10 Great Ways to Recognize Employees – For Free!

By Natalie Winzer, iHire
Image displaying the link between employee engagement, productivity, and profitability

Recognition makes us feel good. While not everyone likes to be acknowledged in the same way, appreciation from others is a key driver of continued success and growth (in fact, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs places belonging, esteem, and self-actualization at the top of the pyramid).

Giving credit where credit is due in the workplace is especially important. Forbes contributor Josh Bersin completed a research project on employee recognition in 2012, discovering that participating companies scoring in the top 20% for a “recognition-rich culture” had 31% lower voluntary turnover rates.

Gold watches, big parties, and gift cards not exactly in your budget? Not in the position to give away lavish prizes à la Oprah? Gratitude doesn’t always have to cost money. Here are some creative ideas for rewarding staff without spending a dime:

  1. Wall of Fame: Set up a bulletin board in a highly visible part of your office where employees’ accomplishments can be displayed.
  2. Formal Announcement: At your next companywide meeting, take a minute to publically recognize staff. (Warning: not all personnel will be comfortable with this. For some, it may have the opposite effect of what you’re trying to achieve!)
  3. Thank You Note: Don’t underestimate the power of a personalized, handwritten thank you note. Those who don’t like the spotlight will appreciate this method.
  4. Days Off, Flexible Work Schedules & Extended Breaks: Award top performers with a day off of their choice, longer lunch breaks, and/or a shortened Friday schedule, for example.
  5. Casual Dress Days: Show gratitude by doing away with the normal dress code and encouraging comfortable attire. You may be surprised to find out how many of your employees are excited to wear flip flops!
  6. King/Queen for a Day: If applicable to your work environment, let the associate decide what music is played, what food is ordered for the next company lunch, where they work (in the best conference room or outside, for example), etc.
  7. Parking Space: If you have assigned parking spaces, give your star team member the best spot in the lot.
  8. Innovation Hours/Days: Set aside a day or specific hours for staff to work on any project they desire.
  9. Project Dump: Along the same lines as the item above, let your team member give a project they dislike to you.
  10. Say thanks to family members, too: If an employee has been working long hours at the office or at home, send a thank you note to his or her family members as well for their support.



Josh Bersin— New Research Unlocks the Secret of Employee Recognition

Kendra Cherry— Hierarchy of Needs: The Five Levels of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Mike Michalowicz— 101 Ways to Reward Employees (Without Giving Them Cash)

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