For decades, employee recognition usually involved bringing staff together in a large conference room to honor work anniversaries and top performers. There might be a framed certificate, a handshake and a polite round of applause. And then the process wouldn’t repeat until the next quarter or the following year.

As work environments have recalibrated to a greater percentage of remote and hybrid employees, rewards and recognition systems have also transformed.

Organizational researchers suggest these changes have been mainly positive. According to the human resources association SHRM, employers have customized, and increased the frequency of, employee recognition.

Best practices for adapting employee recognition to a remote work environment include:

  • Using digital tools
  • Increasing personalization
  • Expanding involvement
  • Asking for employee input

Use digital tools

Employees want to be recognized for their hard work and achievements. Digital tools are increasing the frequency of that recognition, SHRM reports. Whereas the practice used to occur one to four times a year, many companies now make employee appreciation a continual practice unrelated to calendar dates.

Social media and messaging platforms enable you to quickly and easily recognize remote employees. You can send your appreciation through company-only channels, or use public-facing platforms. This lets employees share the recognition with their friends and families.

Online channels can cater to different celebrations, including birthdays, work anniversaries, promotions, get-to-know-you bios and employee interviews. Another channel might be dedicated to personalized thank-you videos from leadership and colleagues. And a separate platform could share customer compliments and client stories praising your employees’ hard work.

The employer experience company pc/nametag suggests holding a virtual awards ceremony. Like the Oscars, you can honor employees in different categories, such as embodying your organization’s core values, collaborating across departments, and supporting your customers.

In addition to recognition, technology makes it easier to reward your remote employees. Many apps and rewards platforms are dedicated to gifting remote employees with delivery meals, restaurant gift cards and company-branded swag, among other options.

Increase personalization

Customized rewards programs can be more effective than providing each employee with the same item, such as a certificate based on years worked. Personalized recognition demonstrates an effort to know your employees and their interests.

Customized examples include a grill for a new homeowner, tickets to a show for a theater lover, or a frame for an employee completing a master’s degree. Or you might donate to an employee’s favorite charity. These gifts showcase your employees’ individuality and can increase bonds with colleagues, managers and your organization as a whole, reports SHRM.

Another option is allowing employees to select rewards from one of many online recognition platforms. Rewards platforms let employees earn points they can redeem for various goods and services. Examples include coffee or tea subscriptions, clothing, exercise equipment, educational courses, online fitness classes, streaming services and home office upgrades.

Mailing a handwritten thank-you note can add a personal touch to these digital solutions.

Expand involvement

A growing strategy in remote rewards and recognition is allowing colleagues to recognize one another for contributions. Peer recognition provides an avenue to increase gratitude, motivation and morale, notes the well-being company Limeade.

Rather than making supervisors and company leadership responsible for recognition, this strategy builds meaning and momentum among teammates. SHRM recommends training management to encourage peer recognition and making it easy to follow through. Examples include a nomination process or online channels such as social media or messaging platforms.

Ask for employee input

When in doubt, ask. This general life advice also applies to rewards programs for remote employees. The key is to avoid generic questions. Sending the same email asking every remote employee for their input on rewards and recognition can make the process impersonal and transactional.

Instead, introduce your query with a personalized note highlighting specific contributions and the role an employee has played in your company’s success. Acknowledge that individuals have different wants, needs and likes when it comes to recognition, and then ask for the types of rewards they would most enjoy.

Fast Company magazine notes some employees want a plaque and a public celebration, while others prefer private recognition from a manager or immediate team members. You might have employees who value extra time off, or another cohort who want digital badges or LinkedIn recommendations to share online.

New techniques, same goals

The strategies may be different, but the goals remain the same: to acknowledge your remote employees’ accomplishments and reward them in the ways they most value. These strategies can help you achieve both objectives.

For more information on remote recognition programs, including online rewards platforms and other digital tools, talk to your benefits adviser. They can help you explore vendor solutions to meet employee and business needs.