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Employee Recognition

Manufacturing Employee Recognition Programs: 9 Ways To Celebrate And Motivate Your Workforce

Rebecca Noori
Last Updated December 22, 2023

There's immense pressure on the manufacturing industry to meet our ever-increasing consumer demands. Anyone following the global shortage of semiconductor chips will know how difficult it's been for manufacturers to keep up production of PS5 consoles, cars, desktop computers, and more. Doing so takes the dedicated effort of an entire manufacturing workforce, which is why we should recognize and celebrate their contributions and excellence.

This article digs into why we need to prioritize praise in manufacturing, some types of recognition available, and how to design your own successful recognition program.

How Can HR Leaders Recognize Excellence In The Manufacturing Field? 

From production technicians and machine operators to maintenance crews and supervisory staff, manufacturing employees contribute directly to the success of their respective companies.

Excellence in their daily work may look like the following:


Reporting Faulty Machinery

Defective equipment could result in low production, accidents, or even tragedy if left unchecked. Employees who proactively notify their team leaders about equipment issues can prevent accidents and production delays.

Meeting Or Exceeding Production Quotas

Every manufacturing team will work toward specific production or business goals. Although the pressure may be stifling for some, it is integral to meeting customer expectations and, ultimately, improving the company's bottom line. When employees consistently fulfill or surpass their production targets, it clearly shows their dedication and efficiency.

Maintaining Excellent Attendance

If employee attendance is lacking, employers must always understand their role in why their workers aren't turning up. However, those team members who maintain a perfect attendance record deserve to be rewarded for their contributions. Attending work consistently clearly demonstrates their reliability and commitment to the job.

Following Safety Protocols

Exceptional health and safety standards are paramount in the manufacturing industry, especially for those who use machines, vehicles, and other equipment in their roles. Employees who adhere strictly to safety guidelines, such as wearing their PPE or following strict protocols, deserve appreciation as they create a safer work environment.

Contributing Innovative Ideas

Innovation should be encouraged at all organizational levels, including those in junior roles. Fostering a culture of creativity and innovation ensures that everyone feels able to propose new ideas and suggest initiatives that could improve the manufacturing process.

Supporting Fellow Team Members 

Developing a spirit of camaraderie is essential in any organization but is especially important in manufacturing, where employees often work odd hours (nights, weekends, etc.) and receive low wages. Recognizing those who put in the extra effort to assist their peers, whether in solving problems or covering shifts, fosters a sense of unity and cooperation.

Upskilling To Aid Professional Development 

In an industry where technology constantly evolves, employees must acquire new skills and knowledge. Highlighting those who take the initiative to learn new techniques or attend training programs contributes to their personal growth and benefits the company's overall success.

7 things you can recognize manufacturing workers for

What Are The Benefits Of A Manufacturing Employee Recognition Program? 

Employee recognition isn't a high priority for manufacturing companies. According to Gallup, only 11% of manufacturing employees confirm that their organization has an existing recognition system in place. But we believe the other 89% of employees deserve to belong to a company culture that believes in the power of praise and recognition. Here are the benefits of employee recognition for manufacturing companies that commit to it:

1. Foster A Culture Of Safety 

There are many reasons to stick recognition at the top of your to-do list, but none comes close to the importance of safety. The very nature of manufacturing puts workers at risk, and it's essential to create a culture where every person makes it home safely each day. Rewarding those who follow safety protocols sets an example for others to do the same and contributes to a safer workplace overall.

Isha Vicaria, a social psychologist and people data analyst at Workhuman, spoke on the Gallup podcast to confirm the link between deploying recognition and improving safety: 

"In collaboration with a manufacturing plant, we saw that having an award around safety and recognizing preventable safety behaviors led to a reduction in total recordable injury rate and other safety metrics for this manufacturing plant. We're not even talking at the exchange of the thanks or the recognition; we're talking about external outcomes for the business.

