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How to Create an Employee Recognition Program At Work In 2024 [10 Steps]

By September 16, 2022 May 16th, 2024

Employee recognition programs are a game plan for engaging and rewarding employees.

However, the benefits of these programs extend far beyond your own teams and into customer interactions and more. That’s why the SnackNation team put together an updated guide to setting up your own employee recognition program this year.

With the right employee recognition program, a company can establish and nurture an atmosphere of purposeful striving and drive, while keeping its employees from being among the 73% considering leaving their jobs.

How to Create an Employee Recognition Program At Work

In this article, we’ll introduce you to the various types of employee recognition programs and as a bonus, outline how to create your own recognition program that you can implement in your company.

When you recognize and show employees you appreciate their work, you are encouraging and reinforcing positive behaviors.

“Low employee engagement costs companies $450 to $500 billion per year.” — The Conference Board

Setting up a strong employee engagement recognition program isn’t a happy accident. It takes deliberate effort and company-wide commitment. That’s why we’re here to guide you through how to engage and recognize employees the right way!

Why is it important to build an employee recognition program?

For many years, companies put all of their competitive energies into creating products, and services, and ultimately, winning their respective markets.

However, with more corporate data and insights available than ever before, there’s a growing body of evidence that proves how vital employee recognition is. With companies competing to not only win customers but the best employees, having an employee recognition program is paramount.

What are the benefits of implementing an employee recognition program at your company?

➤ Better employee engagement – Employees feel appreciated, are more motivated to perform, and they feel like their work matters, all of which boost their motivation.

➤ Reduced employee turnover – Employee recognition programs can reduce turnover by up to 50% and help reduce feelings of burnout in the workforce. Part of the reason for this is that employees feel more important, and feel a part of a community, and with top performers being given new opportunities, the best employees have every reason to stay.

➤ Unify your company culture – Employee recognition programs are all about strategic value, reinforcing what a company is striving for in terms of values, culture, and engagement, with positive behaviors being continually reinforced by the program.

➤ Increased customer loyalty and satisfaction – When employees feel appreciated, they are more likely to go the extra mile for customers, which often leads to higher satisfaction scores. Ultimately, employee recognition is an important part of creating a positive customer experience and ensuring a business’s long-term success.

➤ Decreased stress and absenteeism – A study by the Harvard Business Review found that employees who receive regular recognition are more likely to report higher levels of happiness and satisfaction with their job. They are also less likely to experience stress and anxiety and are less likely to take sick days.

In order to set up and optimize your employee recognition program at work, read through these 10 steps along with our recommended top 5 employee recognition platforms and tools!

10 Steps To Building An Effective Employee Recognition Program

Step 1 — Define why you are creating a recognition program

Define Employee Recognition

Employee recognition programs are a vital part of any business. By showing appreciation for a job well done, you can increase employee morale and motivation, leading to better work quality and increased productivity. In addition, happy employees are more likely to stick around, saving you the time and expense of recruiting and training new staff.

Additional resource to help you out: Motivosity

Why this step is key to building your recognition program: It’s important to take the time to define why you are creating a recognition program. What goals do you hope to achieve? What kind of behavior do you want to encourage?

Tip: By setting clear objectives, you can ensure that your employee recognition program is effective and successful.


Step 2 — Talk to your HR leaders, executive team, and employees to gather feedback regarding your program

Talk to your HR leaders

As any HR professional knows, employee recognition is essential to maintaining a happy and productive workforce. However, designing an effective recognition program can be a challenge. To ensure that your program is meeting the needs of your employees, it is important to gather feedback from all levels of the organization.

Additional resource to help you out: Culture Amp

Why this step is key to building your recognition program: HR leaders can provide insights into the overall effectiveness of the program, while executive team members can offer insights into how the program aligns with company goals. Of course, employees are the ultimate experts on what type of recognition they appreciate, so their feedback is essential to fine-tuning your program. By gathering feedback from all stakeholders, you can design an employee recognition program that meets the needs of your entire organization.

Tip: As a group, determine if you have a budget, how to get maximum organization-wide buy-in, and if the program fits into your company culture.


Step 3 — Review how the program will affect different types of employees


As any business owner knows, happy employees are essential for a successful company. Not only are they more productive, but they are also more likely to stick around for the long haul. One way to keep employees happy is to have a strong employee recognition program.

However, it is important to consider how the program will affect different types of employees. For example, introverts may be uncomfortable with public recognition, while extroverts may thrive on it. It is also important to consider how employees will be recognized. Some may prefer private praise from their boss, while others may appreciate a more public display of appreciation.

