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Bonusly has been making some pretty exciting enhancements to our suite of Analytics tools. After all, we know HR teams and people managers need a one stop shop to easily understand, compare, and act on their organization’s people data. We’re excited to announce that Compare Rates analytics is officially available to Bonusly customers. 🎊 

What is Compare Rates Analytics

Compare Rates - full screen (1)

Compare Rates analytics enables HR admins to visualize how different segments of their company are embracing recognition over time. HR teams can focus their time and energy on the departments or office locations that aren't giving or receiving recognition at the same rate as the company average. Inversely, they can glean insights from people leaders whose teams give or receive at higher rates.

How To Use Compare Rates Analytics

Compare Rates allow HR admins and managers to filter recognition data by department, location, teams, and custom business segments unique to their organization. The opportunities to take meaningful data-driven action are endless! Speaking of action, let’s walk through three potential insights users could glean from Compare Rates. 

  • Managers and people leaders can easily compare how often the average employee under their direction gives or receives recognition compared to others as well as the company average. Tracking these rates over time can help managers address team morale and spot engagement issues with clear and reliable data.
  • People-ops teams can compare segments of their company, like locations, teams, or departments, to overall company giving and receiving rates. This will help illuminate any issues with engagement and give users a map of where to focus their improvement efforts.
  • Lastly, teams can match personnel or departmental changes to drops or increases in giving and receiving recognition in specific business segments. This will give admins a clear idea of the impact (positive or negative) of HR decisions on departmental engagement. 

Additional Reading

We kept this blog post short and sweet, because we know you want to start analyzing your company’s data with Compare Rates. If you are interested in learning more about Bonusly’s suite of Analytics, check out this blog post. If you’re ready to start telling the story of your company’s recognition trends, you can download this customizable presentation template to help you share insights with your leadership team in style. Happy analyzing! 

What do stars have to do with employee recognition? ⭐️

In 2022, Bonusly users recognized each other 10,148,894 times. We like to think of each piece of recognition as one star in a galaxy of appreciation; collectively they make up a constellation that tells a story about our lives at work.

In a challenging world, daily recognition serves as a bright spot in modern employees' day-to-day. 2022 was a year of collaboration, giving back, and unexpected joy for Bonusly users. Here's a look back at 2022 through the lens of Bonusly data. 🔭

Recognition heard around the world

Let's get the negative out of the way: employees feel a lack of connection. Harvard Business Review found that 65% of workers report significantly less connection to coworkers and 76% of hybrid employees report they don't feel connected to the company's culture. The upshot: Bonusly customers were able to connect their teams, no matter where or how they worked, through consistent appreciation. Bonusly customers celebrated each other in 130 countries in 2022 with over a third of Bonusly customers using the platform to connect users in multiple countries. 🌎

The connection continued as 66% of Bonusly customers used the platform to connect teams in multiple office locations and 42.04% of all recognition given was interdepartmentally.

Speaking of connection, check out Jellyfish's customer story on using Bonusly to break down regional and departmental silos.


In 2022, Bonusly recognition was linked to core value hashtags 10.9 million times. Values-based recognition helps employees feel a greater sense of purpose at work and understand how their day-to-day contributions add up to a meaningful company culture. Beyond employee satisfaction, a Harvard Business Review study found that companies with a strong sense of purpose enjoyed higher growth rates than those with weaker purposes. So what were Bonusly users' top value hashtags of 2022?

  1. #Teamwork
  2. #Collaboration
  3. #Leadership
  4. #Thankyou
  5. #problemsolving

In addition to frequent use of company values hashtags, Bonusly customers rallied around the causes that mattered most to them through platform-enabled donations. Bonusly users donated $742,515 to charity in 2022, nearly doubling the amount they gave to charity in 2021 ($463,855). Small individual donations added up to big celebrations, as Bonusly users surpassed $2 million dollars in donations through Bonusly's reward catalog at the end of 2022.

Rewards make recognition programs sticky

All of that recognition resulted in meaningful rewards for Bonusly users. This year Bonusly users bought everything from plane rides to their pets with Bonusly points. In 2022, Bonusly users redeemed rewards from 606 brands, but they had some favorites:

  1. Amazon
  2. Points Boost
  3. PayPal
  4. Starbucks
  5. Visa

Among their favorites is the Points Boost, which allows Bonusly users to redeem their earned points to bolster their giveable point allowances. The Points Boost has remained in the top five reward redemptions for the past five years, cheers to more recognition!

Bonusly Cheers Wet - Cheers! 720p

Quality recognition reigns supreme

What ingredients do you need to make quality recognition? Great recognition should be timely, specific, visible, frequent, inclusive, and values-based. Let's break that recipe down:

Timely: Birthday, anniversary, and start date recognition are all great examples of how Bonusly helps our customers automate timely recognition. Bonusly users celebrated 753,492 birthdays, start dates, and work anniversaries using Bonusly's automated recognition.

Frequent: On average 82% Bonusly users gave and/or received recognition each month in 2022! Fun fact: monthly participation was consistently highest for companies with a monthly user allowance range of 101-200 points.

Values-based: You already know all about how Bonusly supports values-based recognition.

Visible: All Bonusly recognition is visible in the Bonusly app, but many customers use communication integrations like Slack to boost visibility even further. In 2022, 6.13% of all recognition was given via Slack and average monthly participation in Bonusly was 6.44% higher for customers with an active Slack integration.

Inclusive: One of the core tenants of Bonusly is the belief that anyone can recognize anyone. That's why 89.95% of all Bonusly recognition given in 2022 was peer-to-peer recognition.

Combine these key ingredients and you'll end up with a quality recognition program. Bonusly admins can sleep easy knowing that out of over ten million recognition posts only 2,882 posts (or 0.028% of the total recognition) were flagged by bots or users as illegitimate.

Let's end on a fun note

What better way to express your appreciation for a coworker than through GIFs and emojis?

3,013,474 of recognition posts were given with GIFs in 2022. In terms of Bonusly users' favorite GIFs the show The Office reigned supreme with this GIF  landing on top for the second year in a row, with over 21,000 uses. This GIF was number two, with around 14,000 uses. Lastly, this GIF was number three, with 10,400 uses.

That's a lot of high-fives!

In terms of emojis, users favored 👍♥️ 😍 🎂 💚 🎈 🙂 😁 😊 🎉.  It's with these good vibes that we'll conclude this blog post, but before you go...

What's next?

We hope you're inspired to think about each employee, office location, or department as a star in a constellation of appreciation. You can start forming your own recognition solar system at your organization by learning more about Bonusly today.

Meet our fun and intuitive recognition program

Originally published on February 21, 2023 → Last updated February 21, 2023

What makes recognition from a colleague even more special? When you pair that recognition with meaningful rewards!

In today's globalized working environment, it is becoming more common for companies to have employees working internationally. Because of this, it is important for us to work with our partners and vendors to constantly expand Bonusly's Rewards Catalog, so we can bring more reward options to international users. In these efforts, we can continue to provide a space for people to make meaningful connections through recognition, while getting rewarded for it, no matter where they are located.  

We listened to our customers' needs for more rewards options, so we partnered with multiple vendors to expand our international rewards offering. We've added multiple brands to our international gift cards, powered by both Tango and Tremendous. This exciting expansion improves the rewards experience for Bonusly users to have more options, regardless of location.

But wait, there's more! Another new addition to the Bonusly Rewards Catalog is the international Visa gift card powered by Tremendous, which allows users to redeem this popular prepaid option globally at more than 175 countries. And even more good news, the new international Visa gift card has no conversion or user fees.

We are continously adding to this list as we strive to offer meaningful rewards for everyone, everywhere. We have recently launched more than 100 brands in 50+ countries within the last month, highlighting some of them below. We encourage you to check out the full catalog of Bonusly Rewards to view the expansive list of international rewards to choose from. 


  • Dan Murphy's
  • IKEA Australia
  • Target


  • Apple AT
  • Cyperport
  • Cyperport
  • H&M Austria
  • Jollydays


  • 3 Food
  • Cafe CAF
  • Artisan
  • Crocodile


  • Lifestyle
  • Lulu Hypermarket


  • C&C
  • Carrefour
  • Decathalon

Czech Republic

  • Adidas
  • Amazon
  • H&M C


  • Anghami Plus
  • Shahid VIP Subscriptions
  • Lifestyle 


  • Adidas
  • Baskin Robbins 
  • Coasta 
  • GrabFood
  • Starbucks 

New Zealand

  • David Jones
  • Farmers
  • Just Jeans

South Korea

  • Cultureland
  • Nexon


  • Adidas
  • H&M
  • Jula
  • Lindex
  • Dressman
  • Footlocker


  • Apple
  • Coop

Don't see your favorite brands or country? 

This list is just some of the many brands we added this month. Please check out the full catalog of Bonusly Rewards and simply click on a specific country to view all of the brands available.

Check out this customer story on Jellyfish, an enterprise company in the UK, that utilizes Bonusly's rewards options to keep their distributed teams connected and engaged.


2022 was a year of constant change. Between inflation, rising interest rates, a historically tight labor market, and the Great Resignation, there were few industries and companies unaffected. Combine all of these challenges, and it’s no surprise that many HR teams weren’t equipped to handle them, nor were employees equipped to face them.

These consistent, unexpected changes led to issues like high levels of turnover, low employee morale, and decreased engagement in the workplace—problems that persist in 2023. As economic conditions continue to be unpredictable, success in 2023 demands adaptability.

How can HR teams, managers, and leaders inspire employees to be stronger and more flexible in times of ongoing change? Building more resilient teams is the answer. 

Resilient teams and companies are better equipped to handle whatever is thrown at them—from uncertainty, transitions, and pivots, to other unknowns that may unfold this year. 

We will take you through everything you need to know about the business case for resilient and engaged teams that are ready for the future, including what resiliency is, and why it matters especially amid uncertainty.  


For an in-depth look at how you can build stronger, more resilient teams during unpredictable times:


What is resiliency and why does it matter?

Resiliency is a person's ability to bounce back from, withstand, and work through difficult events or circumstances. In other words, it’s the capacity to endure challenges and come back stronger from them—instead of falling apart. 

Resiliency isn’t about ensuring that employees and teams don’t fail—they are guaranteed to at some point, and some amount of failure is actually required for successful innovation. Rather, it’s about building teams that can bounce back from those challenges and failures with forward momentum.


resilient team


The relationship between resilience and engagement

Resilient teams are also more likely to be engaged at work, meaning they’re deeply committed to their work and willing to give their all because they find work meaningful and satisfying. Resilience has positive effects on well-being, job performance, and work engagement.

Engagement tends to be proactive, measuring how much employees are willing to go above and beyond at work. Resilience, on the other hand, is reactive, describing how employees react to challenges when they arise unexpectedly.

And unfortunately, either quality remains fairly rare in the workplace. Research from MIT Sloan Review found that worldwide, only 14% of workers were fully engaged and 15% were highly resilient in 2021. That’s one employee engagement trend we hope to see change in 2023.

Of course, while resilience and engagement are strongly related, they still remain somewhat independent of each other—a person can be engaged and not resilient. However, employees can’t be resilient without being engaged, because having a sense of meaning and purpose in their work gives them a way to survive, and even thrive, through tough times.

So if you can build teams that approach their work with both engagement and resilience, you’ll have a company that can thrive during great times and challenging ones alike.


thrive during challenge


The business case for building resilience at work

The first step is understanding why resilience is so important in the workplace.

Resilience is increased when people and teams feel a sense of purpose, safety, trust, and belonging at work.

Trust is especially critical—it’s hard to have confidence that you and the organization you work for can bounce back when you don’t have trust in your manager or leadership.

A report from the ADP Research Industry found that employees who completely trust their team leader are 14 times more likely to be fully engaged. 

And those who completely trust their colleagues, team leader, and senior leaders are an astonishing 42 times more likely to be highly resilient.

Teams that can trust their leaders to act with integrity, accountability, and honesty don’t need to spend time worrying about workplace dysfunction or looking over their shoulders for the next problem. They can simply do the work they find meaning in, and know that their leaders and colleagues will look out for them no matter what comes next. 


How can HR teams, managers, and leaders inspire employees to be stronger and more flexible in times of ongoing change?


Why engaged, resilient teams matter

Why do you need engaged, resilient teams? They’re always important, but are especially critical during a crisis, whether it’s a global pandemic, the burst of the dot-com bubble, or a worldwide financial crisis. 


3 keys advantages of resilient companies


In fact, during a crisis, resilient companies have three key advantages over non-resilient organizations:

1. A reduced initial impact as a result of a crisis.

2. A higher recovery speed.

3. A greater degree of recovery.

When it comes to employee engagement, having disengaged employees is costly, not just to your organization’s morale but also in hard numbers. Gallup estimates that employees who aren’t engaged or are actively disengaged cost the globe a staggering $7.8 trillion in lost productivity. This is largely because employees who aren’t engaged are a turnover risk, and the costs of turnover are also quite high—from .5 to 2 times the annual salary of a single employee. Additionally, disengaged employees are less likely to be productive or motivated to do their best work.

On the other hand, resilient and engaged employees are a powerful engine of business growth and a significant competitive advantage. They’re too valuable to ignore, especially since we live in times of ongoing challenges and swift shifts in the workplace and economy. If your teams aren’t adapted to take on challenges as they come, you’re likely to fall behind your competitors the next time a crisis arises. 

And Gallup's study of over 112,000 organizations confirms employee engagement as a competitive advantage. Researchers discovered that companies scoring in the top 25% for employee engagement experienced these benefits compared to the bottom 25%:

  • 10% higher customer loyalty and engagement
  • 23% greater profitability
  • 18% more sales
  • 14% higher employee productivity
  • 18% less turnover for companies with historically high turnover (those with average annual turnover rates above 40%)
  • 43% less turnover for companies with historically low turnover (those with average annual turnover rates at or below 40%)

While preparing for potential specific crises, such as an upcoming recession or economic slowdown, is helpful, the truth is that many crises can’t be forecasted or planned for in advance. For example, in 2019 even the most prepared organization likely did not have a global pandemic plan in place that would have enabled them to cope with that specific scenario. 

Instead, building resiliency ensures that your organization is prepared for anything, both what you may expect and what you can’t foresee. It’s an all-purpose tool for strengthening your people, teams, and organization as a whole.


Key takeaways: 

  • Resilience is the ability to adapt to, and bounce back from, challenges. It is not a way to avoid failure altogether.

  • Resilience begins with trust. How much do your employees currently trust their colleagues, team leader, and senior leaders? Knowing where you stand now will help you build a plan to improve in the future.

  • Resilient organizations suffer less and bounce back faster in a crisis, even ones they may not have anticipated.  

Learn more

Bonusly is the leader in employee engagement through our top-rated employee recognition platform.

The Bonusly platform:

  1. Makes recognition visible helping employees stay connected during uncertain times.
  2. Strengthens relationships between peers, supervisors, and direct reports.
  3. Builds strong communities that can bounce back from unexpected obstacles. 

For further reading on how employees can build resilience on an individual level and specific ways that leaders can help build resilience within their teams, check out our complete guide. 👇

Have you marked your calendar yet? Employee Appreciation Day is observed every year on the first Friday in March. It's a day when companies across the world take time to express appreciation for their employees.


For a sidesplitting way to celebrate: 😂


Some buy lunch for employees, while others throw parties or give out awards. A few might even give their team the day off! So how do you know the time, effort, and other resources you're putting into recognizing employees are well spent?

Good intentions, limited impact

Employee Appreciation Day dates back to 1995. Bob Nelson, a founding board member of Recognition Professional International, created the holiday with his publishing company Workman Publishing.

Over the past 20 years, many other companies have embraced the unofficial holiday. However, a problem presents itself when an organization limits employee appreciation to that one day.

An annual employee recognition celebration may feel like the right thing to do, especially as Employee Appreciation Day draws near, but to truly appreciate your employees, you'll need to go further.

Nelson himself explained the problematic nature of this approach in an interview with Business Insider:


I'm a big advocate of using recognition on a daily basis...By no means is Employee Appreciation Day meant to be this one day to thank people or this one day to bring in doughnuts...But I did want to have one day where we could call attention to the topic and have conversations about its importance.


Celebrating your employees only once per year:

  • Rewards everyone collectively, regardless of their individual contributions.
  • Occurs too infrequently to be much of a motivational tool.
  • Can come across as insincere, especially if there's minimal appreciation for the rest of the year.

So what's the solution?

Make every day Employee Appreciation Day


Show genuine appreciation to your employees throughout the year. You don't need to throw a party every day; it's about building a culture of appreciation across the entire organization.


Show genuine appreciation to your employees throughout the year. You don't need to throw a party every day; it's about building a culture of appreciation across the entire organization.


Easier said than done? Not really.

To help get the ball rolling, we built a list of easy ways to recognize employees on a regular basis, along with quotes from organizations with recognition-rich cultures:

1. Celebrate diverse wins, results, and contributions

Have you ever noticed the same superstars getting all of the recognition? Are rewards are tied to sales or years of service? As deserving as your top producers and senior employees may be, your other employees are contributing to the company's success, too.

While one employee may have landed a big new account, another may have reduced the company's exposure to risk, and yet another may have recently completed an intense training program. Look for and celebrate "wins" of all kinds both publicly and privately.


2. Encourage peer recognition


Encouraging peer recognition is an effective way to ensure that your employees feel recognized and appreciated for their contributions. Instead of an annual, top-down approach, peer recognition programs like Bonusly empower employees to recognize and reward one another on a much more frequent basis.

Crowdsourcing employee recognition makes celebrating the myriad achievements and contributions of all the members of your team much easier, more organic, more genuine, and much more realistic to accomplish.

Although peer recognition is one of the most effective methods to ensure employees know they're appreciated, there are many other complementary initiatives you can implement that dovetail nicely with it.


3. Host Lunch and Learns

Lunch and learn

Each of your employees has a list of unique talents. Some of those talents may still be hidden. Take the initiative, pick up lunch for the team, and organize a half-hour event to learn from each other.

Perhaps someone from the team is a bicycle enthusiast in their spare time and would be willing to teach a quick seminar on basic spring bike tune-ups.

The talent pool isn't limited to members of your team. There are other experts you can bring in to share their expertise. For example, if you don't have a bike expert on staff, check in with a few local bike shops and see if any of their techs are willing to give a half-hour lesson. They'll get a great opportunity for exposure, and your team gets some expert instruction.

What would your team like to learn about or share? Use your creativity, and solicit feedback from the team on what they'd like to hear about.


4. Offer professional development

Professional Development

Providing professional development opportunities and encouraging employees to grow within your organization is one of the most powerful ways you can show your appreciation.


Providing professional development opportunities and encouraging employees to grow within your organization is one of the most powerful ways you can show your appreciation.


The first step toward this could be something simple, like providing a monthly allowance for education and development. Modern educational tools like Lynda and Udemy make this simple and cost-effective. Think about setting up a stipend for relevant conferences or training.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that investing in your team's education is simply grooming them for their next position at another company. By supporting their professional development, you're showing the team how much you value their current skills, and the things they bring to the table. Your investment also shows your interest in seeing them grow with you over the long term.

Peter Baeklund has a great quote on the topic:


A CFO asks a CEO: What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?
The CEO responds: What happens if we don’t and they stay?


5. Provide functional equipment


It's hard to say you appreciate your team if they're using outdated, barely functional equipment.

You don't have to spring for the most expensive tools, but it's important to ask your employees if there's anything you can provide that would make their job easier. It could be a more ergonomic tool, a new web service, or anything, really.

No, you don't need a Porsche when a golf cart will do the job, but the important thing is to keep an open line of communication about the needs of your team.


6. Prioritize personal outreach

Personal outreach takes just a few minutes of your time and is an incredibly powerful way to help employees feel appreciated. There are a lot of great tools and techniques out there to help make this happen on a mass scale, but it's important to remember to personally thank your teammates for the work they do.


7. Provide open communication channels

Andrew Schrader, HR Manager at Chobani, shared one way that he and his team communicate appreciation:


Our employees wanted frequent recognition, and the program empowers them to recognize each other. Having the ability to recognize someone immediately is the most valuable part of Bonusly. Whether you have 20 employees or 2,000, it doesn’t matter. People just want to be told they’re doing a good job.
-Andrew Schrader


SnackNation's Emil Shour shared two great examples of what he and the SnackNation team do to make sure the team feels like every day is Employee Appreciation Day: Crush-It Calls and Shout-outs.


8. Crush-It Calls



We know that a lack of appreciation is the #1 reason why Americans quit their jobs, so creating a culture where recognition and praise are abundant has been ingrained into SnackNation from Day 1. On a weekly basis, we host what we call the Crush-It Call. Each Friday afternoon, the entire team huddles together and we go around the room answering 2 things: a coworker you want to 'crush' (i.e., praise) for something awesome they did in the past week, and something you're grateful for.

I love the Crush-It Call because everyone on the team a chance to see all the cool things happening in each department. As SnackNation has grown, each department has become a little more compartmentalized and we often miss all the valuable things our coworkers are accomplishing.

We actually filmed one of our recent Crush-It Calls. If you want to see what it looks like so you can replicate it at your company, check it out here.
-Emil Shour, SnackNation




9. Shout-Outs


As for a daily practice, we encourage people to give shout-outs to the team when it's deserved. You'll often see emails like this going out to the whole team:

SnackNation Shout-outs

Plus, having unlimited healthy snacks to fuel our team is something that makes us all feel very appreciated on a daily basis!
-Emil Shour, SnackNation





10. Team events

At Bonusly, in the spirit of our mission to help people connect with their work and each other in meaningful ways, each month we do a fun, company-wide team event together.

Past events have included a virtual escape room challenge, boba tea and popcorn chicken making (or tofu depending on preference and dietary needs!), Hispanic Heritage Month trivia, and—maybe our most popular—a virtual safari where a zookeeper fed giraffes live.

image (1)

Teams look forward to these events as a way to connect with one another, have fun, and break from the normal routines at work. What better way to do that than a live giraffe feeding?! 


Make it a day your team won't forget!


11. Treat your team to lunch

Weekly meal reimbursements and Grubhub, Doordash, or UberEats credits are becoming commonplace work perks and it's easy to see why! Employees love this simple gesture of appreciation. What's not to love when you can order your favorite meal and have it delivered to your doorstep? 

12. Pleasant surprises

If you're like most of us, you have a life outside of work. And that means that you also have important life milestones worth acknowledging! Help your employees celebrate with thoughtful and meaningful gestures. Consider sending flowers, a signed card, and a bottle of champagne to help an employee celebrate their recent marriage. Did someone on your team recently buy a new home? Send a simple housewarming gift in the mail with your team's congratulations.

Other milestones or events to acknowledge: welcoming a newborn baby (company-branded onesies anyone?!), the loss of a loved one, and following through on a personal goal like running a marathon or mastering a new skill. 

Jennifer Riggins of Management 3.0 shared two simple ways you can keep the appreciation flowing all throughout the year, and make yours stand out: specificity and visibility.



13. Specificity


We are all running a mile a minute at work, so we lose track of communication, and then when we do take time to talk, we focus on the negative. Yes, we need to talk about ways we can improve, but we also need to be appreciative more. And to do it in a specific way, not just a 'Thanks for everything' type of message, but compliment your coworkers and recognize them for doing something special.
-Jennifer Riggins, Management 3.0


14. Visibility


A lot of companies make saying 'thank you' a visible practice. Virgin calls them Rippas, some call them hugs, at Management 3.0, we call them Kudos. You can put up a bulletin board to publicly post your employee recognition or you can take the time to celebrate these little thank you notes once a week or once a month. And it doesn't have to be just for those in the office. You can show anyone a remote thanks on Twitter with
-Jennifer Riggins, Management 3.0


15. Wellness


You don't need to install nap pods or provide free yoga lessons (though you could), but it's important to let your team know your organization values their health, both on and off the job. That dedication to employee health is valuable both on an individual and group basis.

