What's your best advice for putting together a formal employee recognition program? Any tips on what to include (or what doesn't work)?

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No. 1: Work With Your Team to Define Rewards

From Aaron Schwartz of Modify Watches 

Every startup has its own culture. It's worth learning how other businesses - startups, major brands, consulting companies or tech shops - recognize employees. But you should work with your team to develop your recognition programs. Make sure that the rewards excite your employees so that they will actually be effective.

No. 2: Be Creative

From Ziver Birg of ZIVELO

A plaque for the employee of the month is old school. Be creative. Money doesn’t always do the trick. People like to be recognized in ways that affect their hearts. Thank their spouses or their children, award trophies for salesmanship, and offer handwritten thank-yous for exceptional work. Surprise them. Keep them guessing.


No. 3: Hire a Queen/King of Culture

From Ben Rubenstein of Yodle 

Employee recognition is on every company’s to-do list, but it often gets forgotten or deprioritized. Yodle hired a Queen of Culture whose #1 job is recognizing top performers and arranging prizes. A mistake to avoid is thinking that money will sustain performers. Group prizes encourage teammates to support one another. Make rewards unique – trophies, dinners and trips can go further than cash.

No. 4: Ask Their Peers

From Brent Beshore of AdVentures 

Crowdsource it. Usually recognition comes from management, but peers know what's really going on. Let them be the ones to recognize achievement and reward it.

No. 5: Create Contests

From Nick Friedman of College Hunks Hauling Junk and College Hunks Moving 

Keep the recognition frequent and consistent. Use the hourly, weekly, quarterly or annual benchmarks that drive your company forward to create contests with rewards for achieving those benchmarks. They don't need to be monetary if you focus on the ceremony (e.g. an Employee of the Month Award where you place the winner's photo on a placard on the wall).

No. 6: Cater for All Personality Types

From Robert Castaneda of ServiceRocket

Recognition can be skewed toward the loudest and proudest extroverts. Implementing a system that allows peer review/praise and opportunity for the quiet achievers to be recognized is important. We implemented Small Improvements to make this happen.
No. 7: Reward the Whole Team

From Yosef Martin of Merchandize Liquidators 

We have more of a collectivism-style environment at the office. People like to work in groups and achieve company, as well as individual, goals. When our sales staff hits certain monthly goals, we all go to a high-end restaurant to celebrate. It helps encourage the sales team outside of monetary rewards.

No. 8: Praise Effort. Reward Results.

From Nicole Smartt of Star Staffing 

When putting together a formal employee recognition program, it’s important to remember to praise effort and reward results. It’s crucial that the employee program encompasses each role and position within the organization. Start by determining what is most important in your company and choose the values that you will recognize.

No. 9: Don't Overthink It

From Anderson Schoenrock of ScanDigital

We created a really awesome, but elaborate point system, only to discover that it was too much for people to keep track of and actually deterred them from doing their job. The system that's used to track employees for recognition is far less important than just having something in place to recognize those who have done well. People love to be recognized in front of their peers.