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Have you ever been recognized for doing a good job at work? 

It feels great, right? 

Employee award programs are all about making employees feel valued and appreciated. These programs celebrate when employees do well and encourage them to keep it up. 

In this blog, we'll talk about what employee award programs are, why they're important, the different types of awards, why a company should have one, how to create one that works, and how to see if it's making a difference. We'll also look at a real-life example to see how it all comes together. 

What is an employee award program?

An employee award program allows companies to recognize and reward their employees for excelling. It involves giving awards like Employee of the Month, Best Team Player, or special certificates to those who perform well. 

The program helps boost morale, motivation, and productivity by showing appreciation for hard work. It also encourages employees to strive for excellence and helps create a positive work environment. Overall, it's a way to make employees feel valued and appreciated.

Primary goals of an employee award program

The primary goals of an employee award program are to motivate employees, boost morale, increase productivity, retain talent, and promote a positive culture. These programs aim to encourage employees to work hard and perform at their best by recognizing their efforts and achievements. 

By making employees feel valued and appreciated, award programs help create a positive work environment where employees are motivated to excel. Additionally, these programs play a crucial role in retaining top talent within the company, as employees are more likely to stay in an organization where their contributions are recognized and rewarded. 

Overall, employee award programs are designed to benefit both employees and the company by fostering a culture of appreciation and excellence.

Types of employee awards

Employee awards are a great way to recognize and appreciate employees for their hard work and dedication. There are several types of employee awards that companies can use to motivate their employees:

1. Service anniversary awards

These awards are given to employees who have been with the company for a certain number of years, such as 5, 10, or 20 years. It's a way to show appreciation for their long-term commitment.

For Example, the Food and Drink Federation gave a Lifetime Achievement Award to Roger Angold, a well-known food scientist and top scientific consultant, to recognize his 50 years of work and his expertise in microscopy and spectroscopy techniques.

2. Achievement awards

These awards are given to employees who have achieved outstanding results or milestones in their work. It could be for completing a challenging project, exceeding targets, or contributing significantly to the company.

3. Innovation awards

These awards recognize employees who have come up with innovative ideas or solutions that have benefited the company. It encourages creativity and thinking outside the box.

For Example, Cisco recognizes innovative contributions with its "Pioneers awards”, which celebrate employees who have pushed the boundaries and delivered breakthrough solutions.

4. Leadership awards

These awards are given to employees who have demonstrated exceptional leadership skills. It could be for leading a team to success, mentoring other employees, or showing strong decision-making abilities.

For Example, Microsoft awards employees with exceptional leadership skills through their Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) program.

5. Performance awards

These awards are based on an employee's overall performance. It could be for consistently meeting or exceeding goals, showing improvement over time, or demonstrating exceptional skills in their role.

6. Customer service excellence awards

These awards are given to employees who have provided outstanding customer service. It could be for resolving a difficult situation, receiving positive customer feedback, or going above and beyond to help a customer.

7. Employee of the month awards

These awards are given to one employee each month who has stood out for their exceptional work. It's a way to recognize and reward consistent effort and dedication.

For Example, McDonald's recognizes exceptional employees with the "Employee of the Month" award, highlighting their dedication and outstanding work

8. Peer-to-Peer recognition awards

Peer-to-peer recognition awards are given by colleagues to recognize each other's contributions. These awards help to foster a positive and supportive work environment.

For Example, Google has the "Peer Bonus" program, where employees can nominate their peers for outstanding achievements. These bonuses recognize significant contributions and exceptional performance.

