by Devin Carver November 15th, 2021

employee recognition event two men hug on stage
receiving a watch with someone else’s name on it, an expired gift card, or even lotions and creams to erase wrinkles! There’s no shortage of stories out there of corporate gifts given in recognition to loyal employees that fall short. When someone dedicates years to your company or goes above and beyond, rewarding that person should reflect the value of their time and effort.

Rather than gifts, such as pens, bad coffee, or even a toothbrush, recognition events can be a fantastic way to reward and recognize your employees.
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What Is an Employee Recognition Event?

While it’s completely possible to randomly include employee recognition activities and efforts into daily or weekly office interactions (such as a shout out in a team meeting or a last minute lunch treat), formalizing recognition can have an amazing impact on employees.

Random recognition opportunities may present themselves when needed on the spot for a particular effort or behavior. However, recognition events allow you to plan in advance in order to:

  • Commemorate milestones
  • Celebrate project completion or achievement of a set goal
  • Reward top performances
  • Honor team efforts
  • Recognize a contribution, effort, or length of service

Employee recognition events can fall into two categories: informal and formal. Informal events can be planned on short notice and may mark less significant moments or achievements, such as a quarterly goal. In contrast, formal events are typically larger, pre-planned, and mark major milestones or events, such as yearly performance achievements or retirement after many years of service. More formal events may also include recognition or commemorative gifts.

Why Are Employee Recognition Events Important?

Who doesn’t enjoy hearing “nice job” or “we appreciate your efforts”? In fact, simple words of praise can do wonders for someone’s mood, morale, and motivation. Imagine what an office filled with people who regularly feel appreciated could accomplish! Employee recognition programs can help cultivate such an atmosphere. Further, employee recognition events can have major benefits.

Employee recognition events can:

  • Create employee engagement
  • Develop and demonstrate a positive corporate culture 
  • Incentivize goals, efforts, or desired behaviors
  • Improve recruitment efforts
  • Improve associate retention
  • Improve productivity
  • Create happier employees and a happier workplace

While those benefits are intangible, each of them translates into far more tangible or quantifiable rewards for the business, such as:

  • Cost savings on employee training/recruitment
  • Increased productivity
  • Decreased absenteeism 
  • Better customer/client service
  • Enhanced creativity, collaboration, and innovation

Top 3 Things to Consider for Your Employee Events

While some bad recognition gifts might make you laugh or cringe, what they demonstrate is that thought and effort matter, perhaps more than the monetary value of the gift itself. It’s one of the reasons why recognition events can be so successful. Events take planning; they suggest both thought and effort. So, right from the start, a recognition event tells your team that they matter.  However, there are several things you’ll want to consider to ensure successful execution. 

1. The Recipient

One of the most important elements of an employee recognition event is understanding who is being recognized. It seems simple and obvious, but a retirement theme that also includes recognition of other achievements may not give the retirees the special feeling that they deserve. Because recognition events can include different groups of people, understanding who is being recognized is crucial. The theme should match the honorees.

2. The Budget

Let’s be honest; you don’t want to end up being gifted with a toothbrush because the rest of the event went over budget. When determining your budget, include the most important elements from venue to menu. Remember you’ll want to commemorate the event with a gift or award, so be sure to include that as well!

3. The Achievement 

Much like the honoree, the event theme, venue, and more should take into account the milestone or achievement. The event you throw for your top sales performer likely won’t have the same tone as an event thrown for a C-suite executive retirement.

verizon employees at recognition event man and woman celebrate award
Six Steps to Planning an Employee Recognition Event

Once you’ve considered these top three considerations, you’re ready to start planning. This would be the time to hire an experienced event planner who can help you navigate and negotiate all the elements to make your employee recognition event unforgettable. Even with help, you’ll want to follow the steps below to plan your event.

1. Pick a date

Most recognition events are the culmination of a project or timeline (even retirement). In addition to aligning your event with the end of the project or time, you’ll also want to make sure it works for your recipients or honorees.

2. Choose your venue

First, you’ll want to make sure the venue fits your budget and can accommodate all your guests and attendees. Further, you’ll want to ensure the venue is appropriate for the tone of your event. For example, a light-hearted pool party might be great for a team achievement but not a retirement (of course that depends on the retiree, right?).

3. Find entertainment or activities

Much like the venue, you’ll want to match the entertainment to the honoree(s) and tone of the event. Activities may suffice, but remember, this should still be a celebration!

4. Work with the venue or caterer to design a menu

Even if your event doesn’t include a sit-down meal, hor d'oeuvres should be given consideration. But when planning a menu, be sure to consider those attending (once again). Imagine you’re throwing an event for a top sales performer, but they have dietary restrictions that weren’t considered when menu planning. The event might be memorable for the honoree, but not in the way you hoped! 

5. Ensure you focus on the honoree

No doubt there will be a slate of speakers to talk about the honoree(s), but be sure to remind them to keep the focus on the person, not work. The event should not be seen as an opportunity to push initiatives, discuss upcoming projects, or in general, turn it into an impromptu team meeting. Truly honor those you wish to recognize and make them feel appreciated. 

6. Send out invites and market your event

Determine early on if the event is limited to employees and significant others or families only.  For a major event, such as a big retirement, you may want to consider allowing the honoree to invite close friends and family (obviously within budget and space constraints). With an understanding of who is invited and who is welcome to attend, you need to advertise and encourage your team to attend. Social media is a great way to do so, especially if you have employee groups or hashtags.

If you’ve already created a culture of recognition within your organization, your team will want to participate in events that show appreciation of others. However, there are few things more disheartening than a recognition event lacking attendees, so marketing or incentivizing the event is important.

Any event is a large undertaking with many moving parts and elements to consider. That’s why hiring an event planner with expertise and experience in handling all of the logistics may be your safest bet. If you plan an unforgettable event, you want it to be remembered because it was an amazing reflection on a project, year, or even career.

If you’re ready to talk about planning your next recognition event, get in touch with the Bishop-McCann team today, and let us create an event to remember!

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