20 Employee Recognition Ideas and Examples (Samples + Templates)

20 Employee Recognition Ideas and Examples (Samples + Templates)

Timely, authentic recognition is essential for keeping employees engaged and motivated. Here's 20 recognition ideas and examples to show appreciation for your team.

20 Employee Recognition Ideas and Examples (Samples + Templates)

At Cooleaf, employee recognition is a big piece of creating a supportive, impactful employee experience. After all, we know when people are happy at work employee retention increases, along with the bottom line.

However, while we we all might want to feel inspired, empowered, and engaged at work, only 15% of employees feel engaged in their current roles.

A big part of the reason employees aren't engaged? They don’t feel appreciated on a regular basis.

Nothing saps employee engagement like feeling under-appreciated. Research shows that 64% of employees wish their managers would regularly thank them in a timely, specific way. In addition, 75% of employees agree that their motivation and morale would improve if managers said thank you more often and acknowledged great work.

It can be hard to find the proper words to say thank-you. But recognizing your team doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are 10 employee recognition examples you can use right now, followed by 10 message templates you can use to recognize your employees!

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Tips for employee recognition that hit the mark

Before we jump into the full list, here’s three important tips to recognize your team effectively:

Be Timely - immediate recognition is more powerful than delayed recognition. Show your awareness of your team's efforts with an in-the-moment shout-out.

🧐 Be Specific - use detail to emphasize the impact that they made. Acknowledge the hurdles they may have tackled or ideas they shared.

🙌  Make it personal - include GIFs, emojis, or images to make your recognition more memorable.

We’ll pepper in more tips with these employee appreciation ideas below!

Examples of effective employee recognition ideas

Celebrate employee birthdays

One way to celebrate employees on their birthdays is simply allowing them to use the day off and enjoy it as they please.

If this is not currently a policy that works for your organization, there’s still a chance to celebrate. Don’t miss out on a great opportunity to recognize how important their presence and hard work is to the success of your team!

You can make a birthday celebration more personal by decorating an employee’s desk in a personalized theme—such as their favorite TV show, sports team, or country—or grabbing their favorite dessert. You can even take out their team for a celebratory team lunch.

Don’t forget the card! Have each of your team members write a personal thank you note for the birthday celebrant. These personal touches are more meaningful and can go a long way in making an employee feel recognized and appreciated.

For remote employees, record a video of everyone wishing them well, mail a sweet treat and a thoughtful gift to their address, and share the love on your recognition platform (like Cooleaf!) or Slack channel. We’re personally fans of everyone sending in a fun gif for anyone’s big day.

Tip: Make it personal. Send a birthday card that matches their personality. Put a gif in the Slack of their favorite show.

Offsite days

A change of scenery can help boost engagement and productivity for teams and prevent the in-office ”stuffiness” that can set in. Plan an off-site day at a party room, park, or any location that meets your staff members’ interests and needs. Just be sure you’re clear about the focus.

For example, are you hosting an off-site to help boost teamwork because you’ve got new employees or a big project coming up? Are your employees in the middle of a tough project?

Maybe an off-site is a way to celebrate the halfway mark or thank them for their great work so far.

It goes beyond “good job” but helps your leadership and teammates connect with one another outside of the workplace (or screen). You can create opportunities to work together, chat, and have fun through team building activities or friendly competitions.

For remote teams, an offsite can be a great way to pick a city near everyone to meet in-person. If that isn’t an option for your crew, you can organize meetups for certain cities to get together or try online activities that go beyond work talk.

Tip: Have people work together cross-functionally so everyone meets someone new and you foster different connections.

Health and wellness days

A great day to recognize hard work and show appreciation is with a sponsored health and wellness day. Make it a day all about stress relief and self-care.

Consider bringing in a meditation instructor, yoga instructor, or massage therapist for on-site chair massages. Provide employees with a healthy breakfast or lunch, and focus on the day on employee wellbeing. Hosting a health and wellness day will help your employees de-stress and focus on their health.

Tip: Host an employee survey to see what additional health and wellbeing benefits they’d use the most.

Looking for fun health and wellness activities to help encourage healthy habits all year-round? Download Cooleaf's free Wellness Calendar & Activity Guide!

Wellness Calendar & Activity Guide

Company swag

Company gifting doesn’t have to be limited to clients and prospects. You can show appreciation for your employees with your swag too.

Few things are more exciting than receiving free stuff, especially when it’s coming from your employer. For remote teams, it’s also a nice surprise to receive a tangible reward through the mail.

