By Steve Czerniak, Subject Matter Expert, SCORE of Southeast Michigan

Employees like to be recognized for their accomplishments. When they do something nice for you, something that positively affects the business, let them know that you appreciate their contributions. Some of them hung in there with you through the pandemic. Let them know how much you appreciate that.

RECOGNITION - includes ways in which we can highlight the work of our people.  Recognition does not include financial value.

The most basic form of recognition is just to say “thank you.” This is an easy thing to do and easy to forget.  The payoff is large.

There are several other ways that can be used to recognize employees:

  • Note the contribution in their annual performance discussion (NOTE: should be combined with a short-term form)
  • Have them brief the staff (with a kind introduction from their leader)
  • Have them brief the board (with a kind introduction from their leader)
  • Have them represent the organization and brief at an industry conference
  • Article in organization newsletter
  • Posting on the organization web page
  • Certificates of completion
  • Note or email from leader
  • Entry in leader’s regular report to the board
  • Requests for follow-on work by the employee
  • Customer letter of appreciation
  • Have them attend and be recognized at another organization’s meeting (e.g. city council; leadership group)
  • Employee of the month or year

These can also be used for teams or individuals. They can be used in combination. The complexity of implementing these recognition items varies by item.  However, for a small investment of time and money, we get enormous payoffs in morale, retention, and performance.

REWARD - mechanisms to give something of financial value to individuals and teams.

Here are ideas of ways to reward employees:

  • Comp time - time off that matches extra hours the employee voluntarily contributed
  • Organization logo give-aways (i.e. SWAG)
  • Special presentation treatment of a piece of memorabilia (i.e. trophy of something)
  • Lunch or dinner with the boss (perhaps with a significant other)
  • Gift certificate for a local business
  • Attend an industry conference and represent the company
  • Annual salary increase (or bonus) or merit increase

Whatever you do, make sure that the recognition or reward action taken for the employee is: 

PROMPT - Take the action as soon as possible after the contribution. Keep the connection between the action to the contribution.

PROPORTIONAL - Make sure that the action fits the contribution. Big contributions deserve big recognition (and reward). Little contributions deserve little actions.

PERSONAL - whether recognition or reward, the action should mean something to the individual. Some people are put-off by public displays. For others, nothing’s enough.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Delivering something you asked them to do when you asked for it (within their job description) - Say “thank you.” Let them know that you appreciate good performance.
  2. Spending the weekend completing an “extra effort” task - Say “thank you.” Let them know the impact of their hard work. Perhaps, get them a gift certificate to take their significant-other out for a nice meal at you favorite restaurant.
  3. Satisfying a customer with a creative solution to their problem and helping to land a deal - Say “thank you.” Let them know the impact of their hard work. Make sure that they are rewarded in line with the business result that they helped achieve. If it was a team effort, recognize and reward the team. Make sure that your boss is part of this recognition and reward.
  4. CELEBRATE! - Buy a cake. Bring in some punch. Put up a banner. Let everybody know how you feel.

BOTTOM LINE: Recognition and reward of individuals and teams is a terrific way to build loyalty.

About the Author

Steve Czerniak retired after a successful 37-year career as a leader and innovator. The last 15 years were a series of opportunities that honed his skills as an internal consultant and “change agent.” In retirement, he is a volunteer consultant and a SCORE Subject Matter Expert for the Southeast Michigan chapter. His personal volunteer objective is to “derive personal satisfaction from helping others, and the organizations they operate, to develop and prosper.” Visit his site:

Appreciate Your Employees: Recognize and Reward Them