The Employee Recognition Checklist

Written by
George Dickson
George Dickson

Employee recognition is a powerful tool every leader has at their disposal, but not everyone knows how to maximize its benefits.

There are a few critical elements that can dramatically improve the effectiveness of recognition. The best part is, they're not difficult to add to your current strategy.

You can be sure you're getting the most out of your employee recognition program by running though a quick mental checklist and asking yourself if the recognition you're providing is:


How often are you giving recognition? Celebrating an employee's achievements once a year or even once a month isn't going to cut it.

It's unrealistic to think you can encapsulate all that great work an employee does, then recognize it just once in a blue moon and still be effective.

You don't have to wait for a major breakthrough or achievement to give recognition.

Recognizing smaller contributions is just as important. You should absolutely be celebrating an employee's big wins and the milestones they reach, but don't forget to recognize the small contributions and achievements that led to the big ones.


Don't wait to recognize a valuable contribution. Show your appreciation in the moment. The longer the timespan between a contribution and its recognition, the more the recognition's potential for impact will fade.

Consider the example of an employee who stayed late for a week to push a pivotal project over the finish line. This is a critical juncture. In that epiphany moment, the effort they've put in is still fresh in their mind, and your response will influence their perspective long into the future.

You have the option of taking time to show your appreciation for that effort, or finding something 'more important' to do. Both options will show your employee the value you see in their efforts, but only one will reflect positively.

If your employee recognition strategy lacks the element of timeliness, you won't be getting much out of it.



If you think an 'Employee of the Month' plaque is an effective employee recognition strategy, you're doing it wrong.

Non-specific recognition denies you the perfect opportunity to explain exactly why a particular contribution is so valuable. Telling someone exactly why you value their work is just as important as recognizing them for it.

When an employee knows what you value and why, it inspires repeat performances, and also helps them to understand how their goals align with the goals of their team.


It's easy to fall into the trap of identifying 'star' employees, and focusing your appreciation on them.

Everyone has potential to become a star employee; they just need the acknowledgement.

Studies have shown that manager bias (how you see your employees) has a measurable impact on their output.

Not everyone is going to push for a spot in the limelight. Make sure you're recognizing your quiet performers  their contributions are equally important. Cultivate their respect and loyalty by showing them how much you value them and the work they do.

It's difficult, perhaps impossible to personally witness, recognize, and reward all the important contributions that are being made by your team day in and day out. This is why peer-to-peer recognition is such an effective way of achieving widespread adoption of your employee recognition strategy.

Nobody works more closely to an employee than their peers. Give them the ability to recognize and reward their teammates' great work and limit the possibility of those contributions going unrecognized.



Public praise is a highly effective motivator, but that's not the only benefit of visible public recognition. By making your praise public, you're not just showing everyone how much you appreciate the contribution someone has made. You're also giving the entire team a valuable example of the type of work you value, and a specific goal or outcome they can work toward repeating.

Making employee recognition a natural element of your company culture can have a massive impact on your team. That impact is dependent on the quality of recognition employees receive from their leaders and their peers. A quick run through this checklist will help ensure you're covering all the bases.

Originally published on June 10, 2015 → Last updated April 1, 2019

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George Dickson

George is dedicated to strengthening organizational cultures with thoughtful leadership and frequent recognition. George formerly managed content and community at Bonusly.


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