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The best employee recognition software in 2023

By Nicola Scoon · May 15, 2023
Hero image with the logos of the best employee recognition software

We often don't give enough credit to the hard work, support, and innovation that the people around us show every day. It's time to change that. With employee recognition software, there's no longer any excuse—you have a dedicated place to shout about all the great things your team is achieving. 

Employee recognition apps are a must-have for any people-focused company. Not only do they make it easier to say thank you and celebrate wins, but they're also a valuable tool in helping you live out your company values. With the right employee recognition platform, your people feel seen and appreciated.

I've been obsessed with the idea of creating better employee experiences for years, and showing recognition and thanks is one of the best ways to make that a reality. With my background in employee engagement and passion for creating better workplace experiences, it was a joy to spend time diving into the best employee recognition platforms to bring you this list.  

The best employee recognition software

  • Bonusly for personalized recognition at scale

  • Nectar for highlighting and celebrating giving

  • Mo for a fun and inclusive way to celebrate 

  • Guusto for companies sending gift cards at scale

  • Empuls for a good mix of recognition and employee engagement

What makes the best employee recognition software?

Having a place dedicated to showcasing great work and celebrating your amazing coworkers makes perfect sense. But how do you decide which employee recognition app is right for you?

There are hundreds of tools out there that offer some level of employee recognition and reward—from all-in-one HR platforms to very tiny, very specific apps or integrations. The sheer variety of options can be overwhelming. 

My goal with this list is to bring you the best employee recognition software in a clear, thoughtfully-researched way. I've highlighted the best apps in this category for different use cases, audiences, or needs. Every company or team has its own culture, values, and goals, so your take on the best app could be very different from someone else's.

As I was searching for employee recognition platforms, I focused on software that offered these key elements: 

  • Easy to use. It's already a struggle to get people to engage with employee recognition initiatives. The best tools in this space make the experience feel simple and easy. There shouldn't be any complicated processes, overwhelming options, or confusing workflows. Instead, the apps on this list all feel easy to use—whether you're managing the admin side of the app or logging in to give kudos to a team member. 

  • Offers a variety of recognition and reward options. Some employee recognition platforms specialize in one type of reward, or only let you give simple text recognitions to your team members. To ensure you have plenty of options, the apps on this list all give you several ways you can recognize and celebrate people—whether that's through personalized notes, awards, gift cards, charity donations, or company swag.

  • Offers customization in some way. Every company is unique, and your employee recognition software should feel like it matches your company culture like a glove. I've discounted apps that don't offer enough customization and have chosen to focus on those that give you a balance of personalization options without becoming overwhelming.

  • Allows you to showcase company values. Often we want to champion team members and celebrate the way they embody our company values. I've focused on employee recognition apps that let you highlight your company values and remind team members of them whenever you share thanks or give an award.

  • Fun and engaging. Giving recognition to a coworker should feel fun and full of joy—because it is. I discounted any apps that felt like hard work or didn't make me smile when I was giving my (pretend) colleagues a digital high-five, and chose to include only those that either had a fun vibe or made me feel cheerful. 

This means this isn't a comprehensive list of every employee recognition app or tool out there. It's also not a list of the most popular or most reviewed. Instead, it's a list of the apps that—while testing them—proved to be the most engaging, most enjoyable, and most useful to specific audiences. 

Throughout the testing process, I fully explored the experience as both a software admin and regular user. I added company values for my imaginary company, updated my user profiles, and explored all the different ways to add and customize awards, emails, reward products, and more. I also thoroughly tested the experience as a user to get a feel for how your coworkers might feel when using the software. One of my priorities was to make sure these apps are a delight to use and feel effortless—so your team members face no barriers to telling their coworkers what an amazing job they've been doing. 

In the testing process, I focused on standalone apps and platforms that give you a full range of employee recognition features. If your team lives and works in Slack or Microsoft Teams, there are also lightweight apps that work within these ecosystems, like HeyTaco, Disco, and Tap My Back. You can also find fun ways to celebrate employees outside of a dedicated system—like sending online group cards with Kudoboard or personalized gifts with Blueboard.

Now that you know a little about how I tested them, let's move on to the apps that really stood out.

Best employee recognition software for personalized recognition at scale


Bonusly, our pick for the best employee recognition software for personalized recognition at scale

Bonusly stood out to me because of how easy it was to use. Both the setup process and the experience as someone giving recognition felt smooth and simple—with just the right amount of features and customization. It was a calm and relaxed experience, which set me in a great mood for sharing appreciation with others. 

Onboarding was swift and smooth, and there's the option to follow a walkthrough or take your own route. The walkthrough introduces the concept of recognition and how to meaningfully tie it to your company values, which is extremely helpful for anyone building an employee recognition program for the first time.