While it can be difficult and challenging to find the perfect gift for an employee, there’s a slew of different swag ideas and items you can give away. The key is to find a gift that is practical, thoughtful, awesome, and something each of your employees is bound to love and actually use.

Tip: Many organizations will send out company swag as part of onboarding new employees to build excitement.

branded merchandise for employees

Work anniversary

Celebrating employee work anniversaries is a powerful way to express appreciation and gratitude.

When a team member celebrates another year at your company, be sure to send them a kind word to share how much their contributions mean to you, their team, and the organization at large. Think of how that employee’s work embody your company values.

You can do an additional recognition and reward employees for milestone years at your team (first year, 5 years, etc.).

Remember, as an employer you’re part of that employee’s professional development and they’re bringing their energy, creativity, and expertise to your company. They can work anywhere, but have stayed at your organization and that means something.

Tip: Share specific examples of big accomplishments and wins to shine a light on the employee's success in their time there!

Ready to make every work anniversary a moment of celebration and motivation? Cooleaf's Work Anniversary Guide is your ultimate resource for creating unforgettable milestones that inspire your team.

Start a #Kudos channel on Slack

Slack and other instant messaging apps are an excellent way to give employee’s public recognition. Everyone can see messages in public channels, which makes the recognition public. And public and peer recognition is the most powerful type of recognition.

You can create quick kudos videos to make your Slack channel shoutouts extra fun and special, and offer anyone who’s received kudos a chance to enter a monthly drawing for a  gift card.

Tip: Use Cooleaf, of course! A recognition platform like Cooleaf makes it easier (and fun!) to send and receive recognitions, which also earn employees points to redeem on items!

On-the-spot rewards

This is a way to take casual, everyday recognition and incentives to a new level. Managers can keep a supply of small rewards and hand them out when they give team members a bit of casual praise.

Coffee cards or Uber ride credit codes are excellent on-the-spot employee recognition awards. Anything worth a few dollars that people can use easily during their daily routine works well.

It’s an affordable way to make a gesture of recognition more tangible. And everyone likes perks and prizes, even small ones.

Tips: There are so many creative ways to celebrate or reward employees. That can be anything from treating a staff member to a meal or giving a spa day package.

Send employee care packages

Never underestimate the power of the gift basket, especially in the world of remote work. There are so many gift basket options out there, so it’s easy to send a care package that will appeal to anyone, and show your appreciation for meeting company milestones or achieving certain goals.

Care packages are also a great way to help boost employee morale and it helps remote employees build a better workspace and offset some of the costs of working from home.

Tip: Try a themed gift basket or package, like a foods of the world snack box.

Moving trophy

Moving recognition trophies might seem old school, but they’re still a great way to enhance team spirit, recognize employee achievements, and drive the right behaviors.

Start by defining the award criteria — it can be anything from business metrics to peer nominations — and select a trophy, serious or silly, depending on what works best for your culture. Then determine how often the trophy should be awarded and organize a little event each time an individual or team wins it, so everyone can share in the celebration.

Tip: A Cooleaf partner selects a new trophy every year. One year was Top Gun themed and they had a toy fighter jet. Another year, they had a large Hulk action figure.

Send a thank you note

A simple note of thanks — whether digital or handwritten — is still one of the most popular and valued employee rewards. 85 percent of professionals want to be thanked on a daily basis, and this has a positive impact organization-wide. Whether it’s for a job well done, volunteering, going the extra mile, staying late, showcasing good work, or being a team player, a simple note of thanks demonstrates a personal touch and can be very meaningful and go a long way towards retention.

Make sure the note of appreciation is well-written, sincere, and follows a few simple guidelines:

  • Be specific about the accomplishment or effort
  • Mention the effect it had on you as an individual or the organization as a whole
  • Clearly express your gratitude and recognize special efforts

Tip: Make it public! Post a thank you note on social media like Linkedin and tag your coworker or employee. Let everyone know about a big project or achievement they made and why it matters.

Get ready to recognize!

When reading through the suggestions above, you’ll notice that there are a few core principles that unite effective employee recognition programs. Recognition should be frequent, include both social and monetary components, reflect behavior you want to cultivate, be embedded in your company culture, and be made as easy as possible for all team members to practice, regardless of location or technical sophistication.

PRO Tip - send a company-wide survey to collect employee recognition ideas and create a curated reward system

It can be hard to find the proper words to say thank-you. But recognizing your team doesn’t have to be difficult.

Here's 10 employee recognition examples you can use right now.

