employees gathered for award ceremony

Top 15 Creative Ideas for Employee Awards

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 awards and categories that are creative, useful, and thoughtful, we’ve put together a list of our favorite ideas for employee recognition to help you make a decision.

Categories for Employee Contributions

Recognizing your employees not only fosters loyalty and creativity daily but also strengthens the sense of community within your team. Let’s explore these innovative ways to honor your hard-working colleagues:

#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.

If you’re giving physical gifts for awards, the round brass coaster award is sturdy and durable – a great choice for employees to show off in the office. Trust us, your employees will feel the love.

#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 help them keep track of their creative ideas. 

Multiple styles are available including notebooks, journals, portfolios, padfolios, writing pads, jotters, planners, and binders. Don’t worry if leather isn’t your material of choice. There are many other materials available as well, including faux leather, paper, and even stone! Some of our personal favorites are the Moleskine® Hard Cover Ruled Large Notebook and the Karst Pocket Stone Paper Notebook

To help boost this employee award idea, we recommend pairing a custom executive pen with a leather or faux leather promotional 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? Promotional food and beverage gift baskets are great ideas for employee recognition, and your top hustler will surely enjoy the goodies and the feeling of being appreciated. Pop Star Premium Popcorn Gift Set.

Whether it’s the Pop Star Premium Popcorn Gift Set, a sweet treat like the You’re Appreciated Sustainable Snack Pack or a healthier nut mix option like the Favorite Snack Gift Bag, 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 practical corporate awards they’ll be sure to use on many trips to come — like a high-quality branded backpack.

Many working professionals gravitate towards computer backpacks, which keep their look classy while 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. Find the best backpacks for women and the best work backpacks from Pinnacle to give to your favorite road warrior.

#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. We recommend choosing a custom jacket or another type of high-quality promotional outerwear – for work jackets, check out our best work jackets collection for great outerwear ideas. 

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. Be sure to check out the best vests for men and the best vests for women to find your favorite.

#6 Biggest Overachiever

If one of your colleagues has been putting in a lot of overtime recently, why not honor them with a thoughtful gift in the form of a Bamboo Wireless Charging Desk Clock? This clock offers a  sleek and modern design. The top surface has a 5W wireless charging pad for compatible devices to help keep devices powered throughout the day and night — just like that hardworking colleague!

A small version of your logo can be elegantly incorporated into the clock, discreetly enough that the recipient will think of your company whenever they check the time—without it being obtrusive or distracting to others.

#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, branded Bluetooth speaker to commemorate the occasion. One of our personal favorites is the Boxanne Bluetooth Speaker which offers a Bluetooth range of up to 30 feet and features a wrist strap that you can wrap around backpacks, bikes, etc, for easy portability. 

If you’re looking for a truly unique employee reward, there’s also the High Sierra Kodiak IPX7 Outdoor 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 Bluetooth Headphones, which combine 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 Stanley® Quencher H2.O FlowState™ Tumbler – 40 oz. This viral sensation features vacuum insulation that retains temperature while protecting your hands from hot and cold. All their tumblers are constructed of recycled stainless steel for sustainable sipping, and the 40 oz. version can keep a beverage hot for up to 11 hours and cold for up to 72 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 a shout-out. If you want to get creative with the employee award, consider giving them a promotional 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 custom golf accessories for a full set.

#11 The Survivor Award

If one of your reports survived a tough product review or got grilled during a client meeting, acknowledge it with a humorous 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 branded 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, Igloo®, 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, but employees will be able to use it for a long time. Many of them come with a warranty to back it up (OtterBox even offers a lifetime warranty!).

#15 Longest Tenure

It’s no longer the norm to stay with one company for 20 years or more. Many workers move on after just a few years, with long-standing employees becoming more and more rare. This makes it more important than ever to recognize your tenured employees’ loyalty. Give them a long-lasting gift with employee corporate awards made from glass, metal, and/or wood. 

These classy-looking awards are sure to be treasured and 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.

Business Benefits of Recognizing Your Team

Employee engagement fosters loyalty and creativity daily. Just like how we focus on our consumers’ behaviors to create connection, your teammates seek out the same sense of community. To be able to recognize and value your company’s contributors with humor and dedication to development requires a support system like Pinnacle Promotions.

Connect to our Account Management Team for Support

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 us!

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