An employee rewards and recognition program is key to employee engagement, making your employees feel valued and recognizing their hard work. Engaged employees feel a sense of purpose at work that creates extra energy and commitment — employee engagement is also directly tied to well-being. And we know that the impact is real. When you invest in an employee’s well-being — their emotional, financial, physical and work well-being — they invest back in the company.
The key to a successful employee rewards and recognition program
The not-so-magic formula of improving employee engagement is knowing how to recognize and reward employees, especially your high-performers. The goal is to celebrate employees for their achievements, hard work or a job well done. Not every employee rewards and recognition program will be the same — it’s about focusing on meaningful employee appreciation. (P.S. This doesn’t necessarily mean handing out cash.)
Here are 9 low-cost ways to reward employees:
1. Express thanks with a public thank you
Sometimes a simple “thank you” can do wonders, especially in a public forum — like an all-company meeting or an email blast. (Pro tip: Bcc your company alias to avoid unleashing a slew of reply-alls.)
2. Give a hand-written note
In an age of emails and texts, a simple handwritten note really stands out. Take a few moments to write out your thanks in a nice card or even grab a colorful piece of paper or sticky note.
3. Offer time off
If employees are putting in extra hours or weekend time to finish a project, consider offering an extra day off — or letting them take off a few hours early on a Friday.
4. Give small gifts
No need to go over budget with large cash gifts. Instead, think of thoughtful, yet inexpensive gifts like gift cards to a local coffee shop or grocery store, movie tickets or flowers.
5. Cover commuting costs
If employees usually pay for parking or public transportation, offer a reward of one month of free parking, a bus pass or a gas card.
6. Offer chair massages
Individual massages can be expensive, but if you want to reward a big group of employees, consider hiring a masseuse for the day and offering 15-minute chair massages.
7. Feature top employees on your company blog or newsletter
By featuring top employees in your company blog or newsletter, you not only give them the recognition they deserve, but you broadcast what your company values in top employees. This is great for recruiting as well as motivating current employees.
8. Schedule an all-company activity
Many companies plan holiday parties, but you can recognize great work all year long by planning an impromptu activity that gives employees a few hours off from work. At Limeade, we had a great time spending a half-day on the slopes for a Frozen Friday event. Other employee reward ideas include a summer field day — with a BBQ and outdoor games — or a company-sponsored happy hour. All company events help with more than recognition for hard work — they also boost morale and build relationships and collaboration between departments.
9. Give them a wacky and fun award
Here at Limeade, we give the “Make Others Great Award” on a monthly basis to an employee nominated by their peers. It’s one of our favorite employee reward ideas — the winner is announced at an all-staff meeting and the employee gets to have a large green shoe on their desk for the entire month.
Despite the pandemic, Gallup reports a sharp drop in the percentage of employees who strongly agree that their employer cares about their overall wellbeing. Check out this guide on how to reduce employee attrition with a well-being program.