1. Casual dress Fridays - If your company doesn't already have a casual dress day, why not initiate one? The Society of Human Resource Management did a survey a few years ago that showed most companies allow one or more casual dress days per week. Having the freedom to dress down a little bit adds to morale without costing a dime. To prevent confusion, you probably want to set some standards, such as prohibiting printed t-shirts and shorts.
2. Business cards - Even if you have a small business, you can easily provide inexpensive, computer-generated business cards that can make each employee feel like a valuable part of the company.
3. Valued parking space - An easy way to recognize a high-achieving employee is to allow that person the use of a special parking space for a week or a month. For the price of a little paint, you can set aside a space near the entrance as a reward. It's a highly visual way to acknowledge good work.
4. Lottery tickets - If your state has a lottery, you might consider occasionally placing a lottery ticket into each pay envelope. This small surprise costs little and can bring a lot of smiles.
5. Pie anyone? One California company occasionally surprises its staff with "Friday Pie-Day." This delicious idea adds an inexpensive lift to a Friday afternoon. Some employers bring in bagels or muffins for a special Friday breakfast or buy lunch for the crew.
6. Management cuisine - Speaking of meals, if your company has cooking facilities, consider having managers cook a pancake breakfast or make lunch for the staff. What employee wouldn't enjoy being waited on by the boss once in a while? Plus, the opportunity to have a meal together adds a social aspect to the job.
|Caveat: You may not want to provide special treats, such as breakfast for the staff, every week or on a predictable schedule. Otherwise, employees may view your generosity as a given -- rather than a reward.
7. Personal notes - Occasional handwritten notes telling employees specific things you value about them are meaningful. Mention a particular talent or a task that an employee has performed especially well. One manager uses distinctive note cards with his initials on the front to send handwritten notes of appreciation. Everyone in the company knows the cards involve a pat on the back from the boss, so many recipients proudly pin them on their bulletin boards.
8. Entertainment rewards - Give away pairs of movie tickets as a way to add a little fun to the workplace. These low-cost incentives can be tied to some goal or they can be given away in a random drawing on Friday afternoon.
9. A little time off - When employees have been working extra hard, consider recognizing their efforts with "freedom cards." For example, one employer uses pre-printed cards, with blank spaces for the employee's name and how much "freedom" is being awarded -- usually an hour or two. The time off is to be taken at the employee's leisure, but within one or two weeks of receiving the award. A gift of free time works best with salaried employees who are able to exercise some control over their schedules. It allows staff members to recharge their batteries and assures them that you recognize their hard work.
10. "That's a Great Idea" award - Some of the best ideas for making improvements at your company can come from your employees. Encourage innovation by instituting an idea box. (Don't confuse this with a suggestion box, which probably won't get much use.) When an employee comes up with an idea that saves the company money, results in a new product, or improves efficiency, present that person with an award for forward thinking. It could involve a gift certificate for dinner or a cash bonus. Promoting ingenuity with an idea box can pay off for both the company and the staff.