If you’ve ever felt underappreciated at work (and pretty much all of us have), then you know how important recognition is in the workplace. According to Gallup, only one in three workers had received praise or recognition in the past week, a factor that directly impacts turnover rate and employee engagement. Employees who don’t feel recognized are twice as likely to say they’ll quit within the next year.

Also read: Why You Need to Focus on Employee Recognition and How to Go About It

Small businesses might feel like they can’t afford proper employee recognition, but it can be very inexpensive to make your team feel appreciated. People aren’t solely motivated by money, and smaller, sincere gestures of thanks can be even more powerful than a bonus. Here are 8 small but powerful ways to recognize employees who are doing a great job.

1. Give Shout-Outs

Knowing you did a good job is one thing, but hearing it from your boss or the president of the company is even better. Public acknowledgment is a great way to inspire and motivate people, while rewarding specific team members for a job well done. Email blasts, announcements at company meetings, and other company-wide correspondence is a great way to recognize employees. Plus, it’s totally free!

2. Offer fun projects or professional/personal development opportunities

There are always going to be some projects that everyone wants to do—but unfortunately, not everyone will be able to take them on. If you’re having a hard time deciding who should get these fun projects, try meting them out as recognition. Additionally, if a hardworking employee wants to develop new professional skills or explore an interest (augmented reality, woodworking, foreign language, website designing, etc.), think about sponsoring them in a continuing education class or send them to a local conference.

4. Take them to lunch

Who doesn’t like a free lunch? Besides showing you care, you’ll be giving them some one-on-one time they don’t typically get—a great chance to talk shop or get to know each other a little better. You can also take lunch TO your employees—catering for your team is a great way to show them you appreciate their efforts.

Lunch with the Boss

Personal attention from leadership, such as having lunch with the boss, offers employees a unique opportunity to feel recognized and heard. This one-on-one interaction away from the office environment allows for meaningful conversations and strengthens the bond between employees and management.

4. Distribute non-cash rewards

Want to thank someone for putting in a few extra hours on a tight deadline? You don’t have to open the can of worms that is monetary incentives to say thank you. Instead, consider giving a gift card to a coffee shop, scratch tickets, movie tickets, or other universally-appreciated gifts that will let them know you appreciate them, while giving them a reason to have some fun.

Give hardworking employees a physical award, such as exquisite custom made coins for recognition, and attractive customized trophies or plaques, as a tangible reminder of their accomplishments. Valuable coins and trophies do not only showcase the fruit of their labor, but physical awards can also be something they can proudly display in both their homes or office to serve as motivation to keep doing well. These tokens of appreciation also prove something true—that is, you recognize their hard work and contribution to the organization. It’s a fun and thoughtful reward!

Some managers have a stash of lottery tickets or gift cards on hand for just such occasions. They’re low cost, and your team will love both the recognition and the gift.

Charity Gala or Event Tickets

Providing employees with tickets to charity galas or events not only recognizes their hard work but also promotes a sense of community responsibility and team bonding. This approach aligns employee recognition with the company’s commitment to social engagement and corporate social responsibility.

A Pocket Full of Appreciation

Unexpected rewards, like small denomination gift cards, can brighten an employee’s day and serve as immediate recognition for their efforts. This spontaneous gesture emphasizes the impact of recognizing small acts of excellence and contributes to a positive workplace atmosphere.

Also read: Money (really!) isn’t Everything — What Benefits do People Want?

5. Loosen the reins

If everyone has been doing a great job lately, loosen up a bit. Test out some casual dress days, or take things a step further and offer some flexible work options. Why not let employees work outside or from home part of the time? Or, if someone has made extra contributions, let them head home a few hours early. This is an especially good gesture during the summer months.

It’s OK to Be a Little Silly

Incorporating fun and relaxation into the workplace, through themed days or spontaneous treats, can significantly enhance team bonding and morale. Recognizing the importance of light-heartedness, this approach contributes to a more enjoyable and cohesive work environment.

6. Throw a competition, party, or potluck

Appreciation doesn’t have to mean direct praise—it can be a fun break from the norm as well. Consider throwing a baking or chili-making competition—something that will allow your team to show off their hidden talents. You could throw a pie potluck on March 14 for Pi Day, or allow your employees to bring their pets to work one day (just make sure the building doesn’t object). Team-based games, group baseball outings—get creative, there are so many options!

Family or Pet Participation Options

Involving employees’ families or pets in workplace activities offers a unique way to recognize and appreciate the personal lives of team members. This practice strengthens the connection between employees’ personal and professional lives, highlighting the company’s support for work-life balance.

7. Encourage peer-to-peer recognition

Recognition is great coming from a manager or the executive level, but it’s also appreciated when it comes from peers. Get everyone involved with the recognition process, and give your team, ample opportunity and encouragement to recognize one another. This could be something as simple as signing a card, or nominating someone to be employee of the week. When everyone gets involved, everyone is invested in the process!

Regular Peer-Nominated Awards

Encouraging peer recognition through regular, peer-nominated awards empowers employees to acknowledge each other’s contributions. This method fosters a culture of mutual appreciation and respect, reinforcing the value of teamwork and collaboration.

8. Just say thank you!

A simple “thank you” can go a long way in making employees feel appreciated. This gesture, rooted in basic manners, underscores the importance of acknowledging the hard work and contributions of team members. Integrating this practice into daily interactions fosters a culture of gratitude and recognition within the workplace.

It’s a simple gesture, but a powerful one. Communicate with your employees. Let them know when they’ve done a great job, and give thanks for their hard work. According to a survey from RewardGetaway done on 1500 employees, up to 75% of the employees agreed a simple “thank you” on good work done will increase their morale and make the employees feel more motivated.

Public Social Media Shout-outs

Utilizing social media platforms for public recognition broadens the audience for employee achievements, including family and friends. This modern approach leverages technology to enhance the visibility and impact of recognition efforts.

Be Authentic

Whatever you do to honor your employees, make sure it comes from the heart. Whether you’re recognizing the work of an individual or the whole team, appreciation only works when it’s sincere. Don’t just offer recognition for the sake of morale—offer it for a job well done, and offer it often. Giving praise is just what your office needs for a happier, more productive environment.

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