But that’s not all. If you need another business case for prioritizing safety, the National Safety Council reminds us that 55 million future production days will be lost from on-the-job injuries that occurred in 2021 alone.

2. Make Up For Lack Of Flexibility 

Depending on the role, many manufacturing employees cannot enjoy the flexible benefits white-collar workers take for granted. For example, it's flat-out impossible for factory machinists to perform their job from the comfort of their own home with their cat on their lap.

While you can't change this situation, you can elevate your recognition game to create a sense of belonging and pride in your employees. Recognizing their hard work and dedication can increase overall job satisfaction and engagement.

3. Attract And Retain Manufacturing Employees 

Like many industries, manufacturing is going through a talent crisis. SHRM expects that half of the four million manufacturing jobs required over the next decade will likely remain vacant. Why? Younger people are passing up opportunities to join manufacturing, believing the industry has no future as automation will phase out their roles.

It's a similarly bleak story for those who have already worked in the industry. A Michael Page study reveals that 29% of employees quit the field because they feel undervalued. Lack of engagement is undoubtedly a problem, as employees are measured in terms of their output. However, Workplace Wellbeing Consultant Yasmine Moller believes that companies would do better to focus on improving and measuring engagement to enhance the employee experience. Yasmine explains:

“I often get asked by prospective clients about the difference a new wellbeing initiative will have on their staff productivity. My advice is to shift away from productivity and instead focus on the root drive which I believe is employee engagement. The term productivity is based on the manufacturing industry where input = output. However, no two employees will produce the same outputs within one hour; in fact, even if you tracked the same person across a day, their levels of productivity would differ dramatically from hour to hour. I encourage clients to focus on effectiveness instead along with the happiness and engagement levels of their staff through wellbeing initiatives and positive company culture."

Our employee recognition research agrees. In companies with established recognition programs, 92% of employees feel valued. This drops to only 70% of employees feeling valued in companies that don't have a program in place.

4. Reduce Employee Absenteeism 

When leaders and HR professionals take the time to recognize their employees for a job well done, they’re more likely to trigger engagement, which in turn improves connection with their work. According to our comprehensive survey, 81.9% of employees agree that recognition for their contributions increases engagement in their roles.

Engaged employees are more likely to show up to work. According to Gallup's employee engagement data, highly engaged teams experience 41% lower absenteeism than lower-engaged teams.

5. Decrease Employee Burnout 

The World Health Organization has classified workplace burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” since 2019. In the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), it is not considered a medical condition, but rather:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion 
  • Increased mental distance from your job or feeling negative or cynical about it 
  • Reduced professional efficacy

While you’ll see it occurring across all industries, it’s particularly prevalent in manufacturing, where over 7 in 10 employees have considered leaving their jobs due to burnout.

Recognition may not entirely reverse the progression of burnout, but it can play a crucial role in alleviating its symptoms. By acknowledging and appreciating hard work and dedication, employees are more likely to feel valued and motivated to continue putting forth their best effort. And this can prevent feelings of exhaustion and resentment that often lead to burnout.

6. Pinpoint Potential Leaders 

An effective recognition program can support decision-makers in workforce planning decisions. Regularly acknowledging employees who demonstrate specific behaviors can identify potential leaders for future promotion opportunities. This benefits the individual and helps build a strong and reliable leadership team pipeline for your manufacturing company.

The benefits of a manufacturing employee recognition program

9 Ways To Give Manufacturing Employee Recognition 

Recognition is an initiative that employees from any industry would appreciate. After all, it's human nature to respond well to a pat on the back. But what does it look like in manufacturing? Here are nine incentives that your employees may respond best to:

1. Celebrate Manufacturing Day 

Manufacturing Day, or MFG Day, is an annual event held on the first Friday in October. This date is commonly an information day designed to entice students and job seekers to join the manufacturing field. But as a calendar event, it's also a fantastic opportunity to celebrate your employees.

2. Host Employee Of The Year Awards  

Employee Of The Year awards are a repeatable incentive that your manufacturing employees will strive to achieve. For example, the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers announces its annual recipients during an awards dinner.