In a recent interview with us, Button's Stephen Milbank explained why employee health is so important, and how something as simple as your attendance policy can have a surprisingly large impact:


We have a pretty open policy where you can take those days off and not put other people at risk. By doing stuff like that, you allow people to be more responsible. They are going to act on the side of caution, which is ultimately better for the organization.
-Stephen Milbank, Button


Wellness isn't just about physical health either. Make sure the team isn't saddled with assignments keeping them from occasionally unplugging from work. That recuperative time is crucial to their performance, their stress levels, and ultimately their retention. In the same interview, Milbank shared some more great advice on this topic as well:


If you're creating an environment where someone is never able to go home and relax—where they work all sorts of crazy hours—the other people in their lives are going to be unhappy.
-Stephen Milbank, Button


Looking out for the health of your team isn't just valuable as an expression of employee appreciation, it has clear bottom-line benefits.


Putting it all together

This final tip is crucial: putting all the right strategies together into a sustainable practice that fits your company culture.

When I Work's Rob Wormley shared how he and the When I Work team expertly combine several of these techniques into one cohesive strategy:


At When I Work, we celebrate and show appreciation to our employees in a number of ways:

First, we give them the tools and resources they need to be successful in their roles. We’ve found that this ultimately has a positive impact on employee happiness and retention.

Second, we give employees the opportunity to continue learning by sending them to conferences and buying books that they want to read.

Third, we plan fun monthly and quarterly company and team outings in an effort to thank our employees for their hard work. Finally, we stock our kitchen with free food and drinks to keep employees energized and happy throughout the day.
-Rob Wormley, When I Work


Did this year's Employee Appreciation Day catch you off guard? Use these tips to make every day Employee Appreciation Day, and you'll never have to worry about the first Friday in March sneaking up on you again.

Bonusly is in the business of year-round appreciation, and we invite you to take a tour or request a demo of our recognition and rewards platform.

For a fun way to celebrate at work: 👇

There are all kinds of employee and corporate rewards out there. Since Bonusly is the top-rated employee recognition and rewards program, we're pretty familiar with the best employee appreciation ideas out there. To help you, we’ve gathered the very best and most creative employee reward ideas and put them all into one big list. 😎

This list has been so popular that we've updated and expanded it multiple times—and we’re happy to say that this time around, we’ve rehauled the entire list! Plus, by popular request, look for 🚫💰 peppered throughout for free or low-cost ideas! 

Creativity, not cost, is the real secret to building an assortment of employee rewards and incentives that everyone will be excited to earn. Bonus points: rewarding your employees is important when building your organizational culture and growing your benefits and perks offerings.

Looking to build stronger, more engaged, and motivated teams in 2023?

-> Download the Free Guide: 3 Steps to Building Engaged, Resilient Teams

Before we get started—if you're looking for a better way to reward employees on your team or in your company—we can help! To learn more, you can take a tour of our platform, request a demo, or try it out for free today! 

Ready, set, rewards! 

Here's a shortcut to our favorite categories. ⬇️

Gifts Professional Development ExperiencesServices



1. Branded clothing/swag 

The first idea on our list is to utilize what you likely already have in your arsenal—your company’s own branded swag! There are always t-shirts or water bottles floating around the office, and most people love the opportunity to rep their company. Most people also love free things. 🤑

Take this moment to think about your swag designs. Are they cool? Is it just your company logo slapped on a plain t-shirt? Listen—your company logo might be really snazzy, but crowdsourcing swag design is a great way to get employees involved and show off your team’s creativity.

Maybe you landed on an elephant riding a rocket ship wearing your company logo? Great! Consider working with a company like Caroo to create and send out your new favorite designs in curated swag boxes to employees. You can take this quick 60-second quiz to get personalized results.


2. Spotify Premium or Apple Music subscription

Nearly everybody has a preferred work playlist. So you’re grooving along, in the zone, and then—screech—a horribly jarring ad comes on and ruins your focus.

You hate it, I hate it, everybody hates it. So eliminate those moments altogether by rewarding your employees with a premium account to their music streaming service of choice.

3. Plants 🚫💰

According to US News & World Report, British and Dutch researchers have “found that having office plants created a better work environment.”

Why? Here’s what the research suggests: “One possible explanation is that greenery increases engagement by making people more physically, cognitively, and emotionally involved in their jobs.”

If your employees would consider it a gift and not a source of stress, give them a plant to care for at the office. We recommend low-light, easy-care plants like succulents and cacti! 🌿🌱🌵🌼

4. Book of the Month

Have a few bookworms on your team? Book of the Month is an easy, subscription-based gift that provides readers with their pick from five buzz-worthy new novels each month. Plus, if there are multiple big readers at your company, you basically get a built-in book club!

5. Charitable giving

Many of your employees are likely making charitable donations already. You can help them to amplify the impact they're making by making a donation on their behalf, or matching a donation, as a meaningful reward.

For more, see how Bonusly users donate within the employee recognition platform. 

6. Gift cards

Gift cards are one of the most impactful types of employee rewards (especially when you automate them with Bonusly!). There's no doubt a huge variety of gift cards from your team's favorite retailers that you can offer. There's a special feeling you get when you buy a pair of new shoes, a spa day, or a cup of coffee on the weekend—with the knowledge that your company just foot the bill. 😉

7. “____” club

It’s the gift that keeps on giving. 😉

Getting a package in the mail every month with goodies is always delightful, and now you don’t even have to go through the trouble of packaging it up for someone and heading to the post office. There are so many monthly subscription services out there with every theme under the sun. Here are a few of our favorites:

💅 Beauty: Birchbox
🍦 Ice cream: Jeni's Ice Cream, Salt & Straw
🍺🍷 Beer and wine: Beer of the Month Club, Winc
🍭 International snacks and candy: Universal Yums, Bokksu 

8. Coffee memberships

Nearly everybody has a morning routine, whether they’re coffee, tea, or juice drinkers!

This reward is inspired by a local café in Boulder, CO, home of Bonusly HQ! It may take some research, but check around and see if any cafés around you offer memberships or subscriptions—this typically means customers can pay a set price, often discounted, for a month or more of unlimited beverages. Fronting that cost brightens mornings and supports local businesses!

Depending on your location, there might be an app for it, too! ☕️🍵

9. Designated “fun” budget

It’s easy to feel more engaged with something when you have direct control over it. It’s a lot like having a piggy bank—except when it’s full, the team can decide on a fun thing to do together.

10. Website or newsletter feature 🚫💰

Getting a public shout-out never gets old. If you have a company newsletter or blog, writing up a small feature on an indispensable team member is sure to make them feel recognized and appreciated.

11. Rented or professionally styled outfits for special occasions

Every once in a while, employees typically encounter a Big Deal event—this can be presentations to clients, speaking engagements, or charity galas! Show the organization cares and is rooting for them by footing the bill for a snazzy outfit from Rent the Runway or Generation Tux. It’ll make the recipient look and feel good. 💅

If you’re an organization that requires a specific dress, like business-professional attire in a law office or steel-toed boots for construction firms, expensing those additional costs can go a long way for your employee in terms of budget—but also for their feelings of inclusion and belonging.

12. Send a care package

Personally, going to the post office is a huge chore for me. So when I do, you can bet that the person I’m sending mail to is someone I really value!

At its core, receiving personally-addressed things in the mail feels so good from the time and care someone displays in going through the process of posting mail. It’s a similar feeling to receiving letters! Except a care package can contain snacks. 😎

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13. Stickers, mugs, and magnets oh my! 🚫💰

Surprise your employees with stickers, mugs, or magnets printed with their faces or their dogs’ faces! Great for decorating laptops, drinking coffee, or playing on the kitchen fridge, these personalized items are like custom Slack emojis for the physical world. Check out Sticker Mule for excellent die-cut and kiss-cut stickers for this kind of project.

14. Cookies 🚫💰

Listen. Everybody likes cookies, and not just on employee appreciation day. Supermarket cookies are acceptable, but bonus points for finding a cool recipe and making them yourself.

15. Art

Research by Exeter University’s School of Psychology found that employees who have control over the design and layout of their workspace are not only happier and healthier—they’re also up to 32% more productive.
Karen Higginbottom

Invite your employees to select new artwork for your office space. Give them a budget and designate a wall space, then see what they propose! If your office doesn’t necessarily have the wall space for new artwork, a print for their home is also a thoughtful gift that will remind them of your company’s appreciation for them.

16. Supportive shoes or insoles

You know how they say you should buy a good mattress because you spend a third of your life sleeping? We’d like to say the same about good shoes—but for the third of your life where you're working! 👟

Supportive shoes and insoles are especially important for professions that require a lot of time on someone’s feet—like the healthcare, retail, and hospitality industries. If you’re in one of these fields, keeping your team members comfortable should be part of your business expenses.

17. Custom emoji 🚫💰

If you’re big Slack communicators at your company, a custom emoji dedicated to someone’s likeness is a quirky and unexpected reward. It’s also an excellent way to welcome new employees to the team!



18. Personal recognition note from CEO 🚫💰

Knowing that someone at the very top of your job hierarchy appreciates the work you do can be thrilling. Take the time to make sure your leaders know about the great work your team members are doing and ask them to write letters of appreciation to individuals who are crushing it.

Employee recognition is a crucial component of engaged, adaptable teams. Start building stronger teams today!

-> Download the Free Guide: 3 Steps to Building Engaged, Resilient Teams



Professional development

19. Office resource library 🚫💰

An investment in your employees’ professional development is an invaluable reward. Offer to cover the cost of a book they’ve been wanting and add it to your office’s resource library. Personalized bookplates to recognize each person and their reason for adding a book could be a nice touch, but you don’t have to go overboard. Supporting your employees and owning your role in their development as they build their personal skill sets is a generous and symbolic gesture.

20. Classes and courses

There are a plethora of courses out there for every subject under the sun, both in-person and virtual, and it’s an easy way to get someone refreshed and inspired about their daily tasks.

If you can’t necessarily fund attendance for a whole course, designate some time once a week to watch webinars or conference videos. It’s a no-cost opportunity to learn something new.

21. Seminars

Similar to classes, seminars are typically less of a time commitment, but are just as packed with information. They’re also a great opportunity to network!

22. Memberships

Sponsoring an employee’s admission fees into a professional organization has a long-lasting impact. It communicates that an organization cares about an employee’s career development beyond their tenure at a particular company, and provides a plethora of opportunities for networking and learning.

23. Conferences

Similar to courses and seminars, conferences are excellent opportunities to learn about the current state of your industry and network with potential customers.

24. Books 🚫💰

As an employer, you can provide the materials an employee needs to improve their mastery of a subject. Find out what kinds of books and other educational resources might be valuable to your team—and don’t forget about leadership, communications management, and interpersonal help books!

Audiobooks and eBooks are also great options since they're delivered digitally, which makes fulfilling them a breeze. 

25. Hackathons 🚫💰

Designate a day or week for a hackathon! We recommend pizza, too. 🍕🤖

Hackathons don’t have to be centered around developers—at Bonusly, it’s a week where the team is encouraged to “hack” anything, whether it’s an outdated process, an old piece of content, or a better organization system for your resources. The projects that take place during this time are typically those that employees really want to work on, but are often pushed aside.

Plus, hackathons are a really great opportunity to explore different areas of the industry, try out new things, and flex your skills in a new way.

[B]reaking out of the day-to-day routine can reinvigorate and inspire staff, but hackathons also demonstrate to employees that innovation is not only welcomed, but also expected.
–Elizabeth Spaulding and Greg Caimi, Harvard Business Review


26. Share a meal  

Networking and mentorship can be a little awkward at first, so break the ice with an excellent meal. Delicious food and great conversation? Sign us up.

27. Upgraded or premium office products

Do your team members long for better Adobe stock photo options? Or the pro version of your project management tool? Consider upgrading your current software and products to make your team members’ daily tasks more efficient and their work higher quality.

28. Sponsored content on LinkedIn or Forbes

For many people, it’s super meaningful to have a byline on a well-written article. If they have some insights that are useful to the industry, broaden their reach by promoting their article on LinkedIn or submitting it to Forbes.

29. Session with a financial advisor

Unfortunately, long-term financial planning isn’t exactly freely offered. If a 401k match is already offered as part of your total rewards package, consider having a financial advisor on deck to help your employees throughout the year. It makes a tremendous personal impact and dispenses valuable knowledge for any individual’s future.

30. Skill-sharing 🚫💰

There’s no use in siloing information in a company! Take the time to encourage skill-sharing through lunch-and-learns or simply dedicated professional development time. From HTML basics to social media best practices, these topics can be useful across the team.



31. Subsidized recreation

Depending on where your workplace is located, you may see some preferences in the weekend activities among your team members. For Bonusly HQ in Boulder, you’ll find us at a U.S. National Park in the summertime and on the ski slopes during winter!

There are often some expenses that can add up, and a great way to encourage your employees to stay active is by subsidizing any recreational costs they may come across—like offering the gift of a U.S. Park Pass. From entrance fees to memberships, there are many ways a company can show support for their employees’ out-of-office activities. 

Head here to read more about employee gifting experiences.

32. Dogs at the office (or on Zoom!) 🚫💰

Having a dog-friendly office has a ton of benefits for humans (although doggos probably love it, as well). A recent study showed that employees at dog-friendly offices are less stressed, more collaborative, and more likely to give higher ratings of trustworthiness to their team members. 

Of course, it’s not possible for every office to be dog-friendly. A great way to feel those same benefits is by partnering with your local humane society or rescue organization to schedule a puppy pitstop by the office. Aside from playing with adorable dogs, team members get to take a break, spend time together (dogs in the office are also shown to be an excellent icebreaker), and make some great memories.

If you're working remotely, encourage teammates to let their pooch say hi to the camera. 

33. Work from elsewhere 🚫💰

Support local businesses and treat your employees to a working day outside the office. If your team likes rock climbing, for instance, you can get day passes to a rock climbing gym that offers wifi and lounge areas. You can host active team-building activities and productive creative sessions all under the same roof. (We like Movement here in Boulder, CO; Brooklyn Boulders has locations in New York, Chicago, and Boston).

34. Fly in remote team members

If you have more than one office, offering employees opportunities to spend time working in a different office is a great way to break the monotony of the daily routine, while still getting great work done. It's also a nice way for employees who may never have met face-to-face to forge valuable friendships.

35. Subscription to Headspace

Don’t just give people breaks—give your team members a sign that you care about their mental and emotional well-being. A gift of a Headspace subscription can provide valuable guided meditation sessions that’ll leave employees feeling refreshed.

36. Wine-tasting or brewery tour

For those that drink alcohol, a guided wine-tasting or brewery tour is educational and fun. Plus, you get to support a local business! 🍷🍺

37. Local restaurant experience

Good food? Always appreciated. After accomplishing a big milestone, treat your employees to a private dinner at a local restaurant.

38. Cooking class

Learning something new with your team members! Whether you’re heading to a professional kitchen to learn how to make sushi or enlisting a skilled coworker to teach the office how to make their famous crepes, it’s bound to be a fun and yummy time. 😋

There are companies that also offer virtual cooking classes and will send ingredients right to the doorstep of participants!  

39. Pottery class

Ceramics is a unique, hands-on, totally messy experience that’s bound to be a hit with your team. Plus, you get a kiln-fired pot, mug, bowl, or… artistic lump… to commemorate the occasion. 😎🔥

40. Tickets to a concert, movie, sports game, or festival

Tickets to a basketball game, local food festival, or Ariana Grande concert are easy crowd-pleasers and always lots of fun!

41. Yoga classes

Yoga can help improve the fitness of both body and mind. Offering yoga classes to employees can be a great reward since it can help them feel focused at the start of the day or unwind after a hard day’s work.

42. Remote Year

Remote Year brings together groups of inspiring professionals to travel, live, and work in different cities around the world for a year or four months. For some of your employees, your support for their application and acceptance to RemoteYear could be the ultimate reward.

43. Volunteer day at employee’s non-profit of choice 🚫💰

Support a non-profit organization and an employee’s personal passion! Volunteering is a great team bonding activity, and it’s even more meaningful when it’s for a cause near and dear to a team member’s heart.

44. Express experience 🚫💰

There are a lot of ways to feel special, and one of my favorites is by getting to skip to the front of the line. Whether that’s the privilege of jumping to the front of the line at the company cafeteria or skipping the printer queue, this is a small but mighty reward for your hard work. 

45. Design swag

Get your employees involved in designing your new company swag, whether it’s a wall calendar featuring the dogs of your office or a t-shirt featuring a company mascot. Handing the creative reins to your employees can inspire new collaborative dynamics, give them a sense of ownership, and imbue the final product with more meaning! 🎨

46. Airbnb experiences

Airbnb offers tons of excellent local experiences! If you have a team member who's really excited about an upcoming trip, picking something from Airbnb's extensive catalog is a great way to make your employee's trip even better.

Plus—take a look at your own hometown's Airbnb experiences! You'll no doubt unearth fun new opportunities to bond with your team members, without having to go anywhere!

47. Museum membership

Museums are rich institutions of culture and education, and a trip to one makes for a great weekend afternoon. Corporate museum memberships are great rewards since team members can also take their family and friends!

48. Music lessons

Enriching your employees’ personal life and hobbies can only lead to better work in the office. Has a teammate always wanted to learn the piano, ukulele, or trumpet? Sign them up with the local music school and encourage them to show off their new skills with a mini talent showcase. 🎶

49. Gym membership

Staying physically healthy is a big contributor to feeling mentally and emotionally healthy. Reward your employees with a membership to a gym or, if they like variety, a program like ClassPass. Consider memberships to yoga and indoor cycling studios, too!

50. Personal training vouchers

It's in an employer's best interest to help their employees achieve their goals, whether that means operating at the top of their professional field or getting in tip-top shape. If members of your team show interest in this type of reward, it's a great way to help them achieve their personal goals.

51. Book a spa appointment

It’s very rare that we get to slow down and be pampered. After a hard project, it’s especially important for an employee to hit reset, and an indulgent day at the spa is an excellent way to do just that.

52. Sponsor an individual or team in a race

It’s especially meaningful when a company recognizes an employee’s personal passions and hobbies. If that passion is running, why not sponsor their admission fee in a race? Or a whole team, if they’re interested!

From 5Ks up to marathons, these races often contribute to important causes and charities as well, making it a double-hitter of a meaningful gift.

53. Catered lunch/food truck lunch

Go a step further than ordering lunch! Ordering from a food truck is always a fun experience, and it’s a way to treat employees to food that would be a great change in pace from their standard repertoire of soup and sandwiches.

This is also a great time to take a break and enjoy a picnic lunch together—an excellent team-bonding opportunity!

54. Time off 🚫💰

Time is a priceless resource, and it's one thing you can never get back. Why not offer some extra PTO to your team as a reward for great work? Even for people who love their jobs, a little extra free time is always welcome.

There are many time-based ways to reward your employees for their hard work, from flexible scheduling to summer hours. Even consider sleep-in days and early releases!

How can HR teams, managers, and leaders inspire employees to be stronger and more flexible in times of ongoing change?

-> Download the Free Guide: 3 Steps to Building Engaged, Resilient Teams




55. House cleaning

You don't always need to give employees time away from the office to give them the gift of time. Personally, my living space is always a disaster when I have a big project going on at work, and it stresses me out even more! 🙈

By rewarding hard-working employees with a one-time or ongoing house cleaning service, you’re eliminating a big chore and time-suck from their lives.

56. Laundry service

If you're located in a city where laundromats are a way of life, this is just another example of an easy way to give time back to your team.

57. Project takeover 🚫💰

Delegating a task you’re dreading to someone else is such a relief. Reward a hard-working employee with the ability to push off a task to someone else on the team—or let them have dibs on an “easy” project next time around.

58. Subsidized commute

Depending on your location, getting to and from work can be a challenge, and in some cases, expensive. If it's not already mandatory in your city to offer transit assistance to employees, subsidizing their commute costs is a great way to eliminate the daily stressor of getting to and from work.

59. Rideshare reimbursement or credits

If your employees are working late or are hopping around town meeting clients, knowing that they can expense a Lyft definitely puts the mind at ease. Even if you’re in a small city or the suburbs, ordering fancy town cars for your employees can be a special treat for holiday parties.

60. Car maintenance

There’s nothing more stressful than sudden car repair expenses! If you have employees who spend a lot of time on the road, like those in field marketing, regional sales, or consulting, making sure that their cars are in tip-top shape is a very appreciated reward. Consider offering car washes, oil changes, and tire changes on a regular basis.

61. Bike share

At Bonusly, our NYC-based employees can select a yearlong CitiBike bike-share membership available as a reward. This is a great perk because it enhances both health and transit! If you're not based in a city with a bike-share program, there are likely some similar services to take advantage of.

62. Bike maintenance

Make a one-time investment in a bike pump, Allen wrench set, and screwdrivers to keep on hand for employees who commute by bike. You’ll be supporting their environmentally-friendly transportation choices and helping them stay safe on the road!

Alternatively, you can cover the cost of an annual tune-up, which usually includes brake pad replacements and truing the wheels of the bike. 🚲

63. Catered meals or meal delivery

Eliminate the chore of figuring out lunch for the day by providing a catered lunch or ordering delivery. It’s a nice change of pace for an employee’s day-to-day, and eating lunch together is a fun and underrated team-building activity.

64. Dog walking service or doggie daycare

Unfortunately, not all offices can be dog-friendly! But subsidizing or providing dog-walking services like Wag or making a deal with a local doggie daycare can go a long way in providing peace of mind for your team members. It also shows that your company really cares about their employees' personal lives and families, including their furry ones! 🐶

65. Dibs 🚫💰

Do we ever grow out of the simple joy of calling dibs? Reward employees by allowing them to call dibs on coveted things, whether it’s the most comfortable desk chair, their favorite mug, their schedule of choice, on not cleaning up a spill… you can call dibs on anything, really.


+1 Bonus idea!

Bonusly is the ultimate customizable gift that rewards employees all year long. The Bonusly platform inspires frequent, meaningful recognition that translates to real rewards. Our solution helps teams and companies build recognition-first cultures which result in more connected, collaborative, energized, and high-performing teams. Learn more at, sign up for a free trial, or request a demo today

Want more resources on building better teams in 2023? This free guide will take you through everything you need to know about creating more resilient, engaged teams today. 👇


At Bonusly, you’ll never find us without a good staff appreciation idea. After all, recognition-rich cultures have been proven to improve engagement, reduce turnover, and even increase productivity.

Employee appreciation is crucial to building more resilient, engaged teams. Learn more:

-> Download the Free Guide: 3 Steps to Building Engaged, Resilient Teams

We've assembled a list of employee appreciation ideas so you can get started on your own team. And if you have any questions about appreciation, let one of our appreciation experts help you out!

Plus, it's important to keep in mind the four key “languages of appreciation"—we focus on Words of AffirmationActs of ServiceQuality Time, and Gifts. 

Each one of the ideas below👇is marked with the language of appreciation it corresponds to. Ask around, or use a simple survey, for your teams’ language of appreciation, and let’s get started! ✨

1. Food truck lunch

Acts of Service, Quality Time


Go a step further than ordering lunch! Ordering from a food truck is always a fun experience, and it’s a way to treat employees to food that would be a great change in pace from their standard repertoire of soup and sandwiches.

This is also a great time to take a break and enjoy a picnic lunch together—an excellent team bonding opportunity!

2. Puppy playdate 

Quality Time

When the Humane Society of Boulder Valley visited Bonusly HQ with puppies, it was basically the best day of our lives. 🐶

Having a dog-friendly office has a ton of benefits for humans (although doggos probably love it, as well). A 2017 study showed that employees at dog-friendly offices are less stressed, more collaborative, and more likely to give higher ratings of trustworthiness to their team members.

Of course, it’s not possible for every office to be dog-friendly. A great way to feel those same benefits is by partnering with your local humane society or rescue organization to schedule a puppy pitstop by the office. Aside from playing with adorable dogs, team members get to take a break, spend time together (dogs in the office are also shown to be an excellent ice breaker), and make some great memories.

