Tips for keeping employee morale high.

5 Steps for Starting an Employee Recognition Program at Your Business

Posted March 21, 2016 by Caroline Whitney in Managing Your Team
Employee appreciation is important for keeping office morale high. Here's how to start an effective employee recognition program.

Check out our free guide on how to appreciate your employees on a budget.

By now, you probably know how important rewarding employees is for your company. It boosts morale, makes employees feel like they are integral to your company, and even lowers voluntary turnover rates.

In fact, according to a Globoforce study“The number one reason most Americans leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated.” A lack of praise keeps morale low. So while we’ve written before about small ways to appreciate your employees, like end-of-year treats for your hardworking team, it’s time to get a little more specific.

Consider implementing a regular appreciation program at your place of business. Periodically recognizing an employee for outstanding work, and rewarding them, could give your office the boost it needs to really help your business soar. The program could be once a month, once a quarter, or once a year, and does not have to cost a lot. As long as you put some thought into it, your employees are guaranteed to feel better about the work that they do.  

Related article: This Year, Try These 7 Straightforward Employee Rewards

Here are five basic steps for starting a regular employee recognition program. Your employees will love it, and it will benefit your business!

Step 1: Identify Why You Want to Implement a Program

Before getting down to the nitty gritty, consider why you want to implement this program at your company. We know you want to strengthen morale; but more specifically, what purpose will it serve your company?  Think about your company's values (and consider figuring out what they are if you haven’t already)!

What behaviors — connected to your values —are you hoping to reinforce? Maybe you want to highlight those who are displaying great leadership or customer service.  Or perhaps your company has been working on a large project and you want to recognize someone for going above and beyond the call of duty. Determining the objectives of your program, and communicating that to your employees, will let them know what they are working towards.

Step 2: Determine the Eligibility Requirements for Your Reward

Your team has got to know about how they can score this awesome perk! Decide how often you will give out the award, and who is eligible.  Here are some factors to consider:

  • Are both full-time/and part time employees eligible? Temps? Interns?

  • Will you have a requirement that the person be employed with you a certain amount of time before they can be eligible for the reward?

  • Can the same employee receive the reward more than once?

  • Can those involved in the selection process be eligible as well?

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Step 3: How Will You Select Your Candidate?

Now, you must determine how your team will choose a winner. This step is two fold. First, determine how candidates will be brought to your attention. Will you have a nomination system? If so, determine who can nominate, when, and what should be included. Consider developing a nomination form, where employees can articulate the great achievements their candidate has made to your company.

Secondly, you’ll have to determine how to pick from the pool of candidates. Who will be the person to decide? Will managers take a vote? Will the founder of your startup read through the nomination forms and select the winner? Will you have a selection team? Will you develop some sort of rating criteria, or will the selection process simply be a discussion?  

Step 4: Select Your Award

Now for the fun part. What kind of award will you give out? Will you simply give out a certificate,  a customized trophy, or do you have the budget for a larger award?  Some companies give out gift cards, while others use online platforms like Anyperk or OC Tanner to let their employees choose their own reward. Whatever it is, from small to large, make sure your gift is meaningful. A “great job!” ribbon or “employee of the month” pin doesn’t say much. Make sure your employee knows exactly what they are being recognized for, and that thought went into their award.

Step 5: Announce the Program and Get it Started

Time to let everyone on your team know about this awesome new perk!  Maybe you’ll announce it at your next company-wide meeting, but be sure to send a follow up email with the details. Let them know when the first nomination period will be. Get your office excited about the prospect.

Looking for something a little more modern? Your company could also consider the cyber approach to a recognition program, such as cloud-based platforms Achievers and 7Geese. These platforms allow employees to give praise and positive feedback about peers on leaderboards that everyone can see throughout the year.  Employees rack up “points,” which can be used to redeem rewards. These ongoing methods of employee recognition — while not a formal recognition program — are fun, interactive, and easy!


Remember, the basic steps above should get you started with your employee recognition program. But by all means, if you brainstorm other great ideas, use them! Make your program your own, one that fits your startup’s culture. Implementing a regular recognition program will make your company a place your employees want to be.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.