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10 Delightful Employee Reward and Recognition Ideas (on a Budget)

Employee rewards and recognition don’t have to be grand, expensive gestures. Here’s how to make employee appreciation day happen every day, and encourage employees to perform at their best.

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Kris Hoppe
Sep 13, 20163 minutes
Employee rewards and incentives on a budget.

Do you remember the most memorable gesture your employer ever made?

When I left one of my jobs to move abroad, my boss gave me a handwritten note of thanks and a notebook to write about my travels. Her gesture set the stage for our professional relationship to continue. We still talk to this day, and I’ve even sent new employees her way.

As an employer, taking out those small moments to recognize your employees will make a big difference in a lot of ways, from productivity and morale to recruiting and retention.

According to How Full is Your Bucket, the number one reason Americans leave their jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated. ‘Thank yous’ may feel corny, but they go a long way to boost the worth of people who are working hard. Here are some free and low-cost ideas to permeate those feel-good vibes all over your office.

Psst...We wrote an eBook with dozens more low-cost ideas for appreciating employees on a budget. You can download it here.

Offer a Welcome Package

On the first day of work, greet new employees warmly with some freebies. At Justworks, we give a swag bag with branded mugs, pens, and postcards signed by team members. It’s an easy way to help someone new feel like they already belong.

Introduce New Employees via Email

Throw in fun facts and a picture to seal the deal. Here are a few silly (and serious) topics you can cover:

  • Previous position/employer - Hometown - Favorite food - Astrological sign - Last show watched on Netflix

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Introduce Employees at Weekly Meetings

At Justworks, everyone shares the first concert they attended.

Offer Awards

You don’t even have to give a trophy (though that doesn’t hurt). At Justworks, we nominate team members once a month for awards in hard work and teamsmanship. We also have monthly sales awards for team members who closed the most deals and made the most calls.

Celebrate Work Anniversaries

A simple announcement will do. Consider giving out a small gift as well, like a company-themed hoodie or signed note of recognition from the CEO.

Give a Shout-Out at a Meeting

Do you have an employee who made an extra special effort on a project, or who went out of her way to help a fellow employee? Recognize her hard effort and let the company know what makes that action so special. It costs nothing to do, but it really might brighten someone’s day.

Employee reward and recognition ideas.

Give a Handwritten Note

A thank you written by hand is both free and incredibly meaningful.

Treat Someone Out to Coffee

How often do you have one-on-one time where you don’t have to talk about work topics? Take an employee out to coffee or lunch and get to know him better. Find out what makes him tick. See what dreams and aspirations he has for his future and the role. It will mean a lot to him that you want to take time out of your busy day to know what’s going on in his life.

Celebrate Birthdays

There are a million different ways to celebrate an employee birthday in the office. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Get some cake. Simple and sweet. - Have everyone in the company or in the department sign a card. - Grab a coffee or some other special treat. - Tape some balloons to her desk and top it off with confetti. - Let her take the day off, or a half day. This is perfect if you have an unlimited vacation policy.

Start an Employee Recognition Program

Recognition programs are another affordable way to keep employee morale high. This article outlines the five steps for getting a recognition program started at your company, such as determining the eligibility requirements for your recognition program.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.