Puppies, Applause, and Exotic Trips – Getting Creative with Employee Recognition Programs

September 28, 2018 in
By Katie Conlon

If you’ve been following along with our blog posts this month, you understand the basics of employee recognition, you can spot the difference between formal and informal recognition, and you’ve observed several examples of employee spotlights. Now, we want to take a few steps back and give you some creative and unique ideas for employee recognition programs that are being practiced right now by other organizations. We hope that some of these “trendy” programs might inspire your own.

Give Out SWAG! An FMP employee sporting FMP-braded sunglasses

What does “SWAG” stand for? Stuff We All Get (thank you, Michael Scott)! Many employers choose to give swag, or promotional items, to employees as prizes for a job well done. This form of recognition also serves as a great way to show off your brand. If you are handing out fleece jackets with your company’s logo to top performers, those superstar employees are then walking around showing off your logo and brand name to others. It can serve as a great way to market your organization. Beyond fleece jackets, swag can come in many different forms such as t-shirts, water bottles, coffee cups, beach chairs, blankets, and so much more. This type of recognition is tangible without just giving an employee money or a gift card. At FMP, we have really enjoyed giving out swag to our employees. This past summer we handed out sunglasses with the FMP logo, and used the sunglasses as part of a social media campaign to encourage fun and relaxing summers in, and outside, of the office.

Peer-to-Peer Recognition

Free sunglasses are a fun benefit, but what if your organization is looking for a more low-cost solution to recognize employees? One of the best, and most economical, strategies to engage all employees within a recognition program is peer-to-peer recognition. Peer-to-peer recognition is beneficial because it encourages team work and transparency in the office. Often times employees are familiar with top-down recognition programs, but recognition from peers can take employees by surprise.Software company Typeform uses spontaneous applause for peer-to-peer recognition. When an employee wants to recognize their peer for a great job, they start a round of applause and the whole office stops working and joins in.It’s a quick 30 second moment where an employee is recognized by a peer, and it’s a completely free for the organization. Employees are always seeking feedback and recognition from their peers and this type of collaborative recognition engages employees at all levels.

Host an Event FMP staff at a baseball game

Maybe you are looking for a recognition program that awards a group of employees at one time. An event is a great way to get a group together and give them praise, but I am sure you have been to your fair share of celebratory work happy hours. Have you ever been to a puppy party in your office? This fun twist to celebrate employees involves local animal rescues that bring in adoptable animals for playtime. In addition to rewarding employees, this type of event can help with stress-relief as employees take part in puppy-cuddling therapy. Lucky Dog Animal Rescue in Arlington, Virginia hosts events just like this. Stephany Smith with Lucky Dog says, “puppy parties bring joy and fun to offices, schools and other organizations. They greatly increase the public’s awareness of animal rescue and community volunteerism. Sometimes the attendees apply to adopt!” This really sounds like a win-win function—employees are recognized and celebrated at this unique event, and it brings awareness to a charitable organization. Also, who can really say no to those puppy dog eyes?

Tickets to an Experience

A recent study from the Harris Group shows that 72% of millennials prefer to spend their money on experiences over material items.3With this statistic in mind, why not reward your employees with tickets to a sports game or concert in the area?4This type of reward would work well for one employee or a group of employees needing recognition. Some organizations even take it a step further and host incentive award trips for the elite in the organization. This usually involves an all-inclusive package of flight, hotel, and excursions to an exotic destination. Instead of a yearly bonus for these employees, organizations spend the money on a trip that combines all the top performers in the organization under one roof. Not only do the employees feel recognized, but it creates an opportunity for employees to bond on the trip which can lead to stronger teams in the workplace.

Those are just a few of the unique ways to recognize your employees. Whether you’re looking to send your top performers to an island in the Caribbean for a week or you’re looking to give employees a round of applause, there are so many different creative recognition programs. Reach out to us on our social media channels to share some of your creative programs!

About the Author: Katie loves finding strategic human capital solutions for her clients. When she isn’t in the office working, you can find her walking her two dogs (Griffin and Leni) or making fun videos to post on her YouTube channel. Katie recently had the opportunity to attend an incentive award trip for her fiancé and (of course) she made a video about it.


[1] Society for Human Resource Management. Employers Embrace Peer-to-Peer Recognition. Retrieved September 26, 2018 from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/pages/1114-peer-recognition.aspx.

[2] Bonus.ly. 17 Unique Examples of Employee Recognition in Action. Retrieved September 26,2018, from https://bonus.ly/employee-recognition-guide/employee-recognition-examples.

[3] CNBC. Millennials are Prioritizing ‘Experiences’ Over Stuff. Retrieved September 26, 2018, from https://www.cnbc.com/2016/05/05/millennials-are-prioritizing-experiences-over-stuff.html.

[4] INC. 25 Rewards that Great Employees Actually Love to Receive. Retrieved September 26, 2018, from https://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/25-creative-rewards-that-great-employees-actually-love-to-receive.html.