· Eve Church  · 7 min read

How & When to Recognize & Reward Employees

As HR it’s up to you to figure out what motivates people when it comes to rewards & recognition. Only then can you implement a meaningful program

How you look at the concepts of recognizing and rewarding your employees will depend upon your company and its leaders. And it could very well be different from even your closest competitor.

Your company culture and how it has been shaped - and how your people respond to that culture - will also have a part to play. Maybe you’ve found that the majority of your employees liked to be rewarded (or recognized) with a gift card. Or perhaps they prefer happy hour drinks or a shout out in the team meeting.

The point is, as someone working in Human Resources it’s down to you to figure out what motivates your teams when it comes to rewards and recognition. Only then can you implement a meaningful program.

The lowdown on employee recognition and rewards

As we said above, your organization may very well view both rewarding and recognizing employees as completely different to the company in the office suite next door.

Some companies may even see them as one and the same, but for the sake of this blog post (and for the sake of argument!) let’s look at what we believe the different types of employee rewards and employee recognition are - and when the best times to deliver them are.

Different types of employee recognition and rewards

Verbal praise

Verbal praise is probably the most obvious way of recognizing someone’s contribution, whether that’s to a project or the company in general.

It’s usually the most informal way of expressing thanks or giving praise and often delivered in

an ad-hoc style - although it could just as well take place in a team meeting by giving a shout out to a particular person or team.

Written praise

The nice thing about written praise in the workplace is that it shows that the employee’s manager or team leader has taken the trouble to put pen to paper. (Or finger to keyboard…)

Written praise is also often more appreciated by the recipient as it is something tangible they can hold on to and even show future prospective employers as evidence of their hard work or commitment.


There are a few ways of approaching giving someone a bonus for a job well done and they can range from a small ‘on the spot bonus’ to something considerably larger, such as a lump sum, or even a pay rise.

The nice thing about small bonuses, when used as a form of employee recognition on a more project-based basis, is that they’re usually much appreciated by the employee - just bear in mind that they should have no bearing on quarterly or annual bonuses.

Gifts or perks

A potted plant left on an employees desk or a gift card to their favorite store or coffee shop. Movie tickets or a half day’s paid vacation. There are numerous ways to say thank you.

A thoughtful gift that is tailored to someone’s likes or interests, or a perk that you know will benefit them greatly - perhaps allowing them to work from home a couple of days a week for the foreseeable future are all ways of recognizing someone’s contribution.

When should you reward or recognize employees?

There are a few different instances when it is appropriate to give our praise, bonuses, gift cards or shout outs. The main thing is to ensure that you do so in a timely fashion.

If someone has gone above and beyond and pulled late nights and weekends to meet a deadline, reward them while they’re still buzzing from the sense of achievement - and possibly while they’re still exhausted.

Leaving it until the end of the quarter, two months down the line won’t have nearly the same impact.

Recognizing their hard work while they’re pumped will increase their sense of achievement - and sincerely thanking them if they’re beat after all that hard work will let them know that it was all worthwhile.

Here are a few suggestions for when you might want to fire up your recognition program, whether it’s to single out a person or department, or to tell everyone how great you think they are.

Employee Appreciation Day

Did you know that the first Friday in March is Employee Appreciation Day? Although an unofficial holiday, this is a great excuse for companies to show their entire workforce how appreciative they are of everyone’s hard work.

It can be as fun or as formal as you make it: A party in the office. A BBQ (if it’s warm enough where you are!) A fun office team building exercise. Lunch paid for by the company. An awards ceremony. Or even just a brightly decorated office.

Perhaps the best route to go is to keep it lighthearted and, it goes without saying, inclusive. After all, this is about all your employees, not just the people or teams in the spotlight.

Yes, sales or biz dev may bring in the big bucks, but don’t forget those behind the scenes, such as your accounts or IT departments.

The end of the year

Year end is a naturally fitting time to show your people how grateful you are for all their hard work over the past twelve months.

The annual bonus is, of course, always welcomed as a token of appreciation, but so too is a heartfelt thank you from bosses or company leaders.

Whether it’s at the annual company event, Christmas party or the last company-wide, departmental, or team meeting of the year this is a good time for managers to show that they recognize their people.

The upside of this is that it should have employees (or the majority of them anyway!) leaving for the holidays feeling happy and proud to work for their employer.

And that means that they should be back with a spring in their step and ready to work come the new year!

Work anniversaries

What better day to show an individual that you appreciate them than on their work anniversary. The great thing about this is that the focus is on that person and their achievements and therefore should be celebrated as such.

The thing with work anniversaries - especially if you’re bringing them to attention - is that they can become a time for an employee to reflect on the past year with your organization.

And if they’re only feeling appreciated or recognized on this one day per year, potential feelings of dissatisfaction could bubble to the surface.

This can be compounded if their work anniversary is recognized by a generic gift or impersonal speech by their manager.

Therefore not only should this milestone be meaningfully celebrated, for example by specifically pointing out what an individual has excelled in, but it can also be used as an opportunity to increase employee retention.


Birthdays are another good way to shine the spotlight on a certain person. After all, if your company is still working from the office, that individual will be spending eight hours there on their special day.

A card, a cake, a shout out for the birthday person combined with a thanks for another year of great work are all good ways to make someone feel recognized - and perhaps not so deflated at being at work on their birthday.

A few balloons won’t go amiss either!

But one thing to be aware of is that not everyone likes to make a big deal out of their birthday. Some will love it if you go all out and plaster photos of them as a baby everywhere.

Some will be happy with a greeting and a gift card - and some may prefer that they fly under the radar. It would be well worth doing a bit of research first if it’s someone’s first birthday at your organization.

How can Hezum help your small to mid-sized HR department?

If you want to make it easier to keep track of the people within your organization so that it’s easier to know who is performing well and deserving of rewards and recognition, it’s time you implemented an HRIS that can take care of back office admin for you.

Hezum does exactly that with non-nonsense features such as an employee database which is a secure, centralized location where you can store data about your people - as well as your departments and your locations.

Read to get started? Create your free company account here and start your free, no-strings attached trial today.

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Stats That Prove Employee Recognition Matters

Employee recognition snowballs into something bigger and more beneficial for your organization. You can improve retention when you take the time to recognize the achievements of your employees