12 Types of recognition and rewards (that employees actually want)

There’s something for everyone when it comes to workplace recognition, but knowing how to choose the right option for your team can be a challenge. From verbal praise to time off, finding out what keeps your employees motivated is an essential starting point to choosing the rewards that are going to best serve your organisation.

Every team is totally unique but there are a few methods of appreciation that we’ve found to be most common. Read on to learn more about the types of recognition and rewards that employees crave and how you can apply these practices to your organisation!

What is an example of recognition? 

We all understand the concept of rewards, but what exactly is recognition? Simply put, recognition is giving someone a mark of appreciation for something they’ve accomplished. Recognition can come in many forms, but it all boils down to saying “thank you” for a job well done.

An example could be praising an employee in front of their peers or even the whole company. This can be done with a big announcement or even during a formal company meeting.

What are the main types of recognition? 

There are many different types of recognition for employees, but most fall into one of two categories: structured or unstructured. Then, there’s the mechanism, verbal or written. 

Structured recognition

Structured recognition has the most potential to positively affect employee engagement because it’s planned and formalised. Recognition in this form is typically handled by managers or leaders and can include things like:

Because structured recognition is often large-scale, it's highly appreciated by employees. And it has the most potential to increase motivation by offering acknowledgement for sustained high performance.

Unstructured recognition

Unlike structured recognition, unstructured recognition is casual and impromptu. It's typically handled top-down or peer-to-peer. Some common forms of unstructured recognition include:

Unstructured recognition is well-loved by employees because it feels more authentic and genuine than structured recognition. Plus, it's easy to do and typically doesn't require much effort to carry out.

Verbal vs. written recognition

Now the question, should you deliver recognition verbally or in writing? The answer is that it depends, but a good place to start is by considering which type of recognition will impact the employee most.

In companies with a strong culture of recognition, it's common for managers to deliver the majority of their praise verbally. Verbally-delivered recognition is also common in startups.

Yet, many companies still give their employees written recognition because it offers an easy way to capture and record the acknowledgement. For employees, it is a great way to have something to look back on (like when they feel down) and offers a more physical reminder of their value to the company.

Peer-to-Peer vs. Leader-to-Team

Recognition can come from managers, leaders, or peers.

Peer-to-peer recognition is excellent because it feels authentic and genuine. Employees need to know that recognition doesn't only come from managers but also from their peers.

Why does peer-to-peer recognition work so well? In short, because we love working with and learning from people who are like us and appreciate us. That’s why employee engagement is often higher in smaller companies, where everyone is more familiar with one another.

Leader-to-team recognition can feel different because it's more formalised and structured. It’s great for larger companies that want to spread recognition throughout the entire organisation and in doing so, help team members to see their impact and inspire them to keep striving for more. 

It's also beneficial for employees because it shows them the types of things their bosses notice, care about, and think are important.

There isn't a right or wrong answer to who should deliver recognition to employees, instead, it's vital that you give your employees a variety of different types of recognition and find out what works best in your company culture.

What type of recognition do employees want? 

According to research by Quantum Workplace, more than 50% of employees want public recognition, especially from their manager or senior leader.

Public recognition can come in the form of company-wide emails, announcements, or even a big wall of fame in the office. Research also shows that employees want unstructured recognition more than anything else. It makes them feel like they matter to the company and are a vital part of it.

What are the different types of rewards? 

Although many managers think that recognition and rewards are interchangeable, they're not the same. A reward is something tangible that will be directly consumed by an employee. Typical rewards include:

Generally, rewards tend to be more expensive than recognition, so it's important to weigh whether a reward will motivate your employee more than recognition before you decide if it’s worth the investment. 

Ready to give recognition? 

Now that you know about the different ways of recognizing and rewarding your employees, you can start to try them out for yourself and along the way learn which types will make the most significant impact on your company culture.

Don’t know where to start? Try organising a team building event for the next milestone your employees reach (like a product launch). 
Let us know
and we’ll help you with planning.

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