Staff retention is a common performance indicator for excellent reasons: on average, it costs $1,200 to recruit one new employee, and that’s without considering the profit loss involved in functioning with an untrained staff member. 60% of workers say they value gratitude over any other retention strategy, so there’s plenty of sense in awarding staff throughout the year. An appreciated staff complement is a productive one. Awards are not, however, all created equal. The wording attached to your trophies can make or break their effectiveness.

The Importance of Clarity

Whether you’re awarding a new certification or year-long performance figures, your wording must be explicit, covering what’s known as the “five Ws:”

  • Who: The name of the employee and their department, or business.
  • What: The name of the award.
  • Where: The organization and department you’re awarding.
  • Why: The motivation behind the award.
  • When: The award’s time-frame.

Your wording will, of course, determine the size of the trophy. Legibility is an important consideration.

Acknowledging Individuals

Human resources management cannot succeed without an acknowledgment of the “human” providing the resources. If one of your employees is putting extra hours into their workday, morale will soon evaporate unless management acknowledges their dedication in good time. If one of your salespeople has achieved figures that rise beyond the median, saluting their hard work ensures that they feel motivated enough to continue performing. Your awards should pinpoint these superlative achievements, not annually, but throughout the year. The better you understand each employee’s individuality, the better you’ll handle your award wording. This adds a human touch to your text, so it’s important to invest in custom awards that let you speak to staff uniqueness. These tiny acknowledgments will minimize staff stress and cut back on paid sick days.


Connectedness is one of the key drivers of staff morale, and it can be achieved by becoming a part of your staff’s progress. Many industries require staff to acquire the certification, and acknowledgment when they succeed will let them know you’re personally invested in their professional evolution. Acknowledging grades, names, and other personalized details will shift your appreciation beyond the generic. A bonus cheque simply isn’t engaging on an emotional level, so when you word your plaques and trophies, choose evocative, precise phrases.


The timing of your award has a potent effect on its effectiveness. It’s not enough to reward achievement once a year. Your wording is only impactful if it’s delivered in real time, outside your traditional review sessions.


Award those traits you want to improve upon. Teamwork is key to productivity in almost every organization, so a group award can enhance this aspect of your corporate culture. Acknowledging a department for excellent productivity or sales figures will enhance their teamwork in the months that follow. Beyond your gratitude towards individuals, add team-based awards to your talent management strategy.

Personality & Work Language

Every workplace and employee has their own character, and playing to it will enhance your award relevance. Personalized tokens of appreciation enhance connection, both between peers and peer/management relationships. Studies show that 47% of workers value transparent, open communication above recognition and individual in-office attention. It’s thus important to be direct and transparent with your award wording.

Awards and other forms of recognition are integral to a productive work environment. A simple token that says “thank you” has powers that a basic raise simply cannot manage. Top talent is not hired but created, and part of that process involves telling your staff precisely how you value their success. Well-worded awards are an effective, yet economical addition to your HR strategy. Check out Able Recognition for additional tips.