Celebrating employees and recognizing their success probably seems like a reasonable and natural concept, but its value goes far beyond creating a pleasant, professional atmosphere. An organized and detailed recognition program can serve as a tool to help engage and retain valuable workers.

In 2017, Forbes shared that 66% of employees would leave their positions if they felt unappreciated or underappreciated. You can add another 10% to that figure as millennials become the largest generation in the workforce. Another recent statistic says that following the COVID-19 pandemic, one in four employees plan to leave their current employer. As employee attitudes change, employers and management must take a new and somewhat revolutionary view of appreciation and its increasing value among working professionals. It is no longer a "soft HR concept." It is a fact of professional life that requires a focused and systemic employee recognition strategy.

Without acknowledging the critical importance of employee recognition and developing a recognition strategy that delivers results, you stand to lose valued employees. Industries all across the U.S. are struggling with high employee turnover. A major reason for such high turnover is that today's employees increasingly feel that their loyalty and hard work are valuable. They demand recognition for their contributions and are less afraid than ever to submit their resignation and move on to something new.

A Successful Recognition Strategy Explained

Like most tasks taken on by today's successful enterprises, effective employee recognition programs are driven by a strong and well-defined strategy. A recognition strategy is a definitive statement and plan showing intent and commitment to develop, implement, and nurture specific program objectives.

When a recognition strategy team meets, everyone works to align the business's ideal employee recognition approach with the existing or ideal culture, including its mission, vision, and core values. Further, it is also essential to figure in the organization's business strategy and objectives to determine how valuable employee recognition is.

A few key details associated with winning recognition strategies include:

  • Project planning
  • Goal setting
  • Budgeting tasks

Ultimately, a successful recognition strategy results in an organizational environment where all employees, down to the newest hires, feel welcome and appreciated daily and in the grand scheme of operations.

A Three Dimensional Approach to a Recognition Strategy

A high-caliber recognition strategy is not static, requiring day-to-day recognition, informal, and formal recognition practices. By employing each of these strategies, you ensure that your employees feel appreciated at every level and at all times.

Day-to-Day Recognition

Day-to-day recognition is as simple as saying "good morning" or offering praise on the successful completion, or partial completion of a task. While all facets of a three-dimensional approach to employee appreciation are crucial, there are more opportunities to bestow this organic praise, rewarding positive behaviors and attitudes.

Employees are likely to find this type of recognition most natural and meaningful to their job performance. Further, the more managers become accustomed to noticing and acknowledging employees' daily accomplishments, the more it becomes an ingrained feature of organizational culture. With this strategy, you and your department managers can create a positive place to work while establishing increased levels of employee appreciation, engagement, motivation, and retention.

Informal Recognition

Informal recognition lies somewhere between formal and day-to-day recognition, meaning that you offer more than verbal praise and less than an official organizational token of employee recognition. Your managers might offer informal recognition for hitting deadlines or sales goals and accomplishing project milestones, small and large. This type of recognition works well for individuals and teams or groups of workers, giving your managers the tools to appropriately and adequately motivate their employees.

Here are some ideas for offering informal recognition:

  • Sending a "thank you" message via email, e-card, post-it note, or a company greeting card.
  • Giving flowers, balloons, or chocolates.
  • Offering professional development opportunities, such as specific training or invitations to special projects and activities.
  • Developing special awards for employees performing invaluable "behind the scenes" tasks with diligence.
  • Sharing positive feedback from executives, managers, and fellow employees with the employee in question as soon as possible.
  • Saying "good morning" and greeting people daily with a warm and welcoming smile.
  • Mailing letters of gratitude to employees' homes for a special touch.
  • Treating employees and teams to lunch to celebrate and relax.

These are all simple gestures that require some added thoughtfulness and effort, but they will become a natural part of your organizational culture with the right recognition strategy.

Formal Recognition

Formal recognition is more complex and intentional than day-to-day and informal recognition, taking root at the organizational level. When you incorporate this type of recognition into your strategy, it will help if you focus on ensuring that it is governed by specific rules and clear objectives, consistent throughout your business, and aligned with your organizational culture.

With formal recognition, it is important to let your employees know that you offer such a program, how it works, and what you expect of them to give them the tools to ensure they don't miss out on the rewards available to them. Follow these basic steps to launch your formal recognition program:

  • Determine and define behaviors, attitudes, and accomplishments that earn recognition.
  • Set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and temporally defined) goals.
  • Monitor, analyze, and manage your formal recognition program.

5 Elements of Recognition

As you launch your organization's employee recognition program, featuring and fueled by a detailed recognition strategy, it is essential to understand the core elements needed to ensure success. To enjoy maximum success via employee engagement and satisfaction, there are five key elements of recognition to incorporate to provide a framework to create and foster a strategic and successful program.

1. Human Interaction

Plan an event specifically intended to recognize and celebrate employees formally. At this event, ask managers to invite employees to stand with them while presenting an award to them. Whether a formal banquet, company picnic, or annual holiday party, use the event to give valued employees a moment in the spotlight.

