John Quinn

John is one of the cofounders of Bonusly and formerly worked in the Engineering department at Bonusly, where he lent his broad experience in all aspects of developing and running large-scale, world-class, high-availability web infrastructures.

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Google is associated with innovation in every aspect of its business, and its management techniques are no exception.

Google employs multiple award systems to motivate employees, and perhaps the most notable is its peer-to-peer recognition program. This program allows Google employees to proactively recognize their peers for doing something big or small that goes above and beyond the call of duty. Peers often reward an activity that would have gone completely unnoticed by managers.

Looking for information on how you can implement your own peer-to-peer recognition program? Check out our free guide:

-> Download the Manager's Guide to Employee Recognition

Google peer bonuses typically aren’t large, but in the words of one employee: “It’s a great privilege to receive one.”

Google peer bonuses typically aren’t large, but in the words of one employee: “it’s a great privilege to receive one.”

A typical example of a peer bonus would be one employee giving $175 to a peer who “coded an SQL query for me and saved me a lot of time.” Using an internal tool, peers nominate individuals for bonuses, providing context for their manager to review and approve.


complete managers guide to recognition


The system isn’t without critics. Piaw Nai, in his presentation "5 Google Engineering Management Mistakes," claims that “[p]eer bonus structure was very well done, but not widely used inside engineering.” 

A few reasons for that may include that there is not enough buy-in from the team or the program is not easy enough to use. It's also important to ensure that the same people aren't always being recognized all the time.

Eduardo Pinheiro, a researcher at Google, mentioned: “The person who got the most peer bonuses [on my team] had eight in a little less than two years. The second one had five during the same time.”

Effective employee recognition programs are inclusive, meaning recognition is distributed across the team. Effective recognition should also be frequent (we recommend at least once a month), timely (not six months later during a performance review), specific, visible, and values-based. 



A successful peer bonus system should increase employee morale and motivation, enhance productivity and even profitability, identify top performers and help retain them, and increase employee engagement.  

To learn more about employee recognition programs and how to implement them on your team:

 -> Download the Manager's Guide to Employee Recognition

Google also offers an open-source peer bonus program, where external contributors can be nominated for bonuses and recognition. 

In the same way that a Google Peer Bonus is used to recognize a fellow Googler who has gone above and beyond, an Open Source Peer Bonus recognizes external people who have made exceptional contributions to open source. Googlers can nominate contributors who they feel deserve our recognition (and some cash)!

Bonusly: the leader in employee recognition

Bonusly makes the employee experience more rewarding at organizations across the globe. Through the top-rated SaaS platform, companies from small to enterprise have built recognition-first cultures which result in more connected, collaborative, energized, and high-performing teams. Bonusly inspires frequent, meaningful, peer-to-peer recognition tied to company values that translates to real rewards. 

Want to bring the benefits of employee recognition and peer bonuses to your organization? Talk with one of our recognition experts today or check this resource:

It’s the carrot, not the stick that keeps employees motivated in the workplace, new research shows.

A study by online career site Glassdoor revealed that more than 80 percent of employees say they’re motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work, compared to less than 40 percent who are inspired to work harder when their boss is demanding or because they fear losing their job. In our recent study, 65% of respondents admitted that they would work harder if they felt their contributions would be noticed by management.

Showing gratitude also helps keep workers from developing a wandering eye. More than half of employees surveyed in a Bonusly study said they would stay longer at their company if they felt more appreciation from their boss.

Survey says: appreciation works

We’ve seen similar results from Bonusly users. We survey every user of our engagement platform regularly, and most recently we uncovered some very encouraging results

  • Employee motivation: 83% of respondents said that Bonusly improved employee motivation.
  • Employee engagement: 93% of respondents said that Bonusly improved employee engagement.
  • Employee satisfaction: 89% of respondents said that Bonusly improved employee satisfaction.
  • Employee retention: 48% of respondents said that Bonusly improved employee retention.
  • Collaboration between teams: 75% of respondents said that Bonusly improved collaboration between teams.

