employees gathered for award ceremony

15 Fun and Creative Employee Award Categories

Your employees work hard and they deserve to be rewarded. But how? You don’t want to give them just another corporate t-shirt. They deserve more than that. If you’re having trouble brainstorming employee award categories that are creative, useful, and thoughtful, we’ve put together a list below of some of our favorite ideas to help you make a decision.

Here are our 15 favorite employee award categories:

  1. Best Deal Closer

    If one of your employees is always closing deals and leads the sales department in numbers, it’s time to give them some recognition. Giving them a custom executive pen is a great choice, since they’ll think of you every time they pull it out to sign a deal. Both affordable plastic and higher quality metal versions are available, and some of them even come with a stylus tip so they can be used with digital touchscreen devices as well. Executive pens are available in twist, click, and cap styles as well as a range of colors for every need and budget.

  2. Best Writer

    Most people write in some capacity for their job, but a truly skilled writer is hard to come by. If your writing team has knocked it out of the park recently, consider giving them a personalized leather journal to write in as well. Multiple styles are available, including notebooks, journals, portfolios, padfolios, writing pads, jotters, planners, and binders. If leather isn’t your material of choice, many others are available as well, including faux leather, paper, and polyurethane. Depending on the material, your logo can be embossed or printed on the front of the notebook. For a more impressive employee award gift, we recommend pairing a custom executive pen with a leather or faux leather portfolio for a substantial yet useful gift the recipient is sure to appreciate.

  3. Most Hustle

    If you have a standout employee on the team who has shown the most drive and determination to get his or her projects accomplished, why not gift them with something deserving? Food and beverage gift baskets are a great gift, and your employee will surely enjoy the goodies and the feeling of being appreciated. Whether it’s a large tin of buttery popcorn, delicious cookies, or a healthier nut mix option, your employees can unwind with a scrumptious treat. Most items come beautifully packaged, so all you need to do is present it to them in person or leave it on their desk as a surprise with a nice note. 

  4. Best Road Warrior

    Traveling for work can be tough, since it takes you away from your home and family. If one of your employees has been hitting the road a lot recently, reward their performance with a practical gift they’ll be sure to use on many trips to come in the form of a high-quality backpack. Many working professionals gravitate towards leather backpacks, which keep their look classy with preserving all the functionality of a traditional backpack. If your employees fly a lot for work, they’re sure to appreciate a checkpoint-friendly backpack that will help them get through security faster than you can say “TSA.” These backpacks feature quick-access pockets and special space for laptops. Some models even lay flat to go through security checkpoints, making flying easier than ever.

  5. Best Dressed

    Among more traditional employee award categories like “best leader” or “most innovative,” it’s good to have a couple of fun ones to promote company culture and add some humor to the workday. One of our personal favorites is Best Dressed, so of course it makes sense to give some sort of apparel to the winner. But some options—such as t-shirts—can come off as cheap and lacking thoughtfulness, so we recommend choosing a custom jacket or another type of high-quality outerwear. Lightweight jackets are a perfect choice if you tend to keep the office a bit chilly, while more substantial coats are great if you live in a colder environment or are looking for a fall/winter award. If you want a more transitional piece, custom vests are also an option.

  6. Biggest Overachiever

    If one of your colleagues has been putting in a lot of overtime recently, why not honor them with an appropriately chronological gift in the form of a custom watch? Many styles are available, including leather and metal bands. Choose from a classic or chronograph style watch face. Leather bands come in brown or black and metals come in gold, silver, and rose gold. Some models are even shower-resistant for round-the-clock wear, so carefully check the product description if that’s a feature you’d like. A small version of your logo can be emblazoned on the watch, large enough that the wearer will think of your company whenever they check the time—but not so large that it’s obvious or tacky to other people.

  7. Best Speaker

    Speaking in public is hard, whether it’s presenting to your colleagues or pitching a major potential client. If your team recently nailed a big presentation, celebrate by giving them a high-quality Bluetooth speaker to commemorate the occasion. One of our personal favorites is Native’s wooden Bluetooth speaker, which offers a Bluetooth range of 10 meters and features two 3-watt audio channels for premium quality sound as well as a built-in music control on the speaker. If you’re looking for a truly unique employee reward, there’s also the Egg Drop Levitating Bluetooth speaker, which offers 12 hours of listening on a three-hour charge.

  8. Most Innovative

    Employees who implement innovative new processes deserve an award that’s equally practical and unusual. Instead of the typical plaque, consider giving them a pair of nice Bluetooth headphones instead—after all, music can stimulate creativity! We recommend the Wrapsody headphones, which combines a futuristic design with large imprint areas on the headphone drivers. The headphones also provide omnidirectional full range audio drivers, 85 percent isolating outside noise reduction, a 33-foot Bluetooth wireless range, multi-function on-ear buttons for answering calls and controlling music, a built-in microphone for phone calls and 10+ hours of play on a single charge.