3. Meaningful gifts 



Putting together a company-sponsored happy hour is always nice. However, it can be really easy for employees to feel like this is an insincere effort to curb negativity and disengagement in the office.

That’s why it’s so important to give employees “voice and choice”—some teams would love a weekly team lunch, while others would prefer other perks, like gas reimbursement or a wellness program. Gather opinions and survey your employees before pulling out the company card!

4. Summer Fridays

Acts of Service

When it’s July and beautiful outside, your employees will enjoy the opportunity to enjoy it! From entire Fridays off to just a couple of hours every week, this is a perk that your team members will definitely appreciate.

One reason to offer summer hours is that it gives your employees more time to recover from work-related stress. By leaving work [early] on Friday, employees see that you value their mental health and work/life balance. You'll be able to prevent burnout and boost productivity.
–Sasha Butkovich, Justworks




5. Spa-ffice day

Acts of Service


Give employees a break from the day by taking some time for tranquility. Offer professional 15-minute neck, hand, or foot massages, or even just let team members zen out with a guided meditation session. Sometimes, a quick reset is all people need to return to work energized. 💪

6. Reward your early arrivers 

Acts of Service, Gifts

There are always a few early birds in the office. They open the shades, get the coffee pot going, and probably a million other things you wouldn’t notice if you’re prone to sleeping in. Show them that you do see them by heading in early with a breakfast spread and caffeine at the ready.

If you have a few night owls, popping in with dinner wouldn’t hurt, either.

7. Work from elsewhere

Acts of Service


A change in scenery is always nice and could be all someone needs to feel like their preferences are listened to. Whether that’s a work-from-home day a few times a week for your introverted team members, sending your strategists off to a cushy co-working space the week before a big presentation, or giving the green light for a “workcation,” this act of appreciation shows that you care more about them working at their best, instead of just their output.

Need some inspiration for how to implement these policies? Check out the Bonusly Un-Handbook for how we approach taking time off.

8. Secret recognition Santa

Words of Affirmation, Gifts

It’s typical that employees receive recognition from their managers, but do they also have opportunities to receive recognition from their peers? By randomizing recognition givers and receivers, you’re giving team members who don’t typically get to recognize each other the chance to do so.

All it takes is sticking everyone’s names in a hat and spending some time together to write nice notes to each other. Even if two employees don’t know each other that well, this exercise can be a nice ice breaker for future collaboration!

9. Pass the trophy

Words of Affirmation


Company lore can develop around the most unexpected of things—just ask us why we have a duck decoy in our main conference room! 😝💚

These “trophies”—whether they’re physical objects or the honor of pinning a specific emoji next to your name in Slack—can be used to symbolize certain accomplishments and successes. When someone accomplishes something big, don’t just say “good job!” Instead, a ceremonial passing of the trophy along with a few words of recognition signifies to the entire organization that an employee has done something great.

10. Write a LinkedIn recommendation

Words of Affirmation


When my previous manager wrote me a LinkedIn recommendation, I almost cried. It’s personal, meaningful, and an endorsement of someone’s hard work. It’s an underrated gesture that communicates your appreciation of a team member, but also that you care about their future success—even if it’s not at your company. Plus, it's free. 😜

LinkedIn recommendations are the gold star of public recognition because it’s truly public. 🌍

11. Volunteer as a team

Acts of Service, Quality Time

It may be counter-intuitive, but putting your team members to work with a non-profit organization is actually something a lot of people enjoy. Studies show that “70% of working Americans believe “volunteer activities are more likely to boost employee morale than company-sponsored happy hours.”

In addition to being an affordable staff appreciation activity, volunteering as a team allows employees to give back to their communities and build purpose—two factors that contribute to employee retention.

12. Shoutouts 

Words of Affirmation

End a meeting on a high note by giving shout-outs to your awesome colleagues, or have a public recognition feed as part of your employee appreciation program that showcases everyone's achievements. 

Employee recognition is so important for employee engagement, and shoutouts a great way to make your employees feel appreciated. 

13. Upgrade an office essential

Acts of Service, Gifts


Take a look around: Is there anything causing an inconvenience to your team members? Taking the time to notice someone’s uncomfortable desk chair, outdated software, or preference for an espresso instead of drip coffee goes a long way in making someone feel appreciated and set up for success, and that they, too, are an essential part of the office.

14. Close the office early

Acts of Service

If your team has been working long hours to hit a deadline recently, there’s nothing sweeter than an “Office closes at 2:00 pm today!” email. The surprise of being shooed from the office with enough time in the day for themselves is definitely something they’ll remember.

15. DJ for the day

Acts of Service


If you have a Sonos (Bonusly customer!), Google Home, or Alexa sound system at your office, it’s easy to hand over the reins to someone who’s been especially killin’ it lately. Make it a game!

This is a fun way to bestow a costless perk and presents some team-bonding opportunities—AKA dance parties. Work-appropriate dance moves only, of course. 😉💃🕺

16. Incentivize feedback


Does nobody answer your engagement surveys or feedback forms? The sad reality is that your team members have probably faced backlash from being candid at previous companies. Providing feedback can be a scary experience, especially when there’s a power difference in place. When done correctly, one-on-one meetings can be a great place to regularly solicit positive and constructive feedback. 

To start building the foundations for a radically candid culture you need to publicly show that feedback is welcome and appreciated. A small way to begin this process is by adding a small incentive, like a $5 gift card, for providing thoughtful feedback or asking relevant questions.

If you’re using Bonusly, setting up a Claimable Award is an easy way to encourage employees to complete those tasks—whether it’s filling out a quarterly engagement survey, submitting a question to be answered at the next all-hands meeting, or even dropping a note in the suggestion box.

17. Celebrate life milestones

Words of Affirmation


Surprise! Your employees have lives outside of the workplace. Applaud their personal accomplishments as a way to communicate that you care about your team as humans, not just as workers.

This is something you can mention at your weekly status meeting—like, Josh is running a marathon this weekend! Sarah got engaged! Marcus just received his French C2 certification! A quick moment to cheer each other on is great for morale and is also an easy icebreaker.

18. “Up-to-you” hours

Acts of Service

Everyone has those projects they’d rather be working on but seems to fall by the wayside in favor of more high-priority projects. Demonstrate your trust for your employees by dedicating some time each week as “up-to-you” hours, where teams can work on whatever they want. Chances are, the projects they’ve been meaning to work on will be a benefit to your company’s bottom line, whether that means streamlining an outdated process or building something totally new. 

19. Celebrate holidays

Acts of Service, Gifts, Words of Affirmation

inclusion_on dark

Don’t let fun holidays slip by without a whisper. Breaking up the monotony of the day-to-day can go a long way toward improving morale, and it’s as simple as putting up some decorations and preparing some treats for your team.

This is especially important for holidays that don’t typically warrant a day off—think St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Halloween! These are all super-fun, low-pressure holidays that can turn into a day to look forward to with a little effort and planning. Think outside the box—instead of chocolates and grocery-store cards (although those are awesome too!), consider bringing a griddle into the office to whip up some crêpes to enjoy. 😍

20. Website or newsletter features

Words of Affirmation

Don’t just include the executive team on your company’s website. As often as you can, pick an outstanding employee to highlight on your website or newsletter, and be sure to write a detailed and meaningful blurb on why that employee deserves the featured spot.

21. Team retreat


Quality Time

Give your team a break from the office and send them out on a fun retreat. Depending on your budget, this can mean a good team-bonding hike or a multi-day adventure. Take the time to talk about your team’s big-picture goals, address issues, and plan for the future.

22. Donate to employees’ causes


If your employee is particularly passionate about a cause, it can be extremely meaningful to donate to a charity in their name. If they’re actively fundraising, that’s an even better opportunity to throw your support behind them.

P.S. Bonusly’s platform makes it easy for employees to donate to causes they care about! Click here to learn more.

23. Random acts of fun

Quality Time, Acts of Service


Don’t underestimate the value of having fun in the workplace. If the entire office is excited about the new summer blockbuster, why not take a field trip at the end of the day to the nearest movie theater? This is team building at its best—when it’s organic and meaningful to the individuals in those teams.

Can you think of other ideas your team would enjoy? Even small, spontaneous activities like a mid-day stretch break or sundae-building session can boost morale and wake everyone up during a sleepy afternoon.

Success in business requires engaged, adaptable, and resilient teams. Learn everything you need to know about building stronger, more motivated teams:

-> Download the Free Guide: 3 Steps to Building Engaged, Resilient Teams

24. VIP parking spot

Acts of Service

Pretty self-explanatory. Make an employee feel like a rockstar for a week by letting them park in the best spot. While a small privilege, it’s a huge convenience. Sometimes, even the little things can feel like big luxuries.

25. Special treats



Desserts—cupcakes, donuts, candy—are a common token of appreciation, but take it a step further by keeping track of your employees’ special favorites. Why bring in cupcakes when a team member prefers donuts? Instead of a box of chocolates, how about a bag of sour gummies?

When you’re getting to know new employees during the onboarding process, slip in some questions about their favorite sweets, and you’ll have insider knowledge on how to delight them all year long.

26. Write a haiku

Words of Affirmation

They’re short and simple

Kindness from a coworker

Works well with humor

27. Share swag


Sweet swag never goes unnoticed. When you gift the right swag, you're encouraging pride in your team and overall good vibes. Extra points for sustainable and seasonal swag!

28. Celebrate birthdays



This might be a silly question—but does your company celebrate employee birthdays? You don’t have to get the party planning committee involved every time there’s a birthday, but you can make your employees feel extra appreciated by going beyond the typical card or email. Have a special treat mailed to their house or allow them to take an extra day off during their birthday month. Consider creating a calendar of employee birthdays so no special day goes unnoticed. 

Bonusly’s employee recognition platform can automate birthday gifts and also allow all employees to wish their fellow peers a happy birthday!


29. Celebrate work anniversaries


It may be no surprise that, according to Gallup, millennials are job-hopping more than any other generation. That makes employee loyalty something to be celebrated. Depending on the number of years of service, you could award employee work anniversaries with anything from a restaurant gift card to plane tickets on company miles to a destination they choose.

Learn more about how Bonusly can automate work anniversary gifts!


30. Lunch with a person of your choice

Quality Time


In our ever-increasing remote and hybrid work environments, it can be a challenge to connect with colleagues and other company leaders. Reimburse your employee and anyone else that they choose in the company (a fellow team member, manager, or even the CEO) for a virtual or in-person lunch date. (Or coffee and a cupcake—why not?!) 

31. Set aside time in a 1:1

Words of Affirmation

At Bonusly, we believe that employee appreciation should occur frequently. There’s no better way to show your consistent, specific appreciation than building in dedicated time for it in your manager-employee one-on-one meetings

32. Professional development

Acts of Service

It can be a real treat for your employees to gain a new skill or learn something new. Provide your employees with a budget specifically for professional development opportunities like conferences or classes.

33. Dedicated recognition software

Words of Affirmation, Gifts


We can’t leave out our forte! A true
employee recognition program makes it easy to build appreciation right into your company culture and existing processes. Our top-rated employee recognition platform makes staff appreciation second nature not only from supervisors to their direct reports but between peers as well. The benefits of employee recognition include increased job satisfaction, retention, and productivity at every level. It also improves visibility into all of the wonderful things your employees do company-wide every day!

To learn more, visit Bonusly.

34. Gamify your work


Does your organization have a big initiative coming up? Are your teams struggling to hit their quarterly KPIs? A bit of healthy competition could do the trick. Create a game where teams score points for hitting deadlines or inching closer to their goals. The winning team gets a reward as a token of appreciation for their hard work.

35. Extra time off

Acts of Service

Burnout has been a hot topic and common challenge over the past couple of years. Your employees are sure to feel valued and appreciated if they are given an extra day off every now and then.

36. Make appreciation visible

Words of Affirmation


A quote by Albert Schweitzer says, “Happiness is the only thing that multiplies when you share it.” We would argue that the same goes for appreciation. When the gratitude you share for a particular staff member is displayed for all to see, it will be noticed by others thereby multiplying the appreciation! Create a new channel in Google Chat or Slack that is dedicated to displaying specific recognition for your staff. If your team goes to the office often, you can even create a physical appreciation board where employees write down appreciation for one another. 

Bonusly makes your appreciation visible company-wide! Learn more

37. Meal reimbursement


Meals are an inevitable and unavoidable expense. They also take valuable time to make every single day. Show appreciation for your team by reducing some of that burden. Consider reimbursing a few meals for your employees. You can do this weekly, monthly, or make it a one-time surprise. This can be especially helpful around big holidays when other expenses stack up quickly.

38. Engaging speaker

Quality Time

It can be difficult to break from the everyday routine—especially for remote workers. Change things up by getting a speaker or facilitator to lead a virtual discussion on an interesting topic that may or may not be work-related. Bonus points for surveying your team to see what topics they would be most interested in!

39. Virtual events

Quality Time

The possibilities for virtual events are endless. Some ideas to get you started include virtual trivia, a murder mystery party, games, a painting class, cooking, Pictionary, a virtual scavenger hunt, and yoga. A couple that Bonusly has hosted and our teams have loved include Hispanic Heritage Month trivia and a hot sauce-making class!

40. Wellness stipend

Acts of Service, Gifts

Employee Morale

The importance of wellness can never be overstated. Show your employees that you care about their health and well-being by reimbursing them for a dollar amount toward anything that is wellness-related.

41. Top chef competition

Quality Time

If you’re looking for a fun way to build camaraderie with your team while showing your appreciation at the same time, you can’t go wrong with a top chef competition—especially for the foodies you work with! Split your group into teams, provide the same 3-5 ingredients to each team, give them a bit of time to strategize, then set a timer for an hour so they can create their culinary masterpieces! Make sure you plan for any food allergies or sensitivities your contestants might have and find a few impartial judges to determine the winner.

42. "Just because" surprise

Acts of Service, Gifts

It was the height of the pandemic and, after a long week of virtual meetings, the Zoom fatigue on my team was almost palpable. On Friday that week, the HR director at my company had a mandatory four-hour virtual team-building event planned at the end of the day. Everyone signed in and tried their best to muster a few ounces of team spirit. When an executive began to read the agenda, eyes already began to glaze over. He said, “Alright everyone, we’ll start by turning our computers off and signing off for the rest of the day. And go ahead and buy yourself lunch on your company card. Have a great weekend!”    

This was really a “just because” gift from leaders to show their appreciation for our team. Instead of gifting a few hours, you could also gift your employees with new company swag, or anything else from our list to surprise your team… “just because.”

43. Treat-yo-self day

Acts of Service, Gifts

Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle do it best when they dedicate an entire day (October 13th to be exact) to, you guessed it: treat themselves. Show your employees your appreciation by providing them with a small budget that they can spend on whatever they want.

44. Personalized gift



An extra thoughtful staff appreciation idea is to gift something with your employee’s name printed or engraved on it—a mug, a watch, a nice company-branded sweater or jacket. Your staff will appreciate your considerate gift!

45. Welcome new employees

Gifts, Words of Affirmation

Today’s job market is unbelievably competitive. With so many other opportunities available, it’s important to show gratitude for your new employees and make them feel welcome right away. An idea to start (and something we do at Bonusly) is to send a welcome kit in the mail with branded company gear, stickers, a notebook, and a handwritten welcome note. It will make a great impression and your new employees will feel like they are part of the team from the start!

The takeaway

The similarity between all of these ideas is that it carefully takes preferences into consideration. If someone perceives appreciation through Words of Affirmation, giving them a new mug just isn’t going to cut it.

So take your time. Be thoughtful. Ask for opinions, because showing meaningful appreciation can only improve your company’s success and overall performance.

For a turnkey solution to employee appreciation, we invite you to take a tour or request a demo of Bonusly—the number one recognition and rewards program. 


Need more ideas on how to improve employee engagement? Check out our latest guide on building more resilient, engaged teams. 👇

The guide covers: 

❓ What resilience is and why it matters in the workplace.

🔑 Key insights on how resilient and engaged teams have the competitive edge during uncertain times.

🔎 The latest research and statistics on employee resilience and engagement.

✅ A step-by-step guide to building resilient teams.


Employee Appreciation Day—it's the best day of the year! 😄 🎉 🎶

It's probably no surprise to you that Bonusly takes Employee Appreciation Day very seriously. Recognizing and celebrating employees' great work—not only on this day but every day of the year—is at the core of our mission, after all!

Employee Appreciation Day falls on the first Friday of March—it'll be on Friday, March 3rd in 2023!

On this day, employers around the world make the extra effort to appreciate their employees’ effort and dedication. Over the past 20 years, an increasing number of companies have embraced this occasion to recognize the achievements and contributions of their employees with special events, gifts, and surprises.

We'll cover why celebrating Employee Appreciation Day is a top goal for HR, and we've rounded up a big list of our favorite ideas. Since Employee Appreciation Day might look a little different if you don't have an in-office setup, we've included adjustments to make each idea remote-friendly!

 Looking for a fun activity to celebrate with your team

-> Download Hilarious Team Activity for Employee Appreciation Day


Why is Employee Appreciation Day important?

Most work weeks are focused on business objectives, decisions from management, or customer issues. Employee Appreciation Day, on the other hand, is a special day that should be truly centered around the teams of employees that make things happen every single day.

Even a little bit of recognition can make a big impact on employee motivation. Research shows that feeling appreciated increases morale, improves engagement, and reduces turnover. In particular, employee recognition has been proven to boost oxytocin levels—that’s the chemical our bodies create when we bond socially!



Research also shows that recognizing employees makes for a better customer experience. For example, a study in the hospitality industry found a strong correlation between employee engagement and guest satisfaction.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson famously said:


Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.


Mic drop. 🎤

15 ways to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day

So how can you make your employees feel especially appreciated on this day? Here are 15 ideas to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day with your team.

1. Volunteer

Volunteer at a local conservation program, homeless shelter, senior living community, or humane society. Give back by planting trees, cooking and serving those in need, bringing joy to seniors, or taking dogs for walks. Research by Deloitte found that 70% of working Americans believe “volunteer activities are more likely to boost employee morale than company-sponsored happy hours.”

Having trouble finding volunteer opportunities and events? Ask your team for ideas or try a service like VolunteerMatch.

Benefits include: Working together with team members, getting to know new colleagues, helping the community, building great memories, and inspiring gratitude.

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly: VolunteerMatch has an excellent virtual volunteering opportunities page to explore. Some other remote-friendly volunteering ideas include:

  • Arranging drop-off locations for a food drive or for donating warm-weather clothing
  • Hosting a virtual fundraiser and raffle off prizes 
  • Volunteering at a food pantry by packing, organizing, or giving out food
  • Delivering groceries or meals to seniors

2. Play games & socialize


Engage in team games like a scavenger hunt, ‘pub’ quiz, or team-based office Olympics. They can be great opportunities for teams to know each other better in a fun setting while introducing healthy competition and encouraging innovative thinking. Chances are you’ll see your coworkers in a whole new light!

Need help getting started? Here are some articles to inspire your next group activity:

Benefits include: Having fun, getting to know colleagues you don’t normally work with, laughing, and feeling closer to the team.

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly: There are tons of ways to play online games with your team. Why not set up a Jackbox Games party? Plus, check out Water Cooler Trivia for excellent, asynchronous trivia competitions.


3. Dedicated employee recognition program

If you're celebrating Employee Appreciation Day to help make your employees feel valued, you're headed in the right direction. As we've mentioned, employee appreciation comes with many benefits. But what if you could make every day Employee Appreciation Day for your team or company? 

With Bonusly, you can! The Bonusly platform empowers companies, from small to enterprise around the world to build values-based, recognition-first cultures all year long. 

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly: Bonusly is perfect for remote teams that might feel disconnected. Because employee recognition is made visible, it can increase collaboration and communication between teams, and help company leaders gain more insight into the work that happens every day! Bonusly is also great for in-office or hybrid work environments. 

To learn more, request a demo today!


4. Gift bags

Create a bag with fun gifts like company-branded clothing, lunch boxes, or water bottles. Include some treats, add gift cards, and share experiences at local restaurants, massage centers, or coffee shops.

Go a step further and ask your staff what kind of gifts they really want. Giving the right kind of swag can increase loyalty and help spark future conversations about your brand.

Benefits include: Feeling appreciated and enjoying gifts with friends and family.

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly: Delivery services have really stepped up their game during the pandemic. Create a custom care box experience with Knack, cult-favorite hometown treats from Goldbelly, or send over the essentials with Doordash


5. Get creative

Research at San Francisco State University shows that having creative outlets outside of work boosts job performance. Introduce your employees to some fun hobbies with a workshop on painting, cooking, flower arrangement, crocheting, or origami.

To make sure that everyone participates in an activity that they’ll enjoy, propose multiple options and let everyone sign up for their preferred activity beforehand.

Benefits include: Focusing on something fun, right-brained thinking, experiencing a new hobby, and getting to take a masterpiece home with you.

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly: Just like delivery services, all sorts of businesses have adapted to the socially-distant environment and are offering classes and experiences online. Browse through hundreds of options on The Vendry, Marco, and Airbnb Experiences! Since Bonusly started working from home, we've attended a virtual cooking class (empanadas!), followed along with an expert mixologist, and will soon embark on a Harlem Renaissance-themed tour for Black History Month!


Appreciate your team with laughter!

-> Download Hilarious Team Activity for Employee Appreciation Day


6. Provide a lunch experience


Provide a catered lunch for your employees and offer activities afterward, like listening to a lunchtime concert, joining a local walking tour, attending a library talk, or going for a bike ride. Eating right, exercising, and concerts all have proven work-related benefits. Poll your team and refer to your local newspaper for venues and events that could be a good fit for your outing.

Benefits include: Discovering new and exciting things to do in your town, enjoying new experiences with team members, and sharing interests.

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly: Make an effort to connect by ordering lunch from a local favorite. While we can't be together in person, enjoying the same food is almost as good. 💚


7. Throw a team happy hour

Happy hours provide a relaxed atmosphere that can encourage positive staff interactions. They allow team members to reduce stress and can contribute to positive company culture. Note that hosting any after-hours activity may exclude some individuals, so consider stopping the workday a little early before other commitments pull people away.

If you choose to host a happy hour, make sure to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of serving alcohol to your team and be sensitive to any folks who don’t drink, providing alternatives.

Benefits include casual socializing and learning something new about each other.

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly: Virtual mixology classes or wine tastings are a fun, fresh way to enjoy happy hours—especially if you feel like the energy around your virtual happy hours is lagging!


8. Take a field trip


Organize a field trip to a local museum, botanical garden, or park. Sign up for a factory, brewery, or winery tour. Use Employee Appreciation Day as an opportunity to better know your community and learn about your neighbors. It might even spark some new ideas!

Benefits include: Creating a memorable day, having fun, enjoying local attractions, and learning something new.

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly: This one is tricky. 😅 

If you have a smaller team that's based in the same geographic location, it may be possible to meet up in a park or do some kind of outdoor activity. Consider having a picnic, or taking a stroll along the lakefront. 


9. Bring in treats

Who doesn't love a dessert spread? 😋

Desserts—cupcakes, donuts, candy—are a common token of appreciation, but take it a step further by keeping track of your employees’ special favorites. Why bring in cupcakes when a team member prefers donuts? Instead of a box of chocolates, how about some vegan cookies

When you’re getting to know new employees during the onboarding process, slip in some questions about their favorite sweets, and you’ll have insider knowledge on how to delight on Employee Appreciation Day.

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly: Delivery services are your friend! Many sweets shops are offering delivery across the United States, like Jeni's Ice Creams and Milk Bar.


10. Spruce up their workspace

You know what they say about March—it comes in like a lion. 🦁🌧

I don't know about you, but March is definitely when I start to get antsy about the dreary weather—especially when you're stuck inside, working remotely. Employee Appreciation Day is a perfect opportunity to help your employees with a spring refresh of their workspace. Pick up some new greenery for the office, or bring in new art for a fresh mindset. 

