7 Effective Ways to Reward Employees on a Budget

7 Effective Ways to Reward Employees on a Budget

September 22, 2014

The old saying goes, “It’s not the price of a gift, but the thought that counts.” Employees like a simple pat on the back for a job well done.  Keeping employees motivated and involved in the company they work for is a vital part to any business’s success.

Some employee engagement programs include trips to exotic destinations, bonuses, and free TV’s. These complex programs are extremely effective, but require groundwork that companies who have no engagement programs need to build. Not all pats on the back have to cost much to keep your employees motivated, and to create a base for future engagement.

shutterstock_98907230Here are a few options that cost little to nothing, but succeed in showing employees that they are important to your organization and help them stay on the right track.

    • Opportunities are some of the easiest ways to reward good behavior. You could let an employee lead a project they wouldn’t normally manage, give them the chance to take on more responsibility, or allow them to choose the next task for the team to complete. When employees prove themselves through a job well done, rewarding them with an opportunity that relates to their career development is a simple way to show how appreciated their efforts are.
    • Publicity costs a small amount, but is one of the most effective ways of creating healthy competition in the workplace. Setting up an “Employee of the Month,” a “Wall of Fame,” or “Teammate of the Year” award tied to company values and goals gives employees something to strive for. It reiterates brand values and rewards the right behaviors.
    • Praise is a free recognition tool that goes a long way. Most companies can do a better job at simply acknowledging the efforts and successes of employees. Praise can be as little as an email saying how much an employee’s hard work is appreciated. A written letter is very rare these days, but is more personal and a valued keepsake. To increase engagement, Campbells’ CEO hand wrote up to 20 notes a day to employees celebrating their successes. Lastly, in a time where everything is done electronically, with no real emotion (except for smiley faces), a personal conversation about how well your employee is doing can do a lot to keep them motivated.
    • Experiences are the most fun and memorable, while still keeping money in your company’s pocket. A company picnic is one way to get everyone working and spending time together. When your employee has a birthday or is expecting, why not throw a small party with their teammates? It’s a little surprise pick-me-up to let that person know they are special to the company and their peers. It doesn’t have to be extravagant – a simple cake will do – but it will make a lasting impression. And who doesn’t like cake?
    • Gift Cards are a very popular way to recognize an employee’s behavior or action. You don’t have to get carried away. For frequent on-the-spot awards you might give away small denominations. A five dollar gift card to a coffee shop shows that you are acknowledging positive behaviors; and I’ve never seen anyone pass up a free coffee! You could also use gift cards for recognizing someone on their birthday or for a particular holiday, as long as you are making an effort to recognize and reward.
    • Flexibility in Schedule is one of my favorite ideas. For example, let’s say I stay late into the night working on a project with my team once in a while, while the rest of our colleagues get to leave at 5pm. But the next time I am late to the office, it is a problem.  How about using this opportunity to acknowledge that the employee has shown extra effort? Reward the extra effort with a few chances to leave the office early or arrive late some days. You could also offer them a free day off to take around a holiday of their choice, or the chance to telecommute (if the job allows it) on a day they would need.
    • Gamification of awards is another fun way to inspire a little competition and boost sales. Don’t get scared! These games can reward positive behaviors and sales goals. You could get creative and play bingo, tic-tac-toe, a prize wheel, or anything that creates some competition and increases effort. The end prize could be as simple as a gift card.

These are simple enough for you to get started! But before you start rewarding your employees, every organization has to have the right goals in place. Knowing what behaviors you want to reward is the key to creating workplace satisfaction.  A major Gallup survey found that, “Only 41% of employees felt that they know what their company stands for and what makes its brand different from its competitors’ brands.” Set your core goals and values and make them clear to your employees. Doing this will ensure there will be no mistakes in rewarding the right behavior and that employees will know exactly why they are being rewarded.

Start small and focus on one goal at a time. Get employees used to the idea of being rewarded for certain behaviors, attitudes, and actions. This will allow for room to grow and for improving your recognition and rewards. It is important to focus employees’ energy on working for something positive. Harness it; don’t extract it with negativity or lack of any recognition at all.

Regardless of cost, the core purpose of rewarding employees is to keep them motivated and engaged in their work and with your company. Once you start trying new ways of engaging employees, even on a tight budget, you’ll start to realize you could have been doing some of these things all along.

Now, go start showing your employees how much you care, and your boss how much money you’re not spending (while making the company a better place)!

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