Employee Satisfaction Surveys

25 Staff Appreciation and Recognition Ideas That Won't Break the Bank

Disgruntled or apathetic employees can suck the energy out of the sales transaction they perform. Here's 25 ways to make employees happier.

Sean McDade, PhD

Sean McDade, PhD

Founder & CEO, PeopleMetrics

Employee experience is vital to a healthy and growing company.

A poor employee experience leads to disgruntled or apathetic employees who suck the energy out a business.

On the other hand, an exceptional employee experience leads to employees who pass on their enthusiasm to customers. In fact, customers are more likely to have a positive customer experience if they are served by passionate employees.

In other words, a positive employee experience is a boost to any business’ bottom line.

Yet most office environments inspire apathy, not excitement. As psychologist Tom Muha wrote in an article for The Capital, recent polls show that “only 29% of employees in a typical company are actively engaged in their job.”

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to boost provide an excellent employee experience. Affordable staff appreciation and recognition activities are a great way to get there.

25 staff appreciation and employee recognition ideas that won't break the bank:

  1. Arrange for a team to show the fruits of their labor to upper management.
    Employees feel more engaged when they feel that their ideas and efforts are recognized as important and helpful.

  2. Ask peers to nominate and vote for employees of the month.
    Team members will appreciate the recognition that they often notice and appreciate the day-to-day actions of their peers. If you do award Employee of the Month awards, be specific: write out and publicly explain exactly why a certain employee was selected.

  3. Start a staff appreciation program.
    Like a rewards program for supermarkets, Staff Appreciation Programs can award points for punctuality, and any traits you would like to encourage. Points may be redeemed for small prizes, or certain privileges, like leaving a half hour early one day. The institution of a such a program can energize your employees.

  4. Plan a surprise achievement celebration for an employee or a team of employees.
    Even if you just put on some great tunes and provide the fixings for ice cream sundaes, the employees you recognize will be delighted that their work was noticed and appreciated.

  5. Pass on the praise.
    If you hear a positive remark about a person, repeat it to that person as soon as possible—perhaps via email. Copying managers and supervisors on such comments is an especially powerful way to help employees feel appreciated.

  6. Publish a “kudos” column in your employee newsletter.
    Ask employees to submit kudos for their peers.

  7. Call an employee to your office to thank them.
    Since most employees assume that something is wrong when they are called to a supervisor’s office, they will be especially pleased to receive your honest gratitude for a job well done.

  8. Set up a suggestion program.
    This can be as simple as setting up a suggestions box or as thorough as completing company-wide questionnaires. Employees who feel that their opinions and ideas are taken seriously are more likely to be engaged. (See PeopleMetrics’ Employee Experience page to see how we can help gather, analyze, and act on employee feedback).

  9. Express interest in your employees’ professional development.
    Even if your firm cannot fund the employees’ professional development at this time, your employees will appreciate your interest and guidance on achieving their dreams.

  10. Post and follow a large Celebration Calendar in your office.
    Celebrate employees’ birthdays and employment anniversaries.

  11. Hone your communication skills.
    Refer to employees by their first name. Listen actively and carefully to their thoughts. Even non-verbal communication can provide encouragement and recognition. When was the last time that an honest smile or strong handshake brightened your day?

  12. Establish relationships between staff and upper management.
    Employees like to feel that they know upper management, even if they don’t work with them on a daily basis. Perhaps you’ll encourage interaction across your organization’s hierarchy by sending new employees out to lunch on their first day with your president. As a manager, take time to get to know your employees.

  13. Ask staff members to nominate and vote on employee awards.
    In addition to awards for Top Manager, Rookie, and Most Valuable Employee, consider offering a “Behind the Scenes” award for humble employees who perform well, even if they’re not in the limelight. Your employees will likely have even more creative ideas for awards.

  14. Send thank you notes to employees who work long hours.
    This method may be even more effective if you send thank you notes to employees’ home addresses. This acknowledges that you understand how much time at home the employee sacrificed to complete that complicated project.

  15. Allow employees to select their next assignments.
    If you can allow employees to choose their work, they will be more engaged and dedicated. (Everyone loves to have choices, right?)

  16. Designate successful teams and employees as office consultants.

  17. Include an employee in a “special meeting” they wouldn’t otherwise attend.

  18. Recognize your employees’ personal accomplishments.
    Did Joanne just finish running a marathon? Or has David donated gallons of blood to the Red Cross? They will appreciate your recognition of their personal accomplishments, even if all you do is acknowledge them at the beginning of your next staff meeting.

  19. Give employees an extra long lunch break on occasion.

  20. Get creative in your praise.
    Although you pay your employees, it’s often the thought that counts in employee recognition. If you know an employee is into rock climbing, for instance, you could give them a book on this topic with an inscription of your thanks. Or perhaps you’ll Photoshop a million-dollar bill with the employee’s face on it, as a way of saying, “Thanks a Million.”

  21. Make it personal.
    It can be tempting to have your HR department handle such events as workplace anniversaries, but without manager involvement, such recognition can come off as cold lip service. You can certainly automate and standardize employee recognition like this, but be sure that managers personally deliver recognition gifts.

  22. Ask for employees’ ideas on retreats, meetings, and other “fun time.”
    Why should the administrative assistant get to decide where your next company outing will be? You can include employees in planning company events by collecting feedback from every employee, or asking a certain dedicated employee to volunteer to help plan an event.

  23. Make it formal: write a letter.
    Here’s a simple, free, influential method for recognizing your employees: personal letters. Write a letter explaining in detail why a certain employee deserves praise. Deliver a copy to the employee and their manager(s). Place a copy of the letter in the employee’s file.

  24. Establish a Rock Solid Award to recognize employees who consistently do their job well.
    Too often, employees are only recognized for one instance of going above and beyond company expectations. And yet many employees work very hard to accomplish the regular duties of their job. Encourage consistency by recognizing employees for doing their job well—after all, it’s not easy to find good employees.

  25. Support employees by providing space for their fliers.
    If you highlight and support employees’ personal endeavors in this way, they will know that you care about their personal well-being.

With so many ways to frugally recognize employees, there’s no reason for any employee to feel invisible or under-appreciated.

As an executive, you can foster a supportive, productive workplace environment by honestly and enthusiastically recognizing your employees whenever possible.


Want to know more about Employee Experience?

Contact PeopleMetrics:

About the Author

Sean McDade, PhD is the author of Listen or Die: 40 Lessons That Turn Customer Feedback Into Gold. He founded PeopleMetrics in 2001 and is the architect of the company’s customer experience management (CEM) software platform. As CEO, he guides the company’s vision and strategy. Sean has over 20 years of experience helping companies measure and improve the customer experience. Earlier in his career, he spent five years at the Gallup Organization, where he was the practice leader of their consulting division. His company offers CEM software with advanced machine learning solutions and hands-on analytical support to help companies make sense of their CX data. Sean holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration with a specialization in marketing science from Temple University in Philadelphia. He has published eight articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and has taught over 25 marketing classes. Sean was named a 40 under 40 award recipient of the Philadelphia region. He is an active Angel Investor, including investments in Tender Greens, CloudMine and Sidecar.


Topic: Employee Experience

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