Leadership: Say it like a leaderTeam-building

Low-cost, no-cost ways to reward employees (or anyone)

By January 30, 2020February 11th, 20202 Comments

What do you do to acknowledge the performance of your employees? What sort of rewards or incentives does your organization use?

Don’t have employees? Then ask yourself, what type of incentives work for you? What makes you feel appreciated and acknowledged?

You show what you value by how you spend your resources.

Let some of your resources be spent on your team members and people who mean something to you. And here’s the good news: it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune if anything at all. Sometimes, it means spending your most valuable resource of all–your time.

Ideas to reward employees that won’t break the bank … or your budget

I recently received a question from one of my readers, asking how she could reward her administrative staff without busting the bank. Here are some incentive ideas I offered to her that my clients have generated at various workshops I’ve led:

  • gift items
  • certificates/awards
  • money / bonus
  • names in draws for prizes
  • the employee of the year awards
  • recognition in employee enews
  • formal letter of congratulations from top management
  • a handwritten personal note of congrats from management
  • note to their personnel file
  • asked to share their expertise with others (e.g., become a mentor to a colleague, write an article in the company
  • newsletter, do a presentation, etc.)
  • time off
  • spa day or gift certificate
  • be recognized at an employee appreciation event
  • lunch out with the team (or colleague of his/her choice) … or senior manager (i.e., a chance for face time)

The ultimate way to show you value employees

Want to build teams and be a leader? Give ongoing feedback and respectful communication on a regular basis. Acknowledging someone’s performance isn’t a once-a-year activity–it’s a management style. The best way to show you value a person is to listen, consider, and respect their input. Do you do that? Do you feel that others do that for you?

KEY: ask the target audience, what would THEY like?

Not sure? Can’t tell someone what your employee team would like to feel valued? The answer is simple–ask them! You can do so informally, around the water cooler or more formally with a brainstorming session or an anonymous survey. Whatever vehicle you use, the point is to ask the very people you would like to recognize how they would most appreciate this being expressed.

Feel free to add more ideas to the list above and take out ones that won’t work at all. Take all the items you come up with and evaluate each in terms of pros/cons, costs/benefits, then make your recommendations to your management. If you ARE senior management, implement the ones that make the most sense to both your biz model AND your employees.

It’s important to also note that, no matter what you do, there will be some people who are ungrateful.

They won’t even recognize the effort or the intent. They will simply chide the vehicle you chose to show appreciation. Ignore these people if they are in the tiniest of numbers. If this is the response of most of your recipients, then it sounds like the way you and your company are expressing appreciation isn’t working. Time to brainstorm some more effective options.

There are many ways you can express appreciation for a job well done. Admittedly, because you’re different and unique, what appeals to you may not get someone else excited. That’s why it’s great to have a variety of ways to recognize great performance. Doing so keeps you and your team motivated and feeling valued. It makes you want to continue giving and doing your best.

It’s true that we all respond differently to rewards and are motivated by a variety of incentives. Some people respond better to tips of the hat from other people, while others get their satisfaction and rewards mostly intrinsically. However, even those who work not for the accolades but for the cause (whatever their motivation might be), appreciate recognition–they just might want it in a different way or from different people. For example, some employees value being recognized by a learning institution or professional association while others prefer these kudos from their workmates or supervisors.

Regardless of how you or your organization expresses appreciation to employees, rest assured that it communicates more about YOU than you may realize — let it be a good message. You can’t succeed alone. Recognizing the contribution of others pays dividends. Isn’t it worth the investment?

© 2013-2020 Marion Grobb Finkelstein

©2021 Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Until next time, here’s to …
Better communication, Better business, Better life,
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
Sign up for  “Marion’s Communication Tips” at www.MarionSpeaks.com

Post your comments and reactions below. There are no right or wrong responses, just honest, respectful ones. I’d love to hear your opinion. What about this article resonated with YOU?

Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Marion Grobb Finkelstein helps leaders use their natural communication strengths to build resilient teams that talk.


  • Carole Labrie says:

    For me, to show value and appreciation to an employee is not by giving gifts, as they are not constant. For myself, if my employer wants to show his/her appreciation of my work, I recommend he/she to show importance of my well being, of my happiness and motivation at work, by being respectful to me all the time, not just once in a while when he/she needs a favor from me. So, they are: respect, door open policy, willingness to listen and come up with ways of finding solutions, to make sure I’m not being bullied and to listen when I am, to be interested in the person, to smile, to say “hello” in the morning, to ask for my opinion and respect it. And, all these should be done with everyone, to make sure everyone is included. Those don’t happen enough unfortunately.

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