4 Ways Innovative Companies are Celebrating Their Employees Award programs that grow from the company culture encourage employees to work hard and feel good about it.

By Matt Straz

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Nice work. It's easy enough to say, yet so easy to forget. Recognizing employees for a job well done isn't just nice. It's necessary.

According to the 2015 Employee Recognition Report by the Society for Human Resource Management and Globoforce, values-based employee recognition significantly contributes to bottom-line organizational metrics and helps create a stronger culture and more human workplace.

Here's what the 823 HR professionals who took part in the survey had to say about their employee recognition program:

  • 90 percent say it positively impacted engagement.
  • 86 percent say it increased employee happiness.
  • 84 percent say it improved employee relationships.
  • 68 percent say it positively impacted retention.

While a simple "thank you" or pat on the back is always appreciated, a creative employee recognition program that reflects the company culture is the key to incentivizing and motivating employees.

To create an employee recognition program that goes beyond the traditional bonus pay and "employee of the month" rewards, here are four ways some of today's most innovative companies recognize their employees:

1. Wear milestones on your sleeve (or belt).

An employee's first year with a company is exciting, but it can certainly be challenging at different points, too.. Recognizing employees for reaching this all-important milestone is a great way to thank new employees for toughing it out and learning and growing as a professional.

At Groupon, no work anniversary (or Grouponiversary, as they call it) goes unnoticed. This milestone is recognized with a top-of-the-line, bright green Adidas track jacket. Employees can even personalize their jacket with unique nicknames -- "GroupMom" and "Garvitron" are already taken -- and receive star patches for each additional year at the company.

Content marketing agency Influence & Co. does something similar by publicly rewarding employee achievements with "The Belt." This professional wrestling-style championship belt is used to recognize employees who make creative contributions to the growth of the company.

Rewarding employees with company swag for reaching important milestones helps recognize individual achievements and also gives employees something to actively work toward.

Related: How to Create a Fun, Positive Company Culture in 7 Easy Steps

2. Revamp performance bonuses.

The annual performance bonus has always been the gold standard for employee recognition programs -- until now. Companies are beginning to put bonus-granting in the hands of the employees themselves.

Zappos, the popular online retailer, has put a new spin on an old standard with the creation of a coworker bonus program. The bonus program allows employees to award an extra $50 to a coworker who went above and beyond for them or their team each month.

This form of recognition is unique because it comes from a colleague the employee works with day in and day out. Encouraging employees to recognize each other's hard work and accomplishments can make a world of difference when it comes to job satisfaction.

Related: 6 Rules for Effective Peer-to-Peer Communication

3. Share the love (or troll).

Don't just stop at one employee recognizing another. Make rewards a whole-team affair if you want to see a sense of camaraderie and appreciation soar in your office

At Red Velvet Events, employees use a small plastic troll doll (you read that right) to recognize employees. During their weekly staff meeting, an RVE team member gives the doll to another employee and describes the recipient's work efforts during the previous week. Each person who receives the doll gives it another accessory (earrings, a tattoo, a bow tie, etc.) and presents it to another team member the following week.

This quirky tradition not only reflects the company's fun-loving culture (it is, after all, an event planning business), but it also ensures employees are consistently being recognized for their hard work by the people who see it first hand: their team.

Related: Want an Unstoppable Team? Try Using Manager and Peer Recognition.

4. Reward taking risks.

Recognizing and rewarding employees for a job well done is a given. Rewarding employees for ideas and experiments that didn't come to fruition (or failed miserably) is another thing entirely.

In the business world, especially, risk taking should be celebrated.

Tata is one of the few companies that recognizes the innovative ideas and bold attempts behind what most see as failures. The company's "Dare to Try" award celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit that pushes employees to take risks.

Recognizing employees for their risk-taking capabilities and creative ideas is just as important, if not more so, to individual and company-wide success. It encourages employees to continue thinking outside of the box and serves as a learning experience for the organization as a whole.

Related: Appreciation at Work: Two Major Misconceptions Leaders Hold

Wavy Line
Matt Straz

Founder and CEO of Namely

Matt Straz is the founder and CEO of Namely, the HR and payroll platform for the world's most exciting companies.

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