‘It’s not about saying “well done” — it’s about creating a place where people grow’

Employee recognition needs to go beyond a pat on the back. Modern employers can use a wide array of incentives shout out the achievements of high performers.

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Recognising your team’s hard work is crucial. But how can you do this in new and exciting ways, especially when resources are tight?

In this article, we’ll look at eight unique methods to show your team they’re valued. Ever thought about making special emojis or giving a “Golden ticket” for important meetings to celebrate your team’s efforts?

Keep reading to find out about these and other fresh ways to thank your team, and make your startup a great place to work.

1: Create custom emojis or slack stickers

Celebrate an employee’s standout performance, creative problem-solving, or embodiment of company values with a custom emoji or sticker for them. This could range from a playful caricature to a symbol highlighting their accomplishments or traits.

For example, a superhero sticker for someone who led a major project, or a planner emoji for an organisational whiz. These designs must be respectful, inclusive, and maintain the professional ethos of your company.

Involve professional graphic designers in the process, or utilise user-friendly design tools. Encourage team involvement in the brainstorming or voting process for these designs to foster community spirit.

Once ready, integrate these custom creations into your company’s digital platforms, like Slack or Microsoft Teams. This will add a personalised and celebratory layer to everyday communications.

2: Future Leader Shadow Program

It’s essential to recognise high-performing employees who show promise as future leaders, making them a part of your internal succession plan strategy. Match them with experienced executives who not only lead but also embody the company’s core values. The shadow day should be a mix of attending key meetings and participating in strategic discussions, offering a rounded view of leadership in action.

Encourage these future leaders to actively engage during their shadowing. They should join in discussions, pitch ideas, and even lead parts of meetings when possible. The active role helps them learn by doing and builds their confidence.

After the shadowing, hold a reflection session. Let them process what they’ve learned and think about how to apply it to their current role. Use feedback from these sessions to improve the program.

The benefits are clear: it sharpens leadership skills, boosts employee engagement by showing the company’s commitment to their growth, and passes on knowledge directly from current to future leaders.

3: Celebrity shout-outs

Imagine the impact on an employee receiving a personalised video from a beloved celebrity or a respected professional figure, congratulating them on their work. With a distinct and engaging way to show appreciation, you bring an element of surprise and personalisation to employee recognition.

To implement this, first understand your employees’ preferences and interests. Identify the celebrities or industry leaders they admire through casual conversations or surveys. Then, use platforms like Cameo to book them, and ensure the messages are personalised with the employee’s name and specific achievements.

Present these shout-outs in a way that maximises the surprise, like during a team meeting or a company event. This public recognition not only celebrates the individual but also generates excitement within the team.

4: “Choose Your Challenge” initiative

Allow employees to pick a new project or challenge, aligned with their passions and career goals, and show your trust in their abilities and support for their development.

To kickstart this, encourage your team to pick challenges or projects beyond their usual duties. These could be anything from developing a new product feature to leading a community program. The goal is to let them dive into areas they’re excited about and that foster their professional growth.

For example, a team member interested in data analytics might choose a related project, gaining new skills and bringing fresh insights to your startup. Support them with resources, training, and time. Regularly check in with them to ensure they’re benefiting from the experience and staying on track.

5: Personalised comic strips or artwork

Create a custom comic strip or artwork that captures the essence of an employee’s role or experiences. For instance, a comic strip might portray a team member as a superhero in a successful project, including references to real events and milestones.

Collaborate with skilled artists or illustrators, providing them with details about the employee’s journey, traits, and achievements. Present these artworks during a team meeting or special event to celebrate the individual and showcase your company’s creative culture.

These artworks can also adorn your office space, and serve as a reminder of each team member’s unique value and journey within your startup.

6: Fantasy sports for work achievements

Turn work achievements into a competitive game, mirroring the excitement of fantasy sports leagues. Employees earn points based on their performance and contributions, such as project completions or innovative ideas.

Assign point values that encourage desirable behaviours and align with your company’s goals. For example, finishing a project before the deadline might earn a set number of points, while devising a cost-saving strategy could earn more.

Add fantasy sports elements like team drafts, seasons of competition, and special bonuses. Create categories or leagues based on roles or departments to include everyone. Celebrate the end of each season with awards, ranging from small tokens to significant rewards, based on achievement levels.

7: Skill sharing sessions

When an employee excels, invite them to share a skill, hobby, or passion with the team. Make these sessions interactive and engaging, allowing the team to learn something new and unique.

For example, an employee skilled in project management could share time management strategies, while someone passionate about baking might host a cake decorating workshop.

Acknowledge the diverse talents of your team and foster a collaborative and connected workplace with these sessions. They encourage learning from each other, breaking down silos and enhancing cross-departmental interaction.

8: “Golden Ticket” meeting opportunities

The “Golden ticket” grants them access to high-level meetings or decision-making sessions, usually exclusive to upper management. Employees could attend a strategic planning session, a board meeting, or any crucial decision-making event, where they can observe, engage, and offer ideas.

To make the most of this opportunity, prepare the chosen employees for these meetings. Brief them on the agenda, participants, and discussion context, and encourage active participation through questions, feedback, or presenting ideas.

After the meeting, hold a debrief session to discuss their takeaways and suggestions. This helps solidify their learning and reinforces the value of their input.

Elevate employee recognition in your business

From fun comic strips to sharing skills, each of these ideas helps to build a strong, happy team.

Remember, it’s not about saying “well done” — it’s about creating a place where people grow, work well together, and enjoy being creative.

Rob Press of Deputy
Rob Press

Rob is a content marketing manager at Deputy, a robust scheduling software that can be used to manage your workforce in a wide variety of different industries. Aside from helping businesses reach operational efficiency, he keeps up to date with the latest trends in SaaS, B2B, and technology in general.

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