By taking the time to understand the needs of different types of employees, businesses can ensure that their employee recognition program is effective for everyone.

Additional resource to help you out: You Need To Try These Remote Employee Engagement Ideas

Why this step is key to building your recognition program: These days, more than ever, managers and companies as a whole have to be able to account for the variety of employee types, ranging from remote to in-person, specialist to generalists, and others because they each need to be addressed with nuance.

Tip: Be sure to cover employee recognition for in-office employees, remote employees, and temp and contract workers.


Step 4 — Research employee recognition platforms

Employee recognition is essential for creating a positive work environment and maintaining employee morale.

However, with the vast array of employee recognition platforms available, it can be difficult to know where to start. The first step is to consider the needs of your organization and the type of recognition you want to give. For example, if you are looking for a way to reward employees for their individual achievements, you might want to consider a platform that allows employees to redeem points for prizes.

Alternatively, if you want to give group recognition, you might want to consider a platform that allows managers to give shout-outs or make announcements. Once you have a clear idea of what you are looking for, you can begin researching employee recognition platforms. Be sure to read online reviews and compare pricing before making your final decision. By taking the time to choose the right platform, you can ensure that your employees feel appreciated and motivated.

Additional resource to help you out: Check some top-rated platforms…

Bonusly 🥇 Recognize and reward employees for their achievements and milestones Visit Bonusly
Goody 🎁 Let them choose their own gift Visit Goody
Stadium 🌟 Engage and retain employees with recognition, rewards, swag, and more Visit Stadium 🧢 Create a custom swag box or send gifts directly to employees, clients, and customers Visit
Nectar 😃 Peer-to-peer recognition, Amazon integration, boost your engagement and retention Visit Nectar
👉 Compare more HR-vetted and approved options here

Why this step is key to building your recognition program: Researching employee recognition platforms is critical because every organization has its own needs and each platform has its own unique way of meeting those needs, with a special set of features.

Tip: Explore the benefits of using a recognition tool. Do they have a free trial? Use cost analysis and find the best value available.


Step 5 — Test out your program with a smaller team at your org before introducing it to your entire company

As any organization knows, employee recognition is essential to maintaining a happy and productive workforce.

Not only does it help to boost morale, but it also provides a tangible incentive for employees to work hard and strive for excellence. However, designing an effective employee recognition program can be a challenge. One way to ensure that your program is successful is to test it out on a smaller team before rolling it out to your entire organization. This will allow you to identify any potential problems and make the necessary adjustments before introducing the program to a larger group of people.

By taking the time to test your employee recognition program, you can increase the chances of success and ensure that your employees are properly recognized for their hard work and all the good work they do.

Additional resource to help you out: How To Successfully Manage a Small Team

Why this step is key to building your recognition program: The key to any change — especially in a corporate setting — is to determine whether or not it is scalable. If it can’t be scaled, then it will not be compatible with a growing organization.

Tip: Create an employee focus group to see how well your employee recognition program works in action. Testing before implementation is critical.


Step 6 — Launch your program!

Launch Your Program

If you’re looking to launch an employee recognition program, there are a few things you’ll need to do to get started. First, you’ll need to identify the goals of your program. What are you hoping to achieve? Are you looking to boost morale, improve communication, or increase productivity? Once you’ve identified the goals of your program, you’ll need to come up with a plan for how to achieve them.

What kinds of activities will you include? How often will you hold recognition ceremonies? Who will be responsible for organizing the program? Once you’ve answered these questions, you’re ready to launch your employee recognition program. Just remember that employee recognition is an ongoing process, so be prepared to adjust your program as necessary to ensure that it is meeting its goals.

Additional resource to help you out: Why is Employee Recognition Important?

Why this step is key to building your recognition program: All the research and preparation in the world is irrelevant if you aren’t willing to launch your recognition program. Don’t be afraid to let it fly and understand that launched doesn’t mean finalized.

Tip: Just remember that employee recognition is an ongoing process, so be prepared to adjust your program as necessary to ensure that it is meeting its goals.


Step 7 — Market your program to the company! Build excitement!

Employee recognition programs are a great way to show your employees that you value their hard work and dedication. However, these programs can only be successful if they are well-marketed to the company. The first step is to make sure that the program is visible to all employees. Once employees are aware of the program, it is important to provide them with regular updates on how it is progressing.

This will help to keep them engaged and motivated to participate. Finally, it is crucial to recognize and reward employees who go above and beyond to contribute to the program’s success. By following these steps, you can ensure that your employee recognition program is a success and continues to be talked about.

