Top 10(+1) Office Award Ideas List

Savvy small business owners understand that rewarding employees pays dividends. Lots of them.

Office Award Ideas. Photo mikeg44311 (Flickr)

Workers feel valued, needed and treasured when they are recognized, and there’s no need to spend a fortune to let employees know that their talents, loyalty and hard work mean the world to you.

If yours is a new business, it’s especially important to come up with solid office award ideas and our suggestions can help!

What must staff do to earn an award?

Until you answer this question, it may be impossible to figure out the type of award(s) that will work best for you, your business and your employees.

Peruse this list of suggestions and see what strikes a chord.

Don’t be surprised if you find several categories of office award ideas that you deem appropriate.
  • Reward employees who go beyond their job descriptions to deliver exceptional results.
  • Confer awards to staffers on their work anniversaries to pay tribute to their loyalty.
  • Give an award when one or more employees contribute greatly to the success of a project.
  • Grant awards to workers who have shown dedication by rarely missing a day on the job.
  • Call attention to an entire department for exceeding production quotas or goals.
  • Show your appreciation for staffers who finish assignments under budget and before deadlines.
  • Give “fun” awards to show your confidence in staff when morale is down.
  • Salute those who have consistently covered other people’s shifts, vacations and personal leaves.
  • Bestow awards on those whose ideas save money, improve productivity or streamline work practices.
  • Recognize workers instrumental in raising your company’s image or public profile.

#1. Certificates of appreciation

Business owners often dismiss the idea of awarding certificates of appreciation because they’re not sure that these paper awards have an impact on recipients.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s important to present certificates of appreciation in the presence of others.

Certificates of appreciation
Certificates of appreciation. Photo Steven Lilley (Flickr)

What to put on the certificate? That’s up to you. Create a format on your computer so it can be revised and used for a variety of purposes, or purchase pre-printed certificates from office supply stores to be customized using your office printer.

Craft a signature certificate of appreciation by having a graphic designer incorporate your company name and logo so it’s seen as official recognition of a job well done.

Want to make sure recipients display their certificates? Don’t just hand over an award in an envelope. Frame it nicely before you present it.

#2. Trophies

There’s a reason the NBA, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and NASCAR hands out trophies to industry stars. Who wouldn’t proudly display a trophy on a shelf to show the world one’s value and worth?

What kinds of trophies should you consider? Just about anything under the sun. There is a dizzying array of choices available courtesy of the trophy and premium industry.

Helpful advice!
Trophies come in all sizes, styles and prices, so customizing one that symbolizes your industry or business may be easier than you think.

Popular contemporary trophy materials are wood, resin, glass, metal, plastic or some combination. Peruse Internet trophy and award sites to shop for the look that appeals to you.

Order in bulk to save money and then use a local engraver to personalize each trophy before it’s conferred.

#3. Gift cards

If you hang out with skeptics, you may hear them make this comment when trophies and certificates are awarded: “Oh, great; something else to dust.” Sound familiar? It should.

Fancy awards worthy of display at home or at the office are nice – but in today’s society, gift cards are better. Even modest bonuses given for a job well done will be appreciated – even by those skeptics!

Gift cards
Gift cards. Photo Mike Mozart (Flickr)

You’ll have many choices once you begin your search of gift certificates, cash cards, merchant-specific cards and other negotiable currencies. If you’re the thoughtful type and know your staffers well enough to purchase gift cards that match employee’s interests, good for you.

On the other hand, VISA, American Express, MasterCard or Discover gift cards can be negotiated anywhere and offer the recipient a fun shopping spree on you for having performed a service to your company.

No fair handing out cards naked, by the way. Tuck them into greeting cards that convey your appreciation.

#4. Work credits

It’s a new and novel idea that isn’t for every business owner, but it’s worth exploring if you know that your workers value time above all else.

Using this system, every time a worker does something of merit, award work credits that are banked and can be traded in for time off that can be combined with sick or vacation days.

Better than a pat on the back or an employee appreciation pizza party in the break room, work credits incentivize employees to double down on their efforts in small ways.

There’s no cash investment up front, but this type of office reward requires someone to be responsible for coordinating the effort. A “If you see someone do something exceptional” sign, hanging in a prominent place, generates interest and states company rules so everyone’s on the same page.

Some bosses have been known to post credits on an employee bulletin board as a way of calling attention to individuals who have made extra efforts.

#5. Of pins and pens

Ask your retired dad about whether his employer handed out trophies to employees “back in the day” and you’ll probably provoke a laugh.

Historically, lapel pins and fountain pens were prized by employees. Like many ideas, giving pins and pens as awards are both trending.

Of pins and pens
Of pins and pens. Photo Eliezer Borges (Flickr)

Why pins? Because these small, custom-crafted gold or silver pins, designed to be worn by men or women, may be small symbols of achievement, but the pride staffers take when they wear one that’s been conferred at a small ceremony means a lot. Presentation is important, so always put the pin into a nice-looking jewelry box.

Alternately, pens are back! Anyone who takes an elegant, obviously-expensive fountain pen out when it’s time to sign something is going to get a second look.

A classic pen even gives an employee an opportunity to mention to anyone within earshot that it was given as a reward from the boss.

#6. Merchandise choices

Another popular office award idea these days are merchandise choices that are beautifully displayed in catalogs.

