The first Friday in March is Employee Recognition Day, but you don’t have to wait until then to show your employees how much you appreciate them. Though the economy is on the upswing — finally — many employers are still feeling pinched, especially when it comes to budgeting for pay increases and other employee-motivating benefits. But even if you can’t afford a grand gesture, showing your employees how much you value their contributions is still a must.
Why is Employee Recognition So Important?
It may help to think of employee recognition efforts as an investment in your company’s success. While it’s true that motivated employees work harder and take more pride in their work, empirical evidence also supports the benefits of recognition.
A study of more than 4 million employees found that regular praise and recognition has a positive impact on employee performance, specifically resulting in:
- An increase in individual productivity
- More engagement between colleagues
- Increased employee retention
- A decreased number of on-the-job accidents
- A better safety record
- A greater number of positive comments and loyalty scores from customers
Now that you know how important recognition is, here are a few budget-friendly ways to honor your hard-working employees.
1. Just Say Thanks
A survey by Dr. Bob Nelson, noted author and motivational guru, asked employees to rate their most-desired and least-desired forms of recognition. Guess where "cash or cash substitutes" finished? Near the bottom. You heard that right. Only 42 percent of those surveyed deemed monetary reward as very or extremely important.
So what grabbed the top spot? Ninety-two percent of those surveyed rated "support and involvement" from their supervisor as the most desired motivator. Similarly, "personal praise" took second place with 79 percent describing it as very or extremely important. These statistics underscore the impact an employer can have, even without the backing of a huge budget.
Sometimes, it’s enough just to express your gratitude. Make it public by posting a handwritten note on their office door or wall, sending out a company-wide email, mentioning them in a newsletter, or praising your employee at the beginning of a meeting.
2. Break Time
Maybe you can’t afford to give them a raise, but can you spare an hour here or there? Instituting a recognition program based on off-time shows you care without cutting into payroll too sharply. Consider offering an extra hour at lunch, providing an early dismissal on a day of their choosing, or adding a few extra minutes to breaks every day for a week. If you can afford it, comp time is always appreciated and gives employees the break they need to recharge and come back re-motivated and ready to work.
3. Take ’em to Lunch
Recognize hard work by treating that special honoree to lunch. Find out their favorite eatery and order take-out, or go all out and have a sit-down nosh together.
4. Added Perks
Some incentives come at absolutely no cost to your bottom line, but can make a big difference to an employee. Reserve that prime parking space for them for a week — or a month, if you’re feeling generous. Ask one of the top managers or execs to stop by the employee’s desk and offer a personal "thank you." Post a congrats message to Facebook or tweet it out — with your employee’s permission, of course.
If you have a small slush fund available, purchase some small gifts from nearby businesses. What employee wouldn’t love being surprised with a free car wash, movie passes, or a gift card to Starbucks?
Whichever low-budget option you choose, be sure to tailor it to each individual employee. After all, thanking your workers in cookie-cutter style doesn’t exactly scream, "You’re special! I value you as an individual!" With a bit of forethought and planning, you can give morale — and productivity — a boost.