Don’t Break the Bank | 16 Cost-Effective Employee Appreciation Ideas

Employees, Leadership

Nearly 75% of organizations have employee recognition programs implemented. So if you don’t, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say it might be those two words scaring you away…you know, “program” and “implementing”? Here’s the secret, you don’t have to make the implementation part a huge deal. Employee appreciation, like everything else in the world, will be as complicated as you make it. Take a deep breath and read these super simple ways to show your employees you care for them.

1. Offer Career Development

87% of Millennials say professional development or career growth opportunities are very important. You don’t necessarily need to build an entire program around this. Keep it simple by asking employees during their performance reviews what kind of departments or skills they’re interested in pursuing. Give them some direction of how they can get started by having the department head assigning small tasks or ask the employee if they want to take an e-course on the skill that the department doesn’t yet have. This can occupy an hour of their time a week to see where the opportunity takes them.

DYK 87% of #Millennials say career growth opportunities are very important. Read more: Click To Tweet

2. Surprise! You’re Excellent

Surprises aren’t for everyone, but I’m confident if you were expecting just another work day, but it ended with an interesting twist, you would be down. If you’ve noticed a recent uptick in productivity or company-wide excellence, surprise your team with a half day or paid lunch. Try doing this during a slower part of the year and give employees a two hour warning so they still have a chance to tie up any time-sensitive assignments.

3. What’s Your Idea of Fun?

Whether you do an annual company retreat, quarterly culture-building parties or strictly holiday parties once a year, survey employees on what they think would be fun. Give a few ideas to get them started on the company standard and then open the floor. There could be unique ideas out there the management team hasn’t even thought of!

4. Send Thank You Notes

Have you noticed an employee working extra long days, has up’d their leadership skills, has been working toward a certificate in their department in their spare time? Send them a note saying you’ve noticed their extra efforts and you appreciate their time and dedication. At Red Branch, we use iRevu to give quick feedback so we can align company values to each note. Plus, can we say retention boost? According to the Trends in Employee Recognition Report, teams with recognition programs reported a 38% increase in retention.

5. Celebrate birthdays

Everyone can pretend all they want that their birthday is “just another day” but when you notice employees for their birthday, they’re going to feel appreciated. Ask employees what their favorite dessert or salty snack is and bring it to the office on their special day.

Do you celebrate your team’s birthdays? Read why you should! #EmployeeAppreciation Click To Tweet

6. Point systems

An unbiased way to reward employees can be through a point-based system. Points can be rewarded or taken away in an effort to reach a certain number (distinguished by management) with a result of a prize in the end. Allow employees to manage their own points, not to seem like they’re back under the power of a school teacher or something weird like that.

7. Company-wide appreciation

Did an employee, team lead or department as a whole nail a certain project on the head, improve a process or continually implement something that makes everyone’s lives easier? Announce your appreciation for accomplishments small and large either through email, during a large meeting, or even in the company intranet if you have one. Everyone loves props!

8. Verbal Suggestion Box

Otherwise known as, 360-degree feedback. Encourage open communication between managers and employees, but also, intradepartmental feedback. This cuts down on the “middle man” or generally, the manager having to bounce “he said, she saids” back and forth. If employees can become more comfortable with walking through assignment ups and downs, not only will the project be completed at a faster pace, bonds between co-workers are more reliant. Afterall, 85% of Millennials said they would be more confident in their work if their managers had more frequent performance conversations with them.

9. Attention to Detail

This doesn’t mean you need to have everyone’s birthdays memorized (Hello, Google Calendars), but make sure you’re pronouncing your employees names right when they’re being onboarded, ask if they prefer a nickname over the name on their resume, the little things. At Red Branch, we get to know our new hires very quickly, without being weird. First, each new employee fills out a quick, 5-minute survey as a part of their onboarding, which then gets turned into a blog post, and then, the best part, New Brancher Trivia! We put the group of new hires on the spotlight at the end of their first week and test their new team members on interesting facts they could have learned getting to know them during training sessions all week.

10. Establish Relationships with Upper-Management

Introduce yourself to each new employee (or group of employees depending on the size of your company) to show you’re interested in getting to know everyone. Small talk goes a long way- 64% of dissatisfied workers cite communication failures as the reason for unhappiness at work.

11. Give a Little Creative Freedom

Do you offer employees with the chance to pitch you an assignment they think they should spend a little time working on each week? Employees want the chance to break from their daily grind to work on a little side project they came up with themselves. This is part of 3M Corporation’s policy. They allow employees to spend 15% of their time working on their own projects (as they relate to their job, of course).

I prefer the term “daylighting” by which an organisation encourages employees to choose some of their own projects to work on. Freeing time for staff to work on side projects autonomously, offers the opportunity to explore, to learn and to be creative, with the hoped-for aim of improving morale and increasing work output.” –Liz Sebag-Montefiore, Co-Founder and Director of 10Eighty

12. Getting Physical  

Create a positive work environment by encouraging exercise during the workday, even if it’s for 20 minutes. You can do this by initiating walks around lunch time, or looking into desk equipment like a fit desk, balance boards or large yoga desk balls– all of which can be used while working.

Simple ways to let your EEs know how much they mean to you. #EmployeeAppreciationDay Click To Tweet

13. Casual Counts Too

Maybe you overheard an employee saying a family member was struggling with something medical or they were attending a really neat show over the weekend. Follow-up with them when you run into employees in the break-room or hallway. They’ll appreciate you remembering them as a person and not just an employee!

14. Lunch On Us!

Want to hear something sad? 62% of professionals admit to eating at their desks and 55% of Americans are eating lunch alone. Shnikies! Offer to pay for lunch every once and awhile and make a little mid-day event out of it. Keep it to the appropriate 30 minutes so everyone can still get their work done, but ask everyone to submit their orders by 11AM and say there will be a company lunch at noon so everyone can chat, refresh and refuel together.  

15. Work From Home

Ahhh, the work from home days. Work environment greatly affects the way we work, which is why we say death to the cubical! 54% of workers truly believe their home offers the best work environment for their productivity on important assignments. At Red Branch, we offer full-time employees one work from home day a week. Working from home not only offers a peaceful place for productivity, but gives the mind a break from the business of an office. 88% of employees have even reported working from home relieves their stress. We won’t even go into how stressful environments are detrimental to our overall wellbeing…

16. Fancy Friday

Dress codes aren’t really a thing at Red Branch, which is a perk in itself, but our CEO @marenhogan has been playing with the idea of “Fancy Fridays” – which is essentially, dressing the way that makes you feel confident and fabulous!

“I believe what an individual considers to be aesthetically pleasing attire can contribute a big portion to his or her self-confidence…your self-perception has a tremendous impact on how others perceive you. Perception is an ideal reality; the more self-confidence you have, the more likely it is you will do your best.” – Sheena Amin, writer with The Huffington Post

The list goes on (and it will- check back for more as we build onto this list)! The point is, giving your employees a little attention whether it be creative freedom, freedom of wardrobe, access to professional feedback or a sweet treat now and then goes a long way. It doesn’t and isn’t complicated. Start now, by implementing one of these tactics this month.

Let us know how it goes so we can say….we told ya so! @RedBranch

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