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly:  Explore options like The Sill or Bloomscape for delivery of indoor potted plants. Also, consider implementing an office equipment stipend to make sure your employees have what they need to be productive and successful!


11. Film a short video

A few months after Bonusly started working remotely due to COVID-19, we kicked off a quick video project. Participating employees shot a selfie video thanking our leadership team for their care and flexibility as we transitioned to remote work, which was stitched together into a full appreciation video! We surprised them by playing it at our all-hands meeting, and it was a hit! Yes, there were happy tears. 😄📹

This is an easy but meaningful way to show your appreciation, whether it’s on a company-wide or individual level. If you’re on a Mac, Apple iMovie will work in a pinch, but there’s also tons of free video editing software out there!


12. Send a postcard or letter

Postcards, letters, and other forms of snail mail are a special joy to receive during the pandemic. Write a letter of appreciation for your employees, and it's something they can pin up in their workspace!


13. Start a mentorship program

According to our State of Employee Engagement Workplace Report, employee engagement is inconsistent. One way to combat this is mentorship. Case in point: another recent engagement report found that 89% of Highly Engaged employees are satisfied with their professional development opportunities, compared to only 36% of Actively Disengaged employees.

Employee Appreciation Day is a great day to announce a new mentorship program. You should be thinking about how you can help your employees learn and grow, but there are many ways you can do this besides paying for expensive conferences and course tuition. Establishing an official mentoring program empowers employees to build relationships, shadow others in desirable roles, and find opportunities for growth.


14. Establish dedicated time off 

Time is a priceless resource, and it's one thing you can never get back. Why not offer some extra PTO to your team as part of Employee Appreciation Day? Even for people who love their jobs, a little extra free time is always welcome.

There are many time-based ways to reward your employees for their hard work, from flexible scheduling to sleep-in days and early releases!

⚡️ Make it remote-friendly: At Bonusly, we’ve been dedicating one Friday a month as “Rest from Home Days”—a way for our leadership team to acknowledge how many employees are working longer and harder throughout the pandemic.

With the shift to more remote work, the lines between work and personal life have been heavily blurred. It’s important to make sure your employees have the time to actually rest and recharge. There's no better way to show your appreciation for your employees' hard work. 


15. Write a LinkedIn recommendation

Writing a LinkedIn recommendation is the perfect way to commemorate Employee Appreciation Day! It’s personal, meaningful, and an endorsement of someone’s hard work. It’s an underrated gesture that communicates your appreciation of a team member, but also that you care about their future success—even if it’s not at your company. Plus, it's free. 😜

LinkedIn recommendations are the gold star of public recognition because it’s truly public. 🌍


Impact of employee recognition

How exactly are employees and companies positively impacted by recognition? Employees experience several positive feelings through appreciation that translate into measurable business benefits:

Job satisfaction

Feeling appreciated and recognized at work helps employees enjoy their work more while also increasing productivity. According to a SHRM study, 48% of employees reported that management's recognition of their job performance was very important to their job satisfaction.


Sense of purpose

The feeling that your work is important and that your contribution is valuable is a great motivator, one that increases employee engagement. According to a study by Alight Solutions, employees who feel rewarded are seven times more likely to be engaged with work than employees who don’t.

-> Download Hilarious Team Activity for Employee Appreciation Day



When an employee feels like their company cares about them, stress levels decrease, confidence builds, and costly turnover decreases. An impressive 55% of workers said that if they feel their employer cares about their well-being, they would want to stay at that company for 10 years or more.



Appreciating employees builds trust. In his book Trust Factor, Harvard Researcher Paul J. Zak states that compared with employees at low-trust companies, those at high-trust companies report 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, and 40% less burnout.


Employee Appreciation Day can be an epiphany moment for many employees, one that you can use to show they're cared for and appreciated.


Make every day Employee Appreciation Day

While it’s a great idea to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day, it’s important to understand that organizations shouldn’t limit employee appreciation to just one day. Every day should be Employee Appreciation Day.

If you haven’t already, start thinking about implementing an employee recognition program. These programs can be a great way to help your team foster a happy, fulfilled, and motivated culture through recognition. Using an employee recognition platform like Bonusly makes it easy to appreciate your team—and experience the benefits that come along with that—all year long.

Want more ideas to appreciate your employees throughout the year? Take a tour of Bonusly or talk with one of our rewards experts.

Kickstart meaningful recognition with this hilarious team activity to appreciate your employees! 👇

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:

Recognition coupled with meaningful rewards can have a powerful impact on company culture, employee engagement, and satisfaction. Bonusly has over 1,200 rewards in hundreds of countries for our customers to choose from. That said, we know each of our customers has a unique culture to support and one way to do that is through Custom Rewards. Custom Rewards are a great way to personalize your company's reward catalog and can be added by Bonusly admins to offer incentives unique to your company culture. In contrast to standard rewards, which are fulfilled electronically by Bonusly, Custom Rewards are fulfilled by you, offline. 

If you’re looking for a place to get started, we have 15 Custom Reward ideas to help your culture shine. ☀️ Before we get into the ideas, let’s talk about best practices for Custom Rewards. 

Best practices

What does a good Custom Reward look like?

  • Affordable 
  • Desirable and exciting 
  • Aligned with your culture

How many points should Custom Rewards cost employees?

As a best practice, the price of your least expensive Custom Rewards should be less than the employee's monthly allowance. So if your employees receive 100 points per month to give out, price your least expensive tier of Custom Rewards at 100 points or less. You can also offer aspirational rewards that are more expensive, but you want to make sure that employees feel like rewards are attainable in a reasonable amount of time.

Another approach to Custom Rewards is to incentivize employees to purchase certain rewards, like wellness or professional development rewards, by subsidizing their price. 

How much will Custom Rewards cost the company? 

The option to have Custom Rewards is included with your Bonusly subscription. The only expense you’ll have to consider is the reward itself. Since it’s customizable, you can get as creative as you’d like with what rewards you want to offer.

Adding Custom Rewards will take some administrator time to setup, but management and maintenance is minimal. More than two thirds of Bonusly admins report that they spend less than two hours per month maintaining Bonusly. 

Every company is different, so we encourage you to put your own spin on Custom Rewards, the key is to ensure that they fit within your company culture and support your company values. Without further ado, let’s get into some Custom Reward ideas that have proven effective for some of our customers. 

Creative Custom Employee Reward Ideas

1. Lunch with CEO

The CEO can often feel unapproachable for many employees, especially newer or lower level employees. If your CEO is willing to host a once-per-month or once-per-quarter open lunch for employees who purchase this reward, it can be a great way for employees to build trust with the leadership team and ask the CEO questions about the organization. 

2. Local experiences

There’s likely plenty to celebrate about your company’s home-city. Do you have an award-winning zoo, a happening coffee scene, or a performing arts center that rivals Broadway? If you have a local employee base, you can offer these experiences as Custom Rewards. Bonus points for the employees who coordinate with a coworker and partake in local activities together! 👯‍♀️

3. Game tickets

Is your organization ready to root, root, root for the home team? You can offer game seats as Custom Rewards in Bonusly. 

4. Extra day of vacation  

Let’s be honest, maybe the most valuable reward is time spent rejuvenating and relaxing. So consider offering your employees an extra break from the stress of work.

5. Custom donations

Though Bonusly has over 50+ donation options built into our platform, we know there are likely unique causes that are meaningful to your team. Whether it’s a local animal shelter, or a fund to help pay for a team member’s personal cause, Custom Rewards can help! 

6. Casual dress day

Though we can totally appreciate wanting to represent your organization in style, sometimes your employees just want a break from suits and dresses in exchange for jeans and T-shirts. That’s where a casual dress day Custom Reward can come in handy.

7. Work-from-home day

If working from home is a rarity for your organization, you can offer it as a reward. Sometimes a day of working next to a furry friend is the ultimate motivator. 

8. Local coffee shop gift card

You know that coffee shop down the block from your office? Why not offer your employees the reward of java. You’ll fuel your employees’ productivity and support local business, too! 

9. Meditation subscription

Prioritize your wellness program by offering opportunities for employees to relax and unwind with a meditation subscription, like Headspace.

10. Local classes 

If your team is always looking for ways to develop new skills in (and out) of the workplace, think about offering rewards like pottery, cooking, and woodworking classes.

11. House cleaning

When work gets busy, the house gets dirty. Offering your employees an opportunity to take a week off from cleaning their home is the ultimate reward. 

12. Stand up desk

A stand up desk or a desk treadmill are great aspirational rewards for those who like to work in motion. 

13. Local gym membership

Staying physically healthy is a big contributor to feeling mentally and emotionally healthy. Reward your employees with a membership to a gym or, if they like variety, a program like ClassPass. Employees who prioritize their physical health outside of work can bring their best selves to work every day! 

14. Reserved parking spot 

A parking spot with our name on it for a month? Sign us up!

15. Desk plant

For the green thumbs on your team, a desk plant is a great reward to keep the inspiration (and extra oxygen) flowing! 

What’s next? 

When it comes to Custom Rewards, the sky is your limit, the only requirement is to have fun! Your recognition program can and should be just as unique as your company. If you’re looking for more reward ideas, download these 65 creative reward ideas

Bonusly has just passed a major milestone that's been years in the making! Employees at more than 3,000 companies around the world have collectively donated $2 million to charity through Bonusly's Reward Catalog. 🥳

Bonusly users regularly donate their Bonusly points to nonprofit organizations like, Habitat for Humanity, WWF, and Unicef through the Bonusly Reward Catalog. In 2022, Bonusly users donated over $742,515 to charity, nearly doubling the amount they gave to charity in 2021 ($463,855). Bonusly users’ favorite charities in 2022 were:

  1. International Rescue Committee (22% of all donations)
  2. Planned Parenthood (13% of all donations)
  3. WWF (6% of all donations)
  4. The Trevor Project (5% of all donations)
  5. Black Girls Code (5% of all donations)

“We know that workplace charitable giving cultivates a sense of purpose that has positive effects on employee morale, productivity, and retention. It also improves recruitment by demonstrating that a company lives its values and gives back to the community,” says Raphael Crawford-Marks, Founder and CEO of Bonusly. “Since Bonusly’s inception, we have partnered with charities all over the world to enable employees to contribute to causes that they believe in.”

You can find the full list of donations on the Bonusly donations page and if you'd like to offer additional donation reward options to your employees, you can use Bonusly's Custom Rewards to facilitate donations to charities of your choice. Your employees will no doubt appreciate your company for making it easy to support the causes that are important to them and the organizations that contribute to the communities where they live and work.

Building connections and camaraderie

“It’s incredible to see how Bonusly helps companies build a sense of camaraderie and community on a foundation of positive recognition,” says Amish Jani, Founder and Partner of FirstMark, a venture capital firm. Jani is an investor in Bonusly and technology companies like InVision, Pendo, Guru, Shopify, and "We use Bonusly at FirstMark and I’ve experienced firsthand how powerful it is to be able to give and receive recognition without friction."

"By responding in realtime to facilitate donations to causes that are on peoples’ minds," says Jani, "Bonusly provides companies and employees an outlet to give back together.

Bonusly the company uses Bonusly the product to give back, too! 

"We want to make sure we’re doing the right thing for our customers," says Vicki Yang, Vice President of People Ops at Bonusly. "Bonusly is committed to delighting customers and seeking and embracing diversity. Offering in-platform donation options is one way we live out these company values."

Bonusly-facilitated donations are one way that employers can live out their values, as well. 

The team at ITHAKA, the nonprofit behind educational and research platforms like JSTOR and ARTSTOR, is committed to delivering equity in access to education and knowledge.

As Nicholas Scarpa, ITHAKA's Director of Human Resources, explains, "our commitment to our organizational values of belonging, teamwork, trust, evidence, and speed is what motivates us to do our best work and show up as our best selves. Our daily use of Bonusly and the option to donate to other organizations in need gives us the opportunity to demonstrate not only our commitment to these values, but also to our DEI priorities and our organization’s mission."


What's good for employees is good for business

Research and real-world experience clearly indicate that empowering employees to take socially responsible action can motivate teams and promote retention. By facilitating opportunities for their employees to bond with each other over the positive impact they’re having on the world, business leaders can combat disengagement, burnout, and low morale.

“People want to work for companies that make an impact and one of the ways that Bonusly helps companies do that is by making it so easy to donate,” says Crawford-Marks.

Bonusly made in-platform donations possible but it’s the Bonusly community that made $2 million in charitable donations a reality. We're inspired by your continued generosity! 💚


Valentine’s Day is usually associated with chocolate and flowers, but it’s also a great time to show appreciation in the workplace! Don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate the strong (platonic) bonds between coworkers. Remember giving your schoolmates cards and those chalky, not-very-tasty candy hearts to celebrate? You’re all grown up now, but it’s still a great day to appreciate your team.

Unfortunately, a shocking 79% of employees don’t feel engaged at work. So why not use Valentine’s Day to recognize your team in a fun and appropriate way? By making your team feel appreciated, you can increase engagement—research shows that engaged employees are more productive and less likely to seek out a new job.

🔥 Recognize your team this holiday!

Why celebrating Valentine’s Day at work is a great opportunity

Not convinced yet? Here are five ways celebrating Valentine’s Day can positively impact your team:

  • Improve camaraderie: Celebrating together and engaging in joint activities (virtual works too!) can boost team morale, spark a feeling of togetherness, and make employees feel more engaged.
  • Promote appreciation: Employees feel rewarded and motivated when someone takes the extra effort to let them know they're appreciated.
  • Increase positivity: Simple team activities, like decorating cookies and playing bingo, can decrease stress levels, encourage creativity, and most importantly, increase positivity in the workplace.
  • Encourage a caring environment: By celebrating Valentine’s Day in an inclusive way, teams can foster a caring environment, where individuals feel psychologically safe.
  • Brighten the mood: This time of year can be particularly challenging for many people, falling shortly after Blue Monday. By organizing some fun Valentine’s Day celebrations, you can lift the mood and spread some cheer.

14 Valentine’s Day celebration ideas for the workplace

It’s easy to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your entire team. Here are 14 inclusive ways to enjoy the holiday at work:

1. Host or order breakfast

Grab some bagels, fruit, and pastries for the office, or order your team their favorite breakfast dishes if you're working remotely. If you choose the office route, decorate a table with a Valentine’s Day tablecloth, flowers, and scattered paper hearts. 


2. Share goody bags

Fill goody bags for every employee with candy, gift cards, and handwritten notes. Add some sustainable company swag while you're at it. Don’t forget the dietary restrictions and preferences of the team!

valentines at work

3. Decorate the office (or home office)

Pinterest is calling. Place pink, red, and white balloon bouquets around the office, or ship them to your employees' homes. Share heart decals for computer monitors and streamers to decorate chairs. Take it a step further by ordering edible flower arrangements!


4. Gift candy mason jars

Leave mason jars filled with candy treats on desks as a nice morning surprise, or send them to your team. It's easy: fill a mason jar with candy and chocolates, cover the top with a Valentine’s Day cupcake wrapper, and add a colorful ribbon. Attach a fun note, and place a sticker on the jar with each person’s name to make it personal.

P.S. You don't need a holiday like Employee Appreciation Day to appreciate your employees! Find our big list of Creative Employee Rewards here!


5. Start late

Invite your team to start work later than normal to focus on themselves, partners, friends, or family. You’ll find your team more refreshed and ready to tackle the day.


6. Host a tea party

Whether it's in-person or virtual, bring heart-shaped cookies, prepare a selection of teas, and break out the cucumber sandwiches! Decorate a table with a red tablecloth and scattered hearts. Schedule the tea party for the early afternoon, when everyone’s energy is getting low. Take into account any dietary restrictions and preferences.


7. Make charitable donations

Create a list of five charities, like the Human Rights Campaign, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and The Humane Society. Place a jar for each charity in the lunchroom along with a short description of the charity. Give each employee a red paper heart with ‘$10’ written on it. Ask everyone to put the paper heart in the jar of their preferred charity to donate $10 from company funds.

Did we mention, Bonusly users have donated over $2,000,000 via our Reward Catalog?!

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8. Play Valentine’s bingo with prizes

Give bingo game sheets and chips to employees who want to participate, and play some office bingo! Prizes can be anything, from gift cards to local restaurants to lunch with the CEO.


9. Offer meditation or yoga instruction

Invite a meditation or yoga instructor during the lunch break to talk about how to introduce mindfulness into your life, and finish with a session for the team. A little relaxation can go a long way.


10. Test your estimation skills

Fill some large jars with candy or chocolates and have everyone guess how many items there are in the jar. (Yep, you can do this on Zoom too!) The closest guess wins and gets to the jar.


11. Set up an Appreciation Bulletin Board

Set up a bulletin board, spread out markers, bring push pins, and hand out paper hearts with the following request: ‘Share some ways you’ve felt appreciated at work’. Leave the board up for the next week to encourage peer recognition. You can also create a virtual board!

Make this Valentine’s Day one that your team will remember!


12. Decorate your own cookies

Bake or buy heart-shaped sugar cookies (or alternatives based on dietary restrictions/preferences), and place them in the lunchroom for employees to decorate throughout the day. Provide sprinkles, different colors of icing tubes, and candy for decorating. Offer cellophane bags and colorful ribbons for those who want to take their cookies home or gift them. Alternatively, bake together with your team using cookie-baking kits!


13. Recognize great work publicly

Consider using an employee recognition and rewards program like Bonusly to show your peers appreciation publicly and offer your team a huge catalog of rewards. Remind your team that Valentine’s Day is a great day to share their appreciation with colleagues. 💚




14. Provide 15-minute massages

Bring in a professional masseuse or masseur, and offer 15-minute massages. Massages can reduce stress, improve morale, and decrease injuries.

And don’t forget your remote workers! Send them an e-card, mail them a goody bag, and invite them to participate in Valentine’s Day activities using online video conferencing.

Make this Valentine’s Day one that your team will remember and look forward to next year!


When you add Bonusly as your rewards and recognition solution, we want to make sure you get started right away. This means ensuring that Bonusly syncs seamlessly with your HRIS, and we found the right integration just for that!😎  

We are thrilled to share that Bonusly now integrates with Merge, making your HRIS integration easy, so launching Bonusly is a breeze. Merge works in the background connecting and importing user data between Bonusly and your HRIS in one instance. This removes the confusion on user management settings configured leading up to launch.

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This is great news not just for developers, but also for you! Because of Merge's single API, maintenance after launch is painless with continuous syncing. When you make edits to your userbase, such as adding or removing employee information from your HRIS, it will make that change in Bonusly too. Information syncs automatically keeping your data up to date without the manual work of maintaining multiple systems.

What to expect with our Merge integration:

✍️ Simple HRIS setup: Initialize, import, and update data automatically.

🎉 Seamless Bonusly launch:  Sync HRIS and Bonusly with a few clicks.

✅ Easy maintenance: Save Bonusly Admins time with continuous syncing.

List of HRIS our Merge integration supports:

Alexis HR







HR Cloud

HR Partner















Square Payroll




Want to learn more about our Merge integration, check out the details in our Help Center.

Visit our full list of integrations to see other ways to make recognition easy with Bonusly and then check us out!

How many of you had a dedicated African American history unit in February—Black History Month—as part of your high school curriculum?


For those in the United States, it’s fairly common for schools to recognize Black History Month. But as we get older, mandated education and celebration of African American history gets less common. This is a total bummer and a lost opportunity! It also doesn’t help that February is a short month.

But let’s not dwell on the negative. There’s so much positivity that can be celebrated in that short period of time!

As President Gerald Ford said in 1976 when he officially recognized Black History Month, we need to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Including in the workplace. 🤗

Need help getting your leadership team on board?

Why do we celebrate Black History Month?

Black History Month actually started as Negro History Week in 1917. Author, journalist, and historian Carter G. Woodson—now appropriately recognized as the “father of black history”—lobbied vigorously for the national recognition of Black stories and perspectives. Woodson believed deeply that equality was only possible with the acknowledgment and understanding of a race’s history, and dedicated his life to the study of African American historical research.

“Since its inception, Black History Month has never been just a celebration of black America’s achievements and stories—it’s part of a deliberate political strategy to be recognized as equal citizens.”
Dr. Theodore R. Johnson

Woodson also hoped that the time would come when Black History Month would be unnecessary. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go.

So, how does this relate to the workplace? There’s a plethora of research that covers the racism, discrimination, and unfair treatment that Black employees face. This attitude persists despite the efforts of diversity initiatives.


As HR professionals, it’s up to us to set the standard of how to eradicate discrimination and bias—conscious and unconscious—and, in the process, encourage the inclusion of all employees. Recognizing and celebrating employees’ racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds can be effective in building psychological safety and employee engagement. Thus, celebrating Black History Month in the workplace is an excellent way to achieve that goal.

“Let truth destroy the dividing prejudice of nationality and teach universal love without distinction of race, merit or rank.”
–Carter G. Woodson

Celebrating Black History Month in the workplace best practices

Race in the workplace can be a touchy subject, and many organizations try to be “colorblind” in a misguided attempt at establishing equality.

In fact, when companies downplay demographic differences, this actually just increases underrepresented employees’ perception of bias from their white colleagues and reduces engagement in their work. 😬

So, best practice #1: Don’t be colorblind. Your employees should be able to openly discuss, embrace, and be proud of their cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Embrace your differences!

With this in mind, let’s cover some other Black History Month—and any cultural or ethnic celebration—best practices!

Make it a company-wide effort


In the spirit of inclusivity, everyone in your organization should be encouraged to participate with enthusiasm. It shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of Black employees to organize their own recognition, and you’ll find that it’s transformative to have employees of every background participating and learning during Black History Month.

Don’t single anyone out

Along the same lines, you shouldn’t assume that someone wants to be involved in your Black History Month planning simply because of their ethnic background. That places the burden of responsibility on them, and if they’re a visible minority at your workplace, they might feel tokenized about their role at your workplace—especially if this initiative is a new thing at your company. Remember, for best results, you should be recognizing all your employees, all year round.

Discover ways to support Black colleagues in the workplace via our virtual event recording: Foundations of Anti-Black Bias in the Workplace

Consider areas of growth

“But wait!” you say, “What if my workplace doesn’t have Black employees, or isn’t very diverse at all?”

This is definitely a good consideration! It’s important to understand your organization’s areas of growth, and Black History Month is a great opportunity to do that. If you find your company lacking in its diversity, equity, and inclusion practices, why not take the time to examine your current recruiting, interviewing, and onboarding processes?

Chances are, your fellow team members will appreciate and welcome your efforts. In a survey by Glassdoor, 57% of respondents believe their employers could be doing more to increase diversity and inclusion. And if you’re a company that intends to grow, two-thirds (67%) of active and passive job seekers consider a diverse workforce to be an important factor in evaluating companies to work for.


Trust us, and decades of research: a diverse and inclusive workplace is worth the effort.

Okay, now that we have those principles down, let’s dive into some actual ideas!

Black History Month in the workplace ideas

There’s always an opportunity to learn something insightful when you listen to a new perspective. From unconscious bias training to volunteering to an old-fashioned lecture from an expert, there are lots of ways to recognize Black History Month. Here are a few:

Education 🧠

1. Bring in speakers

Prepare to be starstruck! 🤩 Bring in influential authors, historians, or activists to speak to your employees about race relations, civil rights, and other critical topics surrounding Black identity.

Panel discussions allow for multiple speakers to bounce ideas around for a thorough conversation, while presentations can really highlight a speaker’s area of expertise. Whichever style your company goes with, it’s sure to be an engaging and thought-provoking experience.

2. Plan a workshop


While there’s usually still a main speaker or facilitator involved, workshops are unique in that participants are usually encouraged to be hands-on and think critically about what they’re learning. You’ll be working, not just listening!

