With Labor Day just around the corner, it’s time to think about how much you appreciate the employees who help you run your business. Any entrepreneur can tell you having happy, engaged employees makes a business run smoother — with the added bonus of making it fun to come to work.
That’s why it’s really important to show how much you appreciate your employees’ efforts. While most small businesses don’t have large budgets for team building or employee recognition, that shouldn’t stop you from rewarding your hardworking employees.
When planning rewards for your staff, it’s important to consider their personality types and what they would actually appreciate. For example, some employees would love recognition in front of their peers, while others might shy away from that and prefer a small, private “thank you” instead.
With that in mind, here are 8 unique (and low-cost) ways to reward your employees.
Recognizing individual accomplishments goes a long way in retaining top talent on your team. Keep these key players motivated by uniquely acknowledging their contributions.
A few ways to show your appreciation:
1. Lunch with the Boss
You have to eat anyway, right? For an employee, getting one-on-one time with the most important person at the company (you), makes them feel special. You’ll get to know each other on a more personal level, in a more relaxed setting. Pro tip: Let your employee pick the restaurant. If you’re worried about budget, narrow it down to a few options, but let them make the final choice.
2. Traveling Trophy
This is a fun one. At one of my past companies, all new hires would get a special, framed photograph of a sloth to keep on their desk for their first month. Why a sloth? Nobody knew and nobody really cared. What it did was quietly signal to the rest of the office that there was a new employee in the house and made them feel like they were part of an ongoing tradition.
You can riff off this idea by having an equally ridiculous trophy that changes owners each month or week to recognize an employee’s contributions to the company.
3. Handwritten Note
In this age of digital communication, handwritten notes and cards have become pretty special. This is a great way to show your appreciation for employees who aren’t as keen on public recognition. A few words of appreciation scrawled on a small card or note can really make a person’s day. And don’t worry too much about penmanship. Messy handwriting can make the effort seem even more endearing.
4. Wall of Fame
This is similar to an employee of the month recognition program, except it acknowledges accomplishments without sticking to a periodic schedule. Let’s say one of your technicians successfully completed the 100th job in your business’s history. His picture and a brief description of the accomplishment would go up on the wall. And the wall doesn’t have to be an actual wall — digital walls of fame are just as motivating (and a lot easier to share, especially if most of your team doesn’t operate out of an office).
While doing something special for your entire staff shows how much you appreciate them, it also helps with team building. Why should you care about that? A Harvard Business School publication pointed out that one of the most important things to keep employees motivated is camaraderie — having good, productive relationships with fellow employees. Fun, group activities build this sense of camaraderie among your employees.
A few ideas to reward employees and build camaraderie:
5. Employee Awards
If you’ve ever watched “The Office”, you’re probably familiar with Michael Scott’s annual employee awards, the Dundies. The Dundies, named after the TV show company Dunder-Mifflin, reward ridiculous achievements like “Whitest Sneakers” or “Longest Engagement Ever.” While these awards were often embarrassing and inappropriate in nature, the underlying idea is a great one.
Think about the most positive thing each employee brings to your company, and create an award for it. Achievements like “Most Punctual,” “Top Collaborator,” or “Cheeriest Disposition” are a good starting point. Then, buy some inexpensive trophies online, and have an official awards ceremony.
6. Puppies at Work
What’s better than having your best friend at work with you? If you know your employees are dog lovers, consider letting them bring their dogs to work for a day. If you’re worried about the chaos of too many dogs in one place, consider hiring a therapy dog. Even one, well-trained dog in the office can make the day more enjoyable. Pro tip: Check first to ensure no team members have allergies or fears of dogs.
7. Summer Picnic
This is a classic way to get out of the office and include your team members’ families. If you plan far enough in advance, most employees won’t mind coming to a park on the weekend for some food and fun.
Make sure you have a few family-friendly, outdoor games like Beanbag Toss (known in the great state of Texas as “Cornhole”) or an egg relay race planned, along with trophies for the winners. You can bring a few inexpensive staples like hamburgers and hotdogs and organize the rest as a potluck.
8. Yoga or Meditation Instructor
Make your employees say, “Ohm” with the gift of an on-site yoga or meditation class. This is a wonderful way to show you care about health, wellness and stress relief. It requires no special equipment and even elite NFL teams practice yoga to optimize performance on the field.
These are just a few ideas on how to reward your employees on a budget and keep enthusiasm for their jobs high. A word of caution though. It can be tempting to turn these fun activities into meetings about work. Do what you can to take off your “boss” hat, focus on fun, and build lasting relationships with your employees.