5 More Ways to Reward Employees Without Digging Into Your Pocket

We previously gave you some great ideas on how to reward your employees without digging too far into your wallet. Those five tips were not the only ways to do this, and we’ve got five more for you this week!

Even More Recognition

In addition to the management team recognizing employees for productivity or accomplishments, your company should encourage employees to recognize each other, for everything. Creating a bulletin board or sectioning off part of one for recognition is one way to do this. Employees can write notes on post-its or even get creative in acknowledging their coworkers. Take this to the next step by encouraging the recognition of non-work-related things. “Betty’s smile lights up my day.” “Tim’s wife had her baby! Congrats to the new daddy!” Fostering a community in your office will make people feel more comfortable, relaxed, and trusting while at work, it will encourage teamwork and socialization (which encourages collaboration and better problem-solving) and make for happier employees. Happier employees are almost always more productive employees. You can also implement democratically selected employees of the week or month, where employees are encouraged to vote based on working characteristics (so as to prevent a mere popularity contest) like helpfulness or project completion, as well as being encouraged to vote for different people to prevent ostracism and inadvertent discouragement. Finally, sending a letter to the employees’ families is a unique and personable way to provide recognition. This letter should be, obviously, personalized, acknowledging specific accomplishments and/or traits that are valued in the employee, and expressing why he or she is important to the company. This can help bridge the gap between your employee’s work and home life, making their family appreciate better the work that their relative does, which can encourage them to be more supportive. And it will help the employee feel proud and recognized by not only his or her company but also by their loved ones. They’ll have positive associations with the company even when they’re away from it.

Fun Events

Create time when fun can happen, both after work hours and during. Allowing some fun time during work hours on occasion sends the message that you value your employees’ happiness as much or more than, you value the bottom line. These events can be boozy staff meetings or happy hours, with a small investment in some communal liquor that could even be funded by small donations from each employee. They can also be monthly celebrations of employee birthdays. This can even be as simple as allowing a party planning committee that coordinates these types of events collects the money for them or is allowed a small budget, and all you have to do is approve them. You can enhance these events by contributing a gift from the management team or owners, like a few pizzas or a cake/donuts; you can even budget for birthday gifts from the company like gift cards or a paid day off. The small investment goes a long way when it increases employees’ satisfaction with the company and their job. You may even be able to collaborate with other businesses, exchanging services; if you own a coffee shop and you have a buddy who owns a movie theater, for example, you can give free coffee vouchers in exchange for free movie vouchers, and you both have gifts for your employees.

Company Feedback

A sure-fire way to make your employees feel like they are valued and heard is to actually listen to them. You could implement monthly one-on-one or small group meetings where employees can give and receive any kind of feedback. Make it clear that this is their time. They can ask questions about their performance, for example. You should be prepared to give positive feedback that is as specific as possible, zeroing in on something you noticed and appreciated in their work. This can also be a time for the employees to offer criticism and suggestions for the company. Of course, there is usually time for this at staff meetings, but having a more private platform to offer ideas (where they are less likely to be embarrassed if the idea isn’t well-received or simply be too shy to offer the idea in the first place) will encourage employees to speak up and feel heard. This also offers the opportunity for employees to voice concerns like if they are uncomfortable with a coworker or they are dealing with problems at home that are distracting them from their work. It should be clear that this time is a safe space, of sorts, where almost anything is welcome for discussion. Often, just feeling heard is a tremendous boost for people. If there are serious problems you can work on rectifying them, and if there is a problem in their home life you can work on accommodating this (within reason) so they do not feel pressured from all directions. And, if your employee offers you an idea that you want to implement, give them credit. Just because they may be too shy to offer the idea in front of all of their coworkers does not mean they shouldn’t be given credit if it is an idea that you believe will work and benefit the company. Remember how important acknowledgment and recognition is. These meetings are also private opportunities for you to acknowledge any problems with the employee’s work performance and to problem-solve as a team to improve those problems. Don’t let this become just negative feedback from either party. Encourage the employee to offer something they appreciate about the company, the management team, or their coworkers to get the positivity ball rolling and be sure to tell them something specific that you appreciate about their work. Always end the meeting with something positive, as well; “thank you for your work this month,” or “we’re really lucky to have you on our team.”

Casual Friday/Dress-Up Days

It may seem silly, like elementary school, but it can be a lot of fun in an office or work setting to let your employees dress up. Casual Friday is a common reward in an office setting, allowing jeans and other non-business attire. You can take this further by allowing costumes for Halloween, especially if you encourage a costume contest. This fosters creativity, friendly rivalry, and general hilarity that only serves to boost your employees’ positive feelings. Costumes, as well as decorations, for any holidays where employees are going to be at work, make things a little fun. You’ll want to reinforce that work is still expected, of course. You’ll also want to do whatever you can not to exclude people who may not celebrate holidays and to include all appropriate holidays. You don’t want to send a company-wide email saying “You’re free to dress-up/decorate for Christmas” and end up excluding Chanukah, Kwanza, or people like Jehovah’s Witnesses who don’t celebrate any of those. Allowing your employees to bring personalization to their work space and time, especially if they spend a large bulk of their time in your employ, will make them feel more comfortable and happy while at work. And having regular events like this will continue to give them something to look forward to.

Do Someone Else’s Work Days

You can get as creative as you like with this. This is mostly relevant to those companies that have multiple departments. In our last post on employee rewards, we mentioned having a “Boss Does Your Work” Day. This is similar, but it involves all of your employees spending some amount of time learning about and doing what their coworkers in other departments do. This will be especially boosting if you need those departments working smoothly together in order for your company to be most successful. You can have the accounting people walk the marketing folks through their job for part of the day, letting them try some things out on their own (within reason, you don’t want any big mistakes being made that will need correcting later) and then have them switch. It should be lighthearted and fun while also seriously encouraging everyone to appreciate what their coworkers do, how important it is to the company, how hard it is, and it’ll let your employees see their coworkers appreciating the work that they have to do. This will encourage patience and understanding that is particularly valuable in stressful situations. It can also open up communication; someone might have an “Ah-ha” moment, realizing that they can do something differently and make things that much easier for their coworker. “I didn’t know I could fill out the form that way, that would be so much quicker for you, wouldn’t it?” And managers and supervisors can participate in this, too. Having that kind of switch will allow employees to see the type and amount of work that goes into a supervisory position and should encourage them not to see their superiors as “the enemy” or some “distant entity” that is completely unapproachable.

Taking the time to figure out creative and simple ways to build community and foster good feelings in your employees is a time investment, yes, but it doesn’t have to be a large financial investment; and it’s an investment that will pay off in better teamwork, productivity, innovation, communication, and support.

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