2. Peer Recognition

Peer recognition, which is sometimes called peer-to-peer recognition, provides a presentation option that includes a certificate or plaque that employees can display, showcasing positive feedback from fellow employees.

3. Useful, Meaningful, and Desirable Awards

Everyone knows when they receive a gift that was not well-planned or thought out. Ensure that your awarded employees feel valued by a thoughtful reward that lets them know they were the only choice.

4. Family Involvement

Employees often want their families to understand how much hard work they put into their day. On the same note, families appreciate knowing how valued their loved one is as they work hard to provide for them. Either invite someone's significant other to the awards event or ensure that the award and recognition experience is something the employee can share at home.

5. Immediate Gratification

Ensure that each employee's award is ready for delivery in a timely manner. Ideally, prepare to present it to them at the banquet or ceremony. If not at that time, make sure you give it to them as soon as possible after the event takes place.

By including these vital elements, you ensure that each employee understands and appreciates that you have taken the time to plan a special event that included and celebrated them.

What Does a Successful Employee Recognition Program Look Like?

Each employee recognition program is unique for each organization, based on your mission, vision, goals, and organizational culture. However, there are some common features you will find in businesses riding waves of success, thanks to their recognition strategy. Organizations that have committed to designing and implementing a highly intentional employee engagement and recognition enjoy the greatest success, involving far less employee turnover and far greater employee satisfaction and organizational success.

Some top elements of success include the following.

1. Intangible Employee Recognition

Intangible employee recognition partially refers back to day-to-day recognition and includes verbal and written praise for daily and long-term project successes. Such recognition has little or no monetary value, but it builds and fosters an overall positive work atmosphere in which everyone feels appreciated for their contributions. In some ways, intangible benefits are more valuable since they serve to build a more positive organizational culture.

As your managers become comfortable offering praise, and employees equally feel comfortable receiving it, you build and nurture a supportive and appreciative environment. Ultimately and ideally, everyone adopts this attitude, allowing employees to become better at recognizing and acknowledging peers.

Explore a few unique examples of intangible employee recognition you can offer valued employees:

  • Autonomy. Punching the clock is often a frustrating way for employees to look at the workday. By providing greater autonomy, you give employees the chance to feel more in control over the dynamics of their day. While it might feel like a leap of faith for employers to allow for greater freedom in scheduling and deadline-planning for employees, it can pay off in helping employees feel more respected. Evidence supporting this particular intangible strategy comes from Science Daily, sharing a 2017 study from the University of Birmingham, which found that “Employees with higher levels of autonomy in their work reported positive effects on their overall well-being and higher levels of job satisfaction, new research into workplace culture has found.”

  • Work-Life Balance. In tandem with autonomy or on its own, offering your employees better work-life balance has become an essential tool in employee satisfaction over the past decade. Your work-life balance menu doesn't have to disrupt your office to make a difference either. Employees feel more stress in their lives than ever, and your dedication to offering simple ways to help them find joy and relaxation in their home lives adds value and enjoyment to their work lives. You might offer flexible work hours or occasional remote work options as a reward for certain project accomplishments and other benchmarks. If you can't afford flexible hours and other time-sensitive options, offer lunchtime yoga classes or on-site child care.

  • Professional Training. If you know employees want to learn new skills or earn promotions, offer them on-site opportunities to do so as a reward for accomplishments. An excellent way to engage talented employees is to fuel their desire to move up in your organization. Even better, facilitate their success through training initiatives that encourage them to enhance their knowledge and skills and, best of all, stay with your organization.

Each of these intangible rewards is a step—or several steps—above day-to-day recognition, but each one shows employees how much you value them without offering a tangible, in-hand reward. They are also widely available to all your employees who work hard to achieve goals and help your business improve.

2. Tangible Employee Recognition

Tangible employee recognition is more targeted, offering specific rewards for certain achievements, anniversaries, and other organizational benchmarks. Employees appreciate these gifts as solid, commemorative gifts that acknowledge their hard work and commitment. They can use or view them in a physical sense.

Here are some of the top tangible employee recognition awards for your employees:

  • Plaques, Trophies, Lapel Pins, and Certificates. Providing your employee with an engraved keepsake item memorializes their accomplishments. They can wear their award, keep it on their desk, or see it proudly displayed in the main area of your business facility where everyone else can see it too.

  • Cash and Gift Certificates. Offering employees monetary rewards never goes out of style. Reward winning employees with a bonus attached to their regular paycheck or present them with a special check at an awards ceremony. Another option that shows your employees' understanding is to buy gift cards for their favorite restaurants or product merchants. Your taking notice of their interests provides a dual impression on your employees.

  • Pay Raises and Boosted Benefits. Performance-based pay raises are nothing new, but as ever, they carry a lot of weight with your employees. Offering pay raises or extra days off for a highly successful project accomplishment not only boosts the employee's appreciation at the moment, but it offers an incentive to continue pushing themselves to greater success. The pay raise or benefits boost doesn't necessarily have to be extremely significant. Even a symbolic increase lets employees know what their work means to you.

