21 Fun and Creative Employee Recognition Ideas

Last Updated on April 19, 2024 by Milton Campbell

Employers spend a lot of time and money making sure their employees are performing at a high level. However, what if there was a way to increase productivity without spending a ton of money? You can do this by recognizing and rewarding your team.

In this article, you will discover some of the best and most creative employee recognition ideas. Most cost little to no money and bring huge results.

Why Is an Employee Recognition Program Important?

Recognition is the most powerful tool to foster engagement and motivate your people.

Recognition makes employees feel valued, appreciated, and happy at work. When recognition goes wrong, it can actually demotivate employees and even cause them to leave your organization.

Employee recognition is a great way to motivate employees who are already doing well. But if you want to promote employee retention, employee engagement, and high performance, it’s not enough just to recognize your star performers, you need to find ways to show appreciation for everyone in the company.

See Related: 8 Characteristics Of Effective Teams (and How To Build Them)

What Are Some Creative Employee Recognition Ideas

An employee smiling after being recognized.

Celebrate birthdays to Recognize Employees

A birthday is a good time to show your employees that you appreciate their hard work by recognizing them in some way. This could be as simple as bringing in a cake and letting everyone sing, or giving out small gifts (such as chocolate bars) to each employee. It’s also an opportunity to thank your employees for all they do every day!

Celebrate work anniversaries

Anniversaries are a great way to recognize employees who have worked for your company for a long time. You can celebrate by giving them a gift, having a party and inviting the family, or simply celebrating in any way you choose. Be sure to send out invitations so nobody feels left out of the festivities!

Offer Extended Breaks

Giving employees extended breaks is a great way to show them that you appreciate their hard work. It also gives you an opportunity to celebrate a job well done, and give employees time to relax and unwind. Employees who are burnt-out and overworked can become less productive, so offering them extended breaks will help them recharge and be more productive once they return to work.

In addition to helping your employees recharge, taking an extended break is also good for developing better relationships with the people around you. Whether it’s spending time with friends or family members or just relaxing on your own by watching TV shows or reading books, taking some time off from work can help foster more positive interactions with colleagues outside of the office as well as within it!

Take Employees out for Coffee

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This can be a great way to give them a break from the office and get to know them better. You’ll learn what they like, dislike, and even how they feel about their job and the company.

Bring in Bagels or Doughnuts

Bagels and doughnuts are a great way to put a smile on your employees’ faces. This can show them that you care about them. It’s always great to surprise your employees and do things they aren’t expecting.

When you bring in bagels or doughnuts, always have a variety of flavors available. Be sure that they are fresh, and keep them in the break room for everyone to enjoy!

Nowadays you can even have them delivered so no one has to leave their desk during work hours.

Send Employees Home Early

If you want to send employees home early, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, this isn’t something that has to be reserved for only special occasions. You could also use it as an opportunity to recognize individual employees who are doing great work or have gone above and beyond for the team.

In addition, don’t feel like you need to send a lot of people home. Just one or two is enough, as long as it’s the right person(s). And finally, don’t feel like you have to give them a lot of time off either, even just half an hour can make all the difference!

Provide Additional Personal/Professional Growth Opportunities

When you provide additional personal and professional growth opportunities for employees, you can help them to develop and expand their skills. Here are some ideas:

  • Send employees to conferences or seminars. You may have the opportunity to attend a conference or seminar that could benefit your business and its employees. If so, consider sending one of your top performers along with you so that he or she can learn something new as well. This will also give him or her the opportunity to network with others in similar roles at other companies who might be able to offer advice on how he or she can improve his or her own performance.
  • Provide training sessions for all employees on a regular basis. Regularly scheduled workshops, training sessions, and other types of learning opportunities will keep everyone up-to-date on what’s happening within the company and how they can use this information to do better work each day.

Swap Jobs For a Day

This is a great way for employees to learn more about their colleagues and the company culture. Employees can help each other out, but they also get an opportunity to discover new things about the company. This is an excellent way to get a better understanding of the overall mission of the company. This can also be an opportunity for a burnt-out employee to find something new to do in the company instead of leaving the company.

Let Employees Job Shadow for a Day

A job shadowing day is a great way to show employees the work that goes into their job, and how what they do fits into the bigger picture. If you allow them to job shadow you, they can get a much better understanding of what you do. This can help make your job easier in the long run.

Start a Rewards Points System

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A rewards points system is a great way to reward your employees for their hard work. Rewards points can be redeemed for various rewards, including cash, gift cards, company merchandise, and even company stock.

