10 Secrets of Successful Employee Recognition Programs

Employee recognition programs done right build successful workplace cultures!

Successful employee recognition programs have lasting impact. (Photo via NYC DOT, Flickr)

Employee recognition programs are a major investment for most companies, yet much of this investment is wasted on recognition that doesn’t work.

A study by Bersin & Associates found that 87% of the $46 billion market for employee recognition programs goes toward ineffective tenure-based recognition.

“What our research found was that tenure-based rewards systems have virtually no impact on organizational performance,” writes lead researcher Josh Bersin in a Forbes column, “New Research Unlocks the Secret of Employee Recognition.”

“Did you stay an extra year at your last job so you could get a 10-year pin? I doubt it,” he writes.

Tenure-focused employee recognition programs were developed more than a century ago in response to pressure from unions, according to Bersin. The spirit of these efforts was in the right place, but now we know better.

The latest science shows employees respond better to on-the-spot, peer-to-peer and results-based recognition. Not only that, but researchers are finally documenting the incredible effect that successful employee recognition programs have on a company’s overall performance.

Do you know what all successful employee recognition programs have in common? Read on to find out.

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The Magic of On-the-Spot Recognition

On-the-spot recognition gets instant results!

On-the-spot recognition gets instant results!

On-the-spot recognition gets instant results. When you recognize employees right away, the benefits start right away!

“A year-end cash bonus doesn’t give an immediate sense of gratification for a job done today, and it may not address what’s on an employee’s mind today,” writes Eric Mosley writes in Forbes article, “Incentives vs. Recognition: How Do You Get Your Employees Engaged Again?”

The once-a-year recognition party is good for show, but ultimately it doesn’t affect day-to-day performance and is a weak employee motivator in the long run.

“Recognizing [an employee] with a thank you, a gift card of his choosing or even a personal day off can take you very far. Such on-the-spot recognition, done year-round, inspires ongoing motivation and high performance,” Mosley writes.

It’s time to make recognition an ongoing, everyday activity. Read on to find out why on-the-spot recognition is so effective — and much easier to carry out than you think!

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Build a Thank You Culture by Paying It Forward

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Photo via Adi Respati, Flickr

It’s not enough to thank employees during the holidays. Build a thank you culture by showing your workplace appreciation year-round!

One great way to build that thank you culture is by paying it forward.


In Forbes article, “The Thank You Culture,” awarding-winning PR expert Ken Makovsky notes that workplace thank you’s don’t happen often enough. In fact, research shows that workplaces rank last among places people express gratitude.

According to research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), just 10% of workers thank a coworker daily, and only 7% thank a boss. While 40% frequently thank colleagues, Makovsky writes:

“It’s clear that intra-office gratitude is not what it should be.”

Luckily, supervisors can set the tone and build a thank you culture. Nearly half (49%) of managers believe thank you culture increases profit. 

“That should drive every CEO and manager responsible for the bottom line.”

Every Thank You Adds Up

It’s important to thank individuals for work well done on specific projects. However, according to Reid Carr, president of marketing firm Red Door Interactive:

“There are a litany of occasions where everyone from top management on down do little daily things that add up to a big positive impact for the company in the long term.”

In his Fast Company article, “Creating a Culture of Thank You,” Carr explains that his company celebrates those achievements regularly. That’s why  thank you culture is so essential to his organization.

Celebrating small successes is crucial to maintaining a happy office environment, Carr writes. Not only that, but the more the merrier! A thank you should come from all levels of the organization.  

Pay It Forward

To build that thank you culture, start with the foundation of a “pay it forward” environment. The concept is easy, writes Mark Bregman, head of recruiting firm BOB Search, in his Recruiting Blogs post “Pay It Forward—At Work”:

“When you are the beneficiary of a good deed, and you can’t exactly pay back the kindness (to that same person), pay it forward by doing 3 good deeds to others, preferably strangers; random acts of kindness.”

For her post, “How to Create a Culture of ‘Paying It Forward,’” Kimberly Weisul, editor-at-large for Inc.com, talked with Milena Tsvetkova, a Cornell doctoral candidate studying spontaneous generosity. Tsvetkova says:

“When someone anonymous does you a favor, you cannot return the favor directly, so you repay it to someone else. … So if we see people doing favors, we’re more inclined to do so ourselves … these mechanisms are stronger when people don’t know each other.

