Employees not only want good pay and benefits; they also want to be treated fairly, to make a substantial contribution to the organization through their work, and to be valued and appreciated for their efforts. To show appreciation, many employers implement ongoing recognition programs designed to thank employees for a variety of achievements. In a recent survey by SHRM and the recognition consulting firm Globoforce, 80 percent of organizations reported having an employee recognition program. See SHRM/Globoforce Using Recognition and Other Workplace Efforts to Engage Employees.

Among the most common programs are those that recognize:

  • Length of service, generally in five-year increments.
  • Exemplary one-time achievement, often with an on-the-spot cash award or additional paid time off.
  • Noteworthy performance over a period of time, often for employees who add quality to the work process or product or who provide superior customer or client service.

Rewards range from simple spoken or written thank-you notes and "spot" bonuses of cash or gift cards to catalog merchandise and gift certificates for retailers or restaurants. Organizations may even provide vacation packages for employees' special achievements. Some programs that reward excellent work provide nonmonetary awards such as public recognition or staff appreciation events. See An Interview with #SHRM18 Speaker Barbara Glanz.

Department heads are essential for employee recognition efforts, from helping to select recipients, for example, to making time in staff meetings to thank employees for outstanding efforts. The point is to say "thank you" frequently to employees who deserve it.

Although organizations typically recognize employees' length-of-service milestones and instances of strong individual or team performance, many organizations are beginning to focus on other, less traditional areas for recognition. Among them are the following:

  • The ability to manage or champion change.
  • Innovation.
  • Systems improvements.
  • Customer or client retention.
  • Morale-building.
  • Talent acquisition and retention.
  • Market diversification.
  • Technological advances.
  • Significant personal development.
  • Actions that embody the organization's core values.

See Decoding Reward and Recognition Strategy in Small and Medium Enterprises.