staff recognition program. With 73% of employees* saying they crave more constructive feedback and recognition from their team leads, vague words of encouragement and sporadic team appreciation events aren’t going to fit the bill anymore.

Employee recognition programs are essential for companies that want to celebrate their team members’ everyday efforts, boost morale, and create a positive work culture. When you take the time to build a solid recognition plan into your organization’s automatic workflows and recurring processes, it doesn’t require much time and effort to make them effective.

Employees deserve to feel appreciated and connected with their organization, so in this article, we discuss:

  • Why a recognition plan is essential for your company
  • Seven employee recognition ideas you can implement to retain talent and celebrate team members’ accomplishments

*Leapsome Workforce Trends Report, 2023

🌱 Foster a culture where employees know their worth

Leapsome Instant Feedback integrates with Slack and Microsoft Teams, enabling you to build appreciation into your everyday workflows.

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Why employee reward & recognition programs matter

Although quit rates are declining and more professionals are looking to stay in their current roles, employee rewards and recognition programs are still an indispensable part of any engagement and retention strategy. Based on a Gallup and Workhuman survey, team members who agree that recognition is an important part of their organization’s culture are 3.7x as likely to be engaged. They’re also 3.8x as likely to feel connected with their company’s mission and purpose.

Retention is also a long game. Recent O.C. Tanner research shows that employees without awards and recognition programs plan to stay with their organizations for an average of 8.7 years. On the other hand, those with appreciation programs plan to stay for an average of 12.7 years. 

Team members may not be looking to leave their positions in the current business landscape. Still, the pendulum may eventually swing back — and your best talent may start looking for other opportunities again. After all, according to the Human Workplace Index, employee recognition and rewards are among the top five priorities workers pursue when searching for jobs.  

7 employee rewards & recognition program examples

Designing a recognition plan that employees enjoy may feel like a Herculean task, especially if you’ve received unfavorable engagement survey results or negative feedback from team members. However, it’s possible to implement opportunities for appreciation within your recurring processes. We’ll show you how with the following employee rewards and recognition program examples.

1. Regular positive feedback 

A screenshot illustrating how Leapsome Reviews uses AI to summarize key themes from reviews and generate action plans.
Make performance reviews more constructive and encouraging by leveraging Leapsome Reviews, which uses AI to generate summaries and action plans

The human brain is hardwired for negativity — that’s one reason why professionals may tend to retain and learn more from negative feedback than positive input. While negative feedback from managers and colleagues may seem to motivate team members in the short term, it can have a detrimental long-term impact on employee health. In fact, prolonged exposure to the stress hormones and neurotransmitters that are triggered by negative feedback can damage the brain and body, leading to burnout, sleep disturbances, and cardiovascular issues. Not to mention that, according to a recent Gallup report, as team member stress goes up, employee engagement tends to go down.

With the majority of UK, French, and German professionals reporting that they received hurtful feedback at their current jobs, it’s time for more organizations to prioritize employee health. One way to do that is by creating employee recognition programs that mitigate stress and lead to long-term motivation and engagement. 

It’s possible to connect your recognition programs for employees with your performance management and development workflows with these best practices:

  • Offer positive feedback in real time — Timely recognition means that managers and colleagues offer praise and appreciation directly after a team member delivers a successful presentation or finishes a critical project. Emphasize what they did right, how they embodied company values, and what they could do to improve in the future.
  • Make feedback a part of weekly check-ins — Use a tool like Leapsome Meetings to make input-sharing a part of your regular check-in agenda and offer action steps for how they can develop moving forward.
  • Leverage encouraging feedback in reviews — Leapsome Reviews allows you to connect employee strengths with specific company values and employee development goals, making positive input more memorable and motivating. 

2. Public recognition on social media

A screenshot of a team gathering post from Leapsome's LinkedIn page.

At Leapsome, we believe that sharing moments of team connection is just as important as sharing major business milestones

In an era when remote and hybrid workers feel more disconnected from their company’s mission and purpose, celebrating employee accomplishments on your company’s social media platforms is one way to show team members that their contributions matter.

Social recognition on platforms like LinkedIn and X can also help professionals amplify their reach, allowing them to build stronger networks and discover future opportunities. What’s more, this is a low-cost, low-commitment way to bolster your employee recognition program.

If you’re looking for ideas to recognize team members on social media, consider:

  • Celebrating work anniversaries — Show employees how much you appreciate them staying with your organization in the long term and mention some of the strengths and experience they bring to the table.
  • Welcoming new team members — Help new hires feel a sense of belonging by sharing how excited you are to have them on board. Be sure to highlight why they’ll be a key player in your company.
  • Spotlighting team events — Demonstrate your organization’s commitment to employee engagement by sharing key moments from team events and unique gatherings.
  • Sharing new and exciting projects — Whether your company is experimenting with podcasting, designing a new product, or venturing into a new market, make sure you put project owners front and center in your social media posts.

3. In-company appreciation via digital tools

A screenshot of a team gathering post from Leapsome's LinkedIn page.
Leapsome’s Praise Wall feature means you can share team appreciation and keep everyone engaged in your positive feedback culture, no matter where you work

Even if your company operates entirely in an office environment, you can’t deny that many modern work experiences happen online. That’s great news because recognition software has made it much easier for organizations to centralize their employee recognition programs and streamline processes for celebrating team members. Leveraging technology for employee appreciation also makes it easier for hybrid companies to help remote workers feel connected.

For instance, you can use Leapsome’s Praise Wall feature to encourage team members to shout their colleagues out and connect their appreciation with specific company values. Our Slack and Microsoft Teams integrations also mean tools like the Praise Wall can strengthen your feedback culture and reinforce organizational ideals by fitting seamlessly into your existing workflows.