Kentucky Association of Manufacturers employee of the year award

To win the award, employees must achieve the following targets:

  • Innovation: Suggestions and recommendations that have led to, for example, improved productivity, safety, or profitability.
  • Teamwork: Demonstrating participation in group or team projects, considering the needs of teammates or the enterprise selflessly. 
  • Community Service: Giving back to the greater community. For example, they might have engaged in the community through volunteer efforts on behalf of schools, charities, youth sports, public service, or other civic activities.
  • Leadership: Exhibiting impact and influence on fellow employees as a positive role model. This might include senior leaders demonstrating high integrity, ethical behavior, exceptional work performance, and strong character.

3. Deliver On-The-Spot Verbal Praise  

Employee recognition can lose its luster if there's too much of a gap between the event and the praise. That's where on-the-spot praise enables employees to receive immediate recognition for their work, making it easier to reinforce positive behavior with positive outcomes. Verbal shoutouts are a powerful recognition tool, so don't be afraid to give praise on the factory floor, in team meetings, or at the end of a shift if you notice behavior such as: 

  • A worker clearing a spillage to prevent accidents from happening 
  • A production line worker reminding a peer to wear their protective safety glasses 
  •  An employee taking the initiative to help a colleague struggling with their workload

4. Reward Employees With Flexible Working 

While hybrid working is usually considered a no-no in manufacturing, there may be some roles that fit appropriately.

Wagstaff Recruitment Founder Ruth Forster poses an interesting dilemma about whether manufacturing teams should adopt an all-for-one attitude towards flexible working and outlaw it because many team members won't be able to work from home. Or whether the industry should move forward and embrace the idea of flexible arrangements where suitable.  

"I'm feeling torn today about the concept of hybrid working in manufacturing. I have a Plant Manager who has requested his HR Officer be on-site with the Operations team for a full five days a week. My instinct leans towards supporting the Plant Manager; after all, the operations teams are there five days a week.
However, I also know that we must embrace flexibility and adaptability in our workforce. I know individuals who work from home can accomplish tasks more productively without disruptions. In a time when the cost of living is rising, and environmental concerns are paramount, reducing one day of travel can make a significant difference in both fuel consumption and the time lost during commutes."

If rewarding employees with a few work-from-home days isn't possible, an alternative is to adjust their shift patterns. Michael Page reveals that 53% of manufacturing employees would appreciate an early finish on a Friday, significantly higher than the average of 39% of employees across other industries. With this in mind, consider incentivizing your manufacturing employees with the promise of checking out early for the weekend if they hit their targets ahead of schedule.

5. Use Internal Channels To Announce High-Performing Employees

Internal communications software and channels are a great platform to recognize and celebrate your top-performing manufacturing employees. Consider public recognition of your employees in the following ways:

  • Company or internal newsletter: Produce a monthly spotlight featuring an interview with the standout employee discussing their accomplishments, interests, and future goals. 
  • Shared screens: Publish your employee's profile in common areas like lobbies and breakout rooms. An achievement slide show or digital signage, cycling through recent accomplishments and recognitions, can keep the recognition front and center.
  • Wall of fame: Dedicate a prominent wall in your company to celebrate exceptional employees. Include photos, a brief description of their achievements, and perhaps quotes from colleagues and superiors.

6. Name Your Top Employees On Social Media  

Social media provides a fantastic platform to shout out your top employees. Share photos, videos, and stories of your standout manufacturing workers on your company's social media channels. This form of recognition:

  • Gives well-deserved recognition to individual employees
  • Showcases your company culture and values to potential job seekers
  • Shares the people behind your product with customers

Remember to tag employees in the posts so they can share with their own networks, increasing their sense of pride and motivation.

7. Monetary Rewards

Cash prizes, bonuses, and other monetary rewards are great for showing appreciation for your high-performing manufacturing employees.

