25 Unique Employee Recognition Ideas

Employees who feel appreciated have greater job satisfaction, which leads to increased productivity. Rewarding employee efforts is within your reach! Use the employee appreciation ideas below to recognize your staff in memorable, creative ways.

1. Badge of Honor Make sure all of your employees have badge holders. On a randomly chosen day each week, fill a bowl with the names of people who are wearing them. Then, draw a name and award that person a prize.

2. Gotcha! Announce a mandatory training session for your employees. But instead of organizing one, plan a motivational event. Hang up festive decorations in the event location. When the employees enter, yell “Surprise!” Give an inspiring speech and hand each employee a gift tote.

3. Touch of Tinseltown Recreate Hollywood’s Walk of Fame by taping large paper stars featuring the names of celebrities on the floor. Use cardboard and white paint to make the “Hollywood” sign. Ask department managers to dress up as movie stars. Have them welcome your employees at the start of their shifts, and give each employee a token of appreciation.

4. Perfect Fit Show staff members they’re a good fit for your team with a fun team-building activity. Pick up a puzzle that has approximately as many pieces as you have staff members. Bring everyone together. Let each person pick a piece. Then, ask employees to walk around the room and find people who have pieces that attach to theirs. Reward participants with a treat pack.

5. Innovative Activity Let your employees be inventors for an afternoon. Divide them into teams, and provide each team with a box of random office supplies. Instruct each group to come up with an invention using the items. Have them make presentations about their inventions, and give them gifts for participating.

Celebrate Employees

6. Thanks On Wheels One morning, surprise your employees with custom tumblers. Then, push around a cart that carries coffee and easy-to-eat breakfast foods. Dispense the coffee into the travel mugs.

7. Cool Contest Take the ice cream social up a few notches. Hold a competition amongst employees to find new ice cream sundaes (combinations of ice cream flavors and toppings). Provide all of the ingredients to make them. Give employees mood bowls to put their sundaes in. Gather the names of each employee creation and which ingredients are involved. Let all staff members vote for their favorite dish. Present the winner with a custom fleece jacket.

8. Charismatic Character If your business doesn’t already have one, a mascot might be just what you need to help recognize and energize your staff. Recruit an outgoing person to fill the role of the mascot. Have him or her dress up and pass out food and candy gift sets once a month.

9. Shining Suggestions Employees who are involved in the company are more dedicated to its success. Ask your employees for suggestions on how to improve yours. Create suggestion forms and set up a box to put them in. Make sure employees write their names on the forms so you can reward them for good suggestions.

10. Putting It in Writing Sometimes praise from co-workers means just as much, if not more, than praise from management. Pass out stationery sets to your employees. Encourage everyone to use the custom notepads to write positive notes to other employees. They can leave notes on desks for the recipient to find or hand them over in person.

11. Make Note of Your Appreciation Surprise employees with a simple, heartfelt gift that puts your appreciation into words. The night before your Appreciation Day event, place a mini jotter and pen set at each employee's work station to be discovered first thing in the morning. Be sure to write a small note of appreciation in each jotter!

12. Parking Lot Party Celebrate your staff by staging a tailgate party in the work parking lot. Clear an area of vehicles and set up grills and tables. Serve up food and drink and pass out custom coolers.

13. Take Out Stress Treat your hard-working employees to a "Relax, You Deserve It Day." Hire a massage therapist to give 10-minute back and shoulder rubs throughout the day. Set up your lounge or break room with bean bags, mellow tunes, mood lighting, and lava lamps. Then, send everyone home with an adult coloring book to help prolong relaxation.

14. Make Appreciation Fashionable Outfit your entire staff with custom t-shirts to wear on your Employee Appreciation Day celebration. Gather everyone together for a few words of inspiration and encourage all to join in a rousing round of applause and cheers. While this is going on, have someone place a gift of appreciation at each employee’s work station.

Celebrate Employees

15. Wonderful Week Hold a week of theme days to generate fun and build enthusiasm. Start with "Motivational Monday." Give a stirring speech and hand out tokens of appreciation. On "Teamwork Tuesday," let employees wear their favorite sports team shirts. Celebrate "We're Wild About Our Staff Wednesday" and encourage employees to wear animal-print clothes. For "Thank You Thursday," give everyone a thank-you note. Finally, celebrate "Fiesta Friday" with a Mexican food luncheon.

16. Activity Most Likely to Succeed Design a memento for your staff members. Gather individual photos of all your staff. Then, choose a title for each staffer, such as Most Organized, Funniest, Most Creative, etc. Put the photos and titles together in a “yearbook.” Have high-quality copies made. Give the booklets to your staff members with a greeting card.

17. Rockin’ Recognition Divide your staff into teams and ask each one to pick a rock band name. Have the teams compete in games, such as Charades and Hangman, for a week. Award points to the winning team of each game. At the end of the week, tally the points and present custom awards to the members of the team with the best overall score.

18. Worldly Meal Highlight the diversity of your staff by planning a luncheon of international foods. Ask employees of different ethnicities for food and drink suggestions. Decorate the dining area with maps from all over the world. At the luncheon, give employees custom lunch bags to use for leftovers.

19. Fire Up the Barbecue Show your gratitude with a barbecue and potluck at a local park. Invite all your employees, and ask attendees to bring their favorite side dish to complement the meat or vegetarian choices on the grill. Organize some fun outdoor games, like Frisbee® and Croquet. During lunch, say a few words of thanks and pass out apron and BBQ sets.

Celebrate Your Employees

20. Close to Our Hearts Organize a luncheon with heart-healthy foods such as salads, available buffet style. Make sure all salad ingredients are low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Have a nutritionist come in to speak about eating heart-healthy foods. Pass out salad containers at the end of the luncheon.

21. Raining Recognition! EDecorate a bulletin board or display case with paper raindrops and hang a sign that reads, “We Shower Our Staff With Appreciation.” Draw a template of a large raindrop on a sheet of paper and make copies of it. Write thank-you notes to employees on the paper raindrops, and, each day for a week, tack up several of the raindrop notes. At the end of the week, distribute umbrellas to employees.

22. Personalized Poetry Write a rhyming poem about each of your employees. In the rhyme, mention admirable characteristics of the person. Every day for a week, read one or more poems out loud (depending on the size of your staff). Present the subject of the poem with a stationery gift set.

23. Fruitful Event Snacking is beneficial to health, if done correctly. Provide your employees with healthy snacks by serving fruit mid-morning. Pick a category of fruit per day, such as citrus or berries—or choose a color such as yellow to focus on daily. Hand out a fruit infuser tumbler to each employee along with the fruit.

24. Up, Up, and Away! Without a dedicated staff, your business wouldn’t have reached its current heights of success. Create posters that read “Thanks For Helping Our Company Soar.” Hang up photographs of various types of aircraft. Distribute soda and juice from a cart that you push through the halls. Also, pass out small bags of peanuts or pretzels.

25. Growing Gratitude Bring the beauty of nature to your employees, and let them know they help your business bloom. Use a floral theme for your employee recognition event. Place potted flowers around your department. Have cut flowers on the tables, and decorate bulletin boards with artificial flowers. Give employees sip-n-go tumblers with seed packets and tea.