Employee Appreciation: 10 Budget-Friendly Ways To Show Your Team Some Love

Employee Appreciation Day in the United States is usually observed on the first Friday in March, but with these budget-friendly ideas, you can show your appreciation every day.

It’s been a challenging year for everyone, and a little appreciation goes a long way. Improved employee retention, increased engagement, and productivity – you may be surprised at how big an impact it can have.

Surveys tell us that 63 percent of employees who are recognized are very unlikely to look for a new job. And 40 percent of employed US workers would put energy into their work if recognized more often.

The evidence is compelling. Employee appreciation is good for business on multiple levels. And the best news is recognizing your teams’ contributions doesn’t have to be a huge task. Nor will it blow the HR budget.

Here are ten employee appreciation ideas to use on employee appreciation day or any day of the year. Every company is different. However, the suggestions below should give you plenty of food for thought on what will work in your business.

1. Employee Appreciation Starts At The Top

Senior leaders and managers model behaviors and set expectations for the whole business. So, employee appreciation needs to start at the top.

An in-person or virtual pat on the back from the CEO goes a long way with workers. According to Gallup, 28 percent of employees believe the most memorable recognition comes from their manager. And 24 percent want to be recognized by a senior executive or the CEO.

Encourage senior managers to send thank you notes, personal messages, or shout-outs on CEO blogs, team chats, and the intranet. Even better, do it in person or a video call for those working remotely. Role-modeling employee appreciation in this way sends a clear message to all staff about how much you value their efforts.

2. Reward Your Employees

Rewarding your staff may be an oldie, but it’s still a goodie. The budget may not stretch to a bonus for every employee that puts in the extra effort. However, there are plenty of other options. How about the following low-cost ways to reward your employees:

  • Treats and eats: Who can resist a donut? Or how about a $10 gift card for a local coffee shop. A sweet treat or caffeine boost is a great way to say thank you. And you can easily arrange home delivery for those employees working in distributed teams.
  • Plants and flowers: A desk plant or bunch of flowers will brighten up any workspace, whether at home or in the office.
  • Shout lunch: Why not take an employee out to lunch? Taking employees out of the workplace, individually or in small groups, makes them feel special. And how about grabbing some muffins for the break room or pizza delivery for the team that delivered against the odds.

3. Recognize Your Employees

Formal employee recognition programs such as employee of the month still have a place. They can be very effective, especially if the program allows workers to nominate their colleagues. However, there are other ways you can recognize employees. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Company shout-outs: Use the intranet’s newsfeed or a dedicated #channel on instant messaging to give a congratulatory shout-out to peers and colleagues.
  • Use social media: Use the company’s Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn accounts to recognize employees. Social recognition is a powerful tool. The fact that you value employees is on display for all to see. And employees are likely to share these posts with their own followers, creating brand ambassadors and word-of-mouth referrals. However, to protect the individual’s privacy, be sure to check with the worker before posting on social media.
  • Have a rotating trophy: Create a company trophy as a symbol of employee recognition to pass around the workplace. Star employees get to have full bragging rights for a week before handing it over to the next recipient.
  • Set up a wall of fame: A wall of fame is a fun way to showcase staff achievements. Site it somewhere public such as the break room, main reception, or on the intranet. Take headshots of the employee of the month or teams hard at work. And why not also include employees’ achievements outside the workplace. It could be Janelle in Accounts crossing the finish line at the marathon. Or a snap of Marketing Manager Clayton’s new baby.

4. Provide Professional Development Opportunities

Showing your staff appreciation by offering professional development opportunities is a win-win for any business. Employees feel valued and rewarded for their efforts. And you get the benefit of their new knowledge and skills.

  • Mentoring schemes: Share internal knowledge and develop employees’ skills with a mentoring program. Mentors will enjoy the kudos and opportunity to showcase their expertise. And the mentee gets to learn something new. However, it’s the organization that comes out on top with a more engaged and enriched workforce.
  • Financial support and time off for learning: Consider making a financial contribution to online or in-person education courses and workshops. Alternatively, allow staff to take time off to attend courses and seminars. And to get maximum benefit, make sure the training or learning opportunity is closely aligned to business objectives.
  • Project work: Perhaps your star employee is interested in digital marketing but so far hasn’t had the opportunity to develop their skills. Another way to demonstrate employee appreciation is to match employees’ interests with the opportunity to work on a special project. It demonstrates the worker’s value and confirms that you want them to grow and develop.

