Have you ever worked for someone who refused to acknowledge or reward your contributions?
You know, the type of boss who expects you to work around the clock for subpar pay, discourages employee friendships (and overall happiness), and maybe even tells your coworkers that he “can’t stand the sound of your voice”?
No? Well, I do. But luckily those days are long gone.
Still, I can’t help but think back and wonder how that boss just didn’t get it. How could he expect top-notch work from employees he mistreated?
Whether you have money or not (he did), when you refuse to make your employees feel valued, you lose their respect – and their loyalty.
Yet, how do you show your team you appreciate their contributions when your budget just doesn’t allow for raises, bonuses, or even cash incentives?
There are actually quite a few ways you can make it clear to your team you value their work without adding to your overhead, after all, your business has to make money if it’s going to stick around.
So if you want to know how to motivate your employees while on a budget, keep reading for some great, affordable tips that’ll show your employees how much they matter to your business.
(And if you’re wondering, my voice is perfectly normal — if I do say so myself.)
1. Congratulate With a Comp Day
When your employees go above and beyond, one of the most popular ways to reward them is by giving them a comp day.
As Cherish Hope Reinwald, owner of small business, Life in the Moment, puts it, “A simple way to show appreciation is by letting someone have a day off of work. Ultimately, this does cost money, but the rewards of an employee who feels appreciated and who will give 110% is worth it.”
Of course, this means you’re paying for a full day’s work, while receiving no work in return… so if this is not an option for you, I have a couple alternatives to suggest:
- Let your employees choose between arriving a couple hours late or leaving a couple hours early.
- Give your employees a “slack-off hour” to do with what they please. (Browse Facebook, read a book, take a nap in the backroom, snap a bunch of work selfies, and so on).
- If your employees normally get a half an hour for lunch, reward them with a full hour. If they normally get an hour, add an extra 30 minutes or another full hour to it.
- Let your employee take an extra, unexpected break to get an errand done, meet a friend for coffee, or simply relax. Be sure to tell them why. (E.g., “Because I’ve noticed how hard you’ve been working lately, I wanted to reward you with… “
2. Motivate With Free Food
As we all know, whether you bring your lunch to work or go pick something up every day, it can get very pricey. So if you’re not sure how to motivate your employees, treating them to free food here and there can be a great incentive.
Your employees will love and appreciate being given any of the following suggestions as a reward for a job well done:
- Take your employee out for lunch to celebrate their achievement.
- If it’s your whole team, order pizza from a local restaurant. (Look up promo codes to save money.)
- Bring donuts or bagels in the morning.
- Give your employee a gift card for a local restaurant.
- Surprise your team with treats. (Ice cream sundaes, cookies, brownies, etc.)
- Let your team have an in-office happy hour. (Bring beer to the office for a celebration along with some cheap apps like chips and dip or a cheese-and-crackers tray.)
- Take your team out for happy hour. (Look up a local business online that offers great prices on drinks and apps.)
Entrepreneur Jordan Green says this tactic has worked especially well for his company Blurrv Media Inc. “We do a monthly pizza-and-cake day where we celebrate individuals for their contributions.”
He says the free lunch and dessert, along with recognizing team members for specific achievements, makes his employees feel valued.
“I believe in creating workplaces which foster a sense of accomplishment and fun. Our managers are trained on positive feedback, so we are always complimenting and rewarding our teams.”
3. Surprise With a Rotating Prize
Adding an element of surprise to the rewards you give out is a great way to keep your employees motivated and feeling valued.
Plus, by changing up the rewards you offer, you’ll get to amend the value of each by how high, or low, your budget is at that time.
- Gift cards are always appreciated, whether you can give $5 to a local coffee shop or $100 to the employee’s favorite store. Since you choose the denomination, this is a perfect reward for a business owner on a budget.
- Pick up a few scratchers for the employee(s) you want to reward for a fun surprise.
- If your team normally has to dress up for the office, reward them individually or as a whole with dress-down days.
- Have a movie day during your slowest time complete with provided soda and popcorn.
- Give a personalized certificate the employee can hang in their office or at home.
- Announce specific accomplishments of individuals during a team meeting or via email.
Eric Warren says that gift cards work particularly well for his company, eBizWebpages. He notes, “We select an employee of the month who gets a $10 gift card for iTunes, Amazon, game network, etc. Winner’s choice.”
Paul Serwin, owner of Business All Star, agrees. He says, “Low-value gift cards or scratch cards can be great incentives to recognize employees and boost morale.”
4. Reward Based on Individual Personality
When it comes to rewarding your employees, it’s important to remember that not everyone is going to like, or appreciate, the same things.
And when you reward them based on their personality, you show them that you’ve taken the time to learn what would personally motivate each individual to reach their full potential.
Rebecca Quinn, a small business success adviser, adds some insight to this valuable point. She says, “It is a best practice to find out what employees prefer and what motivates them. Some people actually are demotivated and embarrassed by being singled out or publicly recognized.”
She continues, “For example, different people prefer quiet recognition, monetary incentives, time off, company bonding time, family events, etc. While one employee may love to attend a company picnic on Saturday, this is a hardship for others with various obligations.”
Yes, learning how to motivate your employees on an individual basis will take some time. But when you give rewards on a more personal level, it can strengthen the bond between you and your team, as well as deepen your employees’ commitment to your company.
There You Have It!
You may not have much extra money to work with right now, but that doesn’t change the fact that your employees are still hard at work for you.
Luckily, all of the suggestions above can be amended to fit any budget, which means you have no excuse for refusing to acknowledge your employees’ contributions any longer.
Remember, a happy, appreciated team is a productive one, and that is something every small business needs to continually grow and move forward.
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