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Fun employee recognition ideas for your organization

We all know what employee recognition is all about, but how do business leaders find new and innovative and, yes, fun ways to recognize a job well done? It’s time to take a different perspective and let every employee shine by not only recognizing the salespeople who earn commission on targets reached but recognizing the little wins, the kindness shown, or the small, good deeds that may often go unseen and unappreciated. Let’s put the spotlight on everything that should be recognized.

Why are the small things so important?

We’ve all been on the receiving end of a harsh word from a manager or colleague, and it can ruin your day. Just like a heartfelt ‘thank you’ or ‘that’s brilliant’ can make your day. People don’t often leave a job because they don’t like doing the job; most people leave a job because of a person or manager they don’t get on with or because they don’t feel appreciated. In short, employee recognition is important because it helps to retain top talent, increases employee engagement, and encourages high performance.

According to survey experts, TINYpulse:

  • 87% of recognition programs focus on tenure
  • US organizations spend over $100 billion annually on incentive programs
  • When asked what leaders could do more of to improve engagement, 58% of respondents replied “give recognition”
  • Millennials require immediate recognition for accomplishments
  • 69% of employees would work harder if they felt their efforts were better appreciated
  • Only 14% of organizations provide managers with the necessary tools for rewards and recognition
  • Companies with recognition programs that are highly effective at improving employee engagement have 31% lower voluntary turnover
  • 50% of employees believe being thanked by managers not only improved their relationship but also built trust between them.  

There are a few crazy stats in there. And it just goes to show that if organizations want their people to work hard and gain the benefits that brings, they need to come up with some good employee appreciation ideas. And we’re not talking about employee rewards here; this is about recognition, not necessarily a tangible reward; recognition is far more emotional.

Culture is key

First off, create a culture of recognition where every person in the company naturally says thank you and appreciates each of their colleagues and how they contribute to team efforts. This won’t happen overnight, nor will it happen by accident. Business leaders need to walk the talk first, and it will eventually trickle down to everyone.

Make It Easy

It needs to be easy for everyone in the business to express recognition and appreciation and not feel the odd one out. Give your people training, and introduce formal and informal programs - hosted online, via videos, or on social media. Let teams come up with their own recognition ideas. These could then be dispersed throughout the company.  

Tie it in with goals

If you tie in appreciation to company goals, people know exactly how they’re contributing to the long-term success of the organization and the company benefits from a better return on investment for resources spent on appreciation.  It also gets everyone focused on the same business goals while contributing to a culture of appreciation.

Here are some fun employee recognition ideas to consider

Tell Stories

Stories are powerful, evoke emotion and support memorable appreciation moments. Create recognition experiences in which employees will tell (and retell) the story to others, and a great employee culture will be created and sustained. Get as many people as possible involved in your recognition efforts. Everyone must feel they own the responsibility of sharing recognition, appreciation, and praise with their peers, colleagues, and superiors. “Everyone-to-everyone” recognition is the foundation of a true recognition culture.


This could be done during a Christmas party or online, and the awards themselves don't need to be expensive – the main goal is to make it about recognition. Add in some fun awards like best dressed, best birthday doughnuts, best funny emails, best jokes, or most likely to be the next president.


Let people improve their skills and learn something new while you pick up the bill. Whether that's a conference, an online learning course, or help with paying back university debt - these are great ways to show your appreciation while upskilling your people at the same time.

Birthdays with a bang

Let’s take it one step further than signing a card from the team. If you’re in the office, do it in TGI Friday’s style and shout, sing, and make them stand up. Bake a cake. Buy a present they’d love. Or better still, give them the day off work!

Wall of fame

This is a fun and interactive way to show off accomplishments. Again, like for awards, think of some funny scenarios that could be included. It’s also a great way to show off your culture to any visitors or people coming for an interview. Add quirky photos of your employees or take candid shots of them working hard. Encourage others to add post-it notes next to the pictures to share their own experiences of those being recognized.

Pay people more

If someone is doing exceptional work, the best way to show your appreciation could be with a revised salary. It doesn't necessarily need to be a promotion, nor does it need to be a massive raise. Fair compensation is often the best way to show recognition to someone who's put in the hard graft.

Allow charity days

On top of any allocated holiday days, allow everyone a few days a year when they can volunteer with a cause that means something to them. Everyone has one. So why not give something back to a charity by offering service days?

Take the office outside

Every once in a while, hold a meeting outside somewhere. It could be a restaurant or just a local park. This kind of thing is great for brainstorming ideas but also gives people a break from the four walls of the office. And if your teams are remote, organize a get-together.

How can Unit4 help?

Employee recognition should be a part of your overall talent management strategy. It can improve recruitment and retention and boost employee satisfaction and engagement. Unit4’s HCM software can help you formalize your strategy and tactics and track progress toward specific goals.

Together with our next-generation ERP and FP&A tools, our software can do everything from suggesting avenues for development to proactively identifying flight risks, allowing you to help your people get the most out of what you can offer them so they can, in turn, contribute effectively to your organization’s goals.

To discover more, you can check out our dedicated HCM product pages here. Book a demo and see what our solution can do for your organization yourself.


How do you show employees that they are valued?

See the good in people, and seek out other people’s recognition for individuals. Be specific about what you are recognizing. Don’t just say ‘well done’ – explain how their job well done has contributed to overall company success.

Why is employee morale important?

Employee morale is the overall mental and emotional condition of your workforce. Disengaged workers have higher stress levels which makes them at risk for developing heart disease and other health issues. High morale is marked by your employees' confidence, enthusiasm, and loyalty.

How can companies improve employee retention?

Set clear expectations for their work and their future in your team. Communicate what to expect in their first week. Connect people with their team and help them build relationships with coworkers and colleagues. Provide structured opportunities for people to offer feedback on their job, company processes, and culture.

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