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The Top Five Recognition Programs to Influence Workplace Culture

Recognition as part of the workplace culture is more important than ever. According to the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Study, GenZ participants ranked a “positive workplace culture” as the largest factor when choosing to work for an organization.  Since recognition programs play a major role in improving corporate culture, it’s important to make sure your organization is keeping up. Here are the top five recognition programs, as recently polled by WorldatWork and ITA Group in Trends in Employee Recognition:

  1. Service Milestones
  2. Performance
  3. Reinforcing Specific Behaviors (i.e. Safety or Wellness)
  4. Peer-to-Peer
  5. Retirement

So how can your organization include these key programs? Read on to see some of the ways in which each of these recognition categories helps retain talent, attract the best & brightest new hires and set your company on a solid path to being intentional about positive workplace culture.

Service Milestones

Years of Service programs are the veteran of recognition. Thanks to greater workplace mobility in the 1980s and ‘90s, company culture shifted away from paycheck-and-handshake recognition to rewarding for tenure. This transition to service awards and choice programs showed significant increases in corporate retention rates. Almost 40 years later, Service Milestone programs are still going strong, with around 85% of organizations recognizing their employees in this category.

Service programs vary greatly in deployment, from custom symbolic awards to plaques, choice programs to points platforms, and public recognition to private moments with a supervisor. There is no one right way to honor someone for their tenure with your company!  Check out our Service Award page for more ways to let your employees know you appreciate them.

Performance Programs

Performance Programs, such as Million Dollar Clubs or Employee of the Year awards, are one of the best ways to motivate and retain quality employees. Yet only 20% of employees feel their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do better work. As the #2 most common recognition category, more than ¾ of businesses have a performance program. Rewarding your top performers keeps them engaged and helps to build a culture of success. Whether it is a ring program for your Million Dollar Salesforce, or a custom award to celebrate a standout employee, recognizing your top performers will drive positive business results.

Safety, Wellness, and other Behavior-Specific Programs

This category covers a wide range of programs, which might be why over half (51%) of organizations have one! Safe practices are integral for many industries, and with wellness programs on the rise, it just makes sense to incorporate recognition that reinforces those specific behaviors.

Recognizing your employees for safe behaviors or great wellness efforts can be done in many different ways, including Spot programs, points platforms, or even through company-wide recognition. Regardless of how you choose to recognize, some facts are clear; rewarding wellness performance increases productivity, lowers absenteeism and healthcare costs and most importantly, lets your employees know you care. As for Safety programs, a Gallup poll found that highly engaged business units realize a 70% decrease in employee safety incidents.


As the fastest growing form of employee recognition, Peer-to-Peer programs are making a big splash in the corporate world. Currently, 49% of organizations have a Peer-to-Peer program, with that number steadily on the rise over the last 10 years. The rationale is twofold. Online platforms provide an excellent way to unite a modern workforce since over 40% of workers are now remote at least part of the time. In addition, the research surrounding gratitude and appreciation in the workplace show that expressing gratitude to one’s coworkers has significant positive effects, including strengthening team bonds, boosting productivity, and reducing friction between employees. MTM Recognition’s Carousel® is a great Peer-to-Peer platform, perfect for a multigenerational workforce, in which your employees could see these results.


Retirement is not only one of the biggest milestones in an individual’s career, but also in his/her life. Employees who have dedicated their time, energy, and heart to your company deserve special accolades. As with other forms of recognition, there is no right or wrong way to show someone your appreciation. However, Retirement Programs are one category in which custom and symbolic awards are particularly special. These awards help to celebrate the career they have made with your organization. Examples of retirement programs could include symbolic awards branded for your organization, rings commemorating the years of service at the organization, or a beautiful custom collage celebrating their work through the years. For some additional meaningful and fun ideas for a retirement party, check out this Retirement Blog.


Which of these programs does your organization have? How could your employees benefit from adding to your recognition program offering? If you have questions, we’re here to help!

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