Employee recognition examples for employee engagement platforms.

Teamwork and Collaboration

Peer recognition for great teamwork and collaboration

When team members work together, everyone wins. These examples are perfect for giving a a simple shout-out to a coworker for lending a hand or sharing expertise.


On behalf of the whole team, thank you so much for jumping in and helping with this project! We know you are swamped and appreciate your assistance and expertise!

Thank you for setting up a quick Zoom meeting so you could walk me through a very specific task in our project management software. I’m sure you have been slammed, and I really appreciate you taking the time to walk me through it!

Thank you all for your continued efforts and endless patience with this project. The amount of last-minute reviews, data tracking, and transfer updates is immensely appreciated and we could not have got to this point without your help. I am beyond proud of our team during this stressful time. Teamwork makes the dream work!

Going the Extra Mile

Timely, authentic recognition motivates employees to go above and beyond

When someone goes above and beyond the call of duty, they deserve special recognition for their hard work and dedication. Here's how to thank a team member for excellent performance.


Migrations are hard, especially when working with unique use cases!  This week, we had to be creative when addressing the loss of a utilized feature. No worries though, because Samantha is on it, making sure that our partners know that we care about them and are willing to go above and beyond to address their needs with creative solutions! Thank you, Samantha, for making our customers so happy!

We're so lucky to have Rachel and Ana on our team. They are fantastic colleagues who always communicate transparently, find resolution and support in anyway possible. In multiple projects, despite the small team they have, I have witnessed them go the extra mile to support. Thank you for all your dedication. I am grateful to have colleagues like you!

Leadership and Coaching

Shine a light on amazing team leaders with Cooleaf's peer recognition

From motivating their teams, to developing new processes, team leaders have a lot on their plates. Steal these examples to recognize your team leaders and managers.


Erin has been killing it on getting our marketing efforts up and running. It's not easy to create new processes from scratch, but Erin approaches each new project with so much drive and creativity. Thank you so much for all you do. I'm so grateful for all of your guidance and knowledge!

Thank you so much, Steven, for your continuous training and guidance! You are always so encouraging and patient, and your process documents are so thorough and neat that it is just wonderful working with you. Thank you! Your knowledge, dedication and professionalism never cease to amaze me!

Wanted to sing the praises of Amelia, who time and time again proves to be a stellar Product Architect.  Amelia coordinated a huge deployment of software enhancements that stemmed from an extensive user testing project that Amelia developed and managed. Her understanding of our software suite and the customer needs led to a brilliantly communicated build. Thank you, Amelia!

Consistency and Reliability

Example of employee recognition for consistency and diligence

It's easy to find reasons to recognize your top performers. But what about those people who consistently show up and put in the effort? Often, it's those employees that are most at risk of feeling ignored and undervalued. Don't forget to celebrate effort and consistency as well as achievement.


Thank you for your work on the launch last week! This is something we have been working towards for a long time, and I really appreciate the effort and diligence that you demonstrated to help us get across the finish line. Fantastic job!

Rulonda, you are SUCH a source of stability, acceptance, kindness, and knowledge. Thank you for everything you do and for always offering a helping hand. I'm so glad to have you on the team!

Customer Service and Support

When managers thank their teams for providing excellent service, everyone wins

Handling tricky customer service issues takes skill, patience, and expertise. Sending words of thanks not only shows appreciation, but also emphasizes the importance of providing exemplary customer service. Happy employees = happy customers.

Tip: Whenever possible, share stories and screenshots from happy customers. Spotlight these positive examples to inspire and motivate your customer service team!


Brenda worked with a new client that had several challenges and a tight desired turnaround. She managed to get their project completed on time and the client expressed their highest praise and thankfulness to the team. We are expanding a new part of our business as a result of this success, and we couldn’t have done it without this strong team! Thank you!

Dustin was able to not only calm down a very upset customer, but also turn the situation into a positive! She ended the call by letting us know that he brightened her day, fixed her problem, and should get a raise!

Today, I received a positive supervisor call about Peyton's amazing customer service! Our customer, Sarah, described Peyton as patient, professional and a true problem solver! Due to recent issues, Sarah was planning to cancel her membership, but Peyton really made Refina's day! Amazing work, Peyton!

Jeff helped out on an important client call and really put himself in their shoes and addressed their needs and questions. You hit it out of the park, Jeff!

Incredibly thankful for our Support Team and the hard work they do to make sure the needs of our customers are met. This team is responsive to Success when we have client cases that require extra attention. We couldn't do our jobs without you!