5. Allow For Flexible Working

Rigid 9-5 work environments do not fit with modern lifestyles. According to a 2019 survey reported by SHRM, 80 percent of employees advised they would be more loyal to employers if they had flexible work options. And the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated what was already a growing trend. Allowing more flexibility with work schedules is another way to demonstrate employee appreciation. Here are some ideas:

  • Give star employees the day off: Who doesn’t love a day off? An extra day off is a real treat for hard-working employees. And if a day off is hard to manage within the team, then how about an extended lunch break or afternoon off? And a later start allows the employee to enjoy a restorative sleep-in. Schedule the extra-time off to coincide with a holiday weekend for even more impact.
  • Develop a parental leave plan: The ability to look after a sick child or attend school events without using vacation leave is a winner for staff.  A parental leave policy shows how much you value your employees’ personal lives as well as their work.
  • Consider introducing flexi-time or a compressed working week: Flexi-time means employees work a core number of hours within a specified period but with greater flexibility in starting and ending times. With a compressed working week, staff work longer hours each day – a full week over, say four days. While these arrangements may not suit every business, they can provide a better work-life balance for staff. Often there are positive spin-offs in productivity, team morale, and staff retention.

6. Organize A Volunteer Program

Making a positive contribution to local communities and society at large can bring great benefits. Not only does it improve your employer brand, but volunteering also develops a strong company culture. Get the whole team involved, and volunteering can also double-up as a team-bonding exercise.

This sense of doing good is vital to workers. One survey found 66 percent of respondents felt it’s important for businesses to be philanthropic and support different causes. The strength of feeling was even stronger among younger generations, with 75 percent of Millennials agreeing it was important.

7. Recognize The Small Things

Make sure you show your employee appreciation by recognizing the small things as well as big achievements at work.

  • Celebrate birthdays: If employees are comfortable (some may want to fly under the radar), why not celebrate employees’ birthdays. Here at MyHub, we have a tradition of marking birthdays with shared muffins and a pot of steaming coffee. Yum!
  • Make a big deal of work anniversaries: Honor the employee who has clocked up five or ten years of company service with a public thank you. Making a big deal of these significant milestones goes a long way to demonstrate your appreciation.
  • Recognize achievements outside work: Use the intranet newsfeed or team chat to recognize employees’ personal achievements. Whether it’s completing a study course, fundraising for a charity, or being a master baker, these achievements mean a lot to staff. And the public recognition will reinforce how much you value them as individuals.

8. Bring Wellness Into The Workplace

Show how much you value staff with an onsite employee wellness initiative. It could be chair massages, juices and smoothies, or shared meditation and yoga sessions. These options work well for office-based staff and remote workers. Not only are you rewarding staff with a special treat, but you are also encouraging them to look after their health and wellbeing. And you may even find it has a welcome knock-on effect on sickness and absence rates.

9. Ask Employees For Their Ideas

The ideas we have listed here are just a starting point. Why not get your employees involved and ask for their staff appreciation ideas. Most likely, they will have lots of insights that will work well in the context of your business.

  • Suggestion box: Old school though it may be, the suggestion box is still relevant in today’s workplace. You can modernize the concept by replacing the dusty suggestion box in the office corner with an intranet-based employee suggestion scheme. Workers will value the opportunity to give honest and anonymous feedback. Just be sure to act on the suggestions made.
  • Employee pulse survey: Use your intranet to canvas staff views on employee appreciation ideas with a pulse survey. Quick and easy to set up, pulse surveys are an excellent tool for harvesting feedback and gathering insights. Chances are, your workers will have some great ideas that you can implement.

10. Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day

Finally, be sure to mark Employee Appreciation Day. Held annually on the first Friday in March, Employee Appreciation Day is a golden opportunity to show the team some love. Why not celebrate with a shared fun activity? Bowling or laser tag may not be possible in these Covid times, so how about virtual karaoke, bingo, or a quiz night. Having some fun together helps with team-bonding and marks what is a special day in the calendar.

Employee Appreciation: Make It Part Of The Normal Working Day

The bottom line is employee appreciation shouldn’t be just an annual event. Use the low-cost employee appreciation ideas we have set out here to get started.

Your employees are your most valuable asset. And the business rewards on offer are many. Increased retention, reduced turnover, improved productivity, and enhanced company culture makes it worth investing in employee appreciation.

MyHub’s cloud intranets can help support employee appreciation in your small business. Easy to set up and manage, our intranet solutions are used by small businesses worldwide to improve internal communications and celebrate employees’ achievements. Find out how with a free demo or 14-day no-obligation trial.

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