Employee Recognition Ideas For Effective Teams in 2023

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Employee recognition is more important than ever in 2023. After a difficult few years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the ‘Great Resignation’, an ongoing cost of living crisis, and an economy that is teetering on the edge of a recession, finding budget-friendly ways to improve employee engagement and experience is a key priority for HR leaders.

Employee recognition programmes are crucial to boosting employee engagement and experience. Research has found that when companies offer meaningful employee recognition team members are 73% less likely to feel burned out and 56% less likely to look for a new job. Yet, the same study found that 81% of leaders do not consider employee recognition programmes to be a major strategic priority.

It’s clear that employee recognition needs to be given the attention it deserves in 2023 if businesses want to retain their staff and encourage team members to do their best work. This means that creating strategies for peer-to-peer recognition and coming up with new employee recognition ideas is a key priority for HR.

So, where should you start with employee recognition? Here are some of our best employee appreciation ideas to inspire your new recognition programme. 

Meaningful but low-cost employee recognition

When it comes to employee appreciation, meaningful and thoughtful actions go a long way — sometimes even further than an expensive gift or party. With 65% of respondents in one US study saying that they would work harder if they felt like their work was noticed by management, a simple acknowledgement of an employee’s efforts can make a big difference. Here are some employee appreciation ideas that cost nothing or nearly nothing but can have a real impact on a team’s morale.

Shoutouts in team meetings

While a compliment or a good piece of feedback can be effective in a one-to-one appraisal between a manager and employee, highlighting their achievements in front of their co-workers can be even more meaningful.

Publicly acknowledging employees’ successes motivates them to keep up the good work while also inspiring their team members to strive for success, too. It’s a great way to build a positive and supportive company culture where everyone is driven to work hard and try their best.

However, it’s also important to consider the individual employee while deciding how to show them appreciation. While you’re more outgoing and sociable team members may love the public acknowledgement, more reserved or introverted employees might not thank you for embarrassing them in front of the whole team. When it comes to employee recognition, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. It’s important to consider what will be most meaningful for individual employees. 

When acknowledging a more introverted employee who has gone the extra mile, consider our next employee recognition idea…

A hand-written card

These days, we don’t write many cards to each other. Especially if your organisation prides itself on being paperless (good for you!), you’re probably out of the habit of hand-writing messages to your team. This is exactly why a hand-written thank you card can be such a meaningful way to show employee appreciation.

To create the perfect thank you card, don’t forget to write exactly why you value the team member. You might even choose to have other members of their team sign it too to show them how much they are valued. It’s a quick and easy thing to do but it can be a memorable type of employee recognition. 

Social media or newsletter shoutout

Another way to show employee appreciation is by giving them a shoutout on the company social media feed or newsletter. This shows how much you value their work and also has the benefit of making your organisation look like a great and supportive place to work. Whether it’s a quick tweet, a picture on Instagram, or LinkedIn post, the public acknowledgement of your employee’s or team’s successes, it is sure to make them feel recognised.

Employee of the month

Ever considered implementing an employee of the month recognition programme? This can be a great way to highlight top performers. Although an accompanying prize is nice, it also doesn’t need to cost anything. You can simply put up their photo and a short bio on your internal company dashboard for everyone to see. Or, you can give the lucky employee an attractive certificate that they can take home or keep on their desk to remind them of their achievement. 

Recognising the whole team

Employee recognition isn’t just about individuals; it’s important to create recognition programmes for the whole team. Here are some ways to show the entire department or company that their hard work is valued while also building team spirit and enhancing working relationships.


Pizza party, free breakfast, surprise doughnuts… our mouths are watering just thinking about it! Food is a great way to show appreciation for a team of employees or for the whole company. Whether it’s providing a weekly takeout lunch for a hardworking team or taking everyone out for a fancy meal to celebrate the success of a big project, food is one of the best ways to show appreciation for staff. 

Plus, free food is more than just a way of acknowledging employees’ hard work. Research has found that there are real benefits to employees sharing a meal together. When employees eat communally, they tend to show higher productivity and morale. For example, one study of firefighters found that after teams ate together they displayed better performance in their roles than those who ate individually.

Note: Don’t forget to make sure that the food is inclusive to everyone, with options for people who are vegetarian, gluten-free, have allergies and intolerances, or are simply picky eaters! Even with the best intentions behind it, a free meal can have adverse effects if employees are excluded from eating it because of their dietary requirements. Keep a note of what everyone can eat to ensure that there’s something for everyone in the team. 


Did somebody say happy hour? Like food, drinks are another great way to show appreciation for team members. This may mean supplying free drinks in the office at the end of the week or paying for the first round of the after-work pub trip. Providing employees with the opportunity to drink and socialise together makes them feel valued and encourages them to build strong relationships with their peers. Just make sure that you offer non-alcoholic options for those who don’t drink alcohol! 