Thank employees for creating new process improvements and sharing innovative ideas

Without innovation, no business can thrive. Luckily, your organization already has a great source of innovative ideas and creative solutions – your employees! When you thank employees for sharing new ideas and coming up with novel solutions to problems, you're fostering a culture of innovation and creativity.


Thank you for coming with thoughts and ideas on how to improve our processes to make us all more efficient. Keep it up!!!

Derrick’s overhaul of our client onboarding process has made managing new clients so much easier and collaborative. Thank you for taking on that project!

Jerry! Thank you for creating that new support flow for the team! It's going to save so much time this quarter.

Work Anniversary

Celebrate employee work anniversaries and milestones with automated rewards

Celebrating employee work anniversaries is a powerful way to express appreciation and gratitude. When a team member celebrates another year at your company, be sure to send them a kind word to share how much their contributions mean to you.

Tip: Share specific examples of big accomplishments and wins to shine a light on the employee's success!


Congratulations on your work anniversary! Just wanted to say how much I appreciate all your hard work and dedication. Thank you for everything you've accomplished this past year and for your continued contributions! Happy Anniversary!

Congratulations on your work anniversary! We really appreciate all that you do for us. Thank you for another great year here at {your company’s name}!

Sharon, congratulations on your 1-year anniversary at {company name}! Since you have started, you've added so much to the Support team. From taking care of our customers, to overhauling our customer onboarding process, your contributions have made a huge impact. We are so grateful for all you've achieved and all that you continue to do. Have an amazing day!

Accuracy and Attention to Detail

Recognize employees for demonstrating accuracy and attention to detail

From sales to marketing and support, attention to detail is important across every aspect of a business. Recognize employees for demonstrating care, focus, and attention to detail when on a tight deadline.


Nolan, you made a success out of a very challenging situation. Your attention to detail and pace, your thoughtful responses with a challenging client are to be commended! We can all learn from you!”

Katherine has been doing tremendous work creating and refining the onboarding process, while utilizing it in a rapid-fire turn around, and for that she deserves so much applause. Onboarding can be a back-and-forth process to begin with-- and has traditionally taken us a few weeks before go-live-- it's especially critical as we familiarize the customer with the platform and procedure but listen & adapt to their needs and hesitations. If you take a peek in the new orgs, she's built an experience that feels personal to the client with so much attention to detail, but is very much organized and orchestrated. Way to go, Katherine!

I have been so concerned about our latest evaluation forms - but they're detailed and the MOST important form in all of the acute evaluations.  Thank you so much for QAing them with a fine-toothed comb.  They look FANTASTIC and are going to be such a help to physicians and case managers as they move patients through the system to their next level of care.

Kindness and Positivity

Celebrate employees for demonstrating positivity and kindness

Attitude is everything. Employees who look on the bright side, even during challenging times, can help motivate others around them and make the workplace more fun. Celebrate those people on your team who demonstrate kindness and positivity with these recognitions.


Thanks to Sarah for always being so kind and easy to approach. I feel like none of my questions for her are ever easy, but she always finds me an answer -- and she does it with so much positivity!

Thank you for going above and beyond to make me feel special on my work anniversary.  Little things matter. And your kindness and genuine concern is incredible.

From the first moment she joined our team, Nancy has been nothing but supportive, helpful, and positive. Going beyond the requirements in every way, she joins my meetings on Zoom, contributes insightful comments, keeps everything organized, and offers assistance whenever needed. I feel so blessed to have such a warm, reliable, and trustworthy teammate, and I know our client’s experience is better for her presence too.

Thanks to Madison for being a social-media superstar! Her organization, creativity, and quick feedback make collaborating with this team a breeze. Kudos for your care, drive, and positivity as we prepare for December social media content!

Sales and Growth

Sales recognition from manager to team member

Sales isn't easy. While many sales teams rely on incentives to boost motivation, recognition is also important. The best sales leaders know that each member of the team deserves to be thanked for small wins as well as big achievements.


Wanted to take a moment to say thank you to David for all the hard work he's been putting in lately to build up our sales pipeline and push these deals forward. David, thanks for all the hard work and the never quit, positive attitude!

Awesome job on that sales call Matt! They had a lot of tough questions but I think they really felt in good hands with your responses and patience.

During a professional services call, Janie jumped on a call spur of the moment to give a customer a quote for add on training.  She finished the quote, sent it over, and customer signed at the end of the day before her vacation. So impressed with her persistence and grit!

See how Cooleaf can help you effectively recognize your employees.

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