The Difference Between Team Recognition and Employee Recognition

Recognizing employees for a job well done is an important part of boosting morale and reducing turnover. Recognizing the group effort by an entire team is also crucial. However, many organizations aren’t aware of the benefits of team recognition. Although it might seem like employee recognition is a type of team recognition, the two are entirely separate practices. 

Employee recognition refers to the way an organization shows appreciation to an individual for a specific accomplishment or ongoing contribution to the workplace. There are a variety of forms of employee recognition. Some are tenure-based, while others represent immediate recognition for meeting a specific goal. Common examples of employee recognition include bonuses, verbal recognition, time off, written recognition, plaques or trophies, and company gatherings. Employee recognition is widely regarded as an important incentive. In fact, Deloitte reports that employee recognition programs increase employee engagement and productivity by 14%.

Team recognition is the act of recognizing a group for working together to reach a specific goal. Like employee recognition, team recognition can be shown in several ways. Some examples of team recognition include a company-wide meeting to recognize the importance of the team’s contribution, a company-sponsored dinner for the team, or an afternoon off (or at a fun offsite event) for the team members. While employee recognition is important, team recognition can help foster collaboration and teamwork.

Why Team Recognition Matters

The benefits of employee recognition show up in numerous surveys and studies. The results are undeniable. Employee recognition has been connected to employee retention, employee engagement, and increased job satisfaction. Consider these statistics reported from various surveys.

  • 44% of employees switch jobs because of not getting adequate recognition for their efforts.
  • 63% of employees who feel recognized are unlikely to look for a new job.
  • 72% of businesses agree that recognition impacts engagement positively.
  • A well-designed recognition program can help drive an 11.1% increase in employee performance.
  • 79% of millennials surveyed said an increase in rewards would make them more loyal to their employer.
  • 41% of companies that use peer-to-peer recognition have a positive increase in customer satisfaction.
  • 90% of HR respondents agree that an effective recognition program drives business results, and 91% say it has a positive effect on retention.

Team recognition is a type of employee recognition that yields many of the same benefits. However, recognizing an entire team also brings about benefits related to the way coworkers and teams communicate and collaborate. When team achievements are recognized as a group effort, team members are more likely to be aligned in their goals and therefore more likely to be aligned with company goals. Effective teams have the ability to achieve these valuable results:

  • Increased efficiency by taking on complex tasks
  • Improved communication for better cooperation
  • Maximized output by combining strengths
  • Increased innovation and creativity derived from multiple viewpoints
  • Productive conflict to drive improved decision-making

Core Elements of Team Recognition

Team recognition highlights fruitful team dynamics and the results of collaboration. However, team recognition that feels forced or insincere will likely yield poor results. Organizations that manage to create an employee recognition program that feels authentic and provides value for teams that work together see the enhanced benefits of teamwork. These core elements of an effective team recognition program will naturally provide authentic recognition that helps build individual employee and team morale.


Unlike annual employee appreciation day, team recognition should be frequent enough to be noticed and related to successful behavior that aligns with company goals. Organizations that frequently recognize, validate, and value outstanding work with verbal reinforcement, cash rewards, and non-cash incentives are consistently recognized as outstanding places to work.


Team recognition promotes fairness within an organization. However, if you don’t have clear guidelines to describe the terms of recognition, the program won’t promote unity within the company. This means your organization must communicate criteria and types of work that warrant an award. This can be difficult for some company leaders if there are no specific ways to gauge success. Tools that measure and diagnose collaborative behavior and team performance can provide a guide for your employee and team recognition program.


Team recognition is designed to reward teams for accomplishments and reaching specific goals that align with company goals. Treating your employee recognition program like a participation award where everyone gets a turn will invalidate the importance of the reward. Recognition is most effective when it’s tied to actual efforts and results and given in a timely manner.

Includes the Value of Peer Support

Peer recognition can provide the same results as recognition from company managers. Being recognized and appreciated by coworkers helps employees feel included and builds company morale. Rather than fostering resentment among employees, peer support builds trust and appreciation. When teams are recognized by all levels of employees within an organization, company goals are highlighted and other teams feel encouraged to strive for similar results.

Rewarding to All

Diverse teams are composed of employees with different interests and needs. This means the same incentives may not provide the same benefits for every employee. When designing team recognition, it’s important to consider the varied members of your teams and how rewards will impact and improve their work experience and lifestyle. Some employees may prefer cash rewards, while time off is more valuable for others. For this reason, offering both cash and non-cash incentives is the most effective way to make the program meaningful for all employees.

Aligned with Company Values

Team alignment and employee engagement are products of a culture that promotes company values. Creating rewards that coordinate with the core business values of the organization ensures employee engagement is happening for the right reasons and keeps everyone on track. By making company goals and values clear to all levels of employees, you can help ensure team victories align with company goals to create company values. Reinforcing the same values with rewards creates a continuous cycle of employee engagement.

Team Recognition Ideas

Team recognition should take place in a timely manner and provide a reasonable response to the achievement being recognized. Whether you provide material rewards or non-cash incentives, it’s important to make sure rewards are relevant to the achievements being recognized. Beyond those specific criteria, team recognition ideas can be as varied as your employees’ interests. These are a few common team recognition ideas.

  • Positive feedback: The most basic form of reward is simple recognition. Positive feedback can be sent in an email, mentioned in a heartfelt conversation, or provided in a public announcement to the entire team.
  • Individualized material rewards: Cash is always a welcome reward. Providing each member of the team with a cash bonus is a positive way to provide reinforcement for a good performance.
  • Public recognition: Sharing positive team performance with all members of your organization can have two-fold benefits of rewarding deserving team members and encouraging similar performance from others.
  • Team meal: A catered meal or a meal at a nice restaurant provides a deserving team a good way to bond and enjoy the benefits of a job well done.
  • Office outing: A reward that gets your team away from the office provides a bonding experience that can also be relaxing. Activities should be enjoyable for all group members.
  • Sponsored volunteer opportunity: If your organization and employees are passionate about giving back to the local community, the company can sponsor a volunteer day where the team can get away from the office to give back to the community.
  • Wellness day: Time off is typically highly valued and carefully scheduled. Busy employees who receive an unexpected day off will likely be delighted with the chance to relax.
  • Company thanks feed: Whether your organization prefers a whiteboard, bulletin board, email chain, or company communication software, creating a space where everyone can weigh in on good news boosts team morale.
  • Gift cards: Cash incentives can create issues with payroll and bonus systems. Gift cards can provide cash-like rewards without creating the same issues.
  • Afternoon off: For many companies, providing a day off for a critical team is impossible. An early leave day can be almost as appealing for busy employees.
  • Gym membership: Employee wellness is recognized as a great way to provide employee benefits that improve their health. If possible, connecting gym memberships with a wellness program can help your organization reap additional rewards like increased employee engagement and attendance.

Recognize Your High-Performing Teams

No matter how you choose to recognize high-performing teams within your organization, you can expect to gain rewards by implementing a fair program. Effective team communication, correlation, and support lead to enhanced performance that aligns with company goals. Employers who recognize the efforts of high-performing teams see ongoing benefits of improved engagement, boosted morale, and increased attendance and retention

Learn more about how RallyBright tools can help you measure, diagnose, and improve the collaborative behaviors that affect your bottom line and serve as a guide for your employee recognition program.