Building an Annual Employee Recognition Calendar

View Recognition Dates

Recognizing and rewarding your employees using incentive automation will energize them and help build a positive culture in your organization. Developing a recognition calendar can help.

Validating and valuing employees with meaningful recognition is the most important factor in determining job satisfaction and motivating people to more productive work.

68 percent of HR professionals agreed that recognition has a positive impact on retention according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Three employees gathered in the office, giving a high five for a job well done!

30% of employees in a recent Zippia survey reported not receiving any recognition in over a year.

Good business

Recognition is good business

Recognizing and rewarding your personnel and teams pays dividends. The workplace will be more fulfilling when workers are routinely acknowledged, and successes are regularly recognized and rewarded. 

If you are responsible for setting guidelines for your organization, encouraging managers to recognize and reward employees should be top of your list. Creating a recognition calendar can help.

Give managers an example

Hilton Hotels provides their managers with easy-to-implement ideas and suggestions to recognize employees in an annual Recognition Calendar. Not coincidentally, Hilton is routinely cited at the top as one of the best workplaces in a variety of ratings organizations and publications. 

Encourage year-round recognition from all corners

View the recognition calendar for ideas on acknowledging the contributions and success of employees.

Recognition doesn’t always have to be top down.

Set aside specific awards and budget for peer-to-peer recognition.

Incentive and rewards are typically given out by management in structured programs. It is important to conduct these fairly and equitably. It is also important to consider the perspective of employees.

In addition to company and management-given awards, the opinions of employees should be included in part of your recognition programs. 

Encourage peer-to-peer identification of colleagues that have made especially useful contributions to the team. Acknowledge these positive achievements and contributions and provide awards and incentives when appropriate to make these more memorable.

By encouraging recognition from all angles, managers and employees alike can share in recognizing and rewarding contributions from any team member in the organization. 

Letting employees participate in peer-to-peer recognition and rewards also provides great feedback to managers.

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How to get started

Here are some steps you can follow to plan an annual recognition calendar for your employees:

  1. Determine your goals: The first step is to determine what you want to achieve through the program. Do you want to increase employee engagement, improve productivity, or recognize outstanding contributions? Defining your goals will help you design an effective program.
  2. Identify key dates: Are there key dates throughout the year, such as holidays, anniversaries, and milestones, that you can use to celebrate and recognize your employees. You might also use the various national recognition dates and fun dates such as National Ice Cream day as part of your calendar.
  3. Choose incentives: Decide what types of incentives you want to offer to your employees. These should include monetary rewards, such as bonuses as well as gift cards and merchandise choices from gift cards. You may also offer non-monetary rewards, such as time off.
  4. Develop a budget: Determine how much you are willing to spend on the annual incentive calendar and allocate funds accordingly. This will help you ensure that you have enough resources to implement the program effectively. Don’t forget to set aside funds for team meetings and gatherings where you spring for the pizza or other food to go along with informal recognition meetings.
  5. Automate tasks: Set up an all-in-one incentive fulfillment and rewards platform to take the chore out of the incentive management part.
  6. Review and adjust: Once you’ve implemented the annual incentive calendar, be sure to regularly review and assess its effectiveness. This will allow you to make any necessary adjustments to ensure that it’s meeting your goals and effectively recognizing and rewarding your employees.

Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.

Why Smaller Incentives Work

  • Research has long shown that smaller rewards can be more effective in motivating deeper and lasting behavior change.
  • Cognitive dissonance theory suggests that smaller incentives may work better because they are perceived as internally motivated.
  • External rewards like big discounts and free prizes can undermine intrinsic motivation and the behaviors you seek to reinforce.


Psychologists have long known that while bigger rewards can indeed motivate action, smaller rewards can be more effective at generating deeper, lasting change by inspiring larger shifts in favorable attitudes and positive emotions.

