Building a Culture of Recognition: Implementing Effective Employee Appreciation Initiatives

Categories: Advice for HR Professionals, Advice for Start-ups and Entrepreneurs

Highly effective, happy employees are like gold dust in today’s labor market. This sentiment is echoed by research conducted by the University of Oxford, which found that happy employees are 13% more productive than their disengaged peers.

However, creating a happy, highly motivated workforce can be tricky when you’re working on a tight budget. Rather than overspending on expensive motivational programs or company holidays, consider implementing appreciation and recognition initiatives for your workforce.

Showing appreciation for your team innately reduces employee turnover in your workforce and helps you get more from existing staff. This can create a powerful cultural shift at work and help you attract more talented applicants to your business.

Everyday Acts of Recognition

Recognizing the hard work of your team doesn’t mean that you need to throw a party for every employee who hits their targets. Sometimes, small gestures can mean the most to staff members who are highly committed and care about the quality of their work.


Small acts of recognition may seem trivial at first, but 39% of employees say that they do not feel valued by their business today and 40% say that their contributions are not properly recognized by their employer. If you suspect that you’ve fallen behind on your employee recognition, consider attending workshops and conferences designed to improve your business intelligence as a leader. This will help you develop key skills like

  • Collaboration: Employees want to feel like they’re part of a wider team. By improving your ability to actively listen, collaborate, and delegate, you show staff that you trust them to perform and value their contributions.
  • Emotional: Understanding the emotions of your peers is crucial if you want to connect on a deeper level. Get the ball rolling by learning to understand your own emotions. This will ensure that you approach conflict and questions with an understanding, patient mindset.
  • Interpersonal: Building interpersonal skills helps you create lasting relationships with your employees. This is key if you want your recognition to feel authentic and meaningful.
  • Linguistic: If you lead a multilingual team, consider expanding your skill set by learning at least some of their first language. You don’t need to become fluent, but making the effort to become conversational shows that you care about your employees and are invested in supporting them.

These skills and aptitudes are crucial if you want to become a leader that employees love. Developing your emotional and interpersonal intelligence will help you notice when folks are stressed or overwhelmed, too. This gives you a better appreciation for your staff’s mental state and will ensure that you can connect with them on a deeper level.

Gathering Feedback

Recognition efforts that don’t resonate with employees can inadvertently de-motivate your team. For example, if folks have been working overtime to meet a stretch deadline, and your only recognition of their hard work is a sub-par pizza party, don’t be surprised to find that your employees become frustrated and disengaged at work.

If you’re worried about the effectiveness of your current recognition schemes, consider starting an employee suggestion program. Effective employee suggestion programs give your team a voice and may help you brainstorm more effective initiatives. Drawing from an employee suggestion program also shows staff that you value their opinion and are willing to change based on their feedback. You can start a suggestion program by:

  • Creating clear guidelines for suggestions
  • Promoting the program so all employees know how to submit their thoughts
  • Incentivize folks to participate with freebies and small goodies
  • Do not overburden employees by mandating that they complete the suggestions program. This will increase stress on staff who are already working at maximum capacity


You don’t necessarily have to anonymize your feedback forms, either. Sometimes, a brainstorm-style meeting will actually improve engagement and help folks bounce ideas off their peers.

Parties and Gatherings

As the middle of the year approaches, you may want to consider giving folks some time off to recognize their efforts. Company-wide parties are a great way to celebrate a recent milestone or business-wide achievement, too. However, you can’t expect to throw up a few gazebos and expect folks to bring their own food. Instead, plan a fun outdoor party for your team by:

  • Serving plenty of health-boosting fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Prepare for unpredictable weather by hiring canopies and tents to protect folks from heatstroke and heavy rainfall
  • Put on some fun outdoor activities like bocce ball, scavenger hunts, and crafting
  • Decorate with fresh flowers and upcycled wares to create a positive, eco-friendly environment

A well-prepared party is a great way to show that you care about your team and are willing to spend a little extra when they perform well. Just be sure to adjust your employee’s weekly and monthly targets, as team members who attend a party or gathering shouldn’t feel stressed when they return to their desk and find themselves behind on their KPIs.

You can also use recognition initiatives like fun presentation-style recognition and awards at these events. For example, if you’re meeting with your team following a particularly profitable quarter, consider highlighting the value that a few of your employees have added to the firm in the past few months. You can also use this time to highlight the hard work of folks who are often overlooked or underappreciated like janitors, IT support, and new hires.


Recognizing the hard work of your employees can supercharge your motivational efforts and will ensure folks feel valued. This can reduce turnover, increase productivity, and help you attract more talented applicants. Just be sure to utilize plenty of smaller moments of recognition between your larger events and celebratory parties. This shows folks that you’re aware of the strain they’re under and care about how they feel.