February 18, 2019

5 Easy Ways to Recognize Employees


If you’ve spent any amount of time trying to improve employee engagement, you know it can be an uphill battle.

According to Gallup’s most recent “State of the American Workplace” report, 67 percent of US employees are not engaged at work. There are many causes behind this epidemic, but one of the most common reasons why people don’t feel engaged is that they feel unappreciated.

Fortunately, there are a variety of ways you can recognize and reward your employees — with or without a lot of money.

1. Simply Say Thanks

A simple but meaningful way to show appreciation to your people is to call them out for their efforts in an email or other team communication. Describe something specific this person does well or share a recent experience where this person went above and beyond. If you already do this occasionally, try making it a monthly or weekly event, and set a calendar alert as a reminder.

2. Make Sure Your Appreciation Events Are Meaningful

Many companies have annual employee appreciation days or even weeks, but do your employees actually feel appreciated during these events? Whether you choose to provide a free lunch, branded swag, or extra time off, make sure the reward you offer is truly meaningful to your people. The only way to find out is to ask them.

Over the years, we’ve tried all sorts of things during our annual appreciation event at CHG Healthcare, which we call “Putting People First Week,” including chair massages, raffles, dance parties, and live bands. After each event, we send out a survey to see what people liked and what they didn’t like, and then we make changes to next year’s program based on their feedback.

3. Celebrate Longevity

People used to spend 30 or more years at the same company. Today, reaching even a three-year anniversary is an accomplishment. Because lower turnover results in a better experience for customers and coworkers, we celebrate our people’s work anniversaries each year and offer cash bonuses when they hit bigger milestones, starting at five years. Importantly, our executive leaders also recognize these employees in person and thank them for their service. When an employee reaches 20 years with the company, they are also invited to attend our annual President’s Club incentive trip, a recognition trip hosted by our CEO.

4. Encourage Peer Recognition

It’s not always easy for leaders to see their people’s day-to-day efforts, which is why it’s important to empower employees to recognize one another. At CHG, employees can nominate their peers for their hard work, living our core values, taking care of each other, and being inspiring leaders. Award winners are recognized in team events and can even qualify for the President’s Club trip. Each year, we also recognize a small number of employees for the great work they do in our community with a company-paid humanitarian trip.

5. Get the Executive Team Involved

When your company is smaller, it’s easier for the CEO and other executive leaders to have valuable face time with employees. As your company grows, however, that becomes more difficult.

Still, it’s important for leaders to stay visible. A fun way our executive leadership team recognizes our people is with a monthly treat cart. They walk through the office — often wearing silly hats — and stop at each desk to pass out treats and thank employees for their hard work. Not only does this give our leaders the opportunity to recognize employees, but it also gives them a chance to connect with workers on a more personal level.

Recognizing your people makes them feel valued and important, which in turn directly impacts their engagement. A Gallup survey found that employees who aren’t recognized enough are twice as likely to quit in the next year. Making even small changes to better recognize your team members can greatly impact their happiness — and your company’s success.

Kevin Ricklefs is senior vice president of talent management at CHG Healthcare.

Read more in Employee Recognition

As chief culture officer at CHG Healthcare, Kevin Ricklefs oversees the people and culture aspects of the company, including attracting new talent, training and developing employees, providing benefits, planning celebrations, and being there on the bittersweet day when a beloved employee retires. Since joining CHG in 1999, Kevin has played a key role in creating the people-centric culture that has landed CHG on Fortune's list of the "100 Best Companies to Work For" each of the past 11 years.