The best way to implement a rewards points program at your company is by making it easy for employees to earn the points they need in order to redeem them for something that they want or need. This will help keep everyone engaged in trying to get more points so that they can get what they want without having too much pressure put on them or feeling like it’s taking too much time away from their regular work tasks.

Organize Team-Building Events

Team-building activities are great for helping you get to know your coworkers better. They can help build trust, respect, and relationships between co-workers who might not have a chance to interact otherwise.

I’m a big fan of organizing team-building events because they make it easier for teams to work together on future projects and tasks. If you want your employees to feel connected with each other (and the company as a whole), this is one of the best ways!

See Related: 10 Fun Team Building Activities Your Employees Will Love

Give Better Parking Spaces

Parking spaces are a common method of recognizing employees, but it’s easy to forget that they can also be used to encourage more positive behavior. When an employee has gone above and beyond in their work, a parking space can be the perfect reward. If you’re trying to recognize someone who has been with your company for years, giving them an additional parking space right off the bat is a great way of saying “you count” without actually saying those words.

Offer Telework Opportunities

Take a look at your office space. If you’re like many other companies, it’s probably large and expensive. But do you really need all of that space? Telework can help reduce the cost of office space and commuting, which can mean big savings for you and more money in your employees’ pockets.

Telework is also beneficial for your employees’ health and well-being. Studies show that telecommuters are happier than those who commute to work every day, as well as less stressed out by their commutes. Many people find themselves able to focus better before or after taking care of their kids or pets when they telecommute from home. This means they can get more done during the day without feeling like they’re missing out on time with family members or beloved animals!

Recognize on Company Social Media

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On company social media, it’s important to recognize employees for their hard work. When you post a photo or video of an individual employee on your company’s Facebook page, other people will see that they’re doing a good job and feel inspired to do better themselves.

If you want to be even more targeted in your recognition efforts, consider sharing an employee’s success story on LinkedIn or Pinterest so that professionals in related fields can see how much that person has achieved and use this as motivation to achieve similar levels of success themselves.

In addition to using employee recognition ideas such as the ones mentioned above when posting content on your company’s social media accounts (for example, Twitter), remember that the same principles apply if someone else posts something about one of your employees: Take note!

Your business could potentially benefit from highlighting customer testimonials or positive reviews from other businesses if they mention someone who works there by name. Make sure those individuals are acknowledged when this happens so everyone knows what kind of impact they make outside our walls too!

Offer a Spa Day

A spa day is an excellent way to reward your employees. It can be a great way to show appreciation for long-term employees and it can be a great way to show appreciation for new hires, too. A spa day gives everyone in the office a chance to relax and unwind before they head back into the workplace.

A spa day is not just something that you do once or twice a year; it’s something that you do every so often in order to make sure that your employees feel appreciated as part of their job. This will help them continue doing what they’re supposed to be doing, which makes your business more successful overall!

Start a Peer Rewards Program

A peer rewards program is a way of recognizing employees who have gone above and beyond their job descriptions. Having this kind of peer recognition program will help you keep your employees motivated, it will also help motivate other employees to do more than they thought they could. The premise of this program is that employees are nominated by their peers for these awards.

Host a monthly potluck

A potluck is a great way to encourage employee engagement. It is also a great opportunity for teams to work collaboratively and creatively on their dishes. Not only will it allow your employees to show off their culinary prowess, but it can help you foster relationships within the team. You may want to take notes on which dishes are most popular so that you can incorporate those into future employee appreciation days!

Give shoutouts for great work

Shoutouts for great work should be specific to the employee and in public. If you’re going to give someone a shoutout, make sure to do it in a timely manner that’s relevant to the employee’s work. The best shoutouts are specific, positive, and relevant. This keeps employees motivated and encourages them to continue doing good work.

Provide headquarters tours for employees’ families

You can offer a tour of the corporate headquarters for the family members of your employees. This is a good way for them to see how their loved ones work and what they do at work.

This will also give you time with each employee’s family, which allows you to get feedback on how well you are handling certain situations in your company.

Create a wall of fame with photos and small bios of each employee

A wall of fame is a great way to show employees that you appreciate their hard work, and it also gives them an opportunity to be recognized for their achievements. You can create a small bio for each employee that highlights their skills and personality, such as: “John Doe is our resident IT guru; he’s always willing to help us troubleshoot our computers.”

You could also set up a contest in which the winner gets their photo and bio featured on the wall of fame.

Host an employee appreciation event or day

Employee appreciation events are a great way to show your employees that you care. By creating a fun, celebratory atmosphere and providing food and drinks, you can make sure everyone has a good time. You could:

  • Host an employee appreciation event or day.
  • Provide food and drinks for staff members and their guests at a company picnic or happy hour event.
  • Hold an auction with prizes donated by local businesses or sponsors of the organization.
  • Host an end-of-year gala dinner with live entertainment (a DJ, karaoke machine, etc.).

