How To Recognize and Reward Your Team When Budgets Are Tight

Figuring out new and creative ways to recognize and reward employees can be incredibly challenging. And, if you’re working with a limited budget – or no budget at all – you just have to get more personal.

Research proves that happy employees who feel appreciated by their managers and companies are far more productive. They get better results and are more loyal to their organizations than their unhappy counterparts.

Recognizing and rewarding employees effectively is THE NUMBER ONE thing you can do to improve organizational performance, boost employee satisfaction, decrease turnover and build morale. There are many motivational techniques that don’t require spending money and can often work better than ones that do.

Here are a few cost-free ways you can keep your employees motivated:

Reward employees with good old-fashioned praise

Let’s start off with the one that should be the easiest. When given properly, everyone responds well to praise. If you’ve never stopped by an employee’s desk and offered a simple “well done” or “nice work” then you need to start doing it now. Just those two words let’s the employee know you recognize their effort and appreciate them. When they feel like they’re doing a good job, it spurs them on to continue to do well. The exception is when praise reeks of insincerity or manipulation. Then your attempt has the opposite effect of what you wanted.  Be specific with your praise. Always add details on how the job was “well done.”

Show appreciation

Occasionally, put your praise in writing. A simple, handwritten “thank you” note instead of a quick e-mail gives the employee tangible evidence of your praise and recognition. Don’t think that your note won’t be saved and looked at again when the employee is having a tough day when nothing seems to be going right. Also, say “thanks” to show appreciation for them doing even standard parts of their jobs. In tough times, sometimes just the “basics” deserve praise because they’re being done under more difficult circumstances.

Develop an employee recognition program

Employee of the month makes people feel rewarded. So do other special recognition awards. Be certain if your team is small that there is ample opportunity for everyone to gain the recognition. While competition is normally healthy, in a difficult environment where morale is already low, it’s best to develop recognition that rewards everyone’s efforts. If you simply give it to the same person three out of every four months, you’ll crush morale instead of build it.

Show interest in them as people

I worked for a company whose CEO had a monthly “coffee klatch” with 8-10 employees to have coffee, tea, juice, fruit and the best danishes in the city. 80 percent of the get-together was devoted to everyone getting to know each other better. The other 20 percent, once everyone was relaxed, was spent talking about what the CEO could do to make our jobs easier. While you don’t have to set up a tasty breakfast, simply showing more interest about your employees’ family lives works wonders. If you’ve never taken the time to learn a child’s or spouse’s name, now is the time. Ask about special hobbies or projects your team members enjoy. Build a sense of camaraderie, which will inspire loyalty.

Maintain an open door policy

This means that you are accessible to your staff, eliminating the “them and us” atmosphere of execs versus drones. There is nothing worse for an employee than having a supervisor who comes in every morning, shuts their door, and only pops out occasionally when he or she needs something. By instituting a legit open door policy, employees know that they can talk to you and that you will listen. As a manager, the greatest compliment you can get is when your staff tells others that you have their backs.

Include a note in their personnel file

Put a note in their personnel file to acknowledge the extra effort they’re giving, especially under difficult times. They’ll appreciate it, and, as a bonus for you, it’ll help you remember their accomplishments better when it comes time to do their performance review.

There are many other ways to reward employees that cost little to nothing to your budget. But the key to anything you do is sincerity. If your employees believe you appreciate them, it doesn’t really matter what you do, just that you do something.



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