An employee award today isn't like your high school superlatives. Your staff wants to be recognized and appreciated for their performance at work (and not just voted "class clown" or "best smile").
Recognition looks different for everyone, but a series of studies by Harvard Business Review show that symbolic awards (public credit, cards, certificates, and plaques) might be more effective than traditional monetary incentives (cash, bonuses, and gift cards). The studies suggest that employee awards and recognition significantly increase performance, retention rates, and intrinsic motivation.
Take your employee award ideas beyond "Employee of the Month" and "Top-Performer of the Year" by adding a splash of creativity and originality. Below, we'll walk you through 15 examples you can use to spice up your employee award titles and personalize recognition at your business.
First, let's get on the same page about why this matters—now more than ever.
Why Employee Awards Matter (Now More Than Ever)
The United States has been experiencing record-low unemployment levels throughout 2022. Businesses desperately need employees, which means your staff has more options than ever. If your team isn't satisfied and engaged at work, there's a good chance they can find a new job in little-to-no time.
Money comes, and money goes, but experiences and memories can last forever.
Think about employee recognition awards you've achieved throughout your career (if any)—do you remember what they were and why you earned them? Probably. You likely still have the plaque sitting on your desk or somewhere nearby.
Now, think about employee compensation rewards you've earned throughout your career—can you remember how much you earned, why you earned it, and what you purchased with it? Probably not.
Here are a few reasons employee recognition and engagement matter:
- Employees who feel a sense of belonging have a 50% lower risk of turnover and 56% higher performance than employees who feel they don't belong.
- Employee productivity and customer service are 14% higher where recognition occurs compared to where it doesn't.
- Organizations that give regular recognition experience 23.4% less employee turnover.
15 Original Employee Award Ideas
As much as possible, tailor your awards specifically to your employees' accomplishments and performance. Instead of "Employee of the Month" (which is rather generic), try personalizing it to their contributions with a title such as "Talent Finder of the Month" or "Help Desk Titan Award."
We've curated a fun list of employee award ideas you can use for your recognition program. Feel free to borrow these exactly as is or use them as a jumping-off point in coming up with your own one-of-a-kind awards.
1. Culture Steward Award
Recognize employees that protect your company culture and live your values. Making sales and smashing business goals are important, but your company won't survive long-term without individuals championing your culture.
While PDFs and posters of your values help reinforce them, a better visual reminder is an individual that embodies the values you aspire to. When faced with a problem, your employees can think, "What would Josh in customer support do?"
2. Above and Beyond Award
Most of the time, it's easy to do your job and complete the bare minimum requirements. However, it takes more dedication and commitment to go above and beyond your job description to improve processes and eliminate obstacles.
Recognize employees that do more than they're asked—they're usually not hard to find. They're the ones who raise their hands (when no one else does) and solve problems nobody took the initiative to tackle.
3. Better Together Teamwork Award
Celebrate an entire team that worked together to accomplish something extraordinary. This might be a big campaign, milestone, or cross-team collaboration. Recognizing an entire team shows the collective value individuals can have when they work together, and it demonstrates you notice.
Since sharing a plaque or trophy can be difficult, consider awarding this team with dinner, time off, a team-building event, or other special offsite activity.
4. Level Up Award
Recognize employees who learn new skills or gain higher education. For example, you might give this award to an employee who pursued another degree or completed a certification course.
Recognizing these accomplishments shows your company that you care about career development and building skills they'll use for the rest of their lives.
5. Customer Is Always Right Award
Dealing with difficult customers isn't easy, but customer support and success teams deal with it on a day-to-day basis. Show your support team you care with an award highlighting an employee who truly wears the customer's shoes.
They might have solved a complex issue, retained an important client, or put out a fire before it expanded.
6. Make Things Happen Award
There are thinkers and doers, and both are valuable to your business. Award your employees who take ideas (big and small) and make them a reality. That might be as simple as finally fixing a broken workflow process or planning the company's first offsite event.
Whatever it may be, recognize the employees that get things done rather than just talk about it.
7. The Ace of Sales Award
The sales department can be a competitive environment at just about any business, especially if compensation is dependent on commission and performance. Show your sales staff you care with an award that recognizes employees that make a big difference for your bottom line. Consider giving the prize out for different accomplishments:
- Most sales for the quarter
- Highest deal closed
- Most complicated deal closed
- Big-named client deal closed
- Largest up-sell or cross-sell
8. Traffic Driver of the Year Award
Marketing can sometimes be a thankless task, but these employees are often responsible for the lead generation and website traffic that eventually convert into customers. Award your best writer or search engine optimization expert for having the most impact on organic or paid search traffic.
9. Headhunter of the Year Award
It takes people to run a business, and your human resource department spends its hours finding and retaining top talent. Recognize your leading recruiters with an award that shows your business values their efforts. You could award your human resource staff for various achievements:
- Recruited the most employees
- Filled a high-level position
- Launched an important new employee perk
- Decreased employee turnover
- Found opportunities for internal transitions and promotions
10. Home Away From Home Award
Your office is a home away from home, and many employees spend more waking hours there than they do in their own houses. Your office operations team is responsible for everything from keeping the place clean to welcoming visitors—show them some love with an award that proves their smiling faces (every day) mean something.
11. Employee's Choice Award
Your employees know what goes on behind the scenes of every successful launch. They know the silent players your business can't live without. Put the power in your employees' hands and let them vote on who should receive a recognition award.
This method helps you celebrate everyone at your company, even when they're not the loudest at the table.
12. Like a Boss Award
It's not easy being a manager. Recognize the junior and senior leaders at your company that take mentorship and leadership seriously. These go-getters get things done while building up their direct reports and driving their careers forward.
13. Safety First Award
While it's great to reach business goals, it's important not to get ahead of yourselves. Celebrate the individuals who help everyone take a step back and focus on physical, mental, emotional, and social health. These employees remind you about what's important and put people before metrics.
14. Stick Around Award
Award employees who've stayed at your company for an extended period of time. Depending on the age of your business, that might be three years, or it could be seven. Show that you value tenure and commitment by recognizing those who've stuck with you through the good and bad times.
15. Remote Champion Award
Many companies have adopted remote-friendly policies since the COVID-19 pandemic, but working from home isn't easy for everyone. Recognize the champions at your company (remote or in-office) that strive to make the hybrid model work.
They might be the ones who always add Zoom links to conference room meetings, or they could be the individuals who take time to pause and get feedback from folks on the call.
Launch Your Employee Recognition Award Program with Terryberry
Building an employee awards program from the bottom up can be intimidating and time-consuming. Skip the learning curve and adopt a recognition system that works with Terryberry.
Whether you need performance and incentive rewards or a social recognition platform, we've got you covered. Schedule a demo with our team to see how Terryberry can transform engagement and recognition at your company.