How To Recognize Employees Who Don’t Have Computer Access

One of the challenges with recognition providers is that most of their services and offerings are based upon recognition being delivered via online recognition programs.

Recognition vendors often use Software as a Service (SaaS) model delivery. This software distribution model is where a third-party provider hosts an application and makes it available to customers over the Internet.

But what are you supposed to do for employees who have no computer or smartphone access? Maybe they don’t own a smartphone or the nature of their work does not allow them to access work content online.

How do you recognize employees who don’t have computer access to your typical recognition programs?

The Recognition Challenge with Smartphones

Companies often ask recognition providers to design their recognition platform in responsive design so they’ll be accessible via mobile devices.

Interestingly, the Pew Research Center found over 95 percent of U.S. adults own some type of cellphone and 75 percent of adults own a smartphone.

If adults had less than high school education or graduated from high school, the chances of having a smartphone ranged from 57 percent to 69 percent. It was about the same if their income was less that $30,000 per year.

In fact, one-in-five American adults are “smartphone-only” internet users. They own a smartphone but don’t have access to traditional home broadband service.

Ownership of other devices shows 73 percent of U.S. adults own a desktop or laptop computer and 53 percent have a tablet computer.

But according to Tech Pro Research in 2017, only 59 percent of companies allowed the use of personal devices for work purposes. This makes it very difficult to provide all employees with equal access to online recognition programs.

Difficulty Recognizing Employees with Certain Jobs

Then there are job roles that don’t require employees to use a computer, have an email account, or go online to access work-related programs.

Consider this list of job roles:

  • Nurses
  • Registered Practical Nurses
  • Orderlies
  • Housekeeping or Environmental Services
  • Dietary Staff
  • Aircraft Ground Service Staff
  • Baggage Handlers
  • Air Traffic Controllers
  • Construction Workers
  • Roofers
  • Bus Drivers
  • Railway Crew
  • Retail Store Staff
  • Restaurant Servers
  • Postal Delivery Staff
  • Supermarket Staff

This is just a sampling of jobs with limited or no need for computers to function. I am sure you can think of many others. Some employees may be too busy serving customers, clients, and patients, to even go online.

Low-Tech Recognition Options

To combat the lack of online access to recognition programs many companies have opted for either trackable or traceable low-tech recognition.

A big benefit of recognition programs is the data they produce. They allow you to track usage when, where, by whom, for which employee, and for what reason.

Some minimal low-tech options consist of small branded and messaged cards that have a tracking number. These could be level based reward cards at varying monetary or point values based on the actions of the employee. Managers receive a certain allotment of cards and the tracking numbers or bar codes are assigned to each manager.

Employees can wait to scan their card at an HR computer kiosk in the cafeteria or designated employee area. Here they can redeem or save their points for their preferred gift. Or they might call an 800-number on the card and use Interactive Voice Response (IVR) to save or redeem their points.

Other companies have their managers give out on-the-spot scratch and win awards for going above and beyond. Or they may receive a different card with a number on it and then go online to spin a computer-generated, graphic spin-to-win wheel to see what they win.

A few companies we know simply count and track how many tangible, paper-based thank you cards are ordered by each manager. While there is no tracking beyond the ordering it is a simple count. I have seen some cards printed with a noncarbon copy sheet that records the handwritten message and the manager sends it to HR for tracking purposes.

You can also distribute gift cards, vouchers and gift certificates, record the card/certificate numbers assigned to managers and have them report and record who they were given to and for what purpose.

You just have to think:

  1. Tangible item – gift card, paper-based card, some small token.
  2. Tracking system – count, barcode, tracking number to be scanned.
  3. Value – currency amount, alternate points-based currency, level value.
  4. Assignment – allocation to which supervisor or manager.

The only thing that is missing with most of these low-tech recognition methods is knowing what the behavior, action, or purpose was for the recognition.

Good Ol’ Recognition Practices

After the low-tech offerings, you’re back to the no-tech recognition practices where recognition all began.

It could be face-to-face verbal expressions of acknowledgment from peer-to-peer or manager to employee. Or it could be a written note and possibly a text message if the person has a device they can look at after work.

Smaller companies still use a bulletin board where people can post messages of thanks and gratitude. Here you are using written expressions of recognition.

Managers may need to stop work groups and teams and celebrate when major achievements have been reached with some food items and drinks. Some managers and supervisors have resorted to having a fun trophy that gets passed around at staff meetings to show appreciation for a particular employee’s efforts.

These actions can only be measured by the employee perceptions of recognition throughout the organization or by their manager through employee recognition surveys or employee engagement surveys.

This type of measurement can only be a lagging indicator of how well recognition is perceived or not.


There is no perfect online solution for recognizing employees who do not have a computer or smartphone on the job.

However, I believe it influences leaders and managers to put a greater emphasis on using recognition practices instead. Otherwise, it has to be a combination of interpersonally delivered recognition with low-tech recognition.

Recognition Reflection: How do you provide recognition to employees without computer access or smartphones?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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