6 Ways to pay it forward at work

Obviously, in a workplace, people do know each other. But you can still build a thank you culture by paying it forward at work, Bregman writes:

“[We can do] more than what is expected not just in tasks, but on the human side.”

He offers six suggestions for building a thank you culture:

1. Mentor
If you’re more experienced than others around you, help them get up to speed, even if your boss hasn’t asked you to. Helping your juniors improve makes you more valuable to your company!

2. Include
If there are cliques in your organization, take someone on the fringes to lunch. A simple invitation can be a huge gift to a lonely person.

3. Support
If a colleague is moody or grumpy, ask what you can do to help. Sometimes just sitting and listening to someone vent—without providing advice—can cheer them up (just be sure you don’t cross boundaries in terms of what’s appropriate to discuss at work).

4. Acknowledge
Catch people doing things right—even small things—especially if you’re in a position to criticize when they do something wrong.  Bremen’s motto is:

“‘Take all the blame and give all the credit’—this will make you a hero in the eyes of the other person.”

5. Volunteer
When a colleague needs help on a project, offer to help. You’ll both feel great.

6. Let Go
Do you harbor resentment about petty things that have happened at work? Ask yourself if it will matter in a month or a year. If it doesn’t, let it go! Bremen advises:

“Letting go sounds like giving something up, but in fact it’s the most empowering thing we can do—it immediately makes room for joy and other positive experiences. And it’s always a gift to the other person, too.”


For more on how to pay it forward and build your thank you culture at work, check the Pay It Forward Foundation website. Or look into the annual Pay It Forward (PIF) Day. (It was April 30 this year, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait a year—hold your own PIF Day and get rolling with gratitude.)

These are little things, but they add up to a thank you culture when they happen regularly.

“And remember, Bregman notes, “what goes around, comes around. People who pay it forward are the recipients of more abundance and joy in their lives, directly and indirectly.”

Download our FREE eBook and Transform Your Workplace with Gratitude TODAY!

About gThankYou, LLC

Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou! are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any Brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any Grocery Store in the U.S.

gThankYou, LLC provides company leaders with a variety of easy, meaningful and affordable ways to recognize and reward employees, holiday time or anytime. gThankYou! Certificates of Gratitude and our free Enclosure Cards are personalizable including incorporating your company logo. And, nearly all orders ship same day.

gThankYou, LLC (www.gthankyou.com) is based in Madison, Wisconsin. Contact: Rick Kiley, Chief ThankYou! Officer, gThankYou, LLC at info@gthankyou.com or 888-484-1658.
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Show You Care with a Business Thank You Gift Certificate!

A thoughtful thank you gift is the perfect way to show employees, vendors, and even customers that you care.  Who doesn’t like to be surprised with a gesture of gratitude? Add a heartfelt card of  “thanks” and your recipients will be sure to remember your appreciation.

Thank you from gThankYou!

Saying “Thank You” is easy, meaningful, and affordable!

Rather than shop for a memento they’ll put on a shelf (if you’re lucky), or selecting logo wear they are unlikely to use, consider choosing a gift certificate that lets recipients choose a gift they actually want, from any store, anytime.

In Entrepreneur article 10 Ways to Say Thank You,” writer Kara Ohngren names the virtues of expressing your thanks. 

“It’s amazing how far a simple ‘thank you’ can go. Research shows that customers spend more, employees accomplish more, and vendors are more likely to pay on time, if they’re thanked regularly.”

A business thank you gift certificate is a simple, effective way to do just that!

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Plan Now for Summer Employee Thank You Gifts!

Employee thank you gifts by gThankYou!

Share your workplace ‘thanks’ this summer with a thoughtful card and gift.

Employee thank you gifts are appreciated anytime! With summer fast approaching, why not take advantage of the warm weather and joy of the season to share gratitude in your workplace?

After all, as David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge, writes in a Forbes article, “Your Most Powerful Forgotten Weapon: Gratitude,” if we only think about gratitude at Thanksgiving, “we overlook the immense power of practicing it daily, especially in a business context.”

His research shows that gratitude makes a difference, and that people don’t require grand gestures, just heartfelt ones.

“Simple but genuine thank yous or small, handwritten notes of appreciation can mean the world to people.”

