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Monday, December 6, 2021

Employee Recognition and Appreciation Gift Ideas in 2021

Having a solid employee recognition and appreciation strategy is essential if you want to achieve long-term success. 

Various studies have suggested that companies with a solid recognition strategy tend to have stronger employee engagement, lower turnover rate, better customer service, and most importantly, higher productivity, as much as a 50% increase in productivity that will translate into better business outcomes. 

Employee recognition is essentially about reward. So, one of the keys to success is whether the gift and/or reward tied to the recognition is valued by the said employee. 

In practice, however, different employees have different preferences, and different situations might demand different types of gifts. This is why in this guide, we will give some creative and innovative employee recognition and appreciation gift ideas you can use in 2021 and beyond.

Without further ado, let us begin right away. 

What Deserves Recognition? 

There are many things in a workplace setting that deserve recognition, appreciation, and praise. Before we learn about the gift ideas and recognition tactics, it’s best to learn about these different situations that deserve recognition which can help us decide on appropriate gift ideas depending on the situation: 

  • Performance: an employee’s general performance at any given time, or in relation to a specific task or project
  • Personal initiative: i.e. helping other employees, helping a social cause
  • Milestones: specific milestones in a project, promotions, work/service anniversaries, and so on.
  • Professional development: achievements in specific career development milestones. 
  • Objective success: landing new clients, breaking sales targets, etc. 
  • Adaptability: for new hires
  • Teamwork: attitude for being a team player
  • Leadership: success in leading a team

And so on. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list, and you can definitely be creative according to your organization’s unique workflow. 

Employee Recognition Gift Ideas in 2021

1. Monetary recognition gifts

Rewarding employees in a monetary way is somewhat of an overused tactic, and sometimes it’s even a taboo. However, there’s a reason why it’s important: we do love money, so this type of reward is always effective. 

We can offer straight-up bonuses or even a salary increase for the star employee receiving the recognition. However, another popular way is to reward employees in the form of gift cards that can be sent from employee recognition platforms

Monetary awards are always effective and tangible, but keep in mind that they can be expensive in the long run for your company, so it’s crucial to manage the campaign well. 

2. Spontaneous applause

Sometimes, simple recognition and appreciation can be very effective. 

A great approach is to establish a culture where employees are encouraged to give their peers spontaneous applause whenever they want to recognize one of their peers for a job well done. Managers can also initiate the act, so everyone joins in the applause. 

While this can be considered as an informal and intangible gift, it can be very valuable for those on the receiving end. 

3. Extra paid time off

This one is effective because you give people two of their most favorite things: money and holidays. Even better if you make it a surprise. 

Last Thanksgiving, for example, Apple surprised its employees with extended paid time off. Apple employees typically only get one paid day off for Thanksgiving, but they were given three instead. 

You can make this “gift” universal for the whole company, or you can offer this to individuals. You can personalize this gift for different employees based on their situations. 

4. Professional development opportunities

Employee recognition gifts don’t always need to be something fun, but an investment in the said employee’s professional futures can be very effective in certain situations. 

You can, for example, offer continued education opportunities to your star employees, which is also beneficial for your organization in building a more effective and smarter team on a long-term basis. 

It doesn’t have to be big and you don’t always need to sponsor an employee’s expensive post-graduate program. You can start with a free books program, offering an employee to join a relevant webinar, or for them to join an online course of their choice. 

5. Free meals

Hey, everyone loves good food, and even better if the food is free. 

You can execute this idea in various different ways: it can be as simple as a lunch or dinner on the boss, inviting your employees’ favorite food truck to the office, or offering gift cards to their favorite coffee shop or restaurant. 

The good thing about this is that it tends to be cost-effective, and even a $10 gift card to an employee’s favorite restaurant can be perceived as very valuable in some situations. 

6. Employee care package

Another great idea is to send a personalized care package to employees as your recognition. You can fill the package with personalized items that show how you care, including their favorite snacks, games, books, gift cards, and so on. Don’t forget to add your personalized handwritten notes to really deliver an impact. 

Why is this effective? Simply put, getting more things is always better than getting just one single gift. 

7. Wellness gifts

Don’t underestimate the importance of wellness gifts. 

In fact, wellness programs have always been one of the most important things sought after by employees in many different companies. 

You can, for example, give vouchers or gift cards to the nearest gym or yoga class, or alternatively, you can conduct a yoga class in the office every now and then. 

If you put enough care into your employee’s wellness, you’ll get more productivity out of them. 


The secret of acquiring a successful employee recognition & appreciation program is to keep it creative and engaging. 

So, don’t be afraid to try out different, creative gift ideas while keeping monitoring the feedback from your employees. If one gift idea doesn’t work that well, don’t be afraid to readjust your strategy and try different things in the future. 

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Josie Patra
Josie Patra is a veteran writer with 21 years of experience. She comes with multiple degrees in literature, computer applications, multimedia design, and management. She delves into a plethora of niches and offers expert guidance on finances, stock market, budgeting, marketing strategies, and such other domains. Josie has also authored books on management, productivity, and digital marketing strategies.

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