Four Must-Have Manager Guidelines for Employee Recognition Ideas

When it comes to employee recognition ideas, managers turn to everything from generic, last-minute thank you cards to full-featured employee experience platforms. But what makes employee recognition ideas truly effective?

To answer that, it’s important to remember why recognition is important and consider four must-have guidelines for your employee recognition ideas.

Managers, take note

If you think employee recognition ideas have to involve massive amounts of time and creativity, think again. After looking at the stats from employee surveys, it’s clear that a little would go a long way from managers and leadership:

  • 82% of employees don’t think they’re recognized for their work as often as they deserve, according to a survey of US employees by BambooHR
  • The same BambooHR survey found one-third of employees would rather be recognized in a company-wide email from an executive than receive a bonus of $500
  • Employee Benefit News reported 70% of employees say motivation and morale would improve “massively” if managers said thank you more
  • In a famous Glassdoor study, 81% of employees say they’re motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation

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Four manager guidelines for effective employee recognition

Kazoo has done years of research on the employee experience and helped hundreds of organizations see proven ROI with employee engagement. We provide these four guidelines to help managers develop effective employee recognition ideas:

1. Make it specific: Go beyond the generic thank-you. Does this recognition idea call out what the employee did and how it was impactful?

2. Make it timely: For best results with recognition, sooner is better — a gesture weeks or months later loses its impact.

3. Make it personalized: What was it about this particular action or employee that merited recognition? Perhaps it aligned with certain goals or company core values that can be called out.

4. Make it consistent: This is the most important guideline to keep in mind. One employee recognition idea is good. Many employee recognition ideas done consistently over time create a culture of recognition, which helps improve the employee experience and boost bottom-line results.

Where common employee recognition ideas fail

With the above guidelines in mind, let’s look at common employee recognition ideas. While each of these is a nice gesture, long-term they do not help organizations engage and retain employees:

Milestone idea: The awkward glass sculpture. On the morning of an employee’s first, fifth, or tenth anniversary at the company, she finds a strange glass sculpture on her desk. It’s not clear whether (or where) she will keep it, much less remember what it was meant to stand for.

Where it fails: It’s neither specific nor personalized. What contribution is the employee being appreciated for other than time at the company? How motivational is the same milestone given to everyone?

Event idea: The holiday party shoutout. With everyone gathered at the year-end holiday party, executives turn everyone’s attention to your success of a major project — that was completed in March.

Where it fails: This employee recognition idea comes up short in being timely or consistent. Celebrating successes consistently and in the moment — even on a smaller stage than an all-hands event — is much more beneficial to the employee experience.

Employee reward idea: The gift card cabinet. In need of a quick thank-you for an above-and-beyond effort or a small prize for an impromptu competition, an admin or manager pulls a steakhouse gift cards from a stashed-away stack and tosses it on a desk, not realizing the recipient is a vegan.

Where it fails: In addition to lacking specifics, this approach lacks personalization to the point of doing more harm than good. What does it say about a manager or organization that important motivators or causes aren’t being considered when recognizing and rewarding employees?

For more reading on how to develop effective employee recognition ideas, download Reward & Recognition Systems That Work, filled with science-based tips for motivating employees.

About Kazoo:

Kazoo is the employee experience platform powered by the science of motivation and the mission of improving the lives of employees everywhere, one company at a time. Founded in 2013, Kazoo grows company culture and improves bottom-line performance metrics through its robust engagement platform that delivers recognition, rewards, incentives, and team insights. Named to Entrepreneur Magazine’s list of Best Company Cultures in 2017, the Austin-based SaaS company and its technology platform are built on the four pillars of employee experience: connection, meaning, impact, and appreciation. To request a demo, visit

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