People generally want and need to be recognized for their accomplishments. It validates their contributions while letting them know that their work is worthwhile and being noticed. In our organization, we have an Exceptional Achievement Award program for company-wide recognition. There are politics involved in getting a nomination approved that the general employee-base doesn't understand. As a manager, we have to be sure that we are recognizing the right people, and they are being rewarded for their contribution and not someone else's. It could otherwise be easy to upset just as many people as you reward if you were to fold someone else's contribution into the award.
Our award is not large; it's merely $100 and a certificate. For highly compensated staff, it's but a drop in the bucket. I find the amazing thing being that the highly paid seem to value being presented with the award much more so that the staff at the lower end of the pay scale. I still haven't been able to reconcile this to my own satisfaction though. For the lower paid, $100 can represent more the net value of a whole day's pay, while barely a few hours for more senior staff. The entry-level staff sometimes leave their certificates laying around or file them in drawers. I have even seen some show up in the paper recycling. But the senior staff generally mount them on their walls in a conspicuous location for all to see.
I find it a bit surprising that the award has such a profound effect on senior staff while only a minimal impact on entry-level staff. I'll have to think more about this and, should I have a revelation, post it here.