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How to Successfully Do Year-End Employee Awards

Dramatically raise employee engagement, retention and even job satisfaction with Year-End Awards

Turns out you can dramatically raise employee engagement, retention and even job satisfaction: by giving a gift that says thanks for a great year. Following a hectic holiday schedule, it's all too easy to overlook year-end rewards for employees. Yet skipping this type of recognition — or defaulting to some sterile system like a 1 percent bonus — can sap your employees' motivation for the year ahead.

Employees care about recognition more now than they have in the past decade, and the year's end is the ultimate time to signal appreciation for 12 months of hard work and dedication. Some 55 percent of workers say recognition by management is "very important," the highest percentage in 10 years, according to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resources Management. Yet less than one in three employees are satisfied with the level of recognition that they receive. Bucking the trend of absent or ho-hum recognition programs doesn't require an outsized budget or a ton of intensive planning. Instead, you can get exponential returns from just a bit of effort. Year-end rewards typically fall into two categories: awards programs and individual gifts. Here's what you need to know about both.

3 Tips for Creating a Meaningful Awards Programs

A year-end ceremony to recognize your top performers can create a ripple effect of positivity across the company. Among the top reasons managers set up awards programs are creating a positive work environment, motivating high performance and reinforcing desired behavior, according to a survey of nearly 500 managers by World at Work. At organizations where these programs are already up and running, roughly three of our four managers think the rewards are having the desired effect, the survey found. To make sure your year-end awards program is having the intended effect, keep these best practices in mind:

  1. SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS - As much as an employee will appreciate a meaningful gift, he or she will also relish the applause from peers. Rather than announce winners over email or in the company newsletter, consider having a small ceremony. Even a half-hour break on a Friday afternoon to celebrate top achievements can make a big impression—on all employees.
  2. MAKE IT INTERACTIVE - Year-end rewards for top sales performance or best customer service will understandably be chosen by the management team. But creating a few specific categories that are determined by the employees is an easy way to raise engagement and investment in the year-end rewards program. Some 76 percent of workers find peer praise to be very or extremely motivating, according to a survey by Badgeville. Your year-end rewards can be a structured way to solicit peer praise that's unlikely to be spontaneous. Categories like "best team player" and "best attitude" are well-suited to peer voting.
  3. GET CREATIVE - For years, SurePayroll gave a year-end reward to the person who made the Best New Mistake. Employees would nominate themselves, explaining in their nominations how a creative approach to tackling a problem went awry. At the year-end awards ceremony, management awarded gifts for gold, silver and bronze finalists. Why applaud an error? To encourage innovative thinking. Through the year-end rewards, the management team made it loud and clear that they were open to employees challenging the status quo and trying new things - even if it didn't always work out perfectly. As you think about which qualities or accomplishments you want to reward, turn to your company's values to guide you. That will let you align year-end rewards to the qualities that can help move the company forward, whether that means reward productivity, team spirit, creativity - or all three.

Choosing the perfect employee award or gift

Yes, your employees will appreciate things like food or flowers. But if you give them physical gifts that they'll proudly display in their cubicles or offices, you can turn the year-end reward into a lasting reminder of their recognition. Don't assume that long-lasting gifts are more pricey than their fleeting counterparts. You can find engraved trophies and customized plaques to fit almost any budget.

Whether you're giving a year-end reward to one employee or to an entire department, connecting the gift to what it’s rewarding is a great way to increase its impact. If your customer service team was able to tackle a major procedural challenge through teamwork, for instance, you might reward them each with a teamwork magnetic clip holder. That drives home the point that the year-end reward is tied to their teamwork, and increases the chance that every time they glance at that gift on their desks, they'll be motivated to flex their teamwork again.

Penning a handwritten thank you note—no matter how short—to include with the year-end reward can make the gift more meaningful and more memorable. Consider having department heads write notes to their team members, in order to not overwhelm any one person and have the notes be more personalized and tailored. If you can, point to specific achievements or examples to underscore that this year-end reward is in recognition of a job well done.

Giving a Gift of Lasting Appreciation

For a team member who made a difference when lending a hand to another department, a hand-shaped highlighter set can applaud their helpful nature.

A personalized desk clock is a year-end reward that makes a powerful statement: You value your employee. This elegant gift can also reward a major project that an employee completed on time. Nothing signals achievement quite like an award. Raise the importance and impact of a year-end reward with engraved superstar awards that your employee will want to display prominently.

When an employee steps up and demonstrates leadership, recognizing that act is the surest way to guarantee that others will follow. Giving desktop leadership gifts, such as a paperweight, at the year's end can be a daily reminder that leadership is rewarded at your company.

Bright and colorful rockstar at work gifts - from ceramic mugs to mousepads to hanging posters - are well-suited to offices with casual cultures that want to stand out from traditional gifts. Rockstar gifts are also the ultimate nod of recognition for peer-nominated year-end rewards.

Customer Favorite Employee Gifts

Updated Tuesday 11-29-2022
Teamwork Rowers Chrome Pen
from Sandy of Tampa, FL

Teamwork Rowers Chrome Pen

My team LOVED this pen!!
This was a perfect gift for my team. Looks good, nice team message and writes well!!

Eco-Friendly 2-ply Face Mask Full Color Custom
from Ryan Smith of Millersville, MD

Eco-Friendly 2-ply Face Mask Full Color Custom

Most comfortable face masks I've found
Purchased branded face masks for our employees and received many requests for additional masks for family members because they were so much more comfortable than their other masks.

Thanks for All You Do Chocolate Candy Tube
from Phyllis Joyner Riley of Martinsville, IN

Thanks for All You Do Chocolate Candy Tube

Great for on the spot recognition!
I use these for quality and incentive rewards. Usually on the spot appreciation for a great call or for making suggestions that help with effective interactions with customers or tam members.

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