At Bonusly, we've done Paradigm’s Managing Unconscious Bias Workshop at our annual company retreat. While not directly related to Black History Month, this workshop will shed light on and address the issues many Black employees face in the workplace today.

3. Organize a book club

Reading nonfiction or fiction books by Black authors can be a poignant and meaningful way to recognize Black History Month. Bonus points if you bring in a facilitator to guide and make the most of your discussions. There are so, so many excellent books by Black authors. For starters, The Stacks makes lists of their favorite books and they always recommend a great variety of Black authors.

Here’s a quick list of recent hits from the Bonusly team:


So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidiya Hartman

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, an anthology edited by Jesmyn Ward

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi


Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler


Companies that have the highest rates of diversity and inclusion are the ones that succeed. To get buy-in from key stakeholders:


Service 💡

4. Volunteer

Volunteering with local nonprofits and charities is an excellent way to help the community, bond with your team members, and even inspire engagement and motivation in the workplace!

Lending your support as an organization is uniquely powerful because you can bring a lot of helping hands to a project, but you can also form corporate partnerships and create lasting relationships by establishing internships, apprenticeships, or recruiting programs.

You know your own community better than we do, but Black Girls CODE, National Society of Black Engineers, and My Brother’s Keeper Alliance are good places to start if you’re looking for national Black-led organizations!

5. Donate

Pool your resources together or arrange a fundraiser to support racial justice. Sometimes, the gift of money is the most impactful thing you can give to a charity, especially when it comes to education or legal funds. We recommend checking out The Sentencing Project, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and the NAACP Defense and Educational Fund.

It’s also worth it to look into Historically-Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs). Consider establishing a scholarship fund or even mentorship opportunities!


Inclusion 💚

6. Reflect


As we mentioned, Black History Month is a great time to think about your company’s current diversity and inclusion efforts and make changes as needed. Teams with inclusive cultures outperform their peers by a staggering 80%, but only about 11% of organizations can say that they have truly inclusive environments. There is always room to improve.

Don’t know where to start? We love this quote from our friends at Officevibe:

“Remember that your organization and its people do not exist separately from the world, meaning that you need to pay attention to how world events might affect your employees.”

Be thoughtful: do you create safe spaces to discuss current events affecting your team members’ communities? Or do you stay silent? Every organization and individual team member has different support needs, but showing you care and bringing these employees into the fold can hugely affect their sense of belonging and inclusion.

One of the best ways to foster inclusion is by seeking out and listening to the perspectives and opinions of those you’re trying to include. Reach out to Black leaders in your organization and get their input on how they would like to be recognized during Black History Month and beyond.

7. Collaborate

Take it a step further by establishing a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee at your organization. This act shows that your company is dedicated to making your team environment a better place, and encourages a free-flowing of ideas and feedback between employees and leadership.

8. Recognize


We firmly believe that employee recognition is crucial to building inclusive workplaces.

Culture Amp and Paradigm surveyed over 7,000 individuals from 35 organizations and found that a sense of belonging was the single metric that was consistently and universally tied to workplace commitment, motivation, pride, and recommendation.

Furthermore, the correlation between belonging and engagement was stronger for underrepresented groups.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? One way to ensure more people are recognized is to diversify the parties responsible for giving recognition. And by pairing inclusive rewards with that recognition, you can amplify its effects.

Considering that executive boards and leadership positions tend to be less diverse, the simple act of implementing a 360-degree peer recognition program at your workplace can make a big difference in your inclusion metrics.

Kickstart your DEI initiatives with this resource!

Next steps

February is a short month, so if you want to implement Black History Month activities meaningfully and thoughtfully, start soon! 👏

Has this post sparked inspiration? Tell us in the comments below, or check out these additional resources from Bonusly:

Want even more employee engagement resources? Check this out! 👇

Diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI, have been hot topics in the business community over the past few years. You’ve probably heard these topics discussed in meetings, sought out a company that focuses on incorporating DEI initiatives into its culture or spearheaded a program yourself.

If these are unfamiliar topics, you’re probably wondering what these terms mean in a business context, and why they’re important. Let’s dive in!

Psst. If you love these statistics or want to share them, we've compiled this easy-to-read fact sheet:

-> Download 11 DEI Statistics That Will Change How You Do Business


Diversity refers to who’s at work: who is recruited, hired, and promoted by a company. In other words, diversity is the representation of a range of traits and experiences in a company’s workforce. These characteristics include gender, race, physical ability, religion, age, and socioeconomic status, among others—or, as defined by Gallup, “the full spectrum of human demographic differences.”


While equality suggests that all people should be treated the same, equity asks us to take unique experiences and backgrounds into consideration. Equity requires an understanding of disparities between different groups of people due to marginalization or discrimination. According to UIowa, "Being equitable means acknowledging and addressing structural inequalities—historic and current—that advantage some and disadvantage others. Equal treatment results in equity only if everyone starts with equal access to opportunities."


Inclusion refers to how people feel at work. A company’s workforce may be diverse, but if employees do not feel safe, welcomed, and valued, that company isn’t inclusive and will not perform to its highest potential. Point blank, inclusion is the degree to which employees feel “valued, respected, accepted, and encouraged to fully participate in the organization.”

The Benefits of DEI

The benefits of implementing DEI initiatives in the workplace are wide-ranging and varied—there’s literally no downside! From attracting the most qualified employees and creating a happy workforce with high job satisfaction to fostering innovation and greater financial success, the companies that have the highest rates of diversity and inclusion are the ones that succeed.

So why do some companies balk? Implementing DEI initiatives takes a lot of introspection about a company’s internal practices and oftentimes, personal biases. If your leadership team or key stakeholders need a bit of a nudge, we’ve gathered some of the most compelling statistics around. Know it, show it, champion it—more diversity and inclusion at your company have only benefits.

Employees can't be expected to leave their race and background at the door. Here's why you should embrace diversity, instead. 

Statistics that prove why you should incorporate DEI initiatives

Growing demand from employees for diverse, inclusive workplaces


1. The millennial and Gen Z generations are the most diverse in history: only 56% of the 87 million millennials in the country are white, as compared to 75% of the 76 million members of the baby boomer generation. (CNN Money)



The U.S. population, and therefore the nation’s workforce, is becoming increasingly diverse. In 2020, the percentage of people who identify as white alone dropped to 57.8% from 63.7% in 2010. According to the US Census Bureau, by 2044, groups that are currently minorities will become the majority. 

This change is based on three factors: first, members of the baby boomer generation are reaching retirement age and leaving the workforce. Birthrates are falling among the white population. And younger Americans (under the age of 44) are increasingly members of minority groups—and these younger folks are seeking out workplaces that are focused on and committed to creating workplaces that reflect the country’s demographics and in which they feel welcome and respected.


2. 67% of job seekers consider workplace diversity an important factor when considering employment opportunities, and more than 50% of current employees want their workplace to do more to increase diversity. (Glassdoor)



According to a survey done by Glassdoor, a diverse workplace is one of the main factors potential employees take into account when considering a job.

A diverse workplace proved important to a majority of white workers, but it was of paramount importance to minority job seekers: 72% of women (v. 62% of men), 89% of African Americans, 80% of Asians, and 70% of Latinos ranked workforce diversity as important in their job search.

This means that creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is central to attracting talented employees and setting your company up for success.

Need help getting your leadership team on board? Share the PDF copy of these stats:

-> Download 11 DEI Statistics That Will Change How You Do Business


Impact on the work environment


3. Beyond changing national demographics, why are workers seeking more diverse and inclusive workplaces? Because 45% of American workers experienced discrimination and/or harassment in the past year. (Gallup)

Just over half (55%) of American workers agree that their place of work has D&I policies in place; yes, this is a majority of workers, but it means that nearly half of the workforce is employed by organizations that aren’t creating safe and welcoming environments for all of their employees. This affects employee safety, well-being, and retention, and stunts the economic success of a company.


4. 50% of women report experiencing microaggressions and 14% experienced harassment in the last year. 93% of women think reporting non-inclusive behaviors will negatively impact their careers. (UPL)



The majority of women in the workforce also feel excluded from decision-making, do not feel comfortable expressing their opinions, and do not feel as though they can succeed according to Culture Amp.

Only 40% of women feel satisfied with the decision-making process at their organization (versus 70% of men), which leads to job dissatisfaction and poor employee retention.


5. When it comes to race and seniority level, over 75% of managers are white. The senior manager level is 83% and the executive level is 85% white. (US Census Bureau)

A lack of diversity in the leadership of an organization hampers innovation, prohibits members of minority groups from being recognized for their contributions, and fails to meet client expectations.


Tangible benefits

6. Companies with executive levels comprised of over 30% women are 48% more likely to outperform companies with less gender diversity. (McKinsey)



Companies with more women in leadership positions consistently outperform companies with less than a third of their leadership positions filled by women.

However, a look at the Fortune Global 500 list illustrates the continued disparity of women at the executive level: only 5% of companies are run by women. For the Fortune 500 list of companies in the US, only 8.8% of companies are run by women. 


7. Companies in the top quartile for being ethnically and culturally diverse are 36% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile. (McKinsey)



Creating an inclusive culture and a workplace where employees feel respected, valued, and comfortable being themselves isn’t just good common sense—it’s also good for your company’s bottom line.

With diverse and inclusive companies outperforming those who haven’t made the effort to recruit and retain diverse talent or create a welcoming and innovative environment, there’s no question that DEI initiatives are good for business.


8. Companies with greater-than-average diversity had 19% more innovation revenues. (Harvard Business Review)

A study by Harvard Business Review found that the most diverse companies were also the most innovative, allowing them to market a greater range of products to consumers.

In this study, HBR calculated each company’s diversity across six dimensions: migration, industry, career path, gender, education, and age. They found that industry, country of origin, and gender had the biggest impacts, but by thinking about diversity in a multidimensional way companies were able to lead in innovation.


9. 83% of millennials are actively engaged at work when they believe the culture of their organization is inclusive. (Deloitte)  



Considering millennials make up the majority of the workforce (39.4% as of 2020), and Gen Z-ers are the most diverse generation in history, it's increasingly important for companies to focus on creating a culture of belonging for their employees. 

According to Gallup, companies scoring in the top quarter for employee engagement are 23% more profitable and experience up to 43% less turnover than those in the bottom quarter. 


10. Employees with a greater sense of belonging and inclusion at work report 167% higher eNPS scores. (Harvard Business Review)

Employee net promoter score or "eNPS" is the likelihood that a current employee would recommend your company as a great place to work. It can also be an indicator of company culture, a predictor of turnover, and a gauge of overall employee engagement.   


11. A strong sense of belonging among employees was also found to result in a 50% lower risk of turnover and a 56% increase in job performance. (Harvard Business Review)

Experts at HBR also wanted to understand the impact of exclusion so they ran a series of tests. They ultimately discovered that those who felt excluded put in less effort for their teams than those who felt included. 

They also mention that allyship from another person on the team can protect employees from exclusion and the negative impacts on the team as a result. 

The takeaway

With these stats, you can see why you should make diversity, equity, and inclusion top priorities at your company: D&I initiatives make workplaces smarter and more successful, while also contributing to increased job satisfaction, employee retention, and revenue.

Don’t get left behind—improved DEI is a competitive advantage for any organization. The Bonusly platform helps thousands of companies build a culture of purpose, progress, and belonging for their employees.

To build resilient, more inclusive teams, download our free eBook today:

What are some of the most effective D&I initiatives you've seen at a company? 👇

How do you measure a year at work? In performance reviews, emails sent, hours worked, or team birthdays celebrated? While all of those metrics help us reflect, our favorite way to look back at the year is with data. We’re going to help you use Bonusly data to tell a story about your organization and prove the ROI of your employee recognition program. Let’s begin! 📕

Recognition Analytics

How to get there: Navigate to Analytics → Recognition → Recognition Received

Screen Shot 2023-01-12 at 2.11.12 PM

This section of Bonusly's Analytics helps organizations identify trends, monitor changes, and prove efficacy of their employee recognition program. You’ll get insights on how often your employees are recognizing one another, how many points they’re receiving, and the breakdown of peer-to-peer recognition vs recognition from awards. Use this section as a barometer to measure how your organization’s peer-to-peer recognition program is trending over time and to better understand the ROI of your program. 

What to look at: 

  • Look at the breakdown of peer-to-peer recognition vs recognition from awards. Though a robust award program can have a positive impact on recognition rates overall, it’s a good indication of adoption and engagement to see peer-to-peer recognition increase over time.
  • Filter the dashboard to your desired time range and export the recognition received chart to add to a presentation. Peer-to-peer recognition should account for the majority of your chart. Did recognition overall increase or decrease throughout the year? Were there any cultural or programmatic changes that you made that could have impacted recognition rates (e.g. layoffs, acquisitions, decreases in employee allowances, etc.) 

Now that you have a general understanding of the ecosystem of recognition at your organization, let’s contextualize the numbers using recognition rates. 

Recognition Rates

How to get there: Navigate to Analytics → Recognition → Recognition Rates

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Recognition rates help you understand the average rate at which employees in your organization are giving and receiving recognition over time. You can compare your company's recognition rates to those of other Bonusly customers using the Bonusly Benchmark or the average rate at which other companies using Bonusly are giving and receiving recognition. 

What to look at: 

  • High recognition rates indicate robust adoption of your peer-to-peer recognition program which leads to higher employee engagement and satisfaction. If your giving and receiving rates are higher than the Bonusly Benchmark, that’s a good indication that your organization is bought into your recognition program. 
  • You can establish your own yearly benchmark by summing all of your recognition rates for each month of the year and dividing by twelve (the number of months). Once established, you can set a goal with your team to surpass your own benchmark in the coming year. 
  • If recognition rates fluctuate throughout the year, you can cross-reference changes in recognition rates with organizational shifts like layoffs, engagement survey feedback, or holiday time off. 
  • You can make recommendations to boost recognition rates by implementing award programs, encouraging managers to recognize their direct reports, and connecting your Bonusly instance to your preferred chat tool to boost visibility of recognition and encourage add-ons. 

Speaking of add-ons…

Add-on Analytics

How to get there: Navigate to Analytics → Recognition → Add-ons

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Add-on Analytics allow organizations to better measure the rate at which recognition is being seen, engaged with, and echoed. If the rate of adding on is high, you have a strong culture of recognition where an employees' success is regularly seen and echoed by their peers.

What to look at: 

  • Compare your organization’s add-on averages to the Bonusly Benchmark to understand how much recognition is being echoed at your organization compared to other Bonusly users. 
  • If your add-on rate is below the Bonusly benchmark, consider tapping mangers to add-on to recognition more frequently or consider increasing employee allowances to allow for more opportunities to add-on to recognition. 
  • If you have a strong add-on rate and see it increasing over time, it’s a good indication that day-to-day recognition is being seen by employees throughout the organization, which means you’re following the best practice of recognition being visible. 

Hashtag Analytics Company Values

How to get there: Navigate to Analytics → Recognition → Hashtags → Company values

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Hashtag Analytics give HR teams an immediate expression of which core values their employees are exemplifying over time. Hovering over each of the bars in the chart will show a granular breakdown of how often employees were recognized for each value in the selected month.

What to look at: 

  • Measure the adoption of your company values. Understand if there are values that have trended down over the year that may need programming support from the HR team. Were there key events that can be tied to those declines? 
  • Inversely, if certain values have increased throughout the year, which actions or events may have driven their increases? 

Hashtag Analytics All Hashtags

How to get there: Navigate to Analytics → Recognition → Hashtags → All hashtags

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Navigating to All Hashtags will show you just that: the top hashtags your employees used to recognize their peers throughout the year. This section is great for monitoring emerging trends that might not be included in your company’s existing core values.

What to look at: 

  • Navigating to all hashtags is a great way to understand any emerging values for your organization that are manifesting in day-to-day recognition, but have yet to be documented in your organization’s handbook. Keeping a pulse on these emerging trends will help signal when it’s time to make some updates to your organization’s values. 
  • Compare your company’s quarterly goals or OKRs with the trending values throughout the year. Which programs had the largest influence on increasing value hashtags used in recognition? 

Compare Rate Analytics

How to get there: Navigate to Analytics → Recognition → Compare Rates

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Compare Rates analytics enables HR admins to visualize how different segments of the company are embracing recognition over time. HR teams can focus their time and energy on the teams or departments that aren't giving or receiving recognition at the same rate as the company average. Inversely, they can glean insights from people leaders whose teams give or receive at higher rates.

What to look at: 

  • Compare the recognition giving and receiving rates of different departments, teams, and locations. Identify business segments that are below average to quickly identify engagement issues. 

Participation Analytics

How to get there: Navigate to Analytics → Participation

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Monitor participation over time to track employee engagement, Participation Analytics can be segmented by departments, locations, or roles to see how different teams have varying levels of engagement. 

What to look at: 

  • Did participation go down or up throughout the year? Filtering the data will help you understand if there are departments, teams, or locations driving the increase or decrease. 
  • Managers are key to driving participation among your organization. Filter the data by manager’s teams to identify a few low participating teams to connect with.

Pro tip: If you’re curious about the difference between Participation Analytics and Recognition Analytics, Participation Analytics tracks who participated in your program whereas Recognition Analytics tracks how much they participated. All that to say, participation rates pair well with recognition rates, we recommend you consume them together. 🍇🧀


How to get there: Navigate to Analytics → Leaderboard


The leaderboard gives companies like yours a good understanding of who is receiving the most recognition for the entire company and who has been recognized most for a specific company value. The leaderboard is ideal for companies who are interested in reporting on top performers in Bonusly or giving out awards.

What to look at: 

  • Look at the top receivers for specific values throughout the year. For instance, who was the leader of the #honesty value for this year? You might consider recognizing them with a special award. 
  • Then, you can look at top receivers overall. You can pull the top receivers for the entire year and look for any patterns: are they in the same department? Are they working with customers consistently? 

We hope this blog post will help transform your people data into actions that will impact your organization's bottom line. If you’re not a current Bonusly user and you're interested in experiencing our Analytics for yourself, you can take a tour of the new and improved analytics or sign up for a demo with one of our employee recognition experts. If you're ready to start sharing your people data with your leadership team, we have a free presentation template you can use. 

Happy analyzing!


Here’s how we react when we hear about strong teams: 🎉
Here’s how we react when we hear about “team building activities”: 😰

Let’s face it. Team building activities can be awkward. When you’re used to interacting with folks in a professional context, letting loose can be a challenge, especially when you’re asked to be vulnerable. However, the benefits of strong peer relationships in the workplace are unparalleled, especially when it comes to organizational culture.

Said another way: team building activities are a great way to improve company culture. 🙌

Jump straight to our list of team building activities ⬇️

The simple pleasure of having friends at work is a powerful influencer on job satisfaction, employee engagement, retention, and even productivity. To create a culture of guidance and collaboration, people must first feel comfortable with their team relationships. In fact, Simpli5 found that nearly a third of its respondents had previously considered leaving a job because of negative team environments, so it’s no surprise that building strong teams should be a priority.

Chemistry allows you to get much more out of much less. When people develop rapport and trust, they can accomplish more than the sum of their parts because everyone understands what others bring to the table, which increases output.
–David Hua, Co-founder and CEO, Meadow

A natural inclination would be to search for activities that facilitate team bonding—and the results that pop up may not be… the most effective. In a study carried out by Vodafone UK and YouGov, “a majority of workers surveyed (66%) have been made to do some form of team-building activity, [and] more than half (54%) don't feel that doing more would help them work better with their colleagues.”


Why is this? Esther Cohen, Workamajig’s marketing manager says, “Most team building activities elicit embarrassment rather than enthusiasm. Whatever impact they might have is nullified by the sheer reluctance of your team members to participate in them.”

To build stronger teams, we have to bridge the gap between stereotypical team-building activities, and real, meaningful team bonding. And that’s not going to be with trust falls. Trust us. 😉

Improve your employee experience and start building stronger, more resilient teams today.

-> Download Your Toolkit for Building Stronger Teams in 2023

The dos and don’ts of team building activities

Don’t force people to participate
Do listen to feedback and iterate

The word “mandatory” is often a source of dread. So let’s just eliminate that from our team-building vocabulary right now. It’s important to have whole teams participate in activities, but more importantly, it’s crucial to have employees be personally engaged and invested in building stronger teams.

So plan things that your employees really enjoy! Don’t assume that everybody loves bowling or is fine with staying late for happy hour. On the other hand, if everybody in the office is really stoked about hiking or a particular board game, you suddenly have a great opportunity for bonding.

Consider encouraging team members to plan their own events. This allows opportunities for cross-team collaboration across the office and forges connections across different departments. For example, Bonusly’s Terrace House Appreciation Club brings fans together from different teams and regional offices to freak out over Japanese reality television. Since it stems from a shared interest, we look forward to watching an episode together each week to decompress and socialize with team members we may not be able to interact with normally.

Don’t interrupt work
Do set aside time or invest in retreats and offsites

The most successful, memorable team-building events are the ones that don’t feel like a day at the office.
–Brian Scudamore, CEO, O2E Brands

It sends a strong message when an organization steps away from the office to prioritize team building. Especially with remote workers or offices spread across the country, face-to-face time can make a noticeable difference in everyday work. Seeing nuances in body language and communication styles in a different context can impact how you approach teamwork in the office. Buffer, a social media management platform with a fully distributed team, takes it a step further by flying everyone out to three international retreats a year. It’s a big expense, but Buffer places high value on their peer relationships.

We’ve found retreats to be not only a fun part of our culture, but an absolute necessity.
–Joel Gascoigne, CEO, Buffer

Our friends at Front are on the same page about offsites and have even more great tips on building a collaborative team, saying, “these opportunities open up the door for your team to get to know each other as people, not just as teammates. As a result, when you're back in the office, collaborating will become more fluid and natural.”

It may seem unproductive to take time away from work, but when you invest in building team bonds, you’re sure to see returns.

Don’t have one-off team building events
Do build employee engagement into the organization's culture

Team building activities are not a one-time silly event, but part of an ongoing process.
–Andrei Țiț, Paymo

A company-sponsored pizza lunch or a round of golf can be appreciated but might be too-little-too-late if employee morale is low. Strong team bonds and employee engagement have to be built into your company culture from the ground up. Team building activities shouldn’t be used as a one-off band-aid fix when things get bad, but as regular opportunities to further connect and collaborate. That’s it, that’s the secret. 😊

Effective team building activities

Backed by research, trial and error, and our own experiences, here are seven team-building activities—that actually build stronger teams. 🎉


1. Eat lunch together

This first one is an easy one. The simple act of eating lunch together can go a long way in building stronger teams. It’s more than just eating together—it’s the concept of putting aside time during a busy day to take a break with your colleagues. Whether it's every day, for special occasions like birthdays and work anniversaries, or even now and then, eating together has its benefits.

It’s even been studied: Kevin Kniffin at Cornell University and his team observed a firehouse to see how eating together might correlate with enhanced teamwork. They found that the “field research shows a significant positive association between [eating together] and work-group performance.”

If it works for firefighters—who operate in a notoriously high-pressure work environment—it can work for you. 🔥🚒

This practice is so effective that many companies are investing in providing lunch for their employees. That includes Bonusly! Our Sifted Wednesday team lunches are a highlight of the week.

Creating an experience around food is one of the easiest things a company can do to increase employee morale and overall company culture.
–Christine Marcus, founder and CEO of
Alchemista, a corporate catering service.

2. Play pub trivia

A fun activity whether you include drinks or not, playing a round of pub trivia can foster teamwork in a low-stakes environment. Did you know that your teammate can list every Britney Spears album and the year they were released? Now, you do! Check out Geeks Who Drink for a spirited night at the bar, use Jackbox games for a live trivia game together with your phones, and try Water Cooler Trivia for weekly team trivia challenges.