Additional resource to help you out: Send out your program via a resource like

Why this step is key to building your recognition program: Your appreciation program is only as good as the number of employees that know about it — and how big the buzz is around it.

Tip: This step can be achieved by promoting the program through company-wide communication channels, such as email, posters, or even video announcements.


Step 8 — Build training into your program so employees have the tools, know-how, and encouragement to give it a try


A healthy workplace is one where employees feel appreciated and supported. One way to create such an environment is through employee recognition programs.

Such programs can help to boost morale and improve job satisfaction, but only if they are well-designed and properly executed. To maximize the impact of your employee recognition program, make sure to include training opportunities. This will ensure that employees have the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in giving and receiving recognition.

With the right ingredients, your employee recognition program can be a powerful tool for creating a positive workplace.

Additional resource to help you out: Leapsome

Why this step is key to building your recognition program: Handle this step with extra care because the more comfortable employees are, the stronger your program will be. Start onboarding new employees from day one to get full buy-in.

Tip: Make sure to provide encouragement and support from management. This will help to create a culture of appreciation and make employees more likely to participate in the program.


Step 9 — Survey your employees

As an employer, it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of employee morale. One way to do this is to survey your employees about your employee recognition program. Employee recognition programs are designed to reward employees for their hard work and achievements.

However, they can also be a source of frustration if they are not well-designed or properly implemented. By surveying your employees, you can get feedback about what is working well and what needs to be improved.

This information can then be used to make necessary changes to the program. Additionally, the surveys can help you to identify any potential problems before they cause significant damage to morale. As a result, regular surveys are an essential part of keeping your employee recognition program effective.

Additional resource to help you out: Best Employee Survey Software Tools

Why this step is key to building your recognition program: Employee recognition programs are a constant testing ground, partly due to the fact that culture never truly crystalizes. It is something to be monitored constantly and adapted — just like your program in accordance with employee feedback.

Tip: Utilize an employee recognition platform that has built-in survey tools among its feature set. Find out what employees think of the program after 30 days, 60 days, and in frequent intervals after that. Look for ways to make incremental improvements.


Step 10 — Improve aspects of your program to make it better and a larger part of your company culture


As any good leader knows, there is always room for improvement. In order to keep your company culture strong and cohesive, it is important to regularly assess your programs and make changes as needed.

Are there certain aspects of your program that are no longer working as well as they used to? Are there new challenges that you need to address? Are there ways to make your program more accessible or visible within your company?

By taking the time to improve your program, you can ensure that it remains a strong and vital part of your company culture.

Additional resource to help you out: Your Guide To Employee Recognition In The Workplace

Why this step is key to building your recognition program: While positive behaviors can persist organically — especially with the right mix of talent and personalities in your organization — formalizing your company culture with a program is the ultimate step towards positive reinforcement.

Tip: Be sure to give out regular awards and recognition through your program so that your team is readily checking to see announcements and are looking to win!


5 Tools to Help You Create an Employee Recognition Program

  1   Bonusly

Bonusly is an engaging recognition and rewards platform that enriches your company culture. Make recognition more impactful by connecting it to your company’s core values and giving visibility to everyone’s contributions.

Bonusly - Home Feed

Bonusly also helps you build a scalable culture of recognition by empowering everyone to recognize their peers (peer-to-peer recognition), direct reports, and managers.

Additionally, Bonusly encourages frequent and timely recognition by integrating with the communication tools your employees use every day. With Bonusly, you can create a culture of recognition that aligns with your company’s values and strengthens your employee relationships. By bridging the gap between formal and informal recognition, Bonusly makes it easy to show your employees how much you appreciate their hard work. With this powerful tool, you can turn your company culture into a competitive advantage.

Companies that have implemented Bonusly to develop their recognition program:

  • ZipRecruiter
  • Chobani
  • Headspace

👉 Try Bonusly


  2   Nectar

Nectar is more than just an employee recognition platform. It’s a tool that helps you build a great culture in your company.

By promoting core values and providing a way to recognize and reward great work, Nectar helps you create a community that people will want to be a part of. With its unique framework of 6 pillars that enable great culture, Nectar provides everything you need to build a strong, thriving culture in your company. From connection and recognition to empathy and trust, Nectar has the tools and features you need to actualize your company’s culture.

With its seamless platform and hundreds of possible integrations, Nectar makes it easy to build the great culture you’ve always wanted.

Companies that have implemented Nectar to develop their recognition program:

  • MLB
  • Heineken
  • Teachable

👉 Try Nectar


  3   WorkTango

WorkTango is the leading employee experience platform, helping hundreds of companies unify culture, reduce turnover, and increase eNPS scores.