Benefits of implementing an employee award program

Implementing an employee award program can bring several benefits to a company. Here are five key advantages:

  • Boosts morale: Employee award programs recognize and appreciate employees' hard work, boosting their morale and motivation. This positivity can spread throughout the workplace, creating a more enjoyable and productive environment for everyone.
  • Increases productivity: Employees who feel valued are likely to be more productive, leading to improved business outcomes. Recognizing and rewarding employees for their efforts can also inspire them to set higher goals and strive for excellence.
  • Encourages teamwork: Award programs can encourage teamwork as employees strive to achieve common goals to earn recognition. This collaboration improves individual performance and strengthens the overall team dynamic.
  • Enhances employee retention: Recognizing employees' efforts can increase their loyalty to the company, reducing turnover rates. Employees who feel appreciated are more likely to stay with the company for the long term, saving the company time and money on recruiting and training new employees.
  • Improves company culture: Award programs contribute to a positive company culture, where employees feel appreciated and engaged. This can lead to higher job satisfaction, lower absenteeism, and a more cohesive work environment.

Steps to create an effective employee award program

Here are the steps to create an effective employee award program:

1. Define clear objectives

Decide what you want to achieve with the program. This could be improving employee morale, increasing productivity, or promoting teamwork. Clearly defining your goals helps you create a program that effectively meets these objectives.

2. Choose the right types of awards

Pick awards that match your company's values and goals. Consider what would motivate your employees and align with your company culture. For example, if innovation is important, consider awards for creative ideas or problem-solving.

3. Set clear criteria and guidelines

Make sure the rules are clear and fair for everyone. This includes how employees can qualify for awards, who decides the winners, and how often awards are given. Clarity and fairness build trust and encourage participation.

4. Involve employees in the process

Get ideas and feedback from your employees. This helps them feel more involved and invested in the program. You can create a sense of ownership by allowing employees to nominate their peers or suggest award categories.

5. Promote the program

Use different ways to tell everyone about the program. Make it exciting so people want to participate. This can include emails, posters, meeting announcements, and even creating a dedicated space to showcase past winners.

6. Evaluate and revise

Keep checking how well the program is working. Make changes if needed based on feedback. Regular evaluations help you identify what's working well and what can be improved, ensuring the program remains effective and relevant.

How to measure the impact of an employee award program?

  • Surveys and feedback: Ask employees for their opinions about the award program. This can help you understand if they feel more motivated and appreciated because of it.
  • Performance metrics: Look at how employees' performance has changed since the program started. Compare productivity, customer satisfaction, and teamwork before and after the program.
  • Retention rates: Check if more employees stay with the company after implementing the program. Higher retention rates can indicate that employees feel valued and rewarded.
  • Attendance and engagement: Monitor attendance and participation in company events. The award program's positive impact may lead to higher attendance and more engagement.
  • Costs and ROI: Calculate the costs of running the award program and compare them to the benefits. This can help you determine if the program is cost-effective and worth continuing.

1. Case study: A comprehensive approach to recognition

A leading healthcare company, known for its robust network and commitment to enhancing patient care faced significant challenges with its employee recognition strategies. The company had multiple cash-based recognition programs that were difficult to track and lacked the inspirational impact needed to engage a modern workforce.


The primary challenges faced by the healthcare company included:

  1. Lack of a unified recognition system: Multiple disjointed cash-based programs led to inefficiencies and a lack of transparency in tracking and managing employee recognition.
  2. Cultural shift towards more meaningful recognition: The existing system failed to align with the company's values and did not foster a culture of meaningful recognition, which is crucial for employee engagement and retention.
  3. Global disconnection: With a workforce spread across various countries, a unified platform that could bridge the gap and connect employees globally through a common recognition program was needed.
  4. Transition from cash-based system: The previous system had no tracking ability, which made transitioning to an online rewards and recognition platform using award points a significant challenge.