  9. Everyday Leadership Award

    Employees don’t have to have “leader” or “manager” in their title to be a leader at work. Honor workers who have shown leadership in their everyday duties with a gift that they can also use every day, such as a custom tumbler. Tumblers are made of durable plastic or stainless steel and usually feature a double-walled construction to keep hot beverages hot and cold drinks cold. Whether you’re looking for a wine tumbler or a travel mug, there’s a type of custom tumbler out there that fits the bill. One of the most popular tumbler options is a custom RTIC tumbler. The RTIC brand features double-wall vacuum insulation that retains temperature while protecting your hands from hot and cold. All their tumblers are made from 18/8 Stainless Steel and the 40 oz. version can keep a beverage hot for up to 12 hours and cold for up to 60 hours.

  10. Best Rainy Day Save

    In a time of crisis, there’s usually one or two employees who step up to the plate and save the day. If someone stepped up at work during your time of need, they deserve to get a shout out for it. If you want to get creative with the employee award, consider giving them a golf umbrella—which, contrary to the name, isn’t just for golfers. While many golf enthusiasts do turn to these umbrellas to keep off the sun and the rain while they play 18 holes, many non-golfers also appreciate these over-large umbrellas for the protection they provide. A quality golf umbrella can be difficult to find, so your employees are sure to appreciate this practical gift. Most golf umbrellas offer a wingspan of almost five feet, usually ranging between 58 and 62 inches, though smaller 46-inch versions are available as well. If you have lots of golfers in your office, we suggest pairing a golf umbrella with tees, balls, towels and other accessories for a full set.

  11. The Survivor Award

    If one of your reports survived a tough product review or got grilled during a meeting with a client, acknowledge it with a humorous and yet practical gift to commemorate the occasion: a custom barbecue set. A custom BBQ set is especially timely if you’re heading into the summer months, or live in a place that’s temperate year round. Most grill sets include some combination of spatula, tongs, knife, fork, basting brush, skewers, and corn holders all wrapped up in a convenient carrying case. Supplement with a BBQ multitool, apron, cooler, grill basket, carving set or other grilling accessories for a truly comprehensive employee reward.

  12. Best Team

    A bad team can go off the rails in a few days, but a good team is far greater than the sum of its parts and will rise to extraordinary achievements. Recognize teams who have gone above and beyond with an appropriate group-themed gift, such as a glassware set (beer, wine, cocktail, champagne or all of the above). Glass is the most popular material, but many styles come in stainless steel as well. Stainless steel wine tumblers are an especially good choice for picnics. Give employees one of each kind of glass or bundle four or more of one type into a set so they can toast with their friends to their employee recognition.

  13. Best Customer Service

    Working in customer service is a tough job. But just because customer service is hard doesn’t mean that it also has to be thankless, so show your employees that you recognize their hard work, even if the customers don’t. Customer service reps are always helping other people, so give them something nice to treat themselves, such as a set of high quality custom bar accessories instead. Think automatic wine openers, stainless steel flasks, mixology sets, beverage sets, wall-mount beer openers, and more. Select an already-existing set or pair several items together to create your own. Bonus points if you combine this gift with some nice beer, wine or liquor—or even better, tickets to a group mixology class that employees can take together as a team-bonding experience, with no customers in sight.

  14. Coolest Under Pressure

    Employees who stay calm, cool and collected in the most stressful of circumstances deserve to be recognized appropriately. For a relevant gift that they’ll be sure to use for years, we recommend a durable hard cooler with a latching lid. Bison, Engel, and OtterBox all make quality hard coolers with large lids that offer a substantial imprint area for your logo and branding. Not only is a custom hard cooler a practical yet considerate gift, employees will be able to use it for a really long time. In fact, many of them come with a warranty to back it up (OtterBox even offers a lifetime warranty!). 

  15. Longest Tenure

    In a more flexible economy where many workers move on after just a few years, long-standing employees are getting more and more rare, making it more important than ever to recognize their loyalty. Give them a gift that will last as long as their tenure with an employee award made from glass, metal and/or wood. These classy-looking awards are sure to be treasured and clearly communicate your appreciation of your employees. Just make sure to order them in plenty of time before the ceremony, since the custom engraving takes time.

Your employees are sure to appreciate any of the ideas on this list of employee award categories. If you’re having trouble deciding between them—or you’ve narrowed down your decision and are ready to get a quote—feel free to reach out to our customer service team and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible.

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