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20 Ideas to Reward and Recognize Innovation in the Workplace - HRDQ

20 Ideas to Reward and Recognize Innovation in the Workplace

Innovation is a vital key to success in the competitive landscape of the modern business world. Great leaders are also looking for new, creative ideas to solve problems, help their organization grow, and further establish themselves as authorities in their field.

For this reason, it's essential to recognize creativity and innovation when you see it among your employees. After all, people at all levels of a company can offer fresh, new perspectives that can tremendously benefit the entire organization.

Are you wondering how you can reward innovation in the workplace and how you can further encourage creative thinking and ideas?

Let's look at twenty ideas for recognizing and celebrating this essential quality.

1. Public Recognition

This idea might not be the best choice for painfully shy employees, but most people appreciate being publicly recognized when they've come up with an innovative idea in the office. This can be as simple as an office announcement describing the ingenuity of the team member's idea, or it could mean throwing an all-out bash to celebrate their achievement.

Public Recognition

There are a lot of ways you can recognize your employees publicly, but here are just a few:

  • Add them to a company wall of fame.
  • Put up achievement wall plaques.
  • Feature innovative achievements on LinkedIn or the company blog or newsletter.

2. Personal Appreciation

An essential part of leadership is the ability to make personal connections with your team. While public recognition can be great, sometimes it doesn't make nearly as much of an impact on the employees as a little personal appreciation.

Personal Appreciation

When employees who were once highly engaged seem to tune out, it's often because they feel their work is going unrecognized and unnoticed. Consider writing a handwritten thank you note, telling the person that you appreciate their hard work, or start talking to them about ways they could further develop in their field.

On top of that, if you feel that their innovative idea went above and beyond, you might even consider offering to be their personal mentor.

3. Send a Digital Gift Card

If you're looking for a simple way to say thanks when your creative employees come up with great ideas, it's hard to go wrong with a gift card.

A Digital Gift Card Voucher

Whether your company is in the office or remote, digital gift cards are simpler to deal with and impossible to lose.

Do you feel like the innovative mindset has been missing from your workplace? Check out this recent post about what blocks people from creativity to help you identify the potential cause of this creative dry spell.

4. Create an Environment of Freedom

If you want to reward innovation with the gift of increased freedom in the office, you'll likely find that the gesture is well received. When employees come up with creative ideas that improve the company, they are engaged and committed to the brand. More than anything else, micro-managing can extinguish any innovative thoughts in your team's minds.

An Environment of Freedom

That means that giving out more freedom can be the perfect way to encourage creativity and innovation in the workplace.

5. Hand Out More Responsibility

For some employees, handing out more responsibility might be precisely the right choice when you're looking to give them a pat on the back.

Handing Out More Responsibility

Less than a promotion but more than a lot of other perks, giving out more responsibility shows that you trust them and believe in their ability to handle more than their current load.

6. Recognize the Benefits of Failure

Before we get too much deeper into our list of rewards for innovation, it's essential to also recognize when someone takes that terrifying leap and suggests a creative idea that might not work out. Without failure, there would never be innovation, and it takes a lot of bravery for people to put forward ideas that are outside of the box.

Recognizing a Creative Idea

Instead of only giving out gifts, applause, and recognition when someone succeeds with an innovative idea, go out of your way to congratulate and celebrate employees that go out on a limb even when it doesn't quite pan out.

7. Give an Actual Award

It might seem a bit cheesy to give your team members trophies when they come up with a new and interesting idea, but this can actually be a nice gesture of appreciation.

Giving Employee an Award

This can pair nicely with an employee recognition party or get-together, where you can create different award categories and hand out medals or statues for the team members you feel best exemplify any given category.

8. Treat the Whole Team

One of the great things about individual innovation is that it can help to benefit the whole team. Some team members might find it much more meaningful to know that their efforts result in their entire team getting something good rather than simply getting a gift card or another perk for themselves.

Team Treated to Dinner

Whether you decide to take everyone out for dinner, throw a remote happy hour, or give everyone Friday off, this can be an excellent way to reward innovation.

9. Allow For More Flexibility

One thing that employees have proven that they value is flexibility in both their work schedule and their workspace.

Employee Working From Home

If some of your workers have been going above and beyond to come up with creative solutions to problems and innovative ideas for your organization, consider rewarding them by allowing them to alter their hours to better suit their lives or work from home (or wherever they please) a certain number of days a week.

10. Ask For Feedback About What Can Be Improved (And Then Make It Happen)

One thing that is so difficult about showing appreciation and recognition is that everyone is different. One team member might love the idea of being honored with a celebratory dinner, while another might find it downright horrifying to be at the center of attention in that way.

When you are trying to communicate to one of your employees that you've noticed their hard work and creative efforts, you ideally want to give them something more than just an empty symbol.

Asking Employee For Feedback

One great way to make this happen is to tailor the reward to each employee. When someone goes the extra mile or shows that they've got their thinking cap on, consider asking them what could change in the office that would benefit them in their work. While some requests might be less realistic than others, you'll likely find that there are some office upgrades, changes to the work schedule, or other improvements that can be made that will be greatly appreciated.