To address these challenges, the healthcare company developed and implemented a strategic recognition program called “Illuminate: Recognising Excellence”. The solutions included:

  1. DayMaker recognition technology: The program integrated behavioral economics to create a fun, engaging, and user-friendly social recognition system.
  2. Creative and promotional campaigns: A robust campaign including a thematic logo, kick-off videos, and promotional merchandise was launched to generate excitement and buy-in across the organization.
  3. Managerial training and support: Training programs were developed to educate managers on the importance of recognition in driving employee engagement and organizational success.
  4. Comprehensive launch strategy: This included launching a video from corporate leaders stressing the importance of creating a culture of recognition, launching a launch quiz to reinforce knowledge of the program, and including peer-to-peer recognition, manager discretionary recognition, and badging.
  5. Contests with award points: The program offered contests to engage employees further and promote recognition activities.


The implementation of the “Illuminate: Recognising Excellence” program brought about transformative results within the first year:

  1. High Engagement Rates: Over 90% of the workforce logged into the new platform, with 52% actively participating in the recognition activities.
  2. Quiz Completion: 52% of employees completed the launch quiz, demonstrating a strong grasp of the program's objectives and mechanics.
  3. Enhanced Peer-to-Peer Recognition: Approximately 42% of employees engaged in peer-to-peer recognition, significantly enhancing the culture of mutual appreciation and support. 86% of employees received at least one peer-to-peer recognition.
  4. Effective Managerial Participation: Around 65% of managers utilized the platform for recognition, reaching 80% of employees with meaningful recognition and rewards.
  5. Cultural Alignment and Value Reinforcement: The issuance of over 12,000 badges helped reinforce the company’s core values and behaviours among the workforce.

2. Heineken employee recognition case study: launch of BREWards program

Heineken, a global leader in the beverage industry, faced significant challenges with its employee recognition program, named "My Recognition". Despite a large workforce, less than 2% of employees were recognized annually, reflecting low engagement scores. Employees expressed the need for regular and fair recognition, which spurred Heineken to revamp their approach within an existing budget.


  • Limited recognition: Initially, only 40 rewards worth approximately $1,400 were available for a workforce of 2,400, leading to under 2% of employees being recognized annually.
  • Diverse workforce Needs: Heineken's varied workforce, including office support, sales staff, and brewery operators, required a versatile and inclusive recognition strategy.
  • Budget constraints: The program needed restructuring to recognize more employees effectively without increasing the budget.
  • Stakeholder consensus: Gaining support across a broad range of stakeholders in a sizable business was crucial for the new program's success.


  • Extensive feedback integration: Utilizing insights from engagement surveys and discussions with the People Cabinet, Heineken developed a strategy that tied recognitions to its core values and covered a broader spectrum of achievements.
  • Innovative reward system: The newly named "BREWards" program introduced a multi-tiered reward system, including:
    • Cheers! instant awards: Small monetary recognitions worth $65.
    • Inspiring people awards (IPAs): Higher-value rewards that could include monetary awards, additional days off, or dinners at company breweries.
    • Non-monetary recognitions: Introduction of eCards to allow for more frequent recognitions.
  • Support materials and training: Development of guidelines, training videos, and materials for three key user groups—employees, People Managers, and Recognition Champions—to ensure consistent and fair recognition practices.
  • Diverse communication strategies: Launch communications were disseminated through emails, social media, posters, screensavers, and direct messages to ensure wide reach.


  • Enhanced engagement: The BREWards program saw the issuance of 1,050 eCards, 246 Cheers! awards, and 14 IPAs in just five months.
  • Significant uptake: Approximately 54% of the workforce received awards during the initial phase of the program.
  • Doubled recognition: There was a more than 50% increase in the number of employees receiving peer recognition, vastly improving engagement and morale.
  • Continuous recognition: Regular monthly issuance of rewards ensured timely recognition and maintained engagement across the board.


Employee award programs are really important for making employees feel good about their work. They help boost morale, motivation, and productivity. By having a good award program, companies can keep their employees happy and motivated, which leads to better performance. It's also important to measure how well the program is working to make it even better. As we saw in the case study, a good award program can have a big impact on employees and the company. So, whether you're starting a new program or improving an old one, having an employee award program is a great idea that can bring many benefits.

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