Take a tour of Bonusly to see for yourself.

Companies that pay their employees well, offer competitive benefits packages, and have employee recognition initiatives in place, like Employee of the Month awards or annual bonuses, can still struggle to retain talent and improve productivity.

If you or your employer is facing retention and productivity issues, implementing an employee recognition and rewards program might not be your first idea, or even your seventh. But with ample research showing that a lack of on-the-job praise and recognition is a leading cause of employee dissatisfaction around the world, it's time to circle back.

The proof is in the pudding recognition

Study after study shows that meaningful employee recognition leads to increased productivity, better employee retention, and greater business success.

In early 2022, Bonusly and OnePoll surveyed 2,000 Americans, all of whom had either been employed in some capacity over the last five years or were currently searching for a new job. Almost half (46%) of respondents had left a job because they felt unappreciated and another 65% admitted that they would work harder if they felt like their contributions would be noticed by management.

In February 2021, Gallup reported that only one in three workers in the U.S. and Germany strongly agreed that they had received recognition or praise in the past seven days for doing good work. Workers who disagreed, or had not received recognition in the past seven days for doing good work, were twice as likely to say they'd quit in the next year. 

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In April 2021, Gartner found that only 9% of Australian workers were considered ‘engaged’, meaning that they showed high discretionary effort and expressed high intent to stay with their current employer.

“Many [Australians] have been waiting for recognition for their efforts or a change of pace from their employer that simply has not materialized," said Aaron McEwan, a VP in Gartner's HR practice. Work-life balance, manager quality, and respect were the top three reasons workers gave for leaving an organization.

The findings of these studies are powerful, but they don't tell us how much recognition and what kind of recognition is enough to move the needle on retention and productivity.

What is meaningful employee recognition, anyway?

📗 Check out our Guide to Modern Employee Recognition for the full scoop

Have you ever received praise for your work that didn’t really feel like praise at all? Maybe it was delivered in the form of a backhanded compliment, or maybe the person recognizing you waited so long to say something that you couldn't even remember doing the thing they said you did! 

In many ways, bad praise can be worse than no praise at all. Employee recognition is meaningful and impactful when it's timely, frequent, specific, visible, inclusive, and values-based.

  • Timely — The best time to recognize someone for a job well done is now, not at their annual review five months from now. Recognize your coworkers in the moment or as close to the moment as you can, ideally within 48 hours.
  • Frequent — Remember those Gallup stats about workers in the US and Germany who had received praise in the past seven days for their work? Try recognizing your peers at least once every week.
  • Specific — “You’re doing a great job” is such a vague compliment that it's practically meaningless. Choose a specific action or work product that you want to praise in order to show that you're paying close attention to your colleagues' contributions.
  • Visible — The rule of thumb is “praise in public and reprimand in private.” When public praise is the norm in a workplace, it contributes to a culture of recognition for all employees.
  • Inclusive — Employee of the Month programs are inherently exclusive and can be demotivating, as a result. Instead of celebrating one person's work, inclusive recognition helps everyone gets credit and praise for their contributions.
  • Values-based — When you share positive feedback, consider how a person's contribution lines up with your company values. If your company culture is truly based on a shared set of values, reinforcing those values through praise should be a deep-rooted habit.

Giving recognition that hits all these points isn't too difficult, especially with a bit of practice. But helping others follow the same guidelines can be challenging without some kind of structure.

Operationalizing meaningful recognition

Employee recognition and reward programs need not be manager-driven. In many cases, peer-to-peer recognition is far more meaningful than top-down recognition. In that survey conducted by Bonusly and OnePoll in early 2022, 65% of the people we polled believe they’d be likely to stay at a job with an unappreciative manager if their coworkers and peers still recognized their work.

For our recommendations on operationalizing meaningful recognition, check out Chapter 4 of the Guide to Modern Employee Recognition

Looking for an employee engagement solution? Try Bonusly for Free!