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Last Updated June 12, 2023

Reward and Recognition Programs – acknowledging employee achievements and milestones

Employees are an important part of your business and your brand.  Do you have an employee reward and recognition program in your workplace?

There are benefits to everyone, employees and employers,  in being proactive in developing engaged employees and acknowledging employee’s and / or team’s achievements and milestones. 

No matter the size of your business or the resources that you have access to, there are always ways to reward employees. Employees who are engaged and connected are more likely to stay with your business well into the future. 

Examples of how you can reward your staff might be a thank you (it is surprising what a difference a simple thank you can make), a trophy/honor board, gift vouchers, gifts or paid time off.

Keep in mind that different people are motivated in different ways, so make sure that you offer a variety of incentives and that these are commensurate with the employee’s performance to avoid causing friction within the team.

Before we jump into developing and implementing a reward and recognition program, let’s understand the difference between reward and recognition.

Reward; is something given to someone in recognition of service, effort, or achievement.


  • Cash
  • Gift
  • Experience
  • Trophy or honor board

Recognition; is the act of acknowledging and recognising positive contributions by individuals or teams.


  • Employee of the month
  • Years of Service
  • Achievement of a goal or project
  • Consistent excellent performance or contribution
  • Displaying positive values and behaviours

Why do reward and recognition programs matter?

A good reward and recognition program helps to attract and retain employees, ensure employees feel valued, appreciated and motivated to achieve the company goals as well as positive impacts towards a healthy workplace culture.

The program will provide the framework to formally acknowledge employees and teams for excellent performance and contribution as well as recognise positive workplace values and behaviours.

It will establish a workplace culture that focuses on recognising and encouraging consistent excellent performance as well as employees who demonstrate positive values and behaviours.

In addition, the program will provide an opportunity to recognise milestone length of service for individual employees.

Now we understand the importance of having a reward and recognition program, it is the time to move from the theoretical to the practical and learn how to develop and implement one.

Steps to successfully develop a reward and recognition program

Reward and recognition programs have a great success rate and buy in from your employees if they are a part of the design. 

Depending on your business you may either choose to consult the whole workforce to get their input or you may choose to have a working group.

Either way, to commence the process ask staff for their ideas and suggestions on how the program should be run. You can either ask staff via a survey or facilitate a brainstorming session in a team meeting.

The topics you should consider seeking input on are:

  • What will you nominate? Years of Service, Performance appraisals, Nominations against a criteria.
  • Where will you send your nominations? Email – individual or group email, paper – location of a confidential box. 
  • How will you award nominations? Panel members to decide or everyone is acknowledged.
  • Why will you nominate? Displaying positive values or behaviours, completion of a goal, target or project, consistent excellent performance, customer/client feedback or contribution or manager discretion.
  • How frequently will you take nominations? Monthly, quarterly or bi-annually.
  • How will you acknowledge nominations? Monthly morning tea, quarterly event, or annual event for years of service.
  • Who will nominate? Peer to Peer, client/customer feedback, performance reviews.
  • What will the recipient get? Thank you card, certificate, rewards through a third party, or gift vouchers.

The managers or working group can then take this away to develop a program to present to employees for further feedback and input.

Ways to implement your program

Once you have decided the framework for the reward and recognition program it is a great time to roll out the program. 

It is important that the program becomes ingrained in the culture of the company and is not completed once and forgotten about.

You should consider the following as part of your implementation plan

  • How will you kick off the first awards?  – with an event, or will you provide catering for morning tea.
  • What information do you need to communicate to employees? – ensure they understand how it works and what they need to do to earn recognition. 
  • How will you communicate with employees? – putting information on your business intranet or in your employee handbook.
  • Will there be branding for the program?  – a special name given to the program, any marketing materials or posters around the workplace.

Regularly evaluate the program.

Once the program has been implemented, it’s important to regularly review and evaluate the program to determine how effective it is as well as the impact that it is having on employees. 

  • Consider whether the rewards are adequate and fair, whether your employees are engaging with the program and happy with the rewards on offer, and if the program has contributed to increased productivity and connection amongst employees.
  • Consider whether the program is having a positive impact on employees by conducting an employee engagement survey, reviewing productivity data, and comparing employee turnover rates quarterly or yearly.

In the past, employee recognition was limited and was focused more on praising output or tenure and less on performance and personality.

By having a structured reward and recognition program in place and regularly celebrated, it creates greater visibility and a positive influence on culture, and an engaged workforce.

For assistance with determining the right reward and recognition program or refreshing your existing program contact Small Business Society. 

The information provided in this document is for your guidance only and is general in nature. It does not constitute as legal advice. It is the responsibility of the individual to seek legal advice where required. If you are a small business with less than 15 employees your obligations may vary from the advice provided.

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About Kate Tongue

Kate Tongue is the founding Director of Small Business Society.

She is a qualified and experienced Human Resources professional with more than 10 years of experience across the private and public sectors.

Her particular interest and experience is in managing the employee life cycle, delivering process improvements, and Human Resource strategy.

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