Good morale is a key to success in any business, and when it comes to boosting that morale, recognizing your employees’ excellent work and contributions should be the first action on your list.
A good boss or manager pays attention to successes of any size and ensures employees know their hard work has been seen and appreciated.
The trick can be finding creative and meaningful ways to recognize that work and keeping employees focussed on the goal at hand, not just the reward.
Money is often the first way people consider rewarding employees. Of course, anyone is happy to receive financial recognition for their hard work. But from a realistic perspective, your budget may not support it as a long-term strategy.
There are certainly companies that have created bonus structures, and in those companies, employees should be made aware of the goals and conditions they need to meet in order to receive their bonuses.
What we want to focus on are ways to recognize hard work and valuable employees aside from extra financial compensation. Whether it’s a spontaneous thanks, a system of tangible rewards, some lighthearted office fun, or a bigger celebration, there are still many ways to say “thank you” without affecting your bottom line.
Keep It Simple
Often the most important way to recognize the valuable contributions of your staff is to just pay attention to what they are doing and say thank you. It may seem obvious, but the reality is that many employees feel overlooked in their day-to-day work.
As a manager, make sure you know exactly what your employees are working on and remember to say “great work” or “I appreciate that!” from time to time. When it comes to recognizing and appreciating your employees, a little effort and the most basic expression of gratitude can go a long way.
Make Employee Recognition Public
Sometimes it’s not enough to just say thank you. Sometimes it’s also important for the thanks to be heard by others. Recognition becomes a little more meaningful when it’s done publicly.
If you’re sending an employee a thank-you email, consider copying their immediate supervisor. If you’re walking by their desk, stop for a moment and share the story of their success with a few of their nearby colleagues. Consider recognizing their efforts at the next office meeting. Being appreciated for your work in front of your colleagues is meaningful and can act as inspiration to others on the team.
Make sure even casual recognition has been earned fairly and obviously to everyone. Find ways to call out each employee, rather than concentrating appreciation on the same people multiple times. Boosting each individual boosts the entire team.
Know What You’re Rewarding
In order to make recognition meaningful, it must be earned. It should also be applied to work that is above and beyond an employee’s regular duties.
You pay your employees a salary or wages to perform their jobs, and you expect them to do their work to the best of their abilities. You should still be thankful and appreciative of their daily work and contributions, but you may want to consider doing something a little more to recognize someone when they make an effort above and beyond.
You should save special recognitions for big things such as extra work, an extraordinary or important contract, or a tight deadline. Other possibilities include intangible things such as the contributions they make to office morale.
Whether you have a stated goal that you share with the entire team or a private goal only known to yourself, make sure you know what you want to reward and why it’s important to you that the effort is recognized.
Recognize Employees with Something Fun
Sometimes, especially if the contributions you want to recognize are intangible, it’s okay to take a lighthearted approach. If you’re trying to encourage your team to be more creative in their writing, to keep a tidier desk, or to have a great attitude, it can be fun to turn it into a game.
Create an office trophy for “Best Presentation Headline” or “Super-Clean Hero” and hand it out once a month or once a week to a deserving employee.
They also should get a fun perk along with the trophy, such as coffee privileges or a free office mug. Encourage all employees to participate by having them pick the winner and turn that small trophy into a coveted honor in the office. The rewards will far exceed the small cost of that trophy.
Leverage Your Client Relationships
If you work with external clients, consider whether they may have something nice to offer your employees as a reward or recognition. For example, if you work with restaurants, see if they’ll offer a gift certificate a few times a year that you can give out to an employee as a reward for exceptional work.
Free dinners, concert tickets, sporting events, cultural passes, or gift certificates are always welcome. Free goods or promotional items such as hats, t-shirts or jackets can go over well.
Premiums from your clients can be a small way to say thank you that will cost you nothing and can even help your client with exposure and clientele.
Sometimes you need to recognize a bigger effort than just those day-to-day successes. If a team has been working hard toward a set goal, why not consider a small party to celebrate when that goal is met? A celebration doesn’t need to break the bank. Gathering everyone together for a short speech congratulating the team as you share some cupcakes from a trendy nearby bakery is a nice treat.
When you’re saying thank you to the team, a valuable element can be pointing out team members who went above and beyond the call of duty. Run what you plan to say by some of the key members of your team and ask if there’s anyone else you should acknowledge, to ensure every deserving member receives notice.
Don’t forget to keep it short. No one likes to hear the boss drone on and on!
Recognition for Recognition’s Sake
For many of your valuable employees, the most important recognition is the simplest kind. Remember to simply acknowledge them as human beings.
They have families – try to notice when they have a birthday or are celebrating an important moment in their lives. Congratulate them when their child graduates from high school. Ask after a sick spouse or pet. Accommodate them, when possible, if they have needs that take them away from the office or if they need some time to take care of something in their personal lives.
It’s those small ways of really appreciating your employees that will convince them your workplace is a good place to be and that you are a boss worthy of their efforts.