By: Roberta Chinsky Matuson
Meaningful employee recognition as a means of keeping employees engaged and focused has never been more important as during these tumultuous economic times.
People are being asked to do more with less, work with the equipment on hand and be on-call evenings and weekends in case there is a spike in business.
And while budgets are tight all around these days, that doesn’t mean you can’t afford to recognize your A-players, the employees who give their all. Here are some ways you can provide employee recognition on a budget.
Think Outside the Giftbox
It’s been over 15 years, but I still recall the day the president of a small business that I worked for called me into his office to tell me how pleased he was with the job that I was doing. He then handed me two front row tickets to a sold out concert of one of my favorite artists.
I must have shared this story with dozens of people, as this was a memorable gesture.
Now imagine what would have happened had he chosen instead, to hand me a check for $250. I would have walked out of his office with a very different feeling and most likely would have started looking for a new job.
What struck me most about this event was the effort the president took to get to know me and then track down tickets that were next to impossible to get. He sent me a message -- I mattered.
Think about what is important to your top performers, the people you are recognizing. It may take more effort on your part, but the results will be worth it.
Give Credit Where Credit is Due
It’s nice to be recognized, especially when the recognition takes place in front of peers or important customers. Seek out opportunities to acknowledge an employee’s efforts in front of others.
For example, if an employee has done extensive research to sort out a customer problem, be sure to let the customer know who was responsible for resolving the issue. If possible, make sure the employee is in the room when you convey this information.
Provide Employees with Growth Opportunities
What better way to recognize superior employee performance than to reward employees with opportunities for growth?
There are a number of ways you can do this. Reimbursing employees for seminars and classes that will prepare them for more responsibility in your business will let them know they are valued.
Putting those who are performing well on high profile projects is another way to signal to this person that they are a keeper. Encouraging employees to take an idea one step further lets them know you have confidence in their ability to innovate. And then, of course, you can promote an employee who has demonstrated they are ready for the next step.
The Significance of Little Things
There are plenty of ways to recognize and reward employees for a job well done that will still leave money in the account to make payroll.
A nice bouquet of flowers or two tickets to a baseball game is one of many low-cost ways you can praise someone for a job well done.
As employees feel the squeeze of having paychecks not going as far as they used to, most will truly appreciate being taken to lunch by the boss or having lunched served to recognize team accomplishments.
The Gift of Time
In the old days, a gold watch signified a job well-done. These days, time off when needed is as highly-prized, as workers struggle to handle the demands of everyday life.
Allow for flexible work arrangements during slow periods, give employees permission to leave early or come in late. Extend the lunch hour for an employee who has expressed the need to handle an important family matter during business hours, consider establishing Summer Fridays. These gestures of employee recognition demonstrate that you recognize they are doing their best to be fully present at work, even when things at home aren’t going according to plan.
Day Away from the Office
Small businesses can afford to do things that big businesses can’t. Who doesn’t like an outing, especially when it’s a surprise? Hire a van service to escort your employees off the premises for the day. Ideas for mystery rides include a ride to the outlets (along with envelope for each employee packed with small bills) where you can set your employees loose, or a trip to a special exhibit. Or make plans to attend a matinee, where employees can kick back and relax after the completion of a major milestone.
Saying thank you for a job well done is something that is top of mind for business leaders who are interested in boosting enthusiasm and employee loyalty. Expensive gifts are great, but in the end it really is the thought that counts.
©2011 Human Resource Solutions. All rights reserved.
Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions and author of the highly acclaimed book Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, a Washington Post Top-5 Leadership pick. Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta's monthly newsletter, HR Matters.