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4 min read

These days, companies of all shapes and sizes are embracing employee recognition as a tool to drive engagement, improve morale and combat demotivators in the workplace.

That being said, it can be challenging to know when and how to show appreciation – especially for managers. 

A lack of manager-led recognition is often a top reason employee recognition is inconsistent in the workplace. This can negatively affect employee engagement, the customer experience and a company’s ability to achieve desired results.

The different methods of employee recognition

If your organization is like many of the companies we partner with, there are a number of ways to provide recognition to your employees. But, deciding which method to choose isn’t always easy. The good news? You don’t have to choose just one!

People respond to recognition differently based on individual preferences. 

Starting with a combination of these five recognition methods will help you create a formula for recognition, while providing a great opportunity to demonstrate gratitude and encourage consistency in employee behaviors.

1. Strategic recognition
2. Spot recognition
3. Team or group recognition
4. Achievement recognition
5. Anniversary recognition

1. Strategic recognition

There are three steps to make employee recognition messages more strategic in order to show appreciation for a success that helped improve the employee or customer experience which is tied to your company’s values, purpose or objectives.

Step one: Tell the action
Step two: Connect to an area of focus or company value
Step three: Explain the impact

Share a story that includes specifics on what the individual(s) did and how it had an impact on the organization. This helps employees feel appreciated for the relevance of the work they do and also highlights best practices that their peers can learn from.

Download our eBook to discover how to create the best formula for employee  recognition »

2. Spot recognition

Although spot recognition is less strategic, sending a quick thank you for consistency in expectations (such as arriving on time and prepared or greeting customers a certain way) supports behaviors important to the culture and reputation of the organization.

A peer-to-peer or manager-led eCard is a great way to show appreciation for employees immediately after the great behavior. Make it even more visible by sharing it with the entire organization on a social recognition wall.


3. Team or group recognition

In my 20 years in the industry, I’ve never worked with an organization that didn’t want better teamwork or collaboration.

When a group of individuals work together to accomplish a goal or project, it is absolutely recognition-worthy. 

Calling out what the group did well shows appreciation, demonstrates the relevance of employees’ good work and reinforces the importance of collaboration. Keep in mind, there are different levels of recognition and it all depends on what you choose to focus on at your organization.

To help you create your own unique formula, use our recognition pyramid as a guide to the different levels.


Check out our step-by-step template to discover the different levels of  employee recognition »

4. Achievement recognition

When employees go above and beyond to focus on their career development or seek opportunities to grow within your organization, take the time to acknowledge that behavior.

With an employee recognition program, you can shine a spotlight and recognize employees who earn certifications, complete courses or take other steps towards career development – their focus and time investment are advantages for both their career and the organization.

At its core, your recognition program should always be human and focus on your people. But guidelines are needed or else people may not adopt or use it – which is why training your managers to recognize employees is key.

5. Anniversary recognition

Work anniversaries are a great time to celebrate your employees. Consistently acknowledging work anniversaries demonstrates appreciation for the employees’ loyalty to the company and also recognizes career longevity. 


Sending a Happy Anniversary eCard highlights employee progress and celebrates loyalty. It makes the employee feel a sense of pride for the work that they do day-in and day-out – helping to create a culture of continuous recognition.

Remember, not all recognition is created equally. If recognition doesn’t come naturally to your managers, consider providing them with a variety of methods as opportunities to drive engagement through showing appreciation. Recognition, when done consistently, helps employees feel respected and reinforces the relevance of their role with your company.

This not only improves working relationships, but helps improve your company’s culture and achieve desired business results. Tell me, what will your unique recognition formula be?

Alexandra Powell

Alexandra Powell, Director of Client Cultural Insights, not only knows American Sign Language, but uses it to secretly communicate with her husband and kids at parties. Alex is a highly experienced employee engagement consultant, trainer and speaker. For over 20 years she has helped HR and business leaders implement strategies that drive true culture change.

Director of Client Cultural Insights

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