23 fun employee award ideas to incentivize, motivate, and recognize your team

Maja Orsic
October 17, 2023
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Employee recognition awards run the gamut from punny to powerful—and we're here for all of them!

You can offer playful and programmatic employee incentives to your employees using Bonusly Awards, so if you want to balance your peer-to-peer recognition program with a variety of employee incentives, you've come to the right place! 

We've collected a bunch of our team's favorite employee awards, including some from our customers and some that we use here at Bonusly, to help you get creative with employee incentives and bonuses.

Whether you're building a recognition and awards program from scratch or freshening up an existing one, I hope this list inspires you to create fun employee awards for your organization. When you set them up with Bonusly Awards, you'll save time running them!


Your List of Fun Employee Award Ideas, Powered by Bonusly

Before we dive in: Bonusly Awards complement our core product offering, which is peer-to-peer recognition. Bonusly supports three types of awards: Automated, Manual, and Claimable. The latter two award types have optional approval levels for instances, like larger spot bonuses, when you need to check with your manager first!

With our Awards suite, you can manage company-to-employee recognition and create departmental incentives of all kinds. 

I'll specify the Bonusly Award types that make sense for each idea in this article. To learn more about specific functionality, read about Bonusly Awards in our Help Center.

HR initiatives

1. Welcome Wagon 👋

First impressions count! Help your new hires feel welcome with a personalized message from your organization that everyone can chime in on. 

Bonusly takes care of first-day recognition with Automated Awards.

2. Birthday Bonanza 🎂

Bonusly's Automated Awards help you celebrate employee birthdays in a fun, personal way without adding manual administration. You can set up your HRIS integration to have those dates sync automatically.

By establishing a tradition for birthday celebrations across your organization, you can ensure that no one feels left out. For more birthday celebration ideas, check out this employee birthday guide.

3. Cheers for Years 🥳

The scope of work anniversary celebrations should include the contributions employees make, not solely the years they've been in service to your organization! Public recognition that's visible to everyone in your organization can encourage folks to add on however they feel comfortable.

employee award

Like birthdays and first day celebrations, Bonusly automates work anniversary recognition and takes that work off your plate. InVision, which has been a fully distributed company for years, incorporates work anniversary recognition into their overall recognition strategy.

4. Program Explorer 🧭

Company-wide adoption of tooling can be a real challenge! Drum up excitement for program launches by awarding employees when they log in and explore their new accounts.

Our customers often set this award up to encourage employees to start using Bonusly. In order to claim the award, employees have to give meaningful employee recognition to a colleague on the platform and provide the HR team with at least one piece of feedback about the site, a feature, or their overall experience. 


5. Sales Spiff

Sales team incentives that get paid out immediately after sale, also called spiffs, are often subject to manager approval. With Bonusly, you can set up spiffs using our Manual Awards feature and set as many levels of approval as necessary. 

6. Spot Bonus

What qualifies for a spot bonus will be up to the discretion of a manager or department head. Bonusly admins can use Manual Awards to set up spot bonus programs with different budgets for every team and department. 

7. Call Blitz Champ

Build camaraderie and a little friendly competition by hosting a call blitz to follow up with new leads your marketing team just brought in! You can offer one award to the person who makes the most calls, but we like to offer several so there's plenty to go around: one to the person who makes the first call, one to the person who gets hung up on first, and one to the person who makes the most calls. Manual and Claimable Awards would both work for this use case.

8. Completing Security Trainings

Getting everyone to complete security trainings is like herding cats. By offering an award for completing a training, you and your IT team won't have to spend so much time tracking people down and convincing them to take part. Make this one a claimable award so employees can enjoy instant satisfaction once the training is over!

9. Gone Phishing

Speaking of security, award employees for reporting suspicious emails to your security team! We do this at Bonusly and it reminds everyone who to report fishy emails to!

10. SEO Champ

Some of our best-performing blog posts (including our culture-building activities for remote teams article) were written by Bonusly employees outside the marketing team. To encourage this kind of cross-departmental collaboration, you can set up a claimable award that's essentially a standing offer of points to anyone who writes for your blog.

