Five ways to show employees appreciation that cost very little


Personalize the way you show appreciation to increase employee motivation and engagement.

One of the strongest drivers of employee engagement is recognition. Yet, having an employee recognition program in place is not enough. A recent Forbes article advises bosses to “find out what motivates each employee personally.” To be effective, recognition must be personalized. Here are five ways to do so.

Traveling trophy (public recognition)

For some folks, recognition from peers and trophies are highly motivating. A traveling trophy program is low-cost, allows all team members to be involved and provides a great forum for employees who enjoy public recognition. A traveling trophy is awarded for a set period—say a week, month or quarter—and gets handed off to the next recipient who receives the award.

Decide on selection criteria, the nomination process, frequency and select a trophy. The trophy can be silly, like a toy surfboard for your “Big Kahuna” award, as long as it fits your culture. It will take a little time to set up the program, but your team will feel appreciated for years to come. Here’s a quick how-to on starting a trophy program.

1-on-1 (private recognition)

One of the most effective things a manager can do to motivate employees who prefer private recognition is to celebrate individuals’ accomplishments in a one-to-one setting. You can also make a phone call just for the purpose of saying “thank you.” Or, give kudos in an email or handwritten note telling an employee why they’re appreciated.

Be flexible with time off

Sometimes an hour or two off is all an employee needs to feel valued. If an employee has a sick family member, let them go early with the request that they remain available by phone, text or email. If their favorite team is in the playoffs, give them permission to watch the game and get back to work after it’s over. When you show appreciation in this way, you’ll also receive appreciation in return.

Mark milestones

At five-year milestones, create a celebratory yearbook for employees like those created for employees of Texas Health Resources. Each printed book includes a congratulatory message addressed to the person by name, indicates their years of service and includes messages of appreciation from the CEO, the person’s manager and their colleagues.

Celebration calendar

It’s easy enough to keep a celebration calendar of employee birthdays and work anniversaries—and to send a personal message on those days. Take your calendar to the next level by noting other days that are meaningful to your team members like completing a degree or returning from family leave. Also, note days where you can have a little fun, like Superman’s Birthday (June 30) or National Sandwich Day (November 3). (More fun days here.)

With attention to what’s important to your employees, you’ll find many ways to show your appreciation that will be both remembered and highly valued.

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