For example, the Women in Manufacturing Apprentice Awards honor female apprentices who demonstrate strong leadership abilities in the workplace. The winner receives $10,000, and the runner-up receives $5,000, with the money earmarked to support the cost of tools, uniforms, and development training.

While you may not be able to afford a prize that large, think about what is in the budget for your organization. Can you spare $500-$1,000 to give out a nice bonus to your team members?

 The Women in Manufacturing Apprentice Awards

8. Paid Time Off

PTO can be a powerful motivator for manufacturing employees. Consider awarding an extra day of PTO to recognize exceptional performance or as a prize in a company-wide recognition program. The gift of a few additional vacation days encourages a healthy work-life balance and provides much-needed rest and rejuvenation for hard-working employees.

9. Employee DiscountScheme

24% of manufacturing employees want access to discount schemes, which you can easily link to your recognition program. Partner with local businesses, such as gyms, restaurants, and shops, to offer exclusive discounts to your manufacturing employees.

You could also offer an employee discount for your own products, as your employees might like to purchase what they make every day. Alternatively, some manufacturing companies host imperfect sales, significantly marking down products with slight imperfections and scratches. Imperfect items likely won't sell well with regular customers, so selling them at a discount to workers is a great way to eliminate stock.

Nectar Tip: We offer a built-in Discounts tab, providing your employees access to savings from multiple retailers nationwide.

How To Create A Successful Manufacturing Employee Recognition Program

To develop an effective employee recognition strategy in the manufacturing industry, HR professionals can follow these steps:

1. Conduct A Needs Analysis

When launching a recognition program, your first step is understanding the current landscape. Maybe you're already implementing informal recognition, and you'd like a way to measure its effectiveness. Or you've previously saved praise for an annual review process, and you'd like to incorporate it into your daily culture.

To assess your current situation, assemble information on employee engagement, retention, safety, and other key metrics. Gather data from:

  • Employee engagement surveys
  • Retention figures
  • Exit interviews
  • 1:1 interviews such as performance reviews or manager check-ins

As a best practice, ask a mix of qualitative and quantitative questions, such as the following:


  • Can you provide an example of when your employer gave you praise and recognition when you did a good job?
  • Are you satisfied with the recognition you receive daily? Why or why not?
  • In what ways would you like to receive praise and recognition?


  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the effectiveness of our current recognition program?
  • How frequently do you receive praise and recognition from your manager?
  • On average, how many times per week do you recognize your colleagues for their work?

Based on the data collected, identify any gaps or areas for improvement that can inform the creation of your recognition program. Make sure that you are looking at this data from multiple angles. For example, some managers are great at giving recognition, while others lack this ability. Your company is doing a good job overall, so breaking things down by department, manager, location, etc., can help find weak spots.

2. Set Clear Goals

The goals for your employee recognition program should align with your company’s overall strategy and mission. Set SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. For example, some goals in the manufacturing industry might be to:

  • Increase employee engagement by 15% within the next year
  • Reduce turnover rate by 10% within the next six months
  • Improve safety records by implementing a peer-to-peer recognition program

3. Design Your Program

The next step is to outline the structure of your recognition program. Determine:

  • What behaviors you recognize
  • How often you recognize employees
  • Your recognition methods
  • How to link tangible rewards to the recognition
  • What platform you will use to simplify the recognition process

4. Be Inclusive

A critical aspect of designing your recognition program is determining who can participate. While you won't need to join a specific program to give or receive a high-five or pat on the back, other strategies, such as Employee Of The Month awards, will undoubtedly require some eligibility criteria.

