Not Another Plaque, Please: Thoughtful Ways To Reward Your Employees / HR Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Check out these top tips on how to reward your employee's work, all without the "cheese" factor.

Finding a way to give real recognition of an employee’s great work is becoming more and more important in the modern workday. Pins, plaques and certificates rewarding service to the company will often cover employees’ cubicle walls.

However, shortly after receiving such awards, they generally lose their magic and have somewhat of a “cheesy” factor. While the rewards should be unique, they also have to be realistic and conscious of business budget.

Finding the right reward—one that acknowledges employee efforts while also maintaining a healthy bottom line—can be tricky. Consider one of these employee bonuses the next time you want to recognize their work.

Related Article: Are Employee Rewards Programs a Good or Bad Idea?

1. Comp Time

Time is money, for businesses and for individuals. The best reward may be giving time off to employees who go above and beyond the expected work outcomes. Even a half-day off from work is something most employees relish. From working parents who can spend the time with their children to the dedicated golfers who can play 18 holes.

It is generally OK to place some restrictions on timing. For instance, request employees not take the time during the business’s busiest season (chances are most great employees would avoid this anyway). However, try to put as few strings attached as possible to the comp time to make it truly feel like a free half-day for the employee.

Handwritten note

2. Personal Communications

Sometimes, quiet, focused acknowledgments work the best. For many, a heartfelt handwritten note acknowledging the good work they are doing is the best reward of all. Personal communications from immediate supervisors is great. However, notes from the “big bosses” that praise someone’s efforts show that their actions are valued not only at their level of the company, but are also appreciated within upper management.

Related Article: Don't Show Me the Money: Why Non-Monetary Rewards Best Boost Staff Morale

3. Donut Socials

“Any idiot can face a crisis, it's day-to-day living that wears you out.” Russian dramatist Anton Chekhov could have been referring to the business workplace when he wrote that gem.

Some employees shine in a crisis, swooping in to save the day. Their contributions are great, and everyone knows it. However, they often overshadow the daily tasks so many undertake that keep a business running smoothly. Providing specific feedback on how the efforts of less “flashy” employees make a huge difference in a business’s success takes some finesse to pull off.

One twist on this idea is to have the donuts delivered to the individual’s desk or office. Then, send out an email inviting everyone to stop in to the honoree’s desk and say hello. The email body should make mention of the individual’s service to the company. Everyone loves donuts, after all.

gift card for employees

4. Freebies 

Everyone loves getting something for free. Arguably, giving out gift certificates to employees as an acknowledgment of hard work hardly qualifies as a freebie. After all, their hard work earned the reward. Nonetheless, a generic gift card to the movies or a local coffee shop is great way to show appreciation and is well received by any employee.

Going a step further and knowing your employee’s interests outside of work is priceless. Tailor the gift card to fit their hobby. If an employee has a specific interest outside of work, you have the opportunity to show that you know who they are you and truly value their work. 

Related Article: Why Company Culture Matters More to Employee Than Pay

5. Have Some Fun

Work is serious business. However, there is nothing wrong with inserting some fun, especially when it comes to rewarding an employee by highlighting their work. Decorating an employee’s desk and cubicle space with bright, colorful streamers and balloons is a surefire way to give an employee the recognition they deserve.

Of course, the most effective method of rewarding employees is a promotion. In the economics of the real world, however, promotions are not always possible. When one individual receives a promotion, take the time to communicate with their peers regarding why they did not move up as well, encouraging improvement in specific areas.

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