Give out gift cards and other prizes throughout the year to keep employees engaged and motivated

Gift cards are a great way to show appreciation, and the best part is that you can choose from so many different options. You can give them out for any occasion or just because. For example, you can get gift cards in any amount from $5 to $50 (or more!). You can even give them out as rewards for good work or as incentives to help increase productivity and efficiency in your workplace. If there’s a specific store where your employees like shopping, then go ahead and purchase gift card vouchers there too! It’s all up to you how often and when these should be given out as long as they fit into your budget.

A fun twist on this idea would be giving away other types of prizes instead of just gift cards; maybe tickets to an upcoming concert or sporting event? Or maybe even vacation packages? There are plenty of ways we can reward our employees if we put some thought into what those rewards should look like!

Is Public Recognition or Private Better?

When it comes to recognizing and appreciating employees, both public and private recognition have their merits. Each approach has its own unique benefits and considerations to keep in mind. Let’s take a closer look at the advantages of both public and private employee recognition to help you determine which one might be better for your workplace.

Public Recognition: Celebrating Achievements with the Whole Team

Public recognition involves acknowledging an employee’s accomplishments in a public setting, such as company-wide meetings, newsletters, or public announcements. This form of recognition offers several benefits:

Boosts Employee Morale

Public recognition has a way of making employees feel proud of their achievements. When their accomplishments are celebrated in front of their colleagues, it can boost their morale and sense of belonging within the team.

Inspires Others

Public recognition not only highlights individual achievements but also serves as an inspiration for others. When employees see their colleagues being recognized, it can motivate them to strive for excellence and put in their best effort.

Fosters a Culture of Appreciation

When recognition is given publicly, it helps create a culture of appreciation within the organization. It sets the tone that hard work and achievements are valued and acknowledged, encouraging others to go above and beyond.

Private Recognition: Personalized and Meaningful Acknowledgment

Private recognition focuses on acknowledging employees’ achievements in one-on-one settings, such as through personal meetings or written notes. Here are some reasons why private recognition can be beneficial:

Personal and Meaningful

Private recognition allows for a more personalized approach. It gives managers the opportunity to have a genuine and meaningful conversation with employees, expressing gratitude and appreciation specific to their contributions.

Builds Stronger Relationships

Private recognition can help strengthen the manager-employee relationship. By taking the time to have a private conversation, managers can connect on a deeper level with their employees and provide individualized feedback and support.

Respects Employee Preferences

Not all employees may be comfortable receiving public recognition. Some may prefer a more private acknowledgment of their achievements. By offering private recognition, you respect their preferences and create an environment where employees feel valued in a way that suits them best.

Finding the Right Balance

Instead of looking at public and private recognition as an either-or choice, it’s important to find the right balance between the two approaches. Consider these factors when deciding how to recognize your employees:

Nature of the Achievement

The nature of the achievement can influence the type of recognition. Public recognition may be suitable for significant milestones or achievements that have a broader impact, while private recognition can be reserved for more personal or sensitive accomplishments.

Employee Preferences

Take into account the preferences and comfort levels of your employees. Some individuals thrive with public recognition, while others may appreciate a more private and personal approach. Inquire about their preferences and tailor your recognition accordingly.

Company Culture

Consider your company culture and the values you want to promote. If teamwork and collaboration are important to your organization, highlighting achievements publicly can foster a sense of camaraderie and motivate employees to support one another.

Balance and Variety

Strive for a balance between public and private recognition. An effective recognition strategy incorporates a variety of approaches to cater to different employee preferences and allows for both collective celebration and individual acknowledgment.

Remember, every workplace is unique, so what works for one organization may not work for another. Regularly assess the impact of your recognition efforts and gather feedback from employees to ensure your approach aligns with their needs and the overall goals of the company.


Employees want to be recognized and rewarded for their hard work at the office, especially when it’s personalized to them. Employees want to feel valued, and they want to feel like they are making a difference in their company’s success.

They also want to feel like they are part of a team and that other members of the team value their contributions. Finally, employees desire recognition for how far they have gone with the company and what achievements mean for both themselves and their coworkers’ development as well.

The best way to get started with employee recognition is to simply go out there and do it! Start with one of the ideas above, or create your own. You can even combine ideas for a more comprehensive approach that’s tailored to your company. And when you’re ready for some additional help, try a recognition platform like Bonusly that makes it easy to recognize and reward employees on an ongoing basis. To get started with Bonusly, sign up for a free trial today!

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