The more employees conclude that their actions were driven by external rewards, the less likely they are to change their internal mindset. If the reward is bigger, they are more likely to conclude it was for the benefit of the reward itself. But if the reward is smaller, it’s more likely tied to enjoying the action.

Read more by Douglas Van Praet at Psychology Today

We can help you at every step

From your initial email design that fits your corporate style to loading your list of employees and then sending it, we’re here to make sure you and your organization look good. Consider having managers include a personal note for each employee. Spreadsheets are great for collecting information.

If you have questions about ways to recognize the employees in your teams, reply to this email or call us at 415-386-8600 ext. 1 to schedule a design call.

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Recognition programs

It’s important to have a company-wide recognition program, especially for the most important accomplishments and milestones.

Just as significant is ensuring that praise and acknowledgement comes directly from managers.  We all work under the direction of someone, and appreciation from a direct manager is often the most gratifying.

Make it Timely

Recognition is ideally given right away, and it helps employees understand that they are valued. Specific incentives and some of your more prominent awards can wait for an all-hands meeting. But you should pass on a good word to the employee right away.

Make It Required

Every manager should be required to participate in conducting incentive and reward activities.

Managers should be able to easily request an incentive or award for team members with little effort. Centralizing the reward request process in HR is an excellent way to manage and monitor the program’s use and keep tabs on how the program is being used.

Make It Easy

A portion of your program should be reserved explicitly for managers to thank team members in their department for individual and team accomplishments.

Managers should notify employees directly of their appreciation and thanks. Praise and acknowledgment should be given personally, and an incentive or reward should accompany specific accomplishments to make the award more memorable.

You can easily centralize the reward portion of the process to make it simple for managers to request incentives – and for employees to redeem the reward of their choice.

Make It Meaningful

Praise and thanks are the lingua franca of our work lives. Thanks are always gratifying and always appreciated. Receiving thanks from a higher-up can increase the perceived value of gratitude, and coupling thanks with a gift or reward can make the praise far more memorable.

Be Specific

Make sure folks know why they are being singled out for acknowledgment. Be specific; collaborated across teams and helped Team X meet their quarterly production goals or cleared the most significant number of 2nd-level customer service requests. You get the idea.

When giving praise, be specific about what the employee did that was good, and be sincere and timely, as that will have a more significant impact. Also, try to be creative and diverse in your recognition methods.

Make it Appropriate

Recognition is excellent all by itself, and a casual “Thank You” goes a long way. Certain recognition can be greatly enhanced with a reward or gift to go along with the praise.

  • Verbal praise: Give praise in person or over the phone. Verbal praise is one of the most immediate and personal forms of recognition, and it can help to build a positive relationship with the employee.
  • Written praise: Write a note or email to the employee, praising them for their efforts. Written praise can be especially valuable for employees who prefer a more tangible form of recognition.
  • Public recognition: Publicly recognize an employee’s achievements in a team meeting, company newsletter, or other company-wide forum. This can help to motivate others and create a positive work environment.
  • Reward or incentives: Give employees tangible rewards such as gift cards, extra time off, or other incentives.
  • Proactive recognition: Giving recognition proactively is one of the most powerful forms of praise, because it shows that you are paying attention to the employee’s performance and that you are actively thinking about ways to recognize their hard work.
  • Tailored recognition: Tailor the form of recognition to the employee, for example, public recognition may not be ideal for an introverted employee and a one-on-one personal note may be more appreciated.

Ready to design something brilliant?

Schedule a free design session

Our design sessions are the perfect way to show you how TruCentive can help you realize your rewards, gifts, or payout goals in a real-world scenario, building a complete project with everything from your logo, design options, and messaging to incentive selection, deliveries, and reminders. 

When we’re done, you’ll:


  • Possess a solid grasp of constructing your project.


    • Have a comprehensive understanding of best practices for incentive delivery.


  • Learn the secrets of the incentives industry and the savings and advantages of utilizing TruCentive for your next program.
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