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6 Types of Recognition for Boosting Employee Engagement

July 18, 2023

Employee recognition has gained popularity over the past few years for many reasons.

It's linked to improved employee engagement, increased employee retention, and has even been sited as the single most important driver for employees to do great work.

But knowing employee recognition is important is one thing. Getting it right as a whole team is another.

When beginning an employee recognition program, it's first important to know the basics.

Here, we'll walk through the types of recognition programs, the pros and cons of each, and the benefits of employee recognition software.


Types of Recognition

Knowing which types of recognition there are is the first step in deciding which ones are right for your company. Let's take a look at what they are.

1. Milestones or Service Awards

One of the most common types of recognition is milestone and/or service awards. And for many years, it was typically the only form of employee recognition.

Some companies use the terms "milestone" and "service" interchangeably. Others, break up service awards as awards given to employees after a certain amount years of with a company.

This can be one year, 5 years, 10 years, and so one.

Milestone awards can be a bit broader and are given when an employee reaches a particular milestone.

This can be reaching a certain sales target, completing a specific set of training, or reaching a significant amount of years with a company.

In this way, a milestone award can be considered a type of service award as well.

These awards are sometimes given in the form of customized items, like a plaque or jewelry.

However, choice-based awards are gaining popularity. This option allows employees to choose their reward through an online catalog.


Milestone and service awards are a simple way to recognize employees.

With most HRIS platforms today, employee anniversaries are easily accessible, making this type of recognition easy to manage once established.

Some people are also highly motivated by achieving some of the custom awards given today.


Because these awards have been around for so long and are easy to do, they can come off as a bit impersonal when not thought through well.


2. Public Recognition

Public recognition is fairly straightforward type of recognition that involves acknowledging employees' achievements in a public setting, usually in a manager-to-employee format.

This can be either at the start of departmental or company-wide meetings, on an email thread with multiple people, or through social recognition software.


Public recognition is simple, easy, and can be accessible to everyone at anytime.


Some people don't like attention and may become uncomfortable with being addressed publicly.


3. Private Recognition

In contrast to public recognition, private recognition involves only the person giving and the person receiving recognition.

Private recognition can be one of the most accessible types of recognition because it can be a casual conversation between two people, an email, or a hand-written note.


Oftentimes, private recognition can be more meaningful to the recipient - especially if it comes in an email or note. Many people even keep positive notes as a keepsake to reflect on in the future.


Some people find it difficult to put their thoughts into words, which can make writing a note or email daunting.

Furthermore, some employees prefer to be acknowledged publicly and enjoy having a moment in the spotlight.


4. Peer-to-Peer/Social Recognition

Peer-to-peer, or sometimes called social recognition, is when peers recognize each other. This can occur either privately, publicly, or on a social recognition platform.

Social recognition platforms are built with peer-to-peer recognition in mind, although most allow for everyone in the company to recognize each other.

While there are many software options available on the market today, the premise is that these platforms act like a social media platform exclusively for your company.

People can write on each other's walls (either privately or publicly), send points, comment, and react.


Peer-to-peer recognition can be a great way for managers to see into the daily tasks they may otherwise be excluded from.

Seeing who gets recognized for what is valuable insight into the dynamics of their team.

Social recognition software is a seamless way to provide this insight while creating visibility across the company.

People from all over the organization get a glimpse into what's happening in other departments, different offices, and between people who otherwise wouldn't meet.


Employee recognition software can be costly and difficult to gain company-wide buy in, which is critical for success.


5. Incentives

Incentives are a way to motivate your employees to achieve certain goals. These incentives oftentimes come in a few forms, including:

  1. Sales - A sales incentive is a reward offered to salespeople to help motivate them towards a goal.
  2. Performance - Similar to a sales incentive, a performance incentive is broader to include teams outside of sales. This might look like the Marketing team winning a reward for reaching record high organic web traffic.
  3. Safety - Safety incentives motivate people in hazardous roles to take the the necessary precautions to minimize incidents.

Rewards for achieving these goals could be a monetary bonus, a custom award, extra PTO, or anything your teams finds valuable.


Effective incentives are a win-win for employee and employer.

When employees achieve their goals, they receive valuable perks and the company sees increased sales, performance, and fewer safety incidents.


