9 Fun Ideas for Employee Recognition at your Center

Finding and keeping high quality staff for your child care center or preschool is top priority for most of our clients. Recognizing your team members for all their hard work is a great way to build morale and add to the positive culture of your work place. Consider creating an official employee recognition program and implementing some of these ideas. Usually, people shine when their efforts and accomplishments are noticed and shared with others.

1. “Play Money” or Positive Points

Create some fake currency and give it a fun (branded) name. (Examples: For a center named Bright Minds, it could be “Bright Bucks,” for “Over the Rainbow” it could be “Gold Coins,” for Kiddie Academy, it could be “Kidz Cash.”) Alternatively, you could create tickets, a punch card, or a positive points system to accomplish the same thing. Directors should hand out your version of “Kidz Cash” when they spot something worth recognizing. Employees can then save up their “money” for incentive prizes. Prizes can be anything you want: movie tickets, a company branded sweatshirt, an extra paid vacation day, candy or snack items, special classroom supplies, misc. trinkets. Whatever you think your staff would appreciate, and that fits your budget.

2. Employee of the Month

There are many ways you can feature an Employee of the Month. Management could choose the teacher they think is deserving of this honor each month based on performance or merit, or staff could vote on who should be recognized for this honor each month. In these two cases, the recognition would be earned, and the recipient awarded some sort of honor. A certificate or plaque should be presented, and the winner should be announced publicly (on social media, school newsletter, and/or in front of other staff at your monthly staff meeting, etc)

You could also choose a different approach and highlight one staff member each month for the sole purpose of featuring their story and helping other staff and client families to get to know each individual staff member. This wouldn’t necessarily be an “earned” award, but a turn for each teacher to be featured in a rotation of all the team members. It is up to you do decide what type of Employee of the Month program would work best for your school.

3. Teacher of the Year Awards

Ideally, this would be a huge honor, and candidates should be nominated by their peers. The winner should be chosen based on either a pre-defined set of criteria, or votes from peers or clients. If you have a Teacher of the Year contest, you should make a big deal about this one. Give the award at a public event such as a preschool graduation, staff holiday party, or other parent event. Submit a press release to a local paper, share it on your blog, post on social media. Make it known everywhere that this teacher is amazing!

4. Silly Contests

Make work fun by recognizing team members for participating in silly dress days (Crazy hair day, mis-match day, pajama day)! Give them incentives for sending in parent referrals or recruiting new staff members. Recognize them for having low absenteeism, meeting enrollment or conversion goals, and staying under budget. If there is a behavior you want to see more of, notice it in front of everyone!

Make it a big deal with a certificate or a prize and an announcement at a staff meeting, and you will reinforce this behavior for all of your staff!

5. Feature “Spotted Being Good” moments on your website

Everyone should check out this webpage https://www.applemontessorischools.com/spot-awards/. Client Joanne Mooney has a running list of her teachers spotted doing something awesome. Sometimes these things are AMAZING and sometimes they are just average “good” things. What a way to give current staff and parents a glimpse of how awesome your team is, and to publicly recognize your team for being great. Also, doing this with consistency will have the added benefit of demonstrating the positive culture of your school to possible future staff, making your center a more appealing place to work!

6. Celebration Calendar

Let your staff know you care about them by acknowledging and celebrating significant life events with them. Something as simple as remembering a birthday can make a huge difference in the morale of your team members. You could also acknowledge things like a college graduation, a new house, a new baby, marriage or employment anniversaries, a training or certification completed, promotions at work, etc!

7. Praise or Positivity Bulletin Boards

Get others involved in recognizing your staff members with a praise focused bulletin board. Get creative with how you accomplish this. Here are a few ideas:

Create a bulletin board of flowers. Give every staff person a circle for the center of the flower with their name or photo on it. Then offer “flower petals” for parents and staff to write something positive about each staff person. Pretty soon you will have a beautiful garden of praise.
This idea can be done for every season. In the fall, a bulletin board with a tree, and each colorful leaf on the tree has a compliment to one of your staff written on it by parents and other team members. In the winter, create a winter scene, and scatter snowflakes all around the bulletin board with notes of praise, etc.

8. Thank You Calls

This will probably work better for larger schools that have an off-site owner or regional director. When a center director notices that an employee has done an exceptional job, they should pass that info on to someone higher up the chain. The owner or regional manager (whoever makes the most sense for your company) would then make a special phone call to the employee letting them know that they heard about what an awesome job they are doing, and that they just wanted to personally thank this employee for their hard work. This type of phone call is special and stands out to your staff member because it comes from someone in a higher position of authority, and it’s someone they don’t interact with regularly

9. The Power of the Pen

This is probably the most simple idea, yet it is highly effective and appreciated by team members. Let them know you noticed their hard work with a simple letter. You could make this a formal, type-written letter of commendation, a hand-written note of thanks on a note card that is mailed to their home, or as informal as 2 sentences written on their paycheck stub: “I loved the jungle bulletin board you created in the toddler room. The monkey is my favorite part. Keep the creativity going, I love it.” Whichever way you do this, you’re letting the employee know that you recognized the hard work they have done for your school, and that can help keep them motivated to do their best for you in the future.

We love hearing from you! Comment below if you have other ideas for employee recognition that have worked well for your team, or if you have great results with trying any of these!

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