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By: Helios on November 24th, 2014

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Low Cost Employee Recognition Ideas

Total Rewards | Best Practices | Employee Relations

It is known that companies that have a culture that includes a recognition program have more engaged, self-motivated employees. So how do we create a culture of recognition? Recognition is not a one-size fit all exercise. How employees like to be recognized is a personal preference and managers must know their employees well enough to know what type of reward will be effective.

employee recognitionFor example, one employee may get energized and feel great about being brought up in front of their peers and recognized for their accomplishments while another employee may feel embarrassed in the same situation. Do you think the employee that is embarrassed will want to accomplish something again if that is the reward? Remember, you get what you reward/recognize so if you recognize and reward desired behaviors you will get more of that behavior.

There are the formal programs that we believe recognize our employees, such as the performance review and salary increase process. However, performance reviews are not always positive experiences for employees and, if any recognition is given, it’s not typically very timely after the event we are trying to recognize. Salary increases have become an expected annual event in many companies and, like the performance appraisal, are sometimes a disappointment if the feedback is not what the employee expected or feel they deserve. Performance reviews are certainly an important element in mentoring and coaching employees, but a successful recognition program can’t begin and end there.

There are many informal ways to recognize employees that are inexpensive or even free. I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Bob Nelson at a conference and he gave me a copy of his book 1501 Ways to Reward Employees which is an excellent source of information on the importance of rewards and recognition as well as examples of some of the most effective forms of inexpensive recognition. Not all methods have to be expensive; in fact, there are many low cost and free forms of reward and recognition, which is what I want to focus on here.

Below are suggestions from Dr. Bob Nelson’s book, 1501 Ways to Reward Employees and inexpensive recognition ideas that I learned from a ValGrubb and Associates webinar on Top 99 Non-Monetary Rewards. 

30 Low Cost Ideas for Recognizing Employees:

1. A simple “thank you”
2. On the spot award – small plaque or certificate
3. Coffee shop gift card
4. Reserved parking space for a week
5. Extra day off or come in late
6. Movie passes
7. Personalized company apparel
8. Breakfast or lunch with the CEO or another executive
9. Tickets to a sporting event – make sure you find their favorite team or sport first
10. Lunch or dinner with company executive and employee and their spouse
11. Article in company newsletter or website
12. Choice of project to work on or lead
13. Massage gift certificate
14. Letter of thanks sent home to the family praising the employee and thanking them for their support
15. Visit corporate headquarters for an off-site employee
16. Paid day off to volunteer with employee’s choice of charity
17. Donate to an employee’s charity
18. House cleaning service for a day
19. Free car wash and detail
20. Service award lunch
21. Night’s stay at a bed and breakfast
22. Babysitter for a night
23. Round of golf
24. Recognition at corporate meetings/events for those employees who have received kudos from managers and/or customers – make sure you know if the employee prefers group or private recognition before using this method
25. Letter from the CEO
26. Car wash by executives
27. Supervisor for a day
28. Shadowing an executive for a day
29. Picture included on a Wall of Fame
30. Homemade cookies by the employee’s manager

I hope these will come in handy as we near the holiday season and throughout the New Year. Don’t forget, recognition should be timely and tailored to the employee!