3. Have Donut chats


Leave it up to technology. At Bonusly, we use Donut to pair up team members that don’t get to interact frequently. It’s a great way to get one-on-one time and learn more about each other and can lead to new ideas and increased collaboration. Remote workers can easily join, too! We highly recommend actually eating donuts as your meet-up activity, just to get into the spirit. 🍩

To maintain a competitive edge, top company leaders understand the importance of optimizing employee experience.

-> Download Your Toolkit for Building Stronger Teams in 2023

4. Sing your heart out

Get ready to harmonize. A study done by Oxford University revealed that strangers bonded faster through singing than through other creative pursuits, like creative writing and crafting. From harmonizing in a company choir to cheering each other on at bar karaoke, there are lots of ways to release those bonding endorphins. For quieter folks, there’s also the option of karaoke in private rooms.

5. Tell office legends

Dropping a new hire into your organizational work culture without explaining any of the lingo or idiosyncrasies of the office can make them feel left out or purposefully not included. Welcome them—and the rest of your team—into your company culture with this activity, which is also a game that remote workers can easily participate in.

Write on post-it notes different prompts, like “last year’s holiday party,” “favorite customer,” or even just “[teammate’s name].” Go around the room and polish off your storytelling chops to shed light on inside jokes, company legends, and memorable moments. Sharing these nuggets of office history fosters an inclusive environment—from the moment that a new coworker joins the team.

6. Volunteer


Giving back to the community gets everyone out of the office for a good cause. 💝In addition to helping out a charity, volunteering can strengthen peer relationships and increase productivity at work. Making a habit of volunteering can also reinforce company values and showcase what employees are passionate about outside of work. Ask around for causes your team supports, or events they’re already planning to attend. VolunteerMatch is also a great resource for philanthropic opportunities.

7. Post daily questions, prompts, and icebreakers

Even just one powerful question can engage employees and spark meaningful conversations. Done easily through your messaging tool of choice, these questions can range from the mundane (“What’s your favorite cereal?”) to the more in-depth (“What was a formative moment in your life?”). With the right prompts, this simple practice can spark playful debates, reveal unknown commonalities, and inspire psychological safety.

In an intimate post about overcoming negative attitudes, OfficeVibe described how they built empathy by sharing anecdotes about themselves. “You want to build lines of trust between people not just in relation to work, but based on personal experiences. If you know where someone is coming from you’ll be way more open to them,” says Marie-Christine Côté, Marketing Director.

At Bonusly, we have a Slack channel dedicated to sparking conversations and chatting. Making space to talk about things outside of work is so important in building strong peer relationships. That's how you get to know your team members as people!

We use Donut Watercooler's prompts, but it's easy to manually write your own questions and automate them to post at a certain time.

You can probably find lists upon lists of "get to know you" questions on the internet, but here are a few unique conversation starters:

  • If you were a brand, what brand colors would you be, and why?
  • You're now on House Hunters—what are your three requirements for a home?
  • If you were a Thanksgiving side, which one would you be, and why?
  • What's the recipe for your go-to, super-easy favorite comfort food?
  • Share a photo from your weekend.
  • What's your favorite way to eat a potato?
  • Post your favorite or go-to GIF!
  • What's the best thing you've ever eaten? What's the worst?
  • Write an acrostic poem with your name. Here's an example:
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8. Have regular retrospectives

Most workdays and projects go fast—but is your team taking the time to reflect?

Making space to think about how your team works together—the good and the bad—encourages vulnerability, creative problem-solving, and empathy between colleagues.  

It can seem intimidating at first, but can quickly open up lines of communication between your team members. Here's a great how-to on running a retrospective from Atlassian, and a more in-depth guide from Retrium.

9. Learn something new together

Taking a class or course as a team on something completely new is a great way to build relationships. It gives your team the opportunity to focus on something fresh (instead of forcing conversation!), ask questions, and collaborate with each other.

Whether it's a course that contributes to your team's professional development goals or something totally new, like a pottery class, gaining new skills is an easy way to make new memories as a team. Plus, if you're on a remote team, don't let your colleagues' physical location stop you! Browse through hundreds of virtual classes on The Vendry, Marco, and Airbnb Experiences.

10. Host a Hackathon

At Bonusly, we reserve a week every quarter for our team to work on something outside of their normal day-to-day projects. We call them our "hackathons!"

Hackathons don’t have to be centered around developers—at Bonusly, it’s a week where the team is encouraged to “hack” anything, whether it’s an outdated process, an old piece of content, or a better organization system for your resources. During these hackathons, teams from different departments are able to work on creative projects with support from the entire organization.

In addition to being a great team-building activity, our hackathons have produced more streamlined processes and actual products!

Hackathons require participants to step out of their normal roles and skill sets. This may mean interacting with different colleagues or performing unfamiliar creative tasks. A short team activity can help participants loosen up, think boldly and open their minds to their colleagues’ ideas.
–Elizabeth Spaulding and Greg Caimi,
Harvard Business Review

Get started on building resilient, engaged, and motivated teams today.

-> Download Your Toolkit for Building Stronger Teams in 2023

The Takeaway  

Despite their less-than-stellar reputation, team-building activities should have a place in your company culture provided you make them engaging and inclusive. Learning about one another, building trust, and having fun together are excellent ways to foster better collaboration and engage employees at work. Successful companies invest in their team culture, and you’re missing out on a key culture element by ignoring team-building activities.

Feel good about your team's relationships? We have some ideas on what to tackle next:

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Originally published on January 12, 2023 → Last updated March 1, 2023

We’ve all heard the famous Mark Twain quote: “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” But, even the best jobs have their challenging days, weeks, and sometimes months. 

Acknowledging this reality means embracing the fact that bringing enjoyment to all jobs is critical. Plus, having fun at work actually impacts key business objectives like employee engagement, productivity, and even resilience

The average American spends 38.7 hours per week at work, so why not carve out a little time for fun? Fun not only benefits the employee but the organization as a whole. A recent study found that "In response to social contact, the brain releases oxytocin, a powerful hormone linked to trustworthiness and motivation to help others in the workplace." Isn't that a description of a workplace where we all want to work? By actively and regularly considering fun in the workplace, company leaders will improve morale and establish a foundational part of company culture.

I’m a lifelong believer in the power of fun inside and outside of the workplace, whether through inventing new games with my five siblings, injecting laughter into a stressful work meeting, or bringing weekly trivia to workplaces around the world via Water Cooler Trivia.

The best and easiest way to introduce fun? Games. We’ve put together the greatest hits on why fun is such a critical component of a healthy company culture and ideas on how to bring fun to your team. 

4 key reasons to actively bring fun into the workplace

1. Workplace isolation and low morale are on the rise

We can’t avoid it: the last few years have been tough, and HR managers are seeing this every day. The increasing normalization of work-from-home and remote-friendly policies will elevate the need to fight isolation through culture-building fun.

Low morale and isolation aren't new problems, a Kaiser Permanente/Economist study in 2018 revealed that millennials are nearly twice as likely to feel lonely as other workers. Have no fear, we're about to talk about the antidote to isolation and low morale: fun!

Want to try something new? Download Bonusly's gratitude bingo to promote goodwill on your team, all while having fun!


2. Fun improves collaboration between teammates


We’ve got a new math equation that you probably didn’t encounter in your Algebra class: 2 Coworkers x Fun = Better Collaboration. And we can prove it… (dramatic pause) … with science!

Research has revealed that employees with friends at work are twice as likely to be engaged than those without friends at work. That engagement level has a direct impact on almost all aspects of work.

 In fact, researchers at two universities found: "Interpersonal [work] relationships have a sizeable and significant positive effect on the job satisfaction of the average employee. [Relationships] rank first out of…12 domains of workplace quality in terms of power to explain variation in job satisfaction.”

Fun and positive emotions are more likely to be contagious in the workplace, so the impact of fun can ripple through an office. A Yale University School of Management study found that among working groups, cheerfulness and warmth spread most easily, while irritability is less contagious.

The contagiousness of having fun means that introducing games and joy into the workplace can build friendships that improve employee engagement and job satisfaction.

3. Fun breaks down entrenched organizational hierarchies


Meeting other employees through fun and games builds up the social network within an office, and the benefits of this denser network of relationships manifest as increased trust, deeper transparency, and more willingness to communicate openly and collaborate.

Even more importantly, fun and games can serve as great “flatteners” that lower the barriers between employees at different tenure and seniority levels.

Anecdote time: as an intern at my first office job, I sent around trivia quizzes just for fun, and this became the conversation-starter for conversations I had with managers and partners at my consulting firm. This built my confidence and allowed me to speak up in meetings more effectively than if I’d remained unnecessarily intimidated by my more-tenured colleagues.

On top of breaking down barriers, teams that self-identify as fun are also dramatically more likely to have highly engaged employees.

According to Bonusly’s own research, 90% of Highly Engaged employees say they work on a fun team, compared to only 37% of Actively Disengaged employees. 

4. Ultimately, it makes the company more productive

Although it can seem a bit misleading at first, breaking up the workday with times of fun actually can result in more productive outcomes for companies of all stripes.

While the doom-and-gloom low morale stats at the top of this post can seem like a bummer, the flip side is sweeter: a more engaged team with higher morale leads to higher productivity.

Here’s more science backing up this culture-building strategy: happy workers are 13% more productive than unhappy workers. 


“We found that when workers are happier, they work faster by making more calls per hour worked and, importantly, convert more calls to sales.”
- Professor Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Does Employee Happiness have an Impact on Productivity?

That means individuals are more productive at their own work when they’re happier, and the effects compound at the team and office level.


So, we see that happiness is contagious and helps build workplace friendships. Then, we confirmed that workplace friendships deepen employee engagement. And lastly, stronger employee engagement means more productive companies.

The secret to it all? Bringing happy, work-appropriate fun into your team’s week.

3 tips for bringing fun into the workplace

1. Consider both “asynchronous” and “synchronous” fun

The logistics and social pressure of an organized company event can actually create stress and anxiety for some workers: “One critical thing to remember is that not all employees like to have fun at work, especially when it is a packaged official fun in which all employees are ‘supposed’ to participate.”

As social events move to video conferencing and distributed teams introduce many timezones into a single team, the opportunity cost of joining a coordinated social event increases when employees are at home with their families. This means it’s more important than ever to consider “asynchronous fun” like a trivia contest taken at any time throughout the week.

“Asynchronous fun” is a mouthful, so let’s break it down. It means, quite simply “fun at different times for different folks."


Traditional happy hours at a bar near the office or a coordinated holiday party are examples of “synchronous fun” meaning that all employees are together at the same time as each other. However, with distributed teams, a 5 p.m. East Coast time virtual happy hour might not be as fun for timezone shifted employees in Poland when it’s 11 p.m. and their kids are asleep in bed.

For remote organizations, “asynchronous fun” can be especially important as folks are making a direct trade-off between their home life (spending time with loved ones) and work events. Consider trivia, polls, and other ways to participate in fun that don't necessarily require everyone to be in the same place at the same time, and that can be stretched over a period of time. 

2. Embrace the internet! It’s full of workplace fun resources

Anything that gives you a chance to share your personality in a professional environment can introduce fun. That’s why Bonusly’s recognition and rewards platform allows you to include GIFs, images, and emojis in bonuses you send to teammates.

Importantly, all of the above are designed to be virtual-friendly. They can also be played in-person or with “hybrid-distributed” teams that are partially in person and partially remote.

3. There’s no monopoly on fun

Team leaders know better than anyone else what makes their team tick. Don’t fear the idea of relying on your own creativity to introduce fun into the workplace.

There’s no need to wait for “official” fun from the company’s Social Committee when any teammate can bring a trivia contest or icebreaker into a Zoom meeting.

One idea: open a Manager 1:1 with a story that recently made you laugh. Building these “uneventful” elements of fun are a way to build rapport with your colleagues and strengthen relationships. In addition, it’s a perfect way to lead by example and introduce a more trustful and social office culture.


Wrapping it all up

Physician and author Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “We don’t quit playing because we grow older; we grow older because we quit playing.”

Fun and work sometimes are at opposite poles in some people’s minds, but they don’t have to be.

Introducing small ways to create fun in the workplace is the ultimate win-win. Managers and team leaders win because they have a more engaged and productive workforce. Employees win because they are able to express themselves more freely in the workplace and improve their workplace morale while banishing a sense of isolation.

There are all kinds of reasons it's helpful understand how your work supports your organization’s goals and how the people you work with are connected to each other.

With Bonusly’s Profile pages, you can learn about your teammates, how they interact with each other, and much more, with data that’s easy to understand and accessible to everyone in your organization. You can also see how your individual strengths help others and get a clear sense of what your work means to your coworkers.


To help you get the most out of this feature, let’s first explore what you can learn about yourself from it. Then we’ll work our way up the corporate ladder.

As an individual contributor, you can…

  • See how many bonuses you’ve earned since you started using Bonusly.
  • See which company values you’ve received the most bonuses for and a timeline of the achievements you’ve earned, which you can reference in performance reviews.
  • See who you work with most often and who you’re most connected to through recognition.
  • Establish baselines for collaboration and track your personal goals for interacting more with other teams.
  • Identify your strengths and areas where you’d like to improve. 
  • View your managers’ Profiles to see what types of work they recognize.
  • Reference your colleagues’ Profiles to get a better sense of who they work with and what kinds of projects they’re working on.


As a manager, you can...

  • Determine whether your giving activity to your direct reports is equitable and then track your progress as you correct any imbalances, with the understanding that discrepancies in the number and types of recognition that individual contributors receive can influence how they feel towards their managers.
  • View your direct reports’ Profiles to quickly see who they collaborate with and identify opportunities for teamwork if some people aren’t as connected as others.
  • See the company values your direct reports exhibit most often and help them set goals if they want to focus on improving in certain areas.
  • Review the bonuses and achievements your direct reports have earned to reduce the impact of recency bias on performance reviews.


As an executive, you can...

  • Reference your own Profile to see how your recognition behavior compares to your company’s averages. Since leadership participation in recognition programs is crucial to adoption, you can check your Profile to see how you’re performing and whether you need to step up their giving activity in Bonusly.
  • Review your managers’ Profiles to get a clearer sense of who’s consistently recognizing their direct reports. With this information, you can recognize managers who’ve been actively giving bonuses and check in with those that haven’t been recognizing their teams as frequently.


Start exploring!

As you explore your Profile page and look at your coworkers’ Profiles, you might find additional ways to use the data collected there. We’d love to hear how you use the Profiles to enrich your Bonusly experience. Share your stories in the comments below! If you're interested in learning more about Profile pages, check out our Help Center article.

What does it mean to feel welcome? While everyone has a different answer to this question, feeling welcome boils down to feeling understood—that others recognize you, empower you, and accept your place in the group.

When your organization helps employees feel welcome during the onboarding process, you’re creating conditions that can lead to deep emotional connections. These connections help form a foundation of trust that can improve employee engagement levels, remove barriers to collaboration, and lead employees to a long and productive tenure with your company.


The importance of first impressions

One of the biggest barriers to a mutual understanding is how our brains are wired to form first impressions. Research from Princeton University psychologist Alex Todorov found that we form first impressions about trustworthiness, likeability, and even competence mere milliseconds after seeing someone’s face for the first time. He explained this phenomenon by noting that the brain treats first impressions like a fear response, processing it in the amygdala (threat center) instead of the frontal lobe (rational thought).


In other words, the same impression mechanisms that helped our ancestors avoid leopards now lead us to avoid job candidates in leopard print.

Of course, the same mechanics determine the impressions employees form during the recruitment process. They decide whether your workplace environment is welcoming, indifferent, or hostile. These first impressions are one of the reasons that hiring is the first step to effective onboarding.

Completing the new employee welcome

Thankfully, first impressions aren’t the only impression. The first few days and weeks send a powerful message about what new employees will experience with your company—not only through the messaging of the official welcome meeting, but what they see, hear, and do during working hours. These experiences either confirm or undermine the impressions new hires form during the hiring process, and can determine the strength of your employee welcome.

This pattern becomes evident in a list of the reasons new employees quit their jobs within the first six months as found in an onboarding report from Zippia:

  • They didn't get enough training
  • The work wasn't clear
  • They felt underappreciated
  • They felt neglected
  • They felt overwhelmed

These employees accepted a job that gave them the right impression—a workplace that offered fulfilling work they were qualified to do with competent management, complete training processes, and the chance for recognition and advancement. When the onboarding process didn’t confirm these impressions, they left.

How do you avoid this outcome in your onboarding process? The first step is to understand the two types of impressions your new hires want to confirm during their first days and weeks with your company.

Two important impressions for your new employee welcome

Harvard Psychologist Amy Cuddy studied first impressions for more than 15 years. She found that people judge you on spectrums that she labeled warmth and competence:

Warmth: This impression determines how much new employees feel they can trust the people in your company, including their manager, co-workers, and company leadership.

Competence: This impression determines how much new employees respect the capabilities of their new company and the people in it.


Cuddy’s findings show that while both of these impressions are important, they also need to happen in order. An impression of warmth leads to an impression of confidence. As she put it in an interview with Business Insider:

If someone you're trying to influence doesn't trust you, you're not going to get very far; in fact, you might even elicit suspicion because you come across as manipulative. A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you've established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat.

Put simply, the welcome comes first. Any company can say that they’re competent. But for employees to believe that your company is competent, their experience needs match expectations. A powerful impression of warmth opens the door for your organization to continue demonstrating your competence and meet these expectations.

Employees may never have all the information on the company’s strategy, and even the best-connected company can’t fully understand all the nuances of each employee’s daily experience. However, when the company recognizes new employees’ potential and provides them with the support they need to become completely competent in their new role, it paves the way for mutual trust, improved engagement, and better results.

Here are a few strategies for creating these two key impressions in your new employee welcome:


Providing a warm employee welcome

Remember what it’s like

When you’ve been with a company for years, it can be hard to remember what new employees go through on their first day. There are several pieces of information your current employees take for granted that are essential to transmit to new employees to keep them from feeling like outsiders.

These include:

  • Team vocabulary terms—names of regular meetings, software programs, employee groups, conference rooms, etc.
  • Your company’s neighborhood—as you put together your welcome packet, be sure to include a guide to the local area with suggestions on nearby restaurants, cafés, banks, and gas stations.
  • An outline of the first day—guide new hires through what they’ll learn, who they’ll meet, and what they should expect to accomplish.

Connect with culture

Leaving a new employee with empty hours after an impressive welcome presentation is a little like creating a Potemkin Village: a good show with nothing behind it. While work can’t stop every time a new employee comes onboard, it’s important to provide time and resources for their new team to introduce your culture in full—demonstrating how you work, interact, succeed, and celebrate.

Consider the following ideas for connecting new employees with your culture:

  • Introduce your company values—reemphasize how your company lives its values during day to day operations.
  • Auto-enroll in recognition software—including a bonus from a peer-to-peer recognition program (like Bonusly) on the first day can provide a first-hand demonstration of how important recognition is to your organization.
  • Go to lunch—facilitating a team lunch with a new employee gives them time to break the ice without worrying about interrupting important work.
  • Celebrate on the company level—recognizing all new employees during a company-wide meeting, happy hour, or initiation helps broaden new employees’ connections.

Providing a competent employee welcome

Do the prep work

A new employee won’t be enjoying the new culture or diving into new responsibilities if they’re standing at an empty desk waiting for IT to come with their computer and chair. Creating and following through on a new employee checklist removes distractions from the important trust-building activities of a new employee’s first day.

Here are some important entries on this checklist:

  • Compliance pre-boarding
  • e-Signatures collected before first day
  • Provide new hires with start time and directions
  • Workstation prep
  • Desk
  • Chair
  • Internet connection
  • Computer/computer accessories
  • Software and permissions
  • Auto-enroll in recognition software
  • HRIS information
  • Confirm correct personal information
  • Provide self-service benefits information
  • Guide to financial/health benefits—invite your providers to monthly (or quarterly) meetings to give new employees expert advice on these often-complicated benefits.
  • Guide to social media—in a connected world, teaching your new employees how to represent your company on social media sets clear expectations and provides further development for your employer brand.
  • Company culture follow-up—after your new employees have experienced your culture, give them a chance to ask for any clarifications on your values or their processes

Take your time

Completing the onboarding process will take more than an employee welcome meeting on first day. New employees will need additional context to fully understand how things work in your organization, and that context comes after their first few days on the job. One software company recently expanded their onboarding process from a single meeting to four weekly meetings held throughout the first month, based on employee feedback.


Consider including these in-depth topics in your long-term onboarding process:

  • Guide to financial/health benefits—invite your providers to monthly (or quarterly) meetings to give new employees expert advice on these often-complicated benefits.
  • Guide to social media—in a connected world, teaching your new employees how to represent your company on social media sets clear expectations and provides further development for your employer brand.
  • Company culture follow-up—after your new employees have experienced your culture, give them a chance to ask for any clarifications on your values or their processes

Managerial support

Throughout the onboarding process, managers need to have the time and support to provide new employees with regular one-on-one meetings. Developing open communication during this process gives employees a psychologically safe space to ask questions without feeling incompetent or that their job is at risk. Managers can also establish a pattern of performance management and verbal recognition as they continue these conversations.


Make your company a welcoming place

Welcoming new employees with effective, extended onboarding processes shows them that your organization trusts and respects them. When you give new employees the knowledge, training, and recognition they need to do their best work, you confirm their positive impression of your organization, paving the way for employee engagement and success.

How do you welcome your new employees?

Winter is here. ❄️  Some may say it’s their favorite season, but we have a hard time agreeing—they call it winter blues for a reason! It’s widely reported and very understandable: Employee morale falls during winter.

Maybe your tree or menorah is still up, your gifts might still be laying around the house, or you just can’t seem to let go of holiday music just yet—we get it. The winter months can create a roller coaster of emotions with the highs of seeing loved ones, celebrating and relaxing ... and all of a sudden you’re back into work mode.

If you catch yourself feeling the winter blues and your concentration is a little cloudy after PTO, you’re not the only one. Various studies have shown that January and February are consistently the least productive months.

On the plus side, companies that prioritize employee morale, engagement, and well-being are more resilient. So, how do teams bounce back quickly and get excited about the workday again? It’s probably a nice in-between of Scrooge and Buddy the Elf. Give yourself some room to accept that the holidays were great, but have come and gone. There will be more moments for rest and relaxation, but now it’s time to start working toward your goals!

employee morale

5 surefire ways to beat the winter blues

1. Celebrate company wins to boost employee morale

A great way to jumpstart employee motivation in January and February is to take into account what you accomplished last year. Did you hit your goals? Were there rocks or big accomplishments you achieved? Take the time to recognize the efforts you made and the ones that helped make it possible.

The early months of winter can require some extra positivity, and looking back can provide motivation for employees to know where they’ve been and where they want to go next. Establishing a space for them to feel appreciated for their hard work can produce a jolt of encouragement to dream big with goals and put them into practice faster.

While you’re at it, why not get your game plan together with each team member? A recent study concluded that 65% of employees want more feedback 👥. You might have spent Q4 planning out the upcoming year already, but take some extra time to meet individually and ensure coworkers feel informed, confident, and prepared for the quarter ahead.

If your company is making some structural changes, introducing a new service, or improving benefits and perks, it’s a good time to review these. Employee morale can be improved when changes are coming up at your company with new incentives and ways of working.

🎁 Want a free gift?

Download the 2023 HR checklist

2. Create better routines and new habits

It’s a new year, but your leadership might not quite be feeling like a new version of themselves yet—and that’s okay. We don't need to mention resolutions, but getting back to good habits, or setting up better routines, can help break the post-holiday slump.

Many leaders are looking to reduce meetings, or at least the ones that could just be a Slack message 😉 . Employees have been on virtual meetings and conferences for a LONG time since 2020. We’ve all been zapped by the occasional “do you have 10 mins?” message that turns into a full hour, or 10 people on a call when it could have been just two.

A meeting fatigue study showed that 89% of workers agree that they would benefit from at least one day free from scheduled calls and meetings. Are your leaders mindful of how they are scheduling their time and what they require of each team member? It’s important that each person’s independence be respected to use time wisely, avoid employee fatigue and burnout, and ultimately get stuff done ✅.