11. Closing Deals

Do you publicly celebrate your account executives when they close deals? This kind of praise helps everyone stay in the know about new customers and get a sense for how your organization is bringing money in. It gives you a standard way to celebrate new hires when they close their first deals and more tenured employees who've been putting in the work on more complicated deals.

employee award

You can use Bonusly's Manual or Claimable Awards, with or without approvals, to uniformly recognize salespeople when they close deals. Depending on the volume of deals coming through your pipeline and your sales managers' interest in customizing these awards, these incentives can be more personal or more programmatized.

12. Launching new customers

There's no such thing as a thankless job! Publicly celebrate your customer success managers when they finish launching new customers! Doing this on a regular basis will foster a better company-wide understanding of the work people in customer-facing roles are doing. 

As above, Manual or Claimable Awards would both work in this instance.

13. Customer Feedback Champion

Did someone on your team earn a shout-out in a Yelp review? Maybe a customer wrote about their positive experience with an account rep in a win-loss survey? Share the love by awarding your team for earning those positive mentions. We'd recommend Manual Awards in this instance, just to eliminate any awkwardness people might feel about hyping themselves up.

14. Weekend Warrior and Holiday Hero

When your whole organization works Monday through Friday and you hold down the fort on customer support over the weekends, a little acknowledgement can go a long way. We celebrate our customer success associates with Weekend Warrior and Holiday Hero awards. Depending on your team dynamics, use  Manual or Claimable Awards for this recognition.

15. Business Unit and Team Awards

Melissa Frescholtz, the Learning & Employee Experience Program Manager at Ellucian, helps business units and teams create their own awards programs within the Bonusly platform. "Team leads contact HR to 'purchase' additional points to fund the award to distribute," Melissa explains. "I created a Loom video to share how they can give and customize these awards."

(By the way, if you're not using Loom yet, what are you waiting for?! Their free desktop video recording app is indispensable for dispersed teams working asynchronously.)

16. Safety Streak

Give everyone an award when you reach a safety milestone, i.e., beating your previous record number of days without a safety incident. Manual Awards would work best for this kind of incentive.


17. Referral Bonus

Here at Bonusly, our claimable referral bonus is called the Hiring Hero Award. Our People Ops team publicly recognizes employees for referring qualified candidates to open positions, which boosts internal awareness of our referral program.

18. Sharing is Caring

Whenever employees post, share, tweet, or retweet something about us on social media, they can claim our Sharing is Caring Award for a few Bonusly points. 

19. Providing Content for Employer Branding

Melissa at Ellucian runs an employer branding campaign called Ellucian Life. Employees can claim the #EllucianLife award, which is worth 50 points, whenever they provide content, such as photos, video, or blog posts, for the campaign.

employee award

Company culture

20. Pumpkin Carving Contest

Toast hosts a lighthearted pumpkin carving contest every Halloween. Kate Ciechomski, Program Manager, Recognition & New Hire Success, uses Manual Awards to recognize all the participants. This contest is one of the many initiatives that Toast's employee engagement team has created to facilitate more opportunities for virtual high fives and team bonding. 

21. Pawparazi Award

Much like the #EllucianLife award, the Humane Society of Boulder Valley (HSBV) offers a Pawparazi Award that any employee can claim when they provide photos for HSBV to post on social media.

22. Washing Up

HSBV offers veterinary and training services in addition to running an animal shelter. In order to maintain a clean and safe environment for all of the animals in their care, HSBV's team has to keep their washing machines and dryers running nearly all the time. Whenever an employee starts a new load of laundry, they can claim an award specific to that task. 

As a matter of fact, lots of veterinary clinics use Bonusly to promote teamwork and collaboration! You can read more about the problems they're solving with Bonusly over here.

23. Manage Meeting Fatigue

employee award

Melissa at Ellucian created a short PDF playbook about how to manage meeting fatigue. A corresponding claimable award, aptly called Manage Meeting Fatigue, encourages Ellucian employees to adopt those best practices. When employees claim the award, they have to share one commitment they will take from the guide.

🚧 More employee award ideas coming soon

We're going to keep adding award and incentive ideas to this list, including examples of wellness program incentives, flu shot drives, and LinkedIn Learning campaigns, so watch this space.

In the meantime, there are a few more fun ideas for Claimable Awards you can check out. If you have award ideas you want to share with our community, please add them to the comments below!

--> Pssst...feeling the employee award FOMO? Get a demo of Bonusly to see how you can incorporate employee awards on your teams.

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