Bonusly's focus is on creating engagement through recognition, and it does it well. Team members can give shoutouts to each other, tag a company value, and give points. These points are then exchanged for rewards like charity donations and gift cards. You can also give personalized awards, as well as automated awards for moments like anniversaries or birthdays. 

Something that I really appreciated about Bonusly is that you can tag more than one company value when showing recognition. This flexibility means you're not forced to decide whether someone's actions fit better into "Being supportive" or "Being a great team leader," and can instead recognize them for both. 

Bonusly strikes a good balance between feeling fun and exciting and still being approachable to everyone. There's plenty of space to be creative with GIFs, emojis, and reactions, but the experience also feels "grown up"—making it ideal for large teams where there's a variety of personalities and preferences. 

Larger organizations are also likely to appreciate some of Bonusly's other features. You can set banned hashtags, monitor the most-used words, and closely manage rewards. When you have hundreds or thousands of employees, these extra controls can come in handy. 

Bonusly integrates with Zapier, so you trigger actions in other apps when there's a new achievement in Bonusly, or you can automatically give a bonus in Bonusly based on activity in the other apps in your tech stack. Here are a couple of examples.

Give Bonusly bonuses when new HubSpot CRM deals close

Give Bonusly bonuses when new HubSpot CRM deals close
  • HubSpot logo
  • Bonusly logo
HubSpot + Bonusly

Bonusly pricing: Free trial available. From $2.70/user/month for the Core plan, which includes social recognition, intranet integrations, mobile apps, analytics, and more. Consider the Pro plan ($4.50/user/month) if you want to add centralized company rewards and incentives or advanced reporting features. 

Best employee recognition software for highlighting and celebrating giving


Nectar, our pick for the best employee recognition software for highlighting and celebrating giving

If your company culture is all about giving and gratitude, Nectar will align with your goals. More than any other I tested, this platform felt like it focused on celebrating giving, with features designed to encourage you to earn points and share them with others. 

Nectar is a fully-featured rewards and recognition app that gives you an easy way to celebrate achievements, milestones, and contributions with points. Your employees can then exchange these points for rewards like gift cards, company swag, and your own curated Amazon product catalog.

Giving recognition and awards to others feels natural and fun. Tag your coworker, add a core value hashtag, and leave a note of thanks—with emojis, GIFs, and badges if you like. This all happens from the home screen, where there's also a very visible (and much appreciated) reminder of how many points you have left to give this month. It's a subtle addition, but it works well to promote the idea of giving recognition to others.

One feature that really stood out to me is challenges. Here, you can create your own personalized challenges and reward points to employees that complete them. Want to reward someone for volunteering or express gratitude for welcoming a new hire? Create a custom challenge, assign a point value, and motivate your team members to actively display the values you care about.

Nectar gives you plenty of customization options to build the reward program that matches your goals. Add a leaderboard or hide it, set balances and budgets, and add guardrails if you need them. A feature that I particularly liked was the "meaningful shoutout" option—turn this on, and employees will be encouraged to write a more in-depth message in exchange for a score of "amazing."

Nectar is a great employee recognition platform whether you're a small business or a large-scale enterprise. With a focus on company culture and promoting your core values, it's worth considering if you're looking for a fun way to encourage engagement. 

Nectar pricing: From $2.75/user/month for the Standard plan. This includes employee recognition, custom core values, global reward options, corporate discounts, and more. To unlock company branding and swag management, you'll want the Plus plan at $4/user/month.

Best employee recognition software for a fun and inclusive way to celebrate


Mo, our pick for the best employee recognition software for a fun and inclusive way to celebrate

Mo is one of the most engaging apps I've tested. If you're looking for a fun way to motivate your team members and celebrate their wins, this could be the app for you. It's bright, colorful, and full of friendly and inclusive language—making it a joyful place to give recognition to others.

A lot of Mo's features are designed to help your team build habits around giving and receiving recognition. Use "Boosts" to receive automated prompts on what to talk about or celebrate, and stay on top of engaging as a manager with helpful reminders on your dashboard. 

Giving recognition with Mo is all about creating a "Moment." You're prompted to choose a value, tag someone, write a message, and choose a colorful background to make it stand out. Team members can also send rewards or gifts to each other, with lots of options to help you customize the rewards store. 

A major highlight of using Mo was the focus on people as individuals. User profiles are often overlooked on engagement apps, but Mo's really shines. You can add your personal details, set your pronouns, write a bio, and add your interests. You can also pin your favorite "Moments" as highlights. The experience feels meaningful, and gives your employees space to share who they are and what they care about. 