WorkTango gets everyone on the same page, anywhere and everywhere, with a robust suite of tools that keep employees engaged, motivated, and working at their top potential. With employees across the globe, WorkTango is the perfect solution for keeping your team connected and aligned with your company’s mission. And now it’s your turn to see the benefits of using WorkTango in your organization!

Companies that have implemented WorkTango to develop their recognition program:

  • Evergreen Home Loans
  • Bazaarvoice
  • OLV Human Services

👉 Try WorkTango


  4   CultureAmp

CultureAmp provides an employee recognition platform that helps you listen to your employees so you can make better decisions and drive meaningful change in your organization.

culture amp employee engagement software

Culture Amp also helps build high-performing teams by enabling ongoing conversations with feedback, goal tracking, development-focused reviews, and better one on one meetings. Lastly, this tool helps to facilitate a grassroots, bottom-up movement of HR professionals and people leaders committed to improving the employee experience across their organizations.

Get connected to exchange ideas, resources, and support. All of these different features provided by CultureAmp work together to create a well-rounded system that empowers your people with effective, easy-to-use tools for personalized, continuous, and measurable development.

Companies that have implemented CultureAmp to develop their recognition program:

  • Canva
  • Etsy
  • SoulCycle

👉 Try Culture Amp


  5   Assembly

As any team leader knows, effective communication is essential to the success of any team.

Whether you’re working on a small project or a large-scale initiative, it’s important that everyone is on the same page. That’s where Assembly comes in. Assembly is a tool that helps you build workflows around people, not the other way around. With Assembly, every team member has a profile that brings together all the information about them. This makes it easy for team members to connect and work together effectively.

Additionally, Assembly integrates with your existing tools so you can get more out of them. So if you’re looking for a way to improve communication and collaboration within your team, Assembly is the perfect solution.

Companies that have implemented Assembly to develop their recognition program:

  • Coca-Cola
  • StubHub
  • Harry & David

👉 Try Assembly

People Also Ask These Questions About How To Create An Employee Recognition Program

Q: How do you structure an employee recognition program?

  • An employee recognition program should be set up to promote positive behaviors that align with the company’s goals and values. The program should be simple to understand and easy to administer, with clear criteria for eligibility. Incentives should be meaningful and motivating, such as monetary bonuses, paid time off, or gift cards. And the program should be flexible so that it can be adapted to changing circumstances. Recognition should be given frequently and promptly so that employees feel appreciated for their efforts. Finally, the program should be regularly evaluated to ensure that it is meeting its objectives. By following these guidelines, companies can create an employee recognition program that will engage and motivate employees.

Q: How can I make sure my employee recognition program is effective?

  • One way to ensure your employee recognition program is effective is to make sure that the recognition is given for specific and measurable goals. For example, rather than simply recognizing employees for “doing a good job,” it is more effective to recognize them for meeting specific targets or objectives. In addition, it is important to make sure that the recognition is given in a timely manner. Employees who are recognized soon after they achieve a goal are more likely to be motivated by the recognition than those who receive recognition weeks or months later. Finally, it is important to make sure that the recognition is meaningful. A simple “thank you” or a pat on the back may be appreciated, but employees are more likely to be motivated by awards or other forms of recognition that have a monetary value. By taking these steps, organizations can ensure that their employee recognition programs are more likely to be effective.

Q: What are the first things to do when planning an employee rewards program?

  • When it comes to employee rewards programs, there are a few key things to keep in mind and prioritize. First, you need to identify the goals of the program. What are you hoping to achieve? Do you want to encourage employees to hit specific targets, or do you simply want to show your appreciation for their hard work? Once you know what you want to accomplish, you can start to put together a list of potential rewards. Will you offer cash bonuses, gift cards, or extra time off? And how will you distribute the rewards? Will they be given out on a regular basis, or will they be tied to specific milestones? With careful planning and thoughtful consideration, you can create an employee rewards program that will motivate your team and help your business achieve its goals.

Q: Where can I find best practices for setting up a recognition program for employees?

  • One of the best places to look for best practices is the Human Resources department of a large company. They likely have experience setting up and managing recognition programs, and can provide guidance on how to get started. Another good resource is an employee recognition consultant. These professionals can help design and implement a recognition program that meets the specific needs of your organization. Finally, there are a number of online resources that provide tips and templates for setting up recognition programs. By taking advantage of these resources, you can develop a recognition program that will be successful in motivating and engaging your employees.

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