Simple, small, appreciative: means a whole lot more than monetary gifts! As Mike Michalowicz, CEO of consulting firm Provendus Group, writes in “101 Ways to Reward Employees (Without Giving Them Cash)”:

“Cash has proven to be a short-term motivator for employees. Save yours and try one of these more meaningful (and less expensive) ways to show them you care.”

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Why Does Staff Appreciation Matter?

Staff appreciation is easier than you think!

Staff Appreciation Matters!

Staff appreciation is not only important, it’s critical! In “Why Recognition,” employee recognition firm Globoforce lists the bottom-line benefits of staff appreciation:

Drive Measurable Business Results—The simple act of recognizing employees has a proven impact on your bottom line.

Retain Top Talent—Recognize your employees and they’ll stay, grow, and thrive. Great recognition has a proven, direct impact on retention.

Breathe Life Into Your Values—Use employee recognition to make values actionable for employees every day.

Inspire Employee Engagement—Appreciation inspires not only emotional commitment but discretionary effort.

And that’s important, the Globoforce website notes:

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Want A Culture of Workplace Gratitude? Stop Multitasking.

gThankYou! workplace gratitude

When you focus at work, your capacity for workplace gratitude expands. (Photo via Alessandro Valli, Flickr)

Are your employees missing out on a shared culture of workplace gratitude because everyone is too distracted?

Multitasking was once thought to be the pinnacle of efficiency.

Now, a new generation of researchers and workplace experts argue that focus is the secret to productivity, innovation and compassion.

When we focus, we’re more likely to be “in the moment” with people and appreciate what they do. We’re also more likely to finish our work quickly and thoroughly so we can relax in social settings.

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Nurse Engagement: Why Everybody Wins

Nurse engagement in the workplace makes for healthier, happier patients!

Image via American Nurses Association

National Nurses Week ends today, Tuesday, May 12. How do we maintain nurse engagement and celebrate nurses throughout the year?

By making nurse engagement a fundamental part of healthcare workplace culture, of course!

When healthcare organizations focus on nurse engagement, nurses feel appreciated and engaged every day.

Patients and their families benefit, too!

At least 30 years of research consistently demonstrates a link between nurse job satisfaction and patient outcomes, according to the NurseZone.com article, “Why Nurses’ Job Satisfaction Matters to Patients.”

Happy patients, in turn, helps boost gratitude and nurse engagement.

Want to keep this cycle of appreciation going? Read on for everyday tips to build nurse engagement — and patient satisfaction.

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New Hires Need Employee Recognition, Too!

Employee recognition is crucial to your workplace well-being!

Employee recognition is a key component of onboarding. Make your new hires feel welcome! (Photo via Hey Paul Studios, Flickr)

Employee recognition needs to start from day one. Your new hires will feel welcomed and be more committed when you share your gratitude with them right away!

Two common misconceptions about employee recognition impede effective onboarding experiences for new hires.

One misconception is that recognition is only for big milestones like work anniversaries. The other is that routine job duties don’t deserve “thanks.”

Not true! Everyone loves to hear praise for their everyday accomplishments.

Read on to find out how your employee recognition program can include new hires from Day 1.

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6 Easy Tips for Teacher Appreciation

It's May, but there's still time for teacher appreciation! Thank a teacher today.

May is the perfect time for teacher appreciation!  (Photo via Julieverse.com)

While school leadership should appreciate teachers all year long, it’s especially important this week – National Teacher Appreciation Week.

Americans from all walks of life agree. In her post,  “‘Imagine if we celebrated teachers as much as we celebrate athletes and celebrities,” Washington Post reporter Valerie Strauss posts appreciative Tweets from blogs, educators, historians, and even First Lady Michelle Obama!

The First Lady, @FLOTUS, posted “At a time when more and more jobs require a good education, a teacher’s work couldn’t be more important. #TeacherAppreciationWeek.”

Teachers educate our future workforce, so it’s in our best interest to appreciate them! In  Teacher Engagement is the Key to Student Engagement,” consultant and former British Columbia Superintendent Bruce Beairsto writes:

“The necessary precursor to high levels of student achievement is deep engagement in learning, and the teacher’s own engagement is the key to achieving that. Curriculum counts and technology can help, but it is teachers who inspire students, and enthusiastically engaged teachers do that best.”

Three Strategies for teacher appreciation

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