Mo feels like it's built for today's workplace. The user experience is smooth and fuss-free, with a minimalist design and relaxed feel. There's definitely a feel-good vibe, but it's achieved in a way that doesn't overpower the reason you're here—to give meaningful recognition. 

Mo pricing: From $2.70/user/month for the Starter plan, which includes moments, boosts, occasions, team profiles, and more. Consider the Level Up plan at $4.50/user/month if you want to add award nominations, rewards, more customization, and advanced analytics. 

Best employee recognition software for companies sending gift cards at scale


Guusto, our pick for the best employee recognition software for companies sending gift cards at scale

For large companies that want to invest in employee recognition and rewards, Guusto is an excellent choice. It's a platform designed with enterprises in mind, with a robust approach to rewards management that gives you plenty of flexibility without compromising on process.

Guusto's take on employee rewards is to give your team members what they truly want. The platform makes it easy to send gift cards to employees, so they can spend them at their favorite stores. Sometimes people just prefer spending money, and for teams that love this practical approach, it's a great choice.

It's easy to send gift card rewards to team members—whether you're doing this once or for hundreds of employees. The walkthrough takes you through the process, and there's an opportunity to preview rewards before they go out. I'd recommend pre-loading all your recipients before you start, as this definitely simplifies the process. 

Recognition with Guusto isn't limited to rewards. You can also give team members shoutouts to celebrate their wins, support, or display of company values. Personalize your shoutout with an image, and choose to notify the recipient's manager for some extra appreciation. There's the option to rename "shoutouts" to something your team feels more aligned with, which is a thoughtful touch.

Something Guusto does well that other apps don't always consider is sharing recognition with those that can't always access the platform on a PC. With Guusto, you can also print out recognition and awards—a simple yet effective way to make sure your frontline employees don't miss out. 

Guusto's zone of excellence is rewarding team members with gift cards, and doing this at scale. It's ideal for large companies that want to show they care, with budget controls and management designed with scalability and multiple locations in mind. 

Guusto pricing: Free plan available that includes sending and scheduling rewards, milestones and anniversaries, custom branding, and more. You can upgrade to the Essential plan for $80/month (35 team members included) to add core values, streamlined reward approvals, and more team options. There's also a Premium plan at $350/month (100 team members included), designed for larger organizations with higher reporting and security needs.

Best employee recognition software for a good mix of recognition and employee engagement


Empuls, our pick for the best employee recognition software for a good mix of recognition and employee engagement

Empuls stood out to me as an app that balances employee recognition and rewards really well. It's not too heavily weighted either way, which gives you a great foundation for building your company culture around recognition and employee engagement.

Getting started with Empuls was an enjoyable experience. The personalized onboarding experience felt thoughtful and introduced me to the platform in a way that best matched my goals. It meant I could quickly set up the basics and explore the app, then return to customization later on.

Sharing recognition with others in Empuls feels fun. It's easy to create a new post straight from the feed (known as a town hall), and I could tag people, select a core value, and customize the note with emojis and GIFs. A unique feature is that I can also start a poll—this is a great way to encourage engagement and make the platform feel more interactive. 

Sometimes you want to show appreciation, but you're not sure what to say. Empuls tackles this challenge brilliantly with prompts that suggest example messages of gratitude or appreciation. While not everyone will use it, its existence breaks down barriers and makes it easier for some of your team members to get involved.

In line with Empuls's goals to be your go-to place for employee engagement, there's a lot of personalization involved. You can customize your user profile to share not only basic details like your name and pronouns, but also the languages you speak, your work skills, and your hobbies and interests. This makes the experience feel more meaningful, and gives you new ways to connect with your team members. 

Empuls has value outside of its employee recognition and engagement roots. With add-ons, you can enable surveys, an intranet, and even the opportunity to share discounts, early wages, and loans. If you want to create an employee experience destination, this could be a streamlined and affordable choice.

Empuls pricing: Free 30-day trial available. Pricing for Empuls works by paying for only the feature categories you want or need. Reward and Recognize ($3/user/month) gives you access to peer-to-peer awards, gifts, leaderboards, company awards, an appreciation feed, and more. There's also the option to add Surveys ($3/user/month), Social Intranet ($1/user/month), and Perks and Benefits ($2/user/month) to your plan. 

What's the best employee recognition platform?

There's no perfect employee recognition app out there. Every platform has its benefits and drawbacks depending on the size of your company, your culture, and how you like to work. What this guide shows is that there's an app out there to suit every company—whether you want an easy way to send gift cards around the world, or a fun way to say thanks to your startup team members. Use this to help you build a shortlist of apps to explore, try out, and find the one that'll help you inspire your team members to embrace employee recognition.

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