6 Employee-Appreciation Awards That Encourage Employees to Show Each Other Some Love

Employee Appreciation

As a newer employee at a firm where I worked in Orlando, one morning I walked in to find a statue of Mickey Mouse sitting prominently on my desk.  I kept wondering why someone would leave such a strange “gift” for me, especially where I did not really know anyone all that well and it was not like I was obsessed with Mickey and/or Disney.   Before I could rack my brain too hard with speculation, my officemates came in and exclaimed, “Oh, you got a Mickey!”  They proceeded to tell me that it was a Random Act of Kindness award, which employees were encouraged to give out anonymously to each other when another worker had gone above and beyond to help them or had done something to make their day.  All the names of the Mickey recipients were then put into a drawing at the Quarterly Business Meeting and a winner was selected.  The quarterly prize was a spa treatment at one of the Disney Resorts, a plaque and the reason for their selection was read aloud for all to hear.

Throughout my tenure, I received a few Mickeys and even though my name was never selected at any of the Quarterly Business Meetings, obviously it left quite an impression on me, since I am writing about it 20 years later.  While many employers have Employee Appreciation programs in place, they often are management driven and/or recognize employees who complete a major project or meet some major business objective.  Too often we forget that being able to reach such accomplishments requires teamwork and it is just as important to acknowledge the efforts of those who may not have “scored a goal, but instead provided some sort of assist.”  Even more importantly, fostering an atmosphere in which employees appreciate each other’s efforts and/or kindness on a daily basis encourages a harmonious and happy workforce, which in turn makes people look forward to coming to work and thus increases productivity and client satisfaction.

The means of recognition (e.g. Mickey statue) and/or resulting prizes do not have to be elaborate.  Unless an employee is simply there for the paycheck (which should be a red flag anyway), the monetary value is not important – it is the simple fact of being recognized and appreciated that matters.

Most everyone wants to be recognized in some way, so be sure to build a comprehensive, employee-driven appreciation program that will encourage recognition for a wide array of personality types and their unique contributions to your company’s success.

Here are 6 suggestions for awards to underscore the talents of ALL your team players:

1. Mentor Award

Many companies have these awards and there is a reason for it. Key employees whom you rely on to continually train new recruits and/or teach others as well as managers who are adept at recognizing, training and encouraging top employees in order to build your bench and support succession planning are invaluable.  They have the inherit skills and patience necessary to ensure the success of others, which are things you cannot teach and thus cannot easily replace or replicate.  In addition to completing their own work, these employees go above and beyond to help others.

Award Suggestion: A certificate and since these employees often love to learn themselves, pay for them to take an extracurricular class of their choosing (e.g. cooking, art, etc.)

2. Problem-Solver Award

Every day presents a new set of challenges and unexpected hurdles. For some, this can be overwhelming and may even slow production, but your problem solvers love to think on their feet and find a way around even the most difficult circumstances.  This characteristic involves not only knowledge and skills, but also an innate mindset to succeed even in the face of adversity.

Award Suggestion: A fun brain-teaser puzzle.  Here are a few on Amazon.

3. Creative-Thinker Award

Akin to the problem solver, creative thinkers are your idea people. They often drive innovation and growth and may even spark inspiration in others during brainstorming sessions. 

Award Suggestion: Museum, art show or movie tickets or even a bookstore gift card to provide inspiration and keep those creative juices flowing.

4. Wizard-of-Oz Award

So often support staff and especially those with introverted personality types are overlooked in employee recognition programs. While they may not seek the limelight and might even shun it, that does not mean that they do not add value and deserve some form of special appreciation!  Having a program that encourages others to recognize the importance of day-to-day grudge work (i.e. how can you have those beautiful reports without the paper to print them on), helps those who are behind the magic curtain get their due recognition.

Award Suggestion: Tickets to a behind-the-scenes tour of a production plant (brewery, candy-making, etc.) or for those extreme introverts, just a simple gift card that lets them go select their own prize without a lot of fanfare.  

5. Don’t-Worry, Be-Happy Award

Whether it is your reception staff, customer representatives or even a jovial member of your maintenance staff, being around people who are pleasant and enjoy making others smile just seem to make the world, let alone, your office a better place.

Award Suggestion: Find out what makes them happy and go get it!

6. Swiss-Army-Knife Award

These employees are your “Jack (or Jill) of All Trades” who frequently fall under several of the above categories, but bring even more to the table and deserve a class of their own.  They seem to be included in every meeting, project and major decisions because they are the go-to person and everyone in your company probably knows where their offices are located and/or have their extensions memorized.

Award/Recognition Suggestion: An actual Swiss Army Knife or multi-purpose tool that suits the employee’s interests.

If you choose to have formal award presentations or keep a treasure trove of fun, inexpensive goodies in your office that you encourage employees to leave for each other, implement and promote ways your employees to recognize and appreciate each other.  It will not only demonstrate that old adage that there is no “I” in team, but will also create a culture where everyone’s contributions are seen as significant and build a genuine sense of unity, inclusion and being valued.  On Valentine’s Day and every day, support an atmosphere that encourages your staff to “show each other the love” for a job well done, no matter how small.

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Written by Kate Hadaway