Motivated employees are an important ingredient for business success. Employers who feel appreciated and valued are more likely to be productive, provide good customer service, and show up for work ready to work. In today’s difficult economic times, many employers simply don’t have the money to spend on expensive and elaborate employee recognition programs with awards, cash bonuses, receptions, vacations, or gold watches. Yet, making sure that employees feel appreciated and valued for their efforts is more important than ever now when family budgets are stretched thin, depressing news reports fill the airways, and people are generally more stressed all the way around. You can learn the difference between Incentive Rewards vs Recognition Awards for a better selection of the reward system you need to opt for.
A culture of employee appreciation
Employee Appreciation Day was first in 1995. It was created by a founding board member of Recognition Professionals International and Workman Publishing as a way of focusing the attention of all employers, in all industries, on employee recognition. It is celebrated on the first Friday in March each year.
The premise behind employee recognition theory is simple. If employees feel appreciated, they will work harder and be more loyal. However, there is often a disconnect between what employees want in terms of appreciation and what their employers think they want. According to a survey conducted jointly by the International Association of Administrative Professionals and office staffing company, OfficeTeam, when asked to rank the two most effective ways of recognizing employee accomplishments, managers chose promotions and cash bonuses. Workers in the same survey said they preferred an in-person thank you or knowing that senior management has been notified of their job well done. In relaying information learned from this study, Nadine Heintz of Inc. magazine summarized this important point by saying that “though a decent bonus will always be a highly coveted form of recognition, employers often underestimate the degree to which workers value kind words delivered face to face.”
Ironically, though the recognition methods that employees value tend to be much less expensive than those managers think employees value, very few managers seem willing to give employees what they need. Rather than making conscious decisions not to value their employees, it’s possible that many managers simply don’t know-how. It is important for companies of all sizes to figure out what their employees value and work to establish a culture of appreciation for their employees.
Low-cost ways to recognize your employees
There are countless ways to recognize your employees, and perhaps surprisingly, there are lots of ways that don’t cost a lot. The important thing to remember is that different people respond to different types of motivation, so finding ways to motivate your specific employees may take some trial and error. You may even consider asking your employers how you can show your appreciation. Encourage them to be creative, again remembering that what seems like an insignificant thing to you might be a big deal for one of your staff. You can even state up front that their list needs to contain only items that are free or within a certain price limit. You may be pleasantly surprised at the suggestions you receive.
That said, here are some suggestions for ways to let your employees know you appreciate their hard work:
- Give a free one-year subscription to a magazine of their choice. Have the publication delivered to their home address. You can encourage professional development at the same time by choosing a magazine specific to your industry.
- Give a $20 gift card to a nearby office supply store so the employee can purchase something special for their desk, cubicle, or office.
- Remember their birthdays and work anniversaries with a card and a cupcake.
- Send a hand-written thank you note for a job well done.
- Reward employees at the successful completion of a project by allowing them to leave work a few hours early on a Friday afternoon.
- Allow flex-time schedules, if not year-round, at least during summer months.
- Allow employees to take a 10-15 minute break each afternoon. This is especially nice when they can get outside to enjoy nice weather for a few minutes.
- Reward effort as well as success.
- Give a “get out of work day free” pass for a job well done.
- Every now and then do some of the less enjoyable tasks that your employees do on a regular basis.
- Ask your employees how things are going and what you can do to make their work lives easier.
- Hold brief weekly or monthly team meetings with the purpose of giving your staff a safe environment in which to ask questions, make suggestions, and voice their concerns.
- Install a suggestion box and make it a point to implement some of the suggestions.
- Before taking drastic cost-cutting measures, ask your employees for ideas on how they think expenses could be reduced.
- Hold informal brainstorming retreats (these can be held onsite) when new ideas are needed or new projects are being undertaken.
- Give employees one afternoon a month to do volunteer work.
- Allow employees to grow professionally by attending online webinars to learn new skills or enhance existing ones.
- Have a monthly birthday/anniversary celebration recognizing all employees with birthdays or anniversaries that month.
- Say “Thank You.”