Psst: The Bonusly marketing team has no meetings every Thursday!


New routines don’t just have to be about meetings, and not all meetings are bad. Maybe you need a new 15-minute standup every other day to stay motivated and communicate better. The main goal is to be considerate of value-added events and activities. Nothing takes away more from employee morale than a recurring event or theme that seems unnecessary to the majority of participants. Managers should ask what their employees want more of, and what should be ✂ to be more productive and satisfied with their work.

Some new leadership routines could be trying out a time management platform, creating a dashboard to track what’s important, setting an accountability flowchart and sticking to it, or just taking 30 minutes of the day to unwind and prepare for the next.

3. Assign mentors to new employees

Are there new employees being onboarded at your company? The start of the year is a popular time for new coworkers to enter your Zoom room and meet you for the first time. Having certain individuals own parts of the onboarding process can keep them motivated to bring their best to each interaction with that new employee.

While the winter months can seem a bit sluggish as everyone is getting back to normal, remember that someone new is experiencing a fresh start! If a new teammate joins, partnering them up can inspire someone who may have been at your organization for years. They'll experience what it’s like to start at your company all over again, even though it may be totally different now.

Also, a study from Degreed found that 55% of workers first turn to their peers other than their boss or the internet when looking for ways to learn. Peer-to-peer learning is powerful and meaningful for all coworkers.

This exchange can help spark new friendships and it is always good to know that your company continues to grow and bring in great people 󠅓💯. This can really empower veteran employee behavior as they are getting back into the swing of things. Showing your workers that you trust them to teach others can emphasize your commitment to their personal development and hone in leadership qualities.

🎁 Want a free gift?

Download the 2023 HR checklist

4. Mix work and personal goals with your team

Speaking of personal development: does your organization allow your team to communicate both personal and work goals for the year? This could be paying off student debt, saving to buy a house, getting a new dog, or starting a side hustle. You never know!

Coworkers want to feel heard by their peers and find natural ways to connect. And that’s the fun of it when you bring in personal goals with ones that you are hoping to achieve at work.


5. Kick off a team or company-wide project in Q1

There’s no time like the present to jump into a quarter or half-year project that involves your whole team or more than a few individuals. Let’s say you are looking to design a new website or launch a new product. Whatever the case may be, there’s probably some big thing that you need to work on fast 📊!

It’s important to be mindful of how big a project you take on during this time, because the flipside could be an overwhelmed staff. Prioritize what you think can be done and set realistic goals, all the while providing open communication for updates and adjustments.

The takeaway

Hopefully, these suggestions are helpful for boosting morale with your employees during the winter months. Remember…coffee always helps too. 😆Have a great start to the year and celebrate your wins often and openly!

To boost employee retention and plan for a successful year:

2023 HR checklist mock

Download the 2023 HR checklist

Originally published on January 03, 2023 → Last updated January 4, 2023

Bonusly maintained the top spot in G2's Winter 2023 Grid Report for Employee Recognition software, ranking first out of 54 products for the fourth season in a row!

Bonusly is a Leader and a Momentum Leader in both the Employee Recognition and Engagement categories and also earned Most Implementable in the Employee Engagement category.


In G2's Employee Recognition software category, Bonusly earned the Best Usability badge for Small Businesses and Enterprises. Bonusly also won the Best Usability badge for Small Businesses in the Employee Engagement category.

Case in point:

"I've been so happy with Bonusly. When we rolled it out to our teams, we got instant feedback on how happy our employees were with it," said Jess S., a people experience manager at an enterprise company, in a G2 review.

Bonusly leads in employee engagement

In G2's Employee Engagement category, Bonusly was named a Winter 2023 leader for mid-market small businesses worldwide; a leader in the Europe, Asia, India, and Asia Pacific regions; and a leader for enterprise businesses in Asia, India, and Asia Pacific.

"[Bonusly] makes it easier to thank colleagues and also feel more appreciated in a working environment. As a result, it promotes great team collaboration with less negative energy" said Tong Yi C., a senior data analyst at an enterprise company, in a G2 review.

Part of why Bonusly excels in employee engagement is because of how it integrates seamlessly with companies' existing workflows, easily becoming a part of employees' day-to-day. Bonusly has one of the highest participation rates in the industry, with users recognizing each other at least 2x per week. With a fun platform people can use frequently, Bonusly encourages a culture of recognition that ultimately improves employee engagement. 

Bonusly leads in employee recognition

In the Employee Recognition software category, Bonusly was also recognized as a leader in the Europe, India, and Asia Pacific regions; as an enterprise leader in Europe and Asia Pacific; as a mid-market leader overall and in Europe and Asia Pacific; and as an enterprise high performer in Asia and India.

"Our annual survey from last year reflected low scores for Employee Recognition, but those scores increased significantly after implementing the Bonusly platform,"says John C., a sales compensation manager at an enterprise company

Bonusly’s peer-to-peer recognition enables people to instantly express their appreciation for their colleagues and make teamwork visible. Celebrating wins together in a public forum builds connections among teams fostering better working relationships, even in remote and hybrid working environments. Bonusly’s real-time advantage allows for flexibility, visibility, and accessibility, so people feel connected with one another at all times.

“My work involves a lot of cross-functional partnership. Bonusly allows me to incentivize participation in my programs and to recognize partners that are going above and beyond. It serves as a motivator to support my team's initiatives, and gives me an extra way to say thank you," said Emily S., who works in customer advocacy at an enterprise company, in a G2 review.

Bonusly leads in implementation and usability

In the Employee Engagement category, Bonusly also earned the highest implementation rating overall and the highest usability and implementation ratings for small businesses. We know how challenging it can be to launch successful employee recognition programs, so these usability and implementation honors matter a lot to us!



Bonusly allows organizations to easily automate their recognition and reward programs by providing smooth onboarding with minimal monthly upkeep. Per the results of our 2022 Bonusly user survey, 77% of customers were able to implement Bonusly in less than a month and 73% of Bonusly admins spend 2 hours or less managing Bonusly each month. Bonusly is an easy program for end users to participate in, which isn't always the case for company-wide engagement initiatives.

What are G2 Reports?

G2 Reports are generated by G2 on a quarterly basis by an aggregate of verified customer rating scores for software platforms in various product categories. G2's aim is to help folks like you pick the best software to meet your business needs.

Searching for new software? Get this [FREE] HR vendor evaluation scorecard to help you compare providers.

Bonusly earned 540 new reviews in the period considered for G2's Winter 2023 report, with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. 

Here's a partial list of honors that Bonusly earned in G2's Winter 2023 reports:

  • Leader, Employee Recognition - Winter 2023
  • Momentum Leader, Employee Recognition - Winter 2023
  • Leader, Employee Recognition, Enterprise, Mid-market, and Small Businesses - Winter 2023
  • Leader, Employee Recognition, Europe, India, and Asia Pacific - Winter 2023
  • Best Usability for Small Businesses and Enterprises, Employee Recognition - Winter 2023
  • Leader, Employee Engagement - Winter 2023
  • Leader, Employee Engagement, United Kingdom, Asia, Asia Pacific, Europe, and India - Winter 2023
  • Leader, Employee Engagement, Enterprise, Mid-market, and Small Businesses - Winter 2023
  • Mid-market Leader, Employee Engagement, Europe and Asia Pacific - Winter 2023
  • Momentum Leader, Employee Engagement - Winter 2023
  • Most Implementable, Employee Engagement - Winter 2023
  • Most Implementable for Small Businesses, Employee Engagement - Winter 2023
  • Best Usability for Small Businesses, Employee Engagement - Winter 2023

Now, a few more quotes from our customers

What do veterinary practice managers and sales compensation managers have in common? Loving Bonusly, of course!

"[Bonusly] gives the senior leadership team visibility of where work is making the most difference to our people and it is certainly helping with overall engagement," raves Becky P., a head of people at an environmental technology company.


With Bonusly, "staff appreciation is shared in real time and more evenly among the team," says Jennifer P., a practice manager at a veterinary clinic.



"Our annual survey from last year reflected low scores for Employee Recognition, but those scores increased significantly after implementing the Bonusly platform,"says John C., a sales compensation manager at an enterprise company


We love the enthusiasm! 😍 If you use Bonusly, please share your experience by reviewing us on G2 to help more companies discover our category-leading, award-winning, employee recognition, and engagement software.

Not yet a Bonusly customer? Request a demo to learn how a recognition platform can help improve your company's employee engagement. Ready to explore Bonusly on your own? Sign up now for a free trial.

This piece was written by Bonusly's own VP of People Operations. Enjoy! 🙌

With 2022 coming to a close, HR leaders are organizing traditional end-of-year celebratory events and wrapping up tasks at a fast and furious pace. In the midst of it all, I’m finding time to reflect on this year's themes—an essential step in preparing for what’s to come. My hope in sharing thoughts from the past year is to help you reflect and plan with a purpose for 2023.   

As VP of People Operations at Bonusly, my team and I aim to serve managers, employees, and potential employees. A few of our many focuses include recruiting, performance management, employee engagement, recognition, retention, benefits, and more.

With over 20 years of experience in people operations, I have spent a lot of time developing new programs, learning, and adapting to change in the workplace—and 2022 was quite eventful in that sense.

So what did we learn? What can we expect next year? What does it all mean and how can we do better in 2023? 

To boost employee retention and plan for a successful year:

-> Download the 2023 HR Checklist

What happened in 2022? 

long list

Constant change

Unsurprisingly, the workplace is still evolving. In my experience, I don't think I have ever seen this much transformation at this pace before. This rapid change was reflected through record-high wage increases, the push and pull of remote versus in-office work, and ongoing economic uncertainty despite a hot (though gradually cooling) job market. 


Economic uncertainty

With the markets performing at suboptimal levels, the tech world experienced layoffs. While some layoffs were predictable (think in-home exercise equipment), others were a product of market fluctuations. Ultimately, our economy was booming and then we successively entered a bear market which brought the challenge of record-high inflation rates along with it. Despite this uncertainty, companies still struggled to find and keep top talent.

In conversations with my colleague and Bonusly CEO & Founder, Raphael Crawford-Marks, he stated: 

Today, companies are facing: historic wage inflation, two job openings for every job seeker, and the number of national ‘quits’ per month are still above 4 million (pre-pandemic, it had never been above 3.5 million). All of that equates to companies having a hard time finding and keeping the talent they need to be successful.


A challenging world

Outside of the traditional confines of work, people reckoned with significant global challenges. Every day a new thread of concerns seemed to surface; unceasing social inequities, war, environmental threats and natural disasters, and a continuing pandemic collectively weighed on humanity. And it would be tough for it not to.


A lack of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts

When it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), we still have a lot of work to do. While some progress has been made, the impact of George Floyd's murder and the civil unrest that followed put serious and lasting pressure on employers to take meaningful action. It was a top priority for employees. In fact, a 2022  GoodHire study of 3,000 workers found:


 81% of all respondents would consider leaving their job due to an employer’s lack of commitment regarding DE&I.


However, in the tech industry, efforts are still lacking with only 42% of companies surveyed for BuiltIn’s State of DEI in Tech 2022 Report saying that their leadership set diversity hiring goals. 

To boost employee retention and plan for a successful year:

-> Download the 2023 HR Checklist

What employees need in 2023


Fundamentally, employees still want the same things

Even after a tumultuous few years, people are still people—we all want purpose, progress, and belonging. Employees want to work for companies that align with their values, help them develop their careers, and recognize them for their work. These wishes may seem simple, but it is important to acknowledge them—because it tempers the sweeping change we saw in 2022. 

HR goals for 2023: 

To be successful in business, we must treat employees as human beings

In the past, (and not even that long ago) most employers didn't put much thought into how they treated their employees. And employees rarely changed industries or jobs, let alone questioned processes or company practices.

Employee engagement, company culture, and DEI were seldom talked about. However, the pandemic tipped the scales in favor of workers and they left their jobs in droves.

In 2022, we saw trends like "Quiet Quitting," which challenged the “hustle culture” mentality of going beyond your job description. This forced organizations to reconcile and, despite a cooling job market, economists say employees still have the upper hand.

Now, company leaders are starting to see the business case for prioritizing the well-being of their employees. Ultimately, employee expectations have changed and organizations must adapt to remain competitive.

Crawford-Marks agrees:


If an organization or a department hits hard times, it is often the most in-demand and talented employees who are likely to jump ship. So what are companies doing or investing in to keep the talent that will help them survive challenging times?

The ‘win-win’ answer is to create an environment where employees feel different and better about their jobs than they do now.


The remedy is what we, Bonusly, have worked towards since the company started a decade ago.

HR goals for 2023: 

  • Show appreciation for your employees (we can’t stress this enough).
  • Be proactive and transparent in acknowledging challenges. This includes company-related obstacles as well as current events that might be impacting the well-being of your employees.
  • Be on the lookout for burnout and train managers on addressing it with their teams.
  • Review your company’s perks and benefits and ensure there is adequate support for employee mental health and wellness.


Focus on employee connection

Employees feel a lack of connection. Harvard Business Review found that 65% of workers report significantly less connection to coworkers and 76% of hybrid employees reported they don't feel connected to the company's culture.

HR goals for 2023: 



Challenge the status quo and embrace flexibility

We can do better at further questioning the ways of the past. I often think about the conventional practices of work and wonder, "do we really need to do that?" An 8:30 am meeting might be within working hours, but are we getting the best out of a particular individual? And how do we empower managers to best assist in that evaluation? 

Remote work is another great example. There’s no perfect alternative to in-person collaboration, but does that mean employees need to be at the office five days a week? 

I’ve heard stories from peers about returning to the office and I think to myself, "Why?!" We had the best work-life balance scenario handed to us when companies went hybrid or remote—have we learned nothing? We should be discovering new ways to work together. During the pandemic, labor productivity grew at an annualized rate of 11.2%. Going remote was new, and it worked. 

Plus, a recent Mckinsey study found that when offered, almost every single employee would take the opportunity to have a flexible work schedule. The results also revealed that flexibility is a top motivating factor for finding a new job. 

HR goals for 2023: 

  • Listen to what your employees need, whether in 1:1 meetings, through pulse surveys, or during stay interviews.
  • Create a 2023 hybrid work plan.


The takeaway

2022 was a year of consistent change, economic instability, employee inequity, and stressors at and outside of work. While fair compensation will always be important to employees, it’s not the sole reason people are engaged and fulfilled at work.

As Crawford-Marks told me recently:


There are a lot of industries that are having a hard time finding and retaining talent right now, and those companies need to consider levers other than just compensation. 


We have an opportunity to embrace the new year with a fresh approach. In order to get the best out of every teammate, we need to create workspaces that work for all of us, remembering that people working on teams are the number one driver of business success. If there's one thing you take with you, focus on giving your employees a sense of purpose, progress, and belonging in 2023.

To boost employee retention and plan for a successful year:

-> Download the 2023 HR Checklist

2023 HR checklist mock

Did you spend the first days of school frantically coming up with the most perfectly cool way to describe yourself as an animal?

Welcome to the club.

However, we'd encourage you to reframe how you think about these exercises at work―after all, this information isn’t useless! It’s a way to get to know your coworkers, and while it can be uncomfortable and just plain awkward, it’s a first layer you’ll have to break through in order to form lasting relationships on your team.

Plus, ice breakers are a key part of the employee engagement puzzle. Utilizing ice breakers impacts employee engagement because they help initiate team bonding and spark innovative thinking. And get this: employees that have the opportunity to innovate tend to be more engaged workers and committed to their company’s mission.

Considering the workplace has experienced a downturn in engagement, it pays to invest in the many ways we can reengage our employees.


Engaged, resilient teams have a competitive edge during uncertain times. Learn more:

-> Download the Free Guide: 3 Steps to Building Engaged, Resilient Teams


The research behind ice breakers

With how ubiquitous ice breakers can be at school, workplaces, and basically any situation where you meet a bunch of strangers at the same time—it’s natural to wonder, “okay, but do ice breakers actually break the ice?”

First off, let’s set some expectations. Ice breakers aren’t going to make everyone BFFs, and should just be considered a stepping stone to growing stronger relationships down the line.

employee lifecycle

You can trace this idea back to Tuckman’s Model, a theory that presents group formation as occurring in four stages:

  • Forming: where the group meets, shares interests, and starts identifying common goals
  • Storming: where problems and conflicts begin to arise
  • Norming: where the group is able to come up with solutions and become closer in the process
  • Performing: where the group efficiently and purposefully works toward a cohesive goal

The rhyming mechanism makes it especially easy to remember. 😉

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on the Forming stage of Tuckman’s Model.

It’s exactly what it sounds like: a group of people is meeting, sometimes for the first time, and it’s generally a space where individuals feel each other and possibly, their “roles” in subsequent meetings.

Researchers in the organizational psychology space say that “icebreaker[s] can help to foster a sense of ‘psychological safety,’ or an atmosphere in which people feel free to speak up—to question, criticize, say something out-there—without fear of being ostracized.”

Now, it’s probably not the best idea to debate hot-button topics as an ice breaker. More commonly, establishing a psychologically-safe environment takes a much more low-stakes exercise: having fun together. Thus, the classic ice breaker is born.


You may hate every second of it, but you’re not the only one undergoing humiliation. If everyone in the room has to tell their life story in a silly voice, or mime their favorite thing to do on weekends, at least you all look stupid together.
Cari Romm


Tip: recruit your culture leaders

organizational culture-1

Have you ever looked around the room to see how other people react before responding to a question?

Truthfully, many people are too self-conscious to speak up first. All it takes is a few people to smooth the process, however, which is why it’s so important to pull aside some team members to guarantee their participation in your ice breaker.

Keep an eye out for and reach out to “culture leaders”—they may not be managers or supervisors, but they are often admired and well-liked within the company. They’ll be your culture evangelists. 👍

These team members wield the “ice pick,” so to speak. Simply having an enthusiastic participant will go a long way in warming up the others and getting the interpersonal results you want. When you have your culture evangelists in place, it’s time to pick an activity!

15 team-building activities to break the ice 🔨

1. Marshmallow challenge

There’s a reason why this classic challenge is so popular. Check out this enlightening TED Talk about the surprising insights this exercise can uncover:



Building the tower is fun enough as it is (the sugar high from clandestinely eating some of those marshmallows may be part of that). But what’s really important are the takeaways. Afterward, ask your team: Did you have a leader? Did you come up with a plan? Was it a person you expected? Did you test out a bunch of small structures, or did you stake your success on a single idea? 

2. Team wins

Start meetings on a high note by taking a moment to recognize your team members. If you don’t have Bonusly implemented, take just 10 minutes to appreciate the hard-working individuals around the room. Switch it up—go around and appreciate someone to the left one day, and the next, ask people to appreciate someone on a different team. 

3. Company timeline

We love this idea from our friends at When I Work!

Give your team members four slips of paper, and ask them to mark down four important moments in their life. Let them pin them to the timeline.

[...] This exercise helps show, in a visual way, the different generations and experiences of your team. It leads well into talking about cultural and generational differences and the effects that has on how people work and communicate. It is also an opportunity for team members to learn more about each other.

Date-based activities always bring up interesting tidbits. When one team member was born, another could have been wearing bell bottoms and traveling around the United States in an RV. You never know! 


4. Guess who 

This one is easy. Write down a fact about yourself—the sillier the better—and toss it in with everybody else’s answers. Mix them up, and read each one aloud. Whoever matches a fact to a team member gets a (very coveted) piece of candy! 

This is a great way to learn tidbits and trivia about your team that may not come up in typical workplace conversations. 

💡Tip: You can use a tool like Quizbreaker to automate this process!

5. Meet your match

There are a few things in life that just go together—peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper, Taylor Swift and cats, etcetera, etcetera. Write down these pairs and tape one-half of each on someone’s back or forehead. The goal is to get everyone to find their other half, but here’s the catch—you don’t know your own descriptor, and you can only ask yes-or-no answers of others.

Once you do work out your pairing, take a moment and get to know each other!

Learn everything you need to know about creating more resilient, engaged teams today:

-> Download the Free Guide: 3 Steps to Building Engaged, Resilient Teams

6. One-word icebreaker 

This one has applications in a number of settings. For a larger, all-hands type meeting, split your employees into teams and ask them to come up with one word to describe, say, your company culture. Give them ten minutes to discuss amongst themselves. Then let all the teams present their word and their reasoning, and facilitate a conversation about your company values

Similarly, this can also be done quickly in the first few minutes of a meeting. Prompts like, “describe this project with one word,” or “In this meeting, I hope to come away with [word],” can reveal some surprising answers, with enlightening or comforting discussion to follow. 



7. Trading cards

Ever imagined yourself on a collectible? Now’s your chance! We love this idea from Gamestorming, where each participant creates their own trading card, including a hometown, nickname, and a bit of trivia about themselves. Pass around the cards and ask follow-up questions, allowing time for the player—er, participant—to elaborate.

Hard mode: Have everyone create a trading card for someone else on the team. 😝

8. Mindfulness check-in

It’s so often that we bounce from one meeting to the next—one workday to the next, even! Encourage employee wellness by taking a quiet moment to let each person breathe. With guided prompts like, “What is the purpose of this meeting?” and “What is the thing you’re hoping to accomplish today?” you’re allowing team members to ground themselves, focus, and open up.

Better yet, check out our fun, gratitude bingo activity that encourages mindfulness at work. 

9. Donut chats

There’s only so much you can bond with someone over quick prompts, so take it a step further and implement Donut at your company! Donut pairs up two employees for coffee (or donuts! Or beer!), allowing for one-on-one time between team members who might not be able to interact or collaborate as often. 

10. Speed meeting

Just like speed dating, but SFW. 😉

This is a great way to meet a lot of employees in a short time, and, if you're in person, gets people up and moving, too! Arrange participants in two lines, and just shuffle everyone down the line once the timer goes off. Along with the typical name and occupation questions, arm each team member with an interesting question to ask. Check out this in-depth explanation from The Balance Careers, with great variations and a list of prompts!

If your team is virtual, you can use Zoom or Google breakout rooms to randomly pair your employees together. 

11. Ask Me Anythings

An Ask Me Anything, or AMA, is exactly what it sounds like—you get to ask someone anything you want! Whether it's a speed round where you ask many people questions or a dedicated time to get to know a specific person, it's a fun and easy way to quickly learn about your team members. 

12. Daily questions and prompts

At Bonusly, we have a Slack channel dedicated to sparking conversations and chatting! We use Donut Watercooler's prompts, but it's easy to manually write your own questions and automate them to post at a certain time. 

You can probably find lists upon lists of "get to know you" questions on the internet, but here are a few unique conversation starters:

  • If you were a brand, what brand colors would you be, and why? 
  • You're now on House Hunters—what are your three requirements for a home?
  • If you were a Thanksgiving side, which one would you be, and why?
  • What's the recipe for your go-to, super-easy favorite comfort food?
  • Write an acrostic poem with your name. Here's an example: 
Screen Shot 2020-12-21 at 12.55.37 PM
  • What were you doing five years ago? Would past-you be surprised at where you are today?
  • Share a photo from your weekend. 
  • What's your favorite way to eat a potato?
  • Post your favorite or go-to GIF!
  • What's the best thing you've ever eaten? What's the worst
  • If a zoo were to exhibit you, how would they design your habitat? 
  • What's your favorite emoji (or custom emoji)? 

13. Show off your drawing skills

Having a short drawing prompt is a great way to ease into a long meeting! It's a great moment for everyone to use a different part of their brain than usual and can lead to some hilarious results. Example A: ⬇️

Can you draw your company's logo from memory? The Bonusly Bunch gave it a shot. 🤣💚 #Bonusly #DrawingDay #NationalDrawingDay

— Bonusly from Home (@bonusly) May 19, 2018


14. Start a friendly debate

There are definitely a few hot takes that spark furious debates among Bonuslians (all friendly, of course...). Running a few polls or strategically dropping a loaded question is a great way to spark conversation and break the ice. 

