Expense-free employee appreciation ideas that really work
Engagement 3 minute read

Expense-free employee appreciation ideas that really work

Rise | November 21, 2019

Employee appreciation is necessary but doesn't necessarily have to be expensive. There are many ways to show your employees that you appreciate them and their hard work, without breaking the bank.

Merci. Gracias. Arigato. There are so many ways to say ‘thank you,’ but in the busy world of business, gratitude doesn’t get expressed enough.

According to recent research from the Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc., almost 50% of employees feel underappreciated at work. It's no wonder that 61% of those surveyed have considered leaving their company within the year.

Team retention is a growing concern for people and culture leaders, but the solution to high turnover rates might be simpler than you expect.

'Please' and 'thank you' go a long way

The truth is that cash, whether in the form of a bonus, raise, or increased commission, can only motivate so much. And while you should certainly offer a monetary reward for a job well done, doing so doesn’t let you off the hook for other, more regular forms of recognition. “Financial reward is a great thing,” writes people and culture expert Meghan Biro, “but it’s not the equivalent of recognition.”

So what can you do instead? It comes down to what your parents said all those years ago: mind your P's and Q's. Say 'please' when assigning tasks, and give thanks when a job is completed. Employee appreciation makes the difference for team members. Everyone wants to feel like their contributions are valued.

Saying 'please' goes a long way toward making team members feel like they matter. “While you may be the boss, you can and should be polite when asking an employee to do something for you,” writes Peter Economy, an authority on leadership techniques. Chances are the task will get done either way, but when you ask nicely, how the team member feels while completing the assignment changes.

However busy managers might be, there’s always time for a simple 'thank you'—and as Dave Skibini, CEO of SnapMD, notes, there’s no end to how many of those you can give out: “Every business owner has limited resources to compensate their employees for their work, but every business owner has an unlimited supply of ‘thank yous.’” Over time, even something as simple as saying 'thanks' adds up to a lasting impact.

When a team member really goes above and beyond, grander gestures of appreciation are called for...

Here are 21 other ways to show employee appreciation

  • Give them your parking spot for a month.
  • Let them leave early on Friday.
  • Write a thoughtful thank-you note.
  • Make lunch for your team—even if it’s just sandwiches!
  • Offer public praise for a job well done.
  • Take a task off their plate.
  • Let them choose the office music.
  • Allow them to bring their pet to work!
  • Allow them to work from home (if you don’t already).
  • Offer flex hours or telecommuting options.
  • Give them their birthday off!
  • Give them an extra day off.
  • Award them with a certificate or silly trophy.
  • Include their achievement in the company newsletter.
  • Have them pick your next team-building activity.
  • Make their coffee every morning for a week.
  • Ask your boss to thank them.
  • Lend them your favourite book or movie.
  • Extend a deadline when they’re swamped.
  • Let them pick an item for the office snack table. 
  • Name a product or boardroom after them.

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