Build an inclusive program if you want recognition to become ingrained in the fabric of your company culture. That means opening up your program to:

  • Full-time employees
  • Part-time employees
  • Contractors
  • Employees of all seniority levels
  • Employees of any tenure
  • Employees based at any plant location
  • Non-manufacturing employees such as plant reception staff or maintenance crews

5. Personalize Employee Recognition

In a busy plant environment, with the pressure to deliver frequent recognition, it’s all too easy to fall into a pattern of generic communication. Personalization is an essential part of meaningful recognition. While gestures like giving out turkeys during the holidays or hosting a company-wide lunch can make an impact, don't forget about the 1:1 interactions and specific messages of praise. Encourage managers and employees to take a few minutes each week to deliver 2-3 bits of praise to employees in your plant, and you can begin to see the ROI of recognition unfold in your company.

Employee recognition personalization is important for manufacturing employees

6. Encourage Peer Recognition

Our employee recognition survey revealed that manager recognition has the most significant impact on workers. However, peer recognition was considered the most important type of feedback for 28% of workers. Unfortunately, 44% of manufacturing employees miss out on this form of praise, according to O.C. Tanner.

Bridge the gap by offering ways for colleagues to nominate each other for employee awards or deliver on-the-spot recognition on the work floor to keep morale high and boost camaraderie among your vital workers.

7. Communicate Your Program

Your recognition program will only be effective if your manufacturing employees know it exists, understand its importance, and learn how to use it. Communicate your program through:

  • Onboarding training: Ensure all new joiners are up to speed on how to participate in offering praise to their teammates and understand what they need to do to achieve recognition from others
  • A range of communication channels: Send emails, host workshops, pin up posters, and use your intranet to share information about the program.
  • Manager training: Ensure your managers know how to give effective praise that means something to the recipient. Provide examples of meaningful recognition and how to deliver it.
  • Technical instructions: Distribute log-in details and other instructions to all employees if you're using a recognition tool to simplify praise.
  • Regular reminders: Keep your recognition program top of mind by reminding employees about it frequently. This could be through email updates, posters, or other forms of internal communication.
  • Social recognition: Encourage teamwork by promoting a culture of recognition and praise among colleagues. Use recognition software to allow employees to appreciate each other's work publicly.
  • Success stories: Share successful business outcomes achieved by individuals or entire teams through employee recognition. This not only shows appreciation but also motivates others to strive for excellence.

8. Implement The Program

Ready to hit "go" on your recognition program? You might roll out your new program as a pilot project in stages or opt for a complete implementation. Either way, keep your workers informed so they're aware of the timeline and their involvement.

9. Monitor And Adjust

With your recognition program in full swing, loop back to the SMART goals you set and regularly review whether you're on target. The metrics you use to track your progress will depend on the goal, but may include:

  • Participation rates: How many employees actively participate in your program? Track this by the number of recognitions given and received.
  • Employee engagement: Compare levels before and after implementing the recognition program to determine its positive impact on overall employee engagement.
  • Turnover rate: Keep an eye on whether your turnover rate decreases due to improved employee satisfaction through recognition.
  • Safety records: If your goal is to improve safety, track the number of incidents and accidents before and after implementing the program.
  • Productivity: Measure any changes in productivity levels over time. A boost could suggest that the recognition program is motivating employees to perform better.

Provide Recognition For Manufacturing Employees With Nectar

Creating a successful employee recognition program in the manufacturing industry takes time, effort, and commitment. But with our innovative solution, you can streamline the entire process and make it easier for your HR team to track and measure the impact of recognition on your organizational culture. Here are some of the available features in our customizable platform:

  • Recognition: Employees in all organizational roles give and receive positive feedback to each other to recognize hard work and dedication.
  • Rewards: Employees can exchange accumulated Nectar points for a range of rewards, including Amazon products, gift cards, custom swag, charity donations, and custom employee reward programs.
  • Awards: Employers create custom awards such as Employee of the Month, which manufacturing workers will work hard to achieve.
  • Challenges: Leaders can create bespoke challenges, such as incentivizing employees to upgrade their safety training before a certain deadline.
  • Milestones: Companies can celebrate employees by setting up birthday and work anniversary shoutouts on our platform.

Ready to foster a culture of appreciation and honor the contributions of your manufacturing teams? Book a free, no-obligation demo of our employee recognition platform today.

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