The “reward catalog” business remains a healthy industry and business owners who have used this method of rewarding employees return to it repeatedly, because it’s a win-win way to acknowledge employee excellence.

Companies like Select Your Gift, Incentive America and Choose Your Gift are a few resources you can tap, so if you’re crunched for time, this may be your best bet.

Why does merchandise incentivize staff?

Because not every employee favors the same award, but with a catalog of goodies from which to choose, a staffer can select luggage, jewelry, décor items, grooming aids and products that they want, but for one reason or another, haven’t bought for themselves.

#7. Travel

When the topic of employee awards is broached, enthusiasm exhibited over the prospect of receiving a trophy, plaque, pin or merchandise choice isn’t to be underestimated, but mention travel awards given for outstanding work performance, and you’ll see the excitement double.

It’s often been said that the motivational power of travel awards has no equal, so if you can afford to be this generous, you may even witness improved turnover as a result of higher morale.

Travel Awards
Travel Awards. Photo fdecomite (Flickr)

Companies awarding trips and vacations often taken advantage of “trades” with travel-related businesses.

Supply merchandise you produce to a travel business, and in return for a weekend getaway, airline tickets or an overnight with dinner at a luxury hotel, you and your trading partner can work out write-offs that satisfy all parties.

#8. Fun awards

New business start-ups often rely upon the enthusiasm of a small crew of workers to get an enterprise up and running, but by the very nature of a start-up, money in company coffers to honor workers may be in short supply.

Should you hope that everyone holds on until your cash flow improves before you institute an award initiative? Not a good idea.

Humorous gifts are just as proudly displayed as are pricey glass trophies, brand-name pens and framed certificates – just as long as you choose appropriate awards that befit the workplace.

Companies like Archie McPhee and Oriental Trader could have award ideas in their warehouses that delight the people you want to reward.

What kinds of awards? Offbeat ones, of course.

Archie McPhee’s Rosie the Riveter bobble head and Oriental Traders Top Banana trophies (yes, this trophy literally features a banana atop a pedestal) show people you rely upon that you may not have a fortune to spend on awards, but their hard work means the world to you.

#9. Dinner on the company

Small business owners may decide to invite staff over to their homes for a meal, but that invitation may not have much weight behind it.

Instead, pick a beautiful restaurant known for its cuisine and ambience as awards so workers can dress to the nines for the occasion.

Dinner on the company is particularly appropriate when recognizing a department or team that has done outstanding work. Make it a Friday night (don’t infringe upon people’s weekends; it’s family time) and give everyone enough time to get dressed up that afternoon. A hand-delivered invitation makes a nice touch.

When everyone gathers at the table, a champagne toast is appropriate, as is a photo of the entire team, whether taken by wait staff or an employee wielding a cell phone.

Post a copy of the photo on the office bulletin board and give copies to everyone at the table – this office award idea calls for a memento of the occasion!

#10. Electronics awards

Everyone’s wired these days and nobody under the age of 75 complains that they own too many electronic devices.

If you can buy up a quantity of tablets, for example, take advantage of the relationships and delight staff award recipients by giving them communication tools.

Electronics awards
Electronics awards. Photo 401(K) 2012 (Flickr)

On the other hand, if you are fearful that your award will be a duplicate of something staffers already own, it’s okay to hand out vouchers that describe a selection of electronic devices (high-end headsets, game boxes, Kindles, etc.), asking each awardee to choose a favorite and return the card to you so you can place your order.

To arrange a deal for a multiple-device buy, contact wholesalers to see what can be worked out before you produce the selection vouchers.

Two great resources are Tiger Direct and Megagoods, but you can always hit the local Best Buy and see if you can negotiate a better business deal in the community.

#11(additional) Timepieces

This category is another blast from the past, harkening back to the days when the ultimate work compliment for a job well done was the time-honored engraved wrist watch.

Among the iconic companies making watches designed for honoring and rewarding employees is Bulova, but it’s not the only game in town by a long shot.

Helpful advice!
There are plenty of reasons to consider timepieces. Everyone wears them. They can be engraved with a company logo, the recipient’s monogram or the reason the watch is bestowed.

Additionally, there are reward-appropriate watches on the market at every price point imaginable. A beautiful timepiece tucked into a gift box rewards men and women alike.

You don’t have to engrave if you prefer not to, but there’s something about giving an employee an award that is used and admired every day that feels – well, timeless. And while having a new laptop computer makes a nice reward, when was the last time you heard about one being passed down to the next generation?

Does one of these office awards have your company name on it?

Still need office award ideas because nothing on this list fits the bill? There’s a chance the award you desire doesn’t exist!

In fact, many employers find that the office awards they’ve chosen are so in tune with their unique office environments, they wouldn’t think of replacing what already works.

Best office awards
Best office awards. Photo slgckgc (Flickr)

Whether it’s a watch on a staffer’s wrist, a framed certificate of excellence hanging on a wall, a Caribbean trip with all expenses paid or a silly Top Banana trophy proudly displayed on a cube shelf, all it takes is a stroll around your office to realize how important these symbols of recognition are to workers on every rung of your business’s ladder.

As a matter of fact, we’re betting you still have a couple of treasures around to remind you of your early days as an employee who was thrilled to be recognized for all of your hard work!

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