10 Real-World Recognition Programs that Really Work

It is one thing to know that employee recognition makes a difference in performance, engagement, turnover rates and more. It is quite another thing to see employee recognition in action. As you invest in an employee recognition platform to ensure that your workforce is properly praised for their hard work and commitment to your company, you might read about some of the most effective recognition programs around the world today.


ALKU is a specialized consulting firm that has a handful of recognition practices that keep employees happy and engaged. A peer-to-peer T-shirt program rewards employees who contribute meaningfully to the company with branded swag, and the Corporate Cup program shines the spotlight on one new worker every week, lauding them for their special efforts. Finally, during the pandemic, ALKU offered employees a Stimulus Package, or a financial bonus their remote workers could earn through high performance.

Bain and Company

Another consulting firm focused on management, Bain and Company has consistently landed among the top of Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list, largely thanks to its collaborative workplace culture. Employees at B&C can earn all sorts of perks through their contributions, such as extra paid time off, hefty financial bonuses and flexible work, and they are constantly supported by their leaders and peers with positive reinforcement.


Target continues to prove itself the most progressive of the nation’s large retailers. This past year, Target committed to limit seasonal hiring and dedicate that funding to rewards and recognition programs for existing employees. Over the pandemic, the retailer provided four major financial bonuses to frontline workers, and it offers bonuses to staff who opt for more difficult shifts.

Walt Disney Parks

Because the Disney Parks are so particular in the qualities they need for their cast members, employees at Walt Disney World and other parks tend to be hardworking and passionate from the jump. The parks maintain engagement with employees with generous gift-giving and physical tokens like pins that cast members can display on their uniforms. The parks are also dedicated to their milestone awards, and every year, a cast member earns a Legacy Prize, for their outstanding commitment to the company.


Employees of Zappos — lovingly referred to as Zapponians — earn regular salaries and benefits, but through their contributions they also earn Zollars, which can be redeemed for any number of additional perks. Leaders and peers alike can award Zollars to employees, who might spend their Zappos cash on covered parking spaces, gift cards and real cash.

HP Inc.

After splitting from HP Enterprises, HP Inc. revitalized its employee recognition program to offer employees more valuable opportunities to destress, bond and become better workers. The program includes a number of virtual parties and hobby courses like cooking classes from Michelin-starred chefs as well as professional development options like tutoring and home learning support. Plus, the company pays its workers to volunteer, showing its support of local communities.


Tech giant Cisco offers a peer-to-peer recognition program called “Connected Recognition,” in which employees can reward one another with financial gifts that are funded by the company’s payroll. Additionally, Cisco provides employees with plenty of opportunities for rest, providing several mental health days per year as well as paid days off to celebrate birthdays and other personal milestones.


This international food, beverages and confectionary company — known for some of the best snack food brands, like Oreo, Cadbury and Ritz — created a worldwide rewards program called “Great Rewards” that provides employees with enviable options when they receive praise for high performance. What’s more, every year Mondelez celebrates individual employees and teams at its Employee Benefits Awards, which spotlight amazing contributions to the company.


Another company that has achieved status on a best employers list — this time from Forbes — Unilever maintains several programs to ensure employees feel seen and heard. The uFlexReward system, an astonishingly complex digital reward system, analyzes individual preferences to ensure each individual employee receives personalized benefits. Additionally, the Unilever Heroes Awards annually honors employees who make a difference inside and outside the company.

Southwest Airlines

Calling itself a “Company of People,” Southwest Airlines has created a massively successful peer-to-peer recognition program cheekily called SWAG, which stands for Southwest Airlines Gratitude. Through this program, employees can recognize one another with points, which can be redeemed as travel incentives, guest passes, merchandise, gift cards and even cash. The points never expire, and they enter workers in monthly raffles for even larger prizes.

These companies and others demonstrate how impactful a rewards and recognition program can be in motivating the workforce and creating mutual success.