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Why Recognition Awards Must be More Than “Gifts”

Recognition award meeting at the office

Gift cards and money are great, and employees do appreciate them. But evidence shows that employees don’t just want money. They want to feel that their individual contributions to the company are valued. You’ll want to recognize employees in a variety of ways, including verbal, written and custom awards.

Don’t just hand out recognition awards without having a strategy in place – or without knowing what matters to your employees. To be effective, recognition awards must be more than gifts. They must come from the heart and show that you not only value your employees, but listen to them and understand them. Here’s how to get started.

Types of Recognition and Awards

There are many ways to recognize employees. The best employee recognition programs incorporate several types, such as:

  • Monetary awards: This can include bonuses added to your employees’ paychecks once or twice a year, typically around the holidays and in the summer. This category can also include “spot bonuses,” which are smaller amounts given out “on-the-spot” for one-time achievements that deserve recognition.
  • Verbal recognition: Verbal praise – especially when given in front of the entire team or company – is an effective way to let your team know they are valued, which boosts morale and encourages hard work. Plus, you can do it instantly and it costs you nothing! However, verbal recognition alone is usually not enough.
  • Thank you notes and gifts: Written recognition goes a step further by providing a thoughtful note or recognition award that the employee can save and look back on. It’s adaptable to all sorts of accomplishments, and even includes emails – which you can CC to the whole company for extra effect.

If you’re thinking about giving this last type of praise, it’s especially important to get your recognition awards right. Giving gifts that aren’t the right value, don’t fit your employee’s style or that are unequal can have the opposite effect, lowering morale instead of boosting it.

How to Create Meaningful Recognition Awards

Your employees don’t just want on-the-spot verbal recognition – they want to feel valued and appreciated. The way to do that is through meaningful recognition awards, which should be:

  • Connected to your brand: Recognition awards should always have your company name and logo on them, but connecting them to your brand goes even further. Choose to reward accomplishments and traits that match your company values and your business goals.
  • Equal among all employees: Give awards to all departments and all levels of employees. Always reward the same achievement with a similar recognition award. For example, even something as simple as giving a plaque to employees who reach five years of service can create a meaningful program in which having a plaque in your office becomes a symbol of pride.
  • Personalized: You can’t give out “bragging rights” with the company logo printed on a coffee mug or a generic free T-shirt. Effective recognition awards have the employee’s name, accomplishment and a short message about why they are so valued. The recipient can put them on the wall or a shelf and make them a conversation piece – one that they love to talk about.
  • Presented publicly: The most effective awards are given in front of others. You don’t have to have an elaborate ceremony – although that can boost morale even more. Something as simple as giving out custom awards for years of service or recent achievements at a company-wide meeting is ideal.

Once you have your strategy down, the last step is to pick your awards! Here are a few ideas for memorable custom awards your team will love.

Custom Award Plaques

Award plaques are a classic form of recognition for good reason: they’re versatile, quickly customized and easy to transport and display. While they might make you think of traditional styles like wood frames with inlaid engraving, there are actually many different varieties available, and some are ideal for executives and for occasions like promotions.

Plaques are a great choice if you have a lot of custom awards to give out. They typically have more space for you to write your message, so you’re able to create a more personalized experience for each recipient, while still getting the cost savings of placing a bulk order. They’re cost-effective yet professional and will occupy a place of honor on any office wall.

Fun and Humorous Awards

“Company culture” isn’t just a buzzword. It’s something that younger employees are increasingly looking at when considering a job – and positive company culture can increase your retention rates and boost morale. Humorous recognition awards encourage laughter and relationship-building in the workplace. Fun awards should still recognize real achievements, like:

  • Superhero Award: For heroic feats of client satisfaction and project completion.
  • Sales Shark: For your top salespeople who are always hunting down the next sale.
  • Workhorse Award: For that employee who is always at the office early and stays later than anyone else.
  • The GOAT: For top leaders and bosses who are “The Greatest Of All Time.”

Distinctive Recognition Awards

Give a custom award that’s personalized to match the recipient’s style – and that’s premium quality. Your honoree will only receive these singular awards once in a lifetime, making them the most valuable of all.

  • Art Glass Awards: Art glass awards are hand-blown, which creates a pattern of bubbles and molten glass unique to each piece. These vibrant recognition awards can be created in a variety of shapes, from flames to wings to abstract works of art.
  • Optical Crystal Awards: Optical crystal is made from several different elements that lend it a clarity that is even greater than glass. Precision-cut and polished, then engraved with abrasive etching techniques, these are the highest-quality recognition awards you can get.
  • Barware: Lifestyle gifts are not only useful, they show that you know what your recipient likes.  A personalized decanter, scotch set, wine glass set or pitcher is a memorable custom award that is much more than a gift.

It takes time and thought to find and design the perfect custom award. But in the end, the effort you put into creating recognition awards that are more than gifts is worth it. Your employees will be thrilled to receive a keepsake that values them as an individual, and you’ll get the benefits of a better company culture and increased retention.