  • Lunches. If a project team finishes a project ahead of schedule, or your organization becomes flush with success because of it, taking the team or key team members to lunch is a simple but vital way to reward them. It gives everyone on the team a chance to commune, reflect, and discuss various phases and components of the project that worked and how they might approach tasks differently for the next project.

  • Special Events, Banquets, Parties, or Ceremonies. Let employees know that you plan to celebrate and reward their success for an upcoming organizational event. Prepare to offer rewards to several employees, and make sure to include employees who might not have been part of previous celebrations.

While employees appreciate intangible rewards, these tangible gifts and recognition up the ante and solidify their assurance that you value them and their contributions.

What Is Management's Responsibility In Creating and Nurturing a Robust Recognition Strategy?

A strong management team is essential to the success of any recognition strategy. Your managers are on the ground each day, engaging with, supervising, and assessing your employees' performance. It is vital that you firmly instill the tenets of your recognition strategy in your management team's consciousness, encouraging appropriate sensitivity, interaction, and recognition of employees' strengths and challenges. Basically, you need your managers to ensure that your employees feel valued, appreciated, and guided.

Meaningful employee engagement starts with management. Here are a few strategies to ensure everyone is on board.

Leadership Buy-In

Your managers and supervisors are the top drivers for optimal employee engagement and recognition. It is vital that your managers buy into your recognition strategy and:

  • Understand and believe in your organizational goals and how employee engagement is a critical component of success.

  • Commit to making your organization a great place for your employees to work.

  • Set the tone and guide employees along the right course for success and satisfaction.

  • Value employees as a key to their and their department's success, ultimately leading to organizational success.

Setting the Tone for Accountability

Managers who set the tone for accountability, using a top-down mentality, help employees feel like they are a part of a team where everyone shares accountability. Your management team's willingness to own their own accountability serves as a good example for employees to follow. For example, saying "good morning" with a smile each morning is a simple way to encourage employees to do the same with management and peers. By fostering a general atmosphere of goodwill and friendliness, it becomes easier for everyone to work together and communicate on various subjects with greater ease.

Goal and Objectives Setting and Implementation

Ask your managers to recognize special talent and drive in employees, then set goals and objectives to help employees enjoy greater success and fulfillment. Encourage managers to ask employees where they see themselves in their professional life and how they would like to achieve those goals. Your management can then set specific goals and objectives to help employees learn more, become more valuable to the organization in their current position, and strive to advance within the company.

How Do You Measure the Success of Your Organization's Recognition Strategy?

Any business launching a recognition strategy program needs feedback to understand how everything is going. What is working? What needs work? What is failing? It is important to monitor and evaluate your program to redirect and correct if you encounter problems quickly. If everything is going great, you know to continue enhancing your strategy as it is.

Here are a few ways to measure the success of your recognition strategy.


Have you gotten your recognition strategy off the ground, enlisting managers and engaging employees? Ensure that you record levels of employee engagement and employee satisfaction before you launch your program for a comparable value, before and after. Once you have everything set, and you've implemented your program, you are on your way to monitoring and measuring success.


Work with your managers to gauge their and their employees' participation in the employee recognition program.

Employee Satisfaction

When you witness the uptick in productivity, sales, and profits, you have a clear idea of how well your program is doing compared to employee satisfaction before the launch. If your employees show greater interest in contributing to their work and the growth and development of your company, you know you are on the right track.


Productivity is another metric you can use to determine the success of your program. Ask your managers to report employee productivity at a certain point to determine how employees are responding. According to Gallup, workplace recognition motivates employees and inspires a sense of accomplishment that results in greater productivity.

Administration Tools and Reporting

Working with a single online platform reporting tool through CA Short makes it easy to administer and track points for employee engagement can take a lot of guesswork and hard work out of the process, giving you a continually updated assessment of how your plan is going.

Remember that recognition strategies take time to implement and grow over time. It is a process that requires continuous assessment and improvement to advance the quality and effectiveness of your recognition program. Keep in mind that a primary goal is to ensure each employee receives a consistent, authentic, and meaningful recognition experience that ultimately leads to greater employee retention and organizational productivity.

Download Your Free Recognition strategy action plan template here:


Your People Are Everything — Your Recognition Strategy Lets Them Know How Much You Value Them

When you invest in a robust employee engagement platform, you get the opportunity to work with seasoned and certified experts in the industry. Professionals at CA Short can help you identify invaluable KPIs and any actions you and your management can take to promote them within your organization. Each time your employees exhibit those KPIs and exemplary behaviors, you can instantly reward them with points that add up and that they can exchange for rewards of their choice that you offer.

Our People Are Everything™ platform offers you an easy way to stay up-to-date on your recognition strategy's success, allowing you to make improvements and provide rewards as needed. No employees feel looked over or left out with up-to-the-moment points-keeping.

CA Short offers you 80 years of experience in employee recognition. We are here to help you with a program that helps you avoid overwhelming your busy HR team while ensuring that your managers and employees are on board your recognition strategy efforts. Our Certified Recognition Professionals will help you get started, offering ideas and a constructive critique of your current employee recognition practices.

Contact us via phone call, chat, or email to learn more about our platform and all that it can do for your employees and your organization.

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