4. Customizable employee awards

Generic plaques and certificates tend to lose meaning over time, which can make employees feel like no one sees their unique contributions and accomplishments. Instead, we recommend handing out more unexpected employee recognition awards based on metrics like:

  • Years of service Consider the average amount of time people spend with your organization to determine when to commemorate a team member’s years of service. For instance, if employees tend to stay with your company for an average of five years, you may want to offer awards for their one-year, two-year, and five-year work anniversaries.
  • Role-specific — Unique awards like “Sales Champion” or “Product Pioneer” can make employees from different departments feel that their distinct efforts have paid off.
  • Performance-specific — You may want to base awards on specific performance milestones and achievements, like the “Leadership Impact Award,” the “Team Collaboration Award,” or the “Innovation Excellence Award.”

To make your reward and recognition programs for employees even more memorable, you might allow team members to personalize them. "One of the trends we’re noticing,” says Synchrony’s senior vice president of total rewards Aaron Brown for SHRM, “is managers adopting a more customized digital experience where employees have the option to curate their gift digitally — for example, choosing a preferred coffee or tea — and then have it sent to their homes.”

5. Monetary rewards & compensation

A screenshot of a salary review proposal within Leapsome Compensation.
Take advantage of internal pay analytics and external benchmarks to offer more competitive bonuses with Leapsome Compensation

Pay raises may be on the slow decline due to fewer employees quitting, but that doesn’t mean you can’t offer other kinds of monetary rewards within your company recognition program to keep team members motivated. You can stay within your budget projections and honor staff contributions with:

  • Spot bonuses — Employers award these when team members complete a specific task or meet a specific goal.
  • Profit-sharing bonuses — Employees receive a percentage of company profits within a given time period to thank them for their hard work and encourage them to work toward business objectives.
  • Task bonuses or mission bonuses — These tend to be more significant than spot bonuses and reward team members for hitting important milestones or concluding business-critical projects.

Use a platform like Leapsome Compensation to review employee salary packages and decide on the bonuses you want to offer. The great news is that our platform integrates with Mercer data, so you can compare your current pay packages with external industry benchmarks and make your total rewards offerings more competitive.

💜 Show employees they matter with competitive rewards

Leapsome Compensation enables you to offer more impactful monetary rewards with customizable templates, company-wide analytics, and Mercer-powered benchmarking data.

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6. Company events

A photo from a Leapsome's 2023 team offsite.

Employees at Leapsome’s globally distributed offices celebrate each other often, but we still think it’s worth it to recognize everyone’s work at one big event each year

With the prevalence of remote work and dispersed teams, in-house events are a practical way to forge team connections, create more alignment around company strategy, and bolster employee morale. Even so, when it comes to event planning, you’ve likely got a broad range of personal preferences to consider.

For example, many modern organizations have both multi-generational and multinational teams to think about. With that in mind, how can you ensure that your company events align with and reinforce your employee recognition program?

  • Define event goals — Are you mainly using the event as an opportunity to engage, appreciate, and motivate team members? Or are you also considering offering training and development opportunities?
  • Know your employees — How many of your team members are Boomers, Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z? What are their professional goals, and how do they prefer to be recognized and rewarded? Should you prioritize team-building experiences, keynote speeches, or networking opportunities?
  • Determine how you’ll measure ROI — For instance, will you run an engagement survey post-event or monitor your long-term, company-wide performance data?

7. Employee storytelling opportunities

Every team member has a unique perspective to share, but they don’t always get a chance to do so within the context of their everyday work. Encouraging employees to share their personal journeys and professional triumphs fosters peer-to-peer connections and creates an inclusive culture where every voice is valued.

Give your people a place to share their insights and make your recognition program more powerful with ideas like:

  • Team member spotlights — Encourage team members to discuss their unique backgrounds and previous work experiences. Share their stories in your company newsletter, on your announcements channel, or even on social media.
  • Blog contributions — Ask employees to draw from their expertise and write an article for your company blog or resources page.
  • Podcast interviews — If your organization has a podcast or other similar platform, invite team members as guests to talk about lessons from their previous work experience.

Elevate your employee recognition schemes with Leapsome

 A screenshot illustrating how employee feedback looks within Leapsome Instant Feedback.
Make recognition and praise more timely, specific, and relevant to employee goals by using Leapsome Instant Feedback

Even though retention is less of a concern than in recent years, engaging your people and making them feel appreciated is vital for any company that wants to maintain its long-term competitive edge. When organizations take the time to develop employee recognition programs that work, they’re more likely to see more empowered team members who are excited about contributing to the bigger picture.

Successful employee recognition programs take strategy, creativity, and commitment at all levels to implement. However, the best employee recognition schemes need the right tech to make them seamless.

Leapsome can help you build a recognition scheme that fits harmoniously within your company’s pre-existing workflows and processes. Use Leapsome Reviews to make performance evaluations more positive, data-centric, and development-focused, and take advantage of Instant Feedback to offer encouragement and praise in real-time. Finally, Leapsome Compensation allows you to leverage internal analytics and external benchmarking data to make your rewards packages more attractive to your best talent.

With Leapsome’s comprehensive suite of tools, you can seamlessly integrate appreciation, performance evaluations, and compensation strategies to create a cohesive and effective employee recognition program that leads to more job satisfaction and engagement.

😁 Design an employee recognition program that drives engagement

Use Leapsome’s holistic platform to build a stronger employee recognition culture and offer rewards that your people actually want.

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Written By

Leapsome Team

Written by the team at Leapsome — the all-in-one people enablement platform for driving employee engagement, performance, and learning.
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