Employee Recognition on a Budget

Woman employee being recognized by peers

Recognizing an employee for their hard work, dedication, and consistent performance is a simple way to show they are a valued member of the team. When employee recognition is given often and applied consistently, team members become more engaged, have stronger individual performance, and tend to have a longer tenure with an organization. Additionally, when employee recognition is directed at target behaviors like improving collaboration, small rewards can greatly impact key organizational needs like stronger teamwork.

However, employee recognition programs are frequently under-funded and poorly administered. Often, the central budget and formal responsibility for employee recognition is held within the HR department, and may not be widely utilized across the business. But regardless of who administers the official employee recognition program, every manager has a personal responsibility to recognize the performance of their own employees (with or without a budget).

Cash awards and spot bonuses are fantastic. Certainly, they’re the preferred method of recognition for most employees, but when budgets are tight it’s time to get more creative. Here are a few inexpensive (or free) ways to reward employees:

  • Beat the traffic. Let an employee come in a few hours late or leave early to avoid rush hour.
  • Work from home day. A flexible work arrangement is one of the top- requested employee benefits.
  • Shout-out at team meetings. Start the day by recognizing the efforts of your team members publicly
  • Shout-out in company newsletter/email. Share the positive news with a wider audience.
  • Social media shout-out. Share the news to an even wider audience with a shout out on the company’s social media accounts
  • Coffee run. Bring in their favorite coffee, bagel, or dessert as a surprise.
  • No-rush Lunch. Allow extra time for breaks or an extended lunch.
  • Traveling trophy. Find some symbol of achievement like a trophy and move it from desk to desk to draw attention to employees who have earned recognition.
  • Simple Thank-you Note. Never underestimate the power of a simple Thank-you Note. Whether it’s written on company stationery or on a Post-It, a simple note can be a wonderful way to show your appreciation without spending a dime.

Aside from the recognition method itself, it’s important to apply the program consistently and fairly.  It’s easy to get busy with day-to-day activities and forget the recognition program. Consider adding a reminder to your calendar to reinforce consistency. Who should you reward today?