It can sometimes be difficult to choose an incentive award that resonates and motivates everyone on the team.


6. Wellness

On the surface, corporate wellness may not seem like a form of recognition.

However, certain wellness challenges provide the opportunity to recognize winners, most improved, most engaged, best team name, and so many more.

Companies can also award employees points through a reward platform for completing a health risk assessment or give wellness gifts for challenge winners, etc.


Encouraging employees to participate in wellness can:

  1. Increase productivity and employee engagement.
  2. Decrease health risks and increases healthy behaviors.
  3. Reduce company medical costs.
  4. Decrease employee turnover and absenteeism.
  5. Improve recruitment and retention.


Consistent participation can be a challenge for some companies. Wellness programs can therefore require a person dedicated to running wellness and prioritizes employee participation.


Why Employee Recognition is Important

Employee recognition is one of the simplest ways improve business outcomes in multiple areas.

In fact, Great Place to Work surveyed nearly 2 million employees across small, mid, and large companies and found that the single most important driver of great work was employee appreciation and recognition.

Here are a few other ways employee recognition impacts business.

Increased Productivity

Employee recognition programs have been shown to lead to increased productivity.

In fact, research from Deloitte's Talent Survey showed that companies with an employee recognition program are 14% more engaged and productive than companies without one.

Decreased Employee Turnover

When an employee doesn't feel valued for their work, research shows 76% of them will look for a new job opportunity.

But when employees do feel valued, they're more likely to stay with a company for the long-term.

So much so, another study found that effective employee recognition efforts can yield a 21% increase in employee retention, as well as 27% higher profits.

Employee recognition programs can also help to create a positive work environment and a strong sense of belonging. When employees can feel appreciated and like they are part of a team, they are less likely to leave.

Improved Work Culture

Fostering a culture of inclusion by making employees feel seen can have a profound impact on team morale.

Employee recognition also empowers and incentivize employees to align with company values.

Giving them an opportunity to connect their work to the overall company mission can create a feeling of inclusion and belonging - essential elements for a strong team culture.


Why Use Employee Recognition Software?

Knowing an employee's work and recognition is important is one thing. Implementing an effective recognition strategy is another.

This is where employee recognition software can help.

Recognition software enables employees to give and receive recognition in a way that resonates with them.

It can also streamline a company-wide recognition program into one hub.

Here are some other ways employee recognition software can help your business.

Engage Remote Workers

A survey conducted by Upwork found that 61.9% of companies were planning for an increase in remote work now and in the following years.

This same report predicted that 22% of Americans will be working remotely by the year 2025.

That being said, effectively engaging remote employees will be critical for business success now, and in the future as well.

This means that any recognition initiative you start today must be remote-friendly to be effective.

Employee recognition software makes this aspect simple.

By shifting recognition to an online platform, employees can access it whenever, wherever they like.

Objective Data

Recognition software provides objective data, which you can then use this data to identify trends and inform business decisions.

For example, you may find that the last time you actually told an employee "good job" was 2 months ago.

Or you may also notice that 3 years ago your company was more actively engaged on your platform and during that time, you had 6% less employee turnover than you do today.

Taking the subjectivity out of recognition helps ensure the program is achieving the goals you want it to.

Empower Employees

Another important element to an employee recognition platform is peer-to-peer recognition.

While employees appreciate acknowledgement from supervisors, it can sometimes be more meaningful coming from the people they spend most of their time with.

Who better to offer recognition than their peers?

An online recognition platform empowers employees to take ownership of this process by engaging with their team members in their own way.

Empowered employees are more likely to adopt a recognition culture and increase long-term engagement with the platform, as well.

An added bonus is that this software allows recognition to be immediate.

Oftentimes managers wait until quarterly or yearly reviews to offer feedback or praise.

But according to one survey, being recognized at work was the single most important factor to employees. So doing it often can be more impactful.


Build An Employee Recognition Program That Works

Employee recognition programs can be a great way to improve employee productivity, retention, and morale.

When done correctly, they can be an invaluable tool for businesses.

If you're interested in implementing an employee recognition program, schedule a demo with our team to see how Terryberry can transform your organization's recognition and employee incentive programs.