  • Tater tots vs. waffle fries?
  • Chocolate candy vs. sour candy?
  • Should hot dogs be considered sandwiches? 
  • How do you feel about the Oxford comma?
  • Pizza cut into triangles or squares?
  • Is cereal soup?

15. Play games

Sometimes, the best way to get to know each other is by focusing on something else entirely! Why not set up a Jackbox Games party?

Happy Employees At Work

Go forth

As we mentioned, ice breakers aren’t meant to make everyone BFFs right away! In fact, it may even make everyone comfortable right away. But sometimes, that discomfort is valuable in a group environment. It demonstrates that it’s okay to be vulnerable at your workplace, which is an important building block to developing a company culture of respect. 

How can HR teams, managers, and leaders inspire employees to be stronger and more flexible in times of ongoing change?

Building more engaged, resilient teams is the answer. 👇

Chatter about a potential recession is all over the news right now, along with headlines about big, successful companies cutting headcount—Meta, Amazon, and Twitter, just to name a few.

And that’s got quite a few senior leaders and HR teams feeling a little worried. 🫣

But if the economy does head into a recession, it’s clear that this one won’t look like the last few. With an unemployment rate still sitting at a near-record low of 3.7%, businesses are struggling to find new employees and hold onto the ones they already have. 

Making sure your employees are engaged and enthusiastic about their work isn’t easy during a recession, but it’s critical—since hiring their replacements will continue to be very challenging. Your current employees are the key players holding your company together through tough economic times, keeping your company surviving and even thriving—but only if you can keep them around.  

To boost employee retention and plan for a successful year:


Why retention during a recession matters 

Employees are well aware of the shortage of workers right now and it’s giving them plenty of well-earned confidence. In fact, confidence is so high that one in three U.S. workers say they wouldn’t sacrifice anything to keep their job during an economic downturn. That’s definitely not what we saw in the 2008 recession when workers were happy to go far beyond their duties just to keep their jobs.  

There are still almost two jobs for every job seeker, which means that employee confidence is coming from a very real place. Employees know they still have other job options if they’re unhappy with their current role, so many of them aren’t willing to sacrifice their personal lives or the benefits they’ve earned. They’ll simply hunt for, and likely find, a job that suits them better.  

According to Axios


Employers have a huge appetite for more workers and aren't letting go of the employees they do have. The still-elevated level of quits mean workers are confident enough about better job prospects — and, likely, higher pay — to leave their current jobs.


There’s still plenty of uncertainty about exactly how severe a potential recession will be, or if we’ll even experience one. But all of these numbers add up to one certainty: the extremely tight labor market isn’t going anywhere, so focusing on retaining your employees (especially your top performers) is more essential than ever. 

economic uncertainty


How to retain top performers in a recession 

A recession offers plenty of retention challenges for employers, but it offers opportunities as well. If you can show employees that you truly care about them and value them even during tough times, you can earn their loyalty for years to come. 

And best of all, most of these solutions are low-to-no-cost so you can prioritize retention even when growth is slow and budgets are tight.


1. Prioritize recognition 

One very simple and completely free way to reduce turnover is regularly appreciating and acknowledging the hard work your employees do every day. Saying thank you is free! And it feels great for both the giver and the receiver. Plus, a failure to recognize employees is 2.9 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover. 

Recognition can come in many forms: from one peer to another, from a manager to a direct report, from senior leadership to their team, and in pretty much any other direction you can imagine. 

But recognition doesn’t happen on its own. You need to proactively build a culture of employee appreciation and recognition so that individual contributors, managers, and leaders all feel comfortable giving and receiving recognition frequently. 

Creating a culture of recognition begins with your senior leadership team. They should set the example themselves by increasing how much recognition they give to their reports and employees in their departments (a super short thank-you email from a higher-up can make an employee’s week!). 

Then, make sure you’re making it easy for employees to recognize their colleagues and managers to recognize their direct reports for a job well done. This can look like adding agenda space to a weekly meeting for appreciation, applauding accomplishments in the department Slack channel, or using a platform like Bonusly to enable recognition for anyone on the team with just a few clicks. 


2. Practice empathy 

Recessions are mentally and emotionally challenging for employees, even if their jobs are secure. They may worry about family members and friends who are struggling, feel anxious about the future outside of work, or have stressful memories of previous recessions (*waves as a millennial who graduated into the Great Recession*)

Understanding the stresses employees might be feeling can help HR teams and company leaders prioritize ways to help them through tough times as much as possible. You can try out creative new wellness programs, proactively communicate about existing benefits that can help employees, and train managers to have better one-on-one conversations with employees to see what’s going on in their lives. 

Empathy doesn’t need to mean avoiding difficult conversations or necessary layoffs. But it does mean keeping employee feelings and morale top of mind when making important decisions. When your people don’t feel understood by their HR teams or senior leaders, they’re at a higher turnover risk—and just might go find a company that prioritizes their well-being more. 

Sad Employee 2


3. Don’t forget about career development 

Promoting your top workers is a proven way to keep retention high. After all, highly skilled and productive people aren’t likely to stick around if there’s no room for them to grow. But a common mistake leaders and HR teams make is thinking of career growth only in terms of promotions. 

In a recession, it might be difficult to promote employees because of budget concerns. In that case, you should prioritize other options for career growth for your employees so they know they’re still progressing toward the future they’ve imagined for themselves. 

Creative career growth options could look like creating a strong framework for lateral moves, which is a huge retention boost. 

Gartner research found:


Employee intent to stay is 33% higher in companies with strong internal hiring markets.


Mentorship programs can also be a cost-effective way to help employees grow their careers right now without focusing on promotions. And providing additional training is another great way to encourage employees to stay during a recession as they develop skills that will serve them in the future. 

(And you might want to run the numbers on how much it would cost to replace a top performer given the true cost of turnover if they leave for a promotion somewhere else. But that’s another story altogether. 😬)


4. Keep meaningful benefits in place 

Your company's perks and benefits aren’t only there to reward employees in roaring economic times. They’re just as vital in the tough times too. Great benefits and perks can be critical differentiators in a tight hiring market and often provide motivation for employees to stick with your company. 

The urge to immediately cut benefits when a recession hits is strong in many industries. And of course, you don’t need to keep absolutely all of them at the risk of your company’s financial health. But indiscriminately cutting perks, or slashing the ones with the highest cost, might actually make your company less set up for success in the future. 

Let’s say your leadership team decides that the company doesn’t need to provide free coffee anymore as part of cost-reduction efforts. They might reason that your well-paid employees can simply buy coffee from one of the many coffee places surrounding your office. 

But employees consider the coffee you provide as an act of care, plus they like to gather and chat while they pour their morning cup. The money your company will save on coffee may pale in comparison to the goodwill and collegial connections you’ll lose. 

Wondering which benefits your employees value the most? Don’t assume you know—ask them directly! Gathering their feedback will help you make the case to retain the benefits that matter most to your employees, instead of cutting the ones they value and risking a rise in resignations. 



5. Enhance internal communication 

Communication and transparency are surprisingly strong contributing factors to employee retention. Employees who believe their leaders are transparent report more than six times higher satisfaction with their work environment, and four times higher sense of belonging at work. 

Prioritizing regular, clear internal communication is even more critical during a recession than during good times. Employees want to hear from their leaders when things feel uncertain, so developing an internal communications strategy and cadence should be top of mind for your team. 

Transparency doesn’t mean you need to tell employees everything—they know you can’t do that, and they don’t expect it. But the more you can proactively communicate priorities, decisions, and the company vision, the more employees will trust that your company has their interests at heart—and the less likely they are to look for another job out of frustration or fear. 


Employee retention resources 

Our guide to retaining your top talent offers plenty of data-backed actionable strategies you can use to increase retention so your company is set up for success, no matter what the future of the economy holds. 

To plan and accomplish a successful 2023 with retention in mind, download our free checklist made just for HR pros. 

Inside, you'll find:

✅ An interactive PDF that yes, lets you literally check off boxes!

💭 Reflection and planning prompts to align your people goals with overall business objectives.

💚 Actionable tips to improve culture and engagement, recruitment and hiring, growth and development, performance and feedback, wellness, and recognition.

⚒️ Over 10 new tools and resources you can use for free today!

2023 HR checklist mock


As an HR professional, you know that communication is one of your most powerful tools. From an employee’s first day, it’s your job to facilitate an environment where each teammate is engaged, motivated, and can thrive.

When employees do choose to leave the company, exit interviews often shed light on what went wrong. But why wait until employees are already out the door to ask those questions?

Enter: stay interviews.

What are stay interviews?

Stay interviews can help you proactively understand what employees love about your company, along with areas for improvement. You want to retain your top talent, so why not directly ask them what keeps them there? Plus, stay interviews give employees a safe space to share how you can better support and develop them.

Ready to bring stay interviews to your organization? Below are four tips for getting started.


4 steps to effective stay interviews

1. Choose interviewees strategically

Interviewing every employee company-wide would be a daunting task for even the most consummate HR communicator. Your first challenge is to decide who to focus on. Are you relatively new to your company? Start small. Stay interviews are a great way to build trust and get to know what employees value about the company.

Have you been working there for a while? It may be time to build a formal process for conducting stay interviews. For example, schedule a conversation when an employee reaches a certain point in tenure or a set number of days after onboarding. Departments experiencing a period of high turnover may also benefit from ad hoc stay interviews to help you identify what is working for that team. You can also segment stay interviews by employee level to get a read on how each tier is feeling, from entry-level roles and beyond.

Whoever you choose to meet with first, creating an open dialogue about retention contributes to an environment where employees feel comfortable talking to you before putting in their notice. Stay interviews are a mutually beneficial way to build trust and loyalty within your organization.

2. Ask the right questions

Unlike performance reviews, which are typically conducted by managers, stay interviews should be a direct conversation between someone in HR and an employee. This conversation is not an evaluation of the employee’s work, but rather an open discussion on how they feel about the company. To be successful, ask a variety of questions that help uncover what employees believe the company is doing successfully to retain employees.

So how do you get to those answers? Here are some questions to use as a jumping-off point:

4 example stay interview questions

  • What motivates you to stay? Open up the dialogue about why employees enjoy working there.
  • What de-motivates you? Learn what prevents employees from doing their best work and what would de-motivate them enough to walk out the door.
  • What percent of your time do you spend engaging in company activities? This tells you if employees feel integrated within your culture and have adequate work-life balance.
  • Do you have a best friend at work? This helps you find out if employees are connecting with their peers. If they don’t have strong friendships at work, they may feel disconnected.

3. Identify trends

Once you gather stay interview feedback across the organization, it's important you take action on it. Work together as an HR team to review answers, identify themes between and across departments, and create a plan of action for how to address the trends.

For example, if you uncover that a top reason folks stay at your organization is because of the flexibility and remote work environment, you may reconsider that return-to-office plan. Or, if you hear that a certain department is experiencing more burnout than others, you can set up a meeting with the department head to address it before it's too late. 

4. Take action to build a culture of trust

By opening up this dialogue with employees, you contribute to a culture of listening. Employees will feel like they can provide ongoing feedback that’s truly heard.

Mary Lanier-Evans, People & Culture Officer of QuickStart Technology, introduced stay interviews when she first joined the company. She noticed early on that the employees in one of her remote offices struggled with trusting HR. She wanted to show them that HR is for the people—not a disciplinary or governing figure.

She scheduled several calls with people onsite to find out what was really going on. By helping to resolve the problems that surfaced, she built a sense of trust and now those formerly timid employees go to her directly with any concerns that arise.



The takeaway

It’s time to put your stay interview practice into place. The sooner you identify strengths and weaknesses in your retention efforts, the faster you can improve them. It’s rare that you can change someone’s mind in an exit interview, but a stay interview gives you the opportunity to optimize your work environment and keep employees on board for the long haul.


No matter what time of year it is, it’s always a good idea to check in with how things are going on your team and to reassess goals where applicable. Are people burned out? Is morale high? What's your turnover rate like? 

Unfortunately for many people managers, turnover is typically top of mind. As we’ve shared before, employee turnover historically spikes in January—but it doesn't necessarily end then. And considering we’re still in the midst of a little thing called The Great Resignation (maybe you’ve heard of it? 😜), this year’s numbers are unlikely to relent.

Of course, there’s an element of cyclicity at play here. Many people quit their jobs in January after waiting for their year-end bonus to arrive, because they’ve been recruited by another company that’s ramped up hiring for the year, or just because it’s time for a change.

But here’s a hard truth to face, too: for many, the decision to leave their job is more personal than a simple matter of timing. In fact, a recent study revealed that about 50% of over 7,000 employees surveyed left their job “to get away from their manager.”

Yikes—we’ll give you a minute to recover from that one. 😅

Here’s the good news: if there’s room for improvement in your management style, you, too, can harness the power of the new year and resolve to make some changes that could positively impact employee retention.

Ready, set, retention!


You have more influence than you think

The same study that cited not-great managers as the number one reason why people left their job provided a number of other reasons as well: too much workload, a lack of recognition, a lack of career advancement opportunities, and broken commitments.

A closer look shows that while these reasons don’t specifically call out people managers, they’re all greatly influenced by management style. Managers can make a huge difference in controlling workload, properly recognizing employees, setting up development opportunities, and, of course, following through on those opportunities.

According to Gallup, most employees’ day-to-day experiences fall under three categories: engagement, performance, and development. Once again, these areas fall within the realm of responsibility for managers. Making strides in engaging your team, coaching for high performance, and shaping personalized, long-term growth will all contribute to a better experience for employees, and will likely impact retention in a positive way. ✨

Understand—and improve—engagement

If employee engagement is flagging, there are a few steps you can take to improve it. But first, you’ll need to get a read on just how engaged your employees actually are. You can use something like employee net promoter score (eNPS), which asks how likely your employees would be to recommend working at your company to friends and family.

Once you’ve identified that there’s room for improvement, you can start collecting more specific employee feedback to find out why employees are feeling less-than-inspired. You can also introduce an employee recognition program to make it more intentional and truly reap the benefits (start with The Complete Manager's Guide to Employee Recognition)

One thing about employee engagement is undeniable: it cannot coexist with burnout. Additionally, in our recent survey, 49% of managers reported dealing with employee burnout. If your employees are already feeling burnt out, you have bigger problems to solve than upping engagement. You can prevent burnout, however, by focusing on cultural initiatives that are people-first. Prioritize your employees as your most important asset. You can also build a burnout prevention plan that’s proactive about taking concrete measures to encourage work-life balance.



Remove bias from performance management

Performance reviews are often a fraught time for both managers and employees. The stakes can feel very high, and if an employee feels blindsided by their review, engagement can really suffer. Too often, employer bias also gets in the way of providing fair and relevant performance evaluation and coaching.

Make sure you have a system in place that allows you to avoid this! Getting your employees involved in goal-setting and determining the purpose behind their goals can go a long way here. If your employees clearly understand what they’re trying to achieve, and why, performance management is more likely to feel collaborative rather than prescriptive.

Another key piece of managing performance is providing regular, relevant feedback. That means not waiting until the company-mandated review periods to tell someone how they’re doing. Setting aside time during 1:1s to check in on performance can help ensure you’re both on the same page and prevent anyone from feeling surprised—and potentially blindsided—when it’s time for a formal review.


Foster a growth environment

New beginnings for your employees don’t have to mean finding a new job. You can use the new year as an opportunity to start building development plans with your employees.

As Margaret Rogers outlines in Harvard Business Review, you can start this process by asking questions. Before you build a plan to help your employees grow, you need to know how they want to grow. Set up one-on-ones and use the opportunity to get as much information as you can. What parts of the job do your employees find interesting? What parts are challenging? Does your employee have any career goals that their current role isn’t helping them work towards?

Once you understand the ways your employees want to grow, you can create more opportunities for them to learn and build the skills they’ve expressed interest in developing. Rogers recommends providing employees with “learning moments”—that is, situations that specifically address that employee’s goals.

Finally, understand that guiding your employees in their career development is an iterative process that requires regular feedback. Be specific about what your employee is doing well and where you’d like to see them improve, and allow them to give you feedback on how they feel about the learning moments they’ve been given. Seeing career growth as an ongoing conversation can help both you and your employee stay on track.

The takeaway

There are incremental yet meaningful changes you can make as a people manager to prioritize your employees’ job satisfaction. Focusing on engagement, performance, and development can help bring your team—and your management style—out of a rut and reset your employer-employee relationship for the better.

Want to keep those creative wheels spinning? Here is a handy checklist to plan and accomplish a successful 2023 with retention in mind! ⬇️

2023 HR checklist mock

How is your team retaining top talent at your organization? If you answer office snacks, Zoom happy hours, or annual superlatives…you’ll want to continue reading. 😬

Recruiting top talent and employee retention is no longer just a threat for understaffed industries—it’s something we are seeing across the board.

This is what your people ops team might feel at this exact moment: They fear losing crucial employees and being ghosted for interviews left and right. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 4 million people chose to leave their jobs in November of 2022. Whether we’re tired of the term or not, The Great Resignation continues to reveal new perspectives when it comes to work and personal fulfillment.


Why is keeping top talent so difficult?

Resignation records continue to be broken during the pandemic. Many economists and human resource experts are scratching their heads on the exact reasons why. A report from the Work Institute estimates that by 2023, up to 35% of employees may leave their jobs each year.

Individuals are wired differently, and it’s important to recognize the needs and wants of each employee. Those who decide to leave may not feel recognized enough for their efforts, are dealing with burnout, or could be seeking higher pay or more responsibility. The scary thing is you may not even know it unless you ask.

Robert Half, a national talent solutions organization, presented some of the most common reasons why individuals decide to leave their jobs.

Exit Interview Responses for Why Employees Leave

  1. Inadequate salary and benefits
  2. Feeling overworked and/or unsupported
  3. Limited career advancement
  4. A need for better work-life balance
  5. Lack of recognition
  6. Boredom
  7. Unhappiness with management
  8. Concerns about the company’s direction or financial health
  9. Dissatisfaction with the company culture
  10. The desire to make a change
  11. More desirable opportunities at other companies

The costs associated with employee turnover present a continual challenge in addition to the damaging effects on company culture. While retention woes are currently the norm, they don’t have to define your outlook or results at your organization. Looking on the bright side can yield great rewards for companies who are ditching bad workplace habits.

Periodic manager check-ins centered around honest conversations will build trust and deliver empathy for your team. In this new era of work expectations, those who embrace and anticipate better ways to keep coworkers will certainly stand out.

If you check these boxes off the list, it’s a good sign you’re taking care of your people, which will also reduce turnover, boost productivity, and lead to stronger business outcomes as a result.

Strategies for Employee Retention 

1. Make onboarding and training a priority 👋

You only get one shot at making a lasting impact with each new employee. Make an extra effort for coworkers to feel welcome, be aware of expectations, and not feel too overwhelmed. Create an onboarding plan that explains your company culture, recurring events, and opportunities to get involved throughout the organization.

Increased remote work has presented opportunities and challenges in the employee onboarding process. With up to 65% of remote workers who prefer not to return to an office anytime soon, operational teams and managers must get creative to keep up with new standards.

Consider adding digital ways of learning like an LMS or video training module. These can help you engage and understand each employee while keeping consistency across teams and the organization. Look for opportunities to incorporate your company values and culture in training sessions to add authenticity and purpose to each lesson.

Employee training will look different for various organization types and industries. Some positions or promotions require quite a bit of self-education. However, creating a framework for the tools, accountabilities, and objectives for each employee is critical for them to know how to achieve their goals.

It helps to have a buddy system for new employees to understand how teams operate, the ways in which they stay connected, and any norms to look out for on a daily basis. Without proper training, workers can feel lost, overwhelmed, or undervalued if they feel like they have to figure out most everything for themselves in the beginning stages.

Create a safe space in the onboarding process for employees to ask questions within a group or with their manager. That way, they’ll feel more confident and supported. The best-case scenario is a mutual commitment between the company and employees, helping you retain your top talent.


​​2. Build a culture of transparency and inclusion 🤝

Change is something we all expect in life and the workplace, no matter how uncomfortable it might feel. Change inspires growth, flexibility, and new challenges. However, some companies have some major issues in this department. If a boss is always changing your role or pivoting a huge strategy before seeing it through, it can damage trust and transparency, thus affecting employee retention.

There must be a healthy balance in your company culture where each person feels included. Everyone’s voice should matter and communication from the top down should occur frequently. Consistent and straightforward communication from every level of leadership promotes transparency and an inclusive understanding between individuals.

Millennials and Gen Z workers are very passionate about the authenticity and transparency displayed at their jobs. If younger individuals are not confident in the company’s values or ways they go about earning profit, it can be easy for them to drift away and look for something else.

How can companies be more transparent and inclusive? Try to have clear goals for each department and provide collaborative ways for employees to discuss how they can contribute. Feedback loops are important as well to assess morale and if anything is out of balance culture-wise.

Inclusive companies recognize the different learning and communication styles of each team member. Many organizations now take the time to invest in personality and compatibility tests or lunch-and-learns for their staff to uncover more about themselves and how they relate to each other. More conversations and acknowledgment of diversity, equity, and inclusion are crucial to growth and a healthy work environment that celebrates each employee's unique qualities.

relay handoff isolated

 3. Encourage personal development 🤜

Career paths and personal development should be top of mind for managers and HR leaders. If employees feel like this is a “nice to have” at their job, they might resent time spent without seeing any rewards. Or worse: they are not offered the opportunity to try something new, be promoted, or acquire a new skill.

As many work situations are now being altered, automated, or outsourced, it is crucial for employees to feel like they are becoming a better version of themselves and contributing. A study found that one-third of employer turnover was attributed to unsupportive management and a lack of development opportunities.

A good way to start encouraging personal development and retaining your top talent is to have recurring events to ask workers what they enjoy, what needs improvement, and how they can achieve their desires. Mentor programs are a great way to let interests and curiosities be explored with an expert. If you have some leaders willing to participate in these activities, it can dramatically improve morale and retention.

Wellness programs are also something that remains at the top of the list for what employees are craving. Whether individuals are looking to improve their physical wellbeing, learn about mental health, or find helpful ways to manage stress, these activities and opportunities provided by the employer can go a long way. Incorporate a holistic view of employee health so they know you are invested in them for more than what they can produce.

4. Offer competitive perks and benefits 👌

How long is the benefits section of your job postings? Well…you should probably consider growing it. Some of the key advantages of full-time employment in a traditional work setting are the security and benefits that come with the job—and they have to be fair and balanced.

Find ways to offer creative ways to address big challenges many employees face. These could include childcare options, workplace flexibility (remote, hybrid, non 9-5), financial literacy, and more. Try your best not to copy and paste your benefits and perks but consider your core values once again and how they relate to being a true employee partner.

5. Commit to an employee recognition program 👍

A recent survey by SHRM and Globoforce estimated that 80 percent of organizations reported having an employee recognition program. Are you actively giving your employees the tools to recognize good work? If not, you’re missing out in ways that may be leading to retention concerns.

Do you have a company-wide meeting every so often? Are there ways you are acknowledging exceptional work and performance from employees? Or, do you have ways to give recognition when it’s due for a project or achievement, big or small?

Boosting your employee engagement and recognition can go a long way in keeping your top talent. When peers have the ability to reward their coworkers with more than words, it gives appreciation a greater purpose.

Employee recognition will continue to be a high priority going forward, and we'd love for you to take a tour of Bonusly to see how we can support your team. 👀


Retention and turnover will continue to be on our minds as we tackle 2023. Take the time to invest in your employees, help them feel included, and provide ways for them to celebrate wins. In that way, they will be more apt to stick around and share their joy with other top talent in your industry. 💖

Looking for actionable tips to improve culture and engagement, recruitment and hiring, growth and development, performance and feedback, wellness, and recognition. Head here!👇

2023 HR checklist mock



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