11. Offer a Budget for Professional Development

Every manager's dream is to have employees eager to learn more about their industry and work their way up the ladder within an organization. If you have workers that are constantly coming up with great new ideas and you want to reward them with something useful, you might consider creating a budget for professional development in the office.

Organization Being Rewarded

This way, your employees can attend conferences, networking events, and educational courses highly relevant to their position at the organization. Investing in your workers shows them that you believe in their abilities to grow and learn.

12. Offer a Promotion

Of course, this isn't the right choice in every situation. You can't walk around the office handing out promotions every day. However, when an employee repeatedly brings cutting-edge ideas to the table, it might signify that they're ready to move up within the organization.

Offering Employee a Promotion

Rewarding someone with an increase in responsibilities and salary might be the ultimate way to show that you see their hard work and want to give them something in return. When you promote a team member, it means that they will be in a better position in the future to have an impact on the organization as a whole.

13. Make Them Employee of the Month

This might not be the newest, most innovative idea you've heard all day, but sometimes old ideas stick around because they work.

Rewarding Employee of the Month

You can update this classic idea by featuring the employee of the month on your website with information about how they went the extra mile in the last few weeks.

14. Cash For Personal Growth

If you haven't felt thrilled with the first thirteen items on our list, this one might be for you. Often, employees can feel like the rewards they receive for their actions at work don't truly give them anything. It's nice to have your name on a plaque or be mentioned on the company website, but not everyone feels that those things are particularly meaningful.

One idea that might excite everyone on your team is offering cash for employees to undergo any number of personal growth experiences.

Cash For Personal Growth

If you go this route, you're showing your employees that you value them in their entirety– not just in their professional roles. You're saying that you understand that their growth as a person is directly related to their growth in their career and that you want to support their efforts to develop in every aspect of their lives.

You can decide how open-ended the "personal growth" category is and choose to be more or less involved in how the money is spent. You could give them a list of acceptable activities ahead of time, have them send you an invoice after the fact, or back off and trust that your employees will use the cash in a way that supports their development.

You might think this is a bit much as a reward for innovation, but the reality is there's a good likelihood that the French lessons, pottery classes, skydiving, or whatever else was outside the comfort zone of your employees will pay you back many times over. By helping your workers step outside the box and do something new, you're encouraging their innovative minds in their professional and personal lives.

15. Upgraded Office Equipment

Though this might seem too practical to be exciting, you might be surprised to find that many of your employees would be thrilled to have a faster computer or a new office chair.

Upgraded Office Equipment

This can be an excellent option for either in-office or remote teams, and you could ask them what upgrade they're looking for or give them a stipend to spend as they see fit.

16. Extra Vacation Time or Days Off

If you polled your employees, you might find that they are much more likely to prefer some extra days off or vacation time rather than a trophy or employee of the month title.

Employee Taking a Day Off

When you let people take additional days off to recognize their hard work, it communicates to them that you feel their innovative ideas have been so impressive that they deserve some rest and relaxation.

17. Gift a Health Club Membership

Did you know that exercise can spur new ideas and innovation? If you're trying to give a gift to your creative employees that you hope will encourage them to continue coming up with awesome concepts for your organization, consider giving the gift of a health club membership.

A Health Club

Not only will this help them be more creative, but it can also make for happier and healthier employees.

18. Dress It Down

Do you work in an office that has a fairly strict dress code?

A Casual Dress Day

If you feel like your employees have been hitting it out of the park recently with original ideas that contribute to your organization and the workplace culture, a good idea can be instituting a casual dress day.

19. Take the Team Offsite

If your team spends most of their time in the office coming up with incredible new ideas that help your company thrive and grow, another excellent way to reward them is to head offsite and do something fun.

Team at Karaoke

Whether you go to a movie, play paintball, head to an escape room, have a company field day, sing karaoke, or do something else entirely, this can be a sweet way to give everyone a break while also strengthening the bond between your team.

20. Host an Employee Pitch Night

One creative way to reward your most innovative employees is to give them a chance to pitch their ideas to company leadership. You can hold these sessions monthly and invite leadership from different parts of the company to attend each month. Each employee can choose which department they want to pitch their ideas to.

Employee Pitching Ideas

This isn't just a great way for leadership to hear fresh, new ideas from people within their company, but it's also a chance for your team to hear detailed responses about the pros and cons of their pitches.

Helping to Cultivate Innovative Ideas in the Workplace

Are you hoping to boost creativity and innovation in your workplace? You'll want to check out our From Creativity to Innovation Customizable Course, which can help you and everyone at your organization reshape how they think about innovation.

An Innovative Workplace

Not only will this course help you learn how to tap into your creative side, but it will also teach you how to build ideas in a group and about the different critical elements of creativity.

Do you have any questions about how to either reward or recognize innovation in your workplace? If so, be sure to leave a comment down below, and we'll be sure to reply within a couple of days. We always make it a point to reply to every comment or question we receive, and we would love to assist you however we can!

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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.