12 Unique examples of employee recognition in action
Ben is the Marketing Manager at Bonusly. With a passion for employee experience and a background in digital strategy, he uses data to drive organizational impact.
It's not always easy to come up with creative ways to recognize and reward your teammates for their great work, so the Bonusly team has put together a list of unique examples from some of our favorite companies across the globe.
Just like the people and contributions they're celebrating, these recognition techniques are unique. Most of these examples are not complete strategies in themselves—they're part of a larger strategy incorporating the key characteristics of effective employee recognition:
Andrew Schrader | Chobani
1. Employee recognition program Bonusly
Everyone gets caught up in their day-to-day work, which is why it’s great to have Bonusly: feedback and instant gratification never get old.
When I receive a bonus and I wasn’t expecting one, I get all cheesy about it. There’s this thought that runs through my head: “Oh, wow, I implemented this project and I bug everyone to participate, so of course I know it’s important, but it still feels good to receive a bonus!”
2. Monthly emails to highlight praise
We send a “This Month on Bonusly!” email to managers to promote an ongoing culture of recognition and encourage them to continue recognizing their direct reports. Everyone’s participation is meaningful.
Emil Shour | SnackNation
3. Make it personal
I've always valued how our CEO recognizes our team on work anniversaries and birthdays. He'll write a hand-written note thanking us for the hard work we put in each day and highlighting some of our recent achievements. Hand written notes are an extremely underutilized form of appreciation, but they'll never go out of style.
4. Crush it call
Each Friday afternoon, our entire team comes together to recognize another team member's hard work during that week. We go around the room stating who we want to "Crush," and also one thing we're grateful for.
I think this tradition has been especially important as our team has grown. When your company is only about 30 people, you usually know what everyone else in the company is working on. But once you start approaching 100 people, the overall interdepartmental interaction goes down a lot.
So the "Crush It Call" has been an important way for people to learn about all the amazing work people from other departments are up to. If you want to see a quick video of one of our Crush It Calls, check out this post (under #16).
Sançar Sahin | Typeform
At Typeform, we have a kind of internal play book with a list of values and guiding attributes we try and follow. It helps us maintain a humble, friendly, and ultimately more human environment.
5. Spontaneous applause
One of the things on the list is to "celebrate with spontaneous applause". It sounds a little cheesy and sales-y but it's actually a nice Typeform tradition.
Whenever someone does something noteworthy—however big or small—anyone can start a round of applause. The whole office joins in. The beauty is that most people have no idea why they're applauding, but the person receiving the applause does. It's a nice, momentary break for celebration.
Stephen Milbank | Button
6. Personalizing appreciation
Everyone wants recognition for their contributions to the company, but not everyone feels recognized in the same way. At Button, we have each new employee fill out an orientation survey on their first day.
One of the questions we ask is, tell us about a time you felt appreciated for your work. This provides the management team with insight into how to make sure all Buttonians are able to be recognized in ways that they feel appreciated.
Based on this information we have implemented different manners of recognizing our team, some very public and others more private.
“Nemonations” is our large format, company-wide recognition for going above and beyond expectations.
Each Friday at demos, team members can “nemonate” their deserving colleagues who went the extra mile that week and we pass around a stuffed Nemo (of Disney’s Finding Nemo fame) to the recipients.
8. Giving props
For smaller, everyday props, we have a kudos system focused on our company values. Team members are encouraged to recognize their colleagues who exemplify the values in practice. Kudos are distributed in Slack and are also announced at Demos at the end of each week.
9. Ultimate hiring challenge
Button is a collection of people who thoroughly enjoy a challenge. Competition is often our most successful motivator for voluntary tasks, like recruiting.
To recognize Buttonians for helping to build our team, we have a quarterly competition known as The Ultimate Hiring Challenge.
We have one winner each quarter and the prize is individually tailored to their passions—be it a month’s supply of unlimited burritos or Hamilton-themed SoulCycle sessions, we make sure the winner feels appreciated for her contributions.
Alexis Croswell | Culture Amp
10. Props bot
At Culture Amp, People Scientist Chris Barrell came up with the idea of creating a Slack “props bot” from scratch for peer-to-peer recognition. He says, “The idea for the Props Bot arose from wanting to publicly thank and recognize some of my colleagues. We already had a public slack channel for kudos but it was more customer orientated. When you wanted to give thanks and recognition to a fellow employee, where did you do it?” He realized that there was an opportunity to create a system for documenting and sharing employee recognition and praise. Chris and a small group of Campers created the Culture Amp Props Bot, which has given over 3,000 props since its inception in 2015.
Analiese Brown | CampMinder
Each person on our team believes in and cares about why we do what we’re doing – and, just as importantly, how we go about doing it. We’re making it easier for camps to make positive impact, and we do it in a way that’s aligned with a set of core values rooted in the camp experience: Put Team First, Find a Better Way, Be Admirable, Own It, Give Joy, and Wonder. All of the company’s people-related processes – how we hire, promote, reward, and recognize team members – are based on these values, creating a culture where “performance” is synonymous with living our values.
11. Love Leafs
Because these values are so central to our culture, we reinforce their meaning by encouraging a culture of recognition. During our monthly Last Thursday meeting (our version of an All Hands meeting) each team member has the opportunity to recognize another team members for embodying CampMinder’s core values by presenting a “Love Leaf.” Love Leafs are then added to a customized tree decal to create a visual repository of team members’ commitment to CampMinder’s core values. At the end of a calendar year, Love Leafs are collected and entered into a drawing, with the winner eligible for a prize, customized to that particular person's interests and goals. We sent last year's winner on a bucket list trip to Peru! On top of the Love Leaf program, we encourage employees to recognize each other spontaneously and organically, either face-to-face or via Slack.
Chloe Oddleifson | Dribbble
12. Celebrity shout-outs
As a fully-remote team, we've had fun getting creative with how we recognize achievements, accomplishments, and when someone goes the extra mile to help someone out. We integrated Bonusly with Slack, which makes it super easy for us to give bonuses and keep recognition visible, but it's really the personal touches that make recognition all the more meaningful and effective. We love creating extra-special rewards that are specific to our team's unique culture. For instance, we use Cameo to get celebrity shout-outs for our teammates that are funny, unexpected, and memorable—Rebecca Black, Sean Astin, and Flavor Flav have all made appearances at team meetings in the past year!
Start building a recognition-rich culture
With those points in mind, you can implement your own unique and creative employee recognition ideas, and start building a recognition-rich organizational culture.
At Bonusly, we use peer bonuses to celebrate success and show appreciation for our teammates' contributions all throughout the day.
Every month, users get a Bonusly allowance.
With that allowance, users can give small bonuses to their peers, direct reports, and managers to recognize their contributions in real time. The dollar value is usually small, but the recognition is invaluable.
Employees can redeem the points they've earned in our extensive digital reward catalog.
The catalog is full of rewards options like gift cards and charitable donations, but it's completely customizable. You can add custom rewards like extra PTO, company-branded gear, or lunch with the CEO.
Each time someone is recognized by a colleague for doing something valuable, the whole team is notified and is given a chance to join in on the celebration.
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