Team socials

Not just limited to your casual trip to the pub on Friday, organising a special team social occasionally goes a long way to show recognition for the employees’ efforts. For example, you might offer a social to the team that achieves all their KPIs, completes a long project, or simply embodies your company values. Or, you might choose to run a social for the whole company. It’s up to you!

Gym memberships

A less traditional way of showing appreciation for employees than offering food, drink, and parties, providing a free gym membership or exercise classes can be a great perk for your workplace. Paying for your team’s gym membership shows not only that you appreciate them, but also that you’re invested in their health and wellbeing. 

Can’t afford a gym membership for everyone? How about free yoga sessions before work once or twice a week? It’s a great gift for your employees that will also have them feeling calm and rested, ready for the day. 

More exercise means more energy, better sleep, less stress, and stronger immune systems for your employees, all helping them show up and do their best work. It’s a win-win.

Company swag

Another treat to show employee appreciation is providing the whole team with some company-branded merch. T-shirts, jackets, hats, notebooks, mugs, and even bags with your company logo are a great gift that can boost team pride. Just make sure they’re seasonally appropriate — nobody wants a branded company bobble hat in the middle of the summer! 

Celebrating team members’ achievements and milestones

When an employee goes the extra mile with proactive upskilling, achieves something impressive, or simply reaches a milestone in their career, here are some fun employee appreciation ideas to show that their work is appreciated.

Gift cards

We’ve already mentioned the importance of making sure that employee recognition is personalised and relevant to the individual person. Getting to know their hobbies and interests is a great way to figure out what sort of recognition will most resonate with them. For example, an employee who loves food will probably appreciate a gift card to the trendy new restaurant that opened down the street, while a team member who frequently sends pictures of his dog to your Slack channel may appreciate a voucher to a local pet store or grooming service.

Even if the monetary value of the gift card is small, the thought that went into picking something that relates to their hobbies will be appreciated by the employee. It’s a great way to show that the organisation cares about who they are as people, not just as workers. 

Celebrating work anniversaries

Another small thing that can make employees feel appreciated is remembering and celebrating milestones such as work anniversaries. Even if it’s just sending them a quick message, giving them a card or small gift, or congratulating them in a team meeting, keeping track of these dates shows that you value your team. 

Non-monetary perks for the whole team

While appreciation gifts for a whole team can quickly become expensive, here are some more budget-friendly perks that can be used as employee rewards to show appreciation. 

Extra paid time off

After the completion of a long project, offering the team an extra day off or two is a fantastic way to show appreciation. The unexpected holiday time gives them a chance to rest, recover, and return to work feeling refreshed with new energy. This can even motivate them and make them more productive afterwards, proving that this perk is beneficial to everyone. 

Flexible work options

Another type of perk you might offer to show employee appreciation is flexible work options. For example, you might create a policy that allows employees to work from anywhere in the world they like for a specific number of weeks per year, or you might allow them to start and finish later in the day to suit their individual preferences.

Earlier finishes

Half days or an early finish on Fridays are a popular perk that you may offer employees as an appreciation gift. Letting them start the weekend early is a great way to boost morale and employee happiness. 

Thinking bigger

These employee recognition ideas are for when you want to pull out the big guns. Slightly more on the expensive side, these are great as occasional ways to show appreciation for the whole team. 

Team holiday

What could possibly show appreciation for a team more than a few days of sipping cocktails on the beach? If your budget can handle a short trip for your team it’s a great way to show appreciation for a team’s hard work. Plus, it means some quality bonding time for everyone. 

Awards ceremony

It’s time to take employee of the month to the next level. One way to show appreciation for a team is by organising a company-wide awards ceremony where you can all celebrate each other’s achievements with personalised awards, certificates, and even trophies. Throw in a meal, drinks, and a swanky venue, and it’ll be a real night to remember. 

Revamp the social space

Have you ever considered sprucing up your office’s break area? Revamping the social space is a fabulous way to say ‘thank you’ to the team. Depending on the wants and needs of your people, you could consider fitting it out with comfy bean bags and cushions, buying a luxury coffee machine, or even providing equipment such as a table tennis setup. 

Show appreciation using employee recognition software

While employee recognition from managers and bosses is important, it’s also key to make sure that your company has a culture of peer-to-peer recognition. Recognition from peers sometimes motivates employees more than the same feedback from managers and it’s a great way to build a supportive and nurturing company culture. 

One way to encourage peer-to-peer employee recognition is to use employee recognition software such as XCD’s Appreciation. With our easy-to-use tool, anyone in the organisation can instantly send personalised Appreciation messages to any of their co-workers at the touch of a button. Publicly posted in the company-wide ‘Chatter Channel’, everyone can see and contribute to the appreciation messages, encouraging a recognition-rich workplace. You don’t need to use XCD HR and payroll software to implement Appreciation in your organisation, but it can complement our broader software if you choose to use it.

Want to learn more about how to implement employee recognition software like Appreciation to boost employee engagement, retention, and productivity? As a standalone product, anyone can use it. Find out more on the Salesforce AppExchange by clicking the button below: