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Rewards are a powerful tool that businesses have used for years in order to boost employee engagement, increase retention, and keep employees happy in the workplace overall.

From individualized notes to team excursions, businesses are constantly developing new ways to give back and show appreciation to their employees. There are many benefits to noticing and sharing an employee’s achieved goals, but repeating the same methods can become redundant and diminish in value over time.

Let’s take a look at why employee recognition is so important and some options for your program.

Benefits of Employee Recognition

The simple act of recognizing your employees for a job well done goes a long way toward making them feel appreciated. By turning people’s attention toward a personal or company goal, and rewarding that achievement, employees feel good about their work. That being said, according to research on workplace culture, recognition is fleeting in many businesses today.

Most commonly, the survey revealed most employees were recognized every couple of months, but there’s a sliver of the population that has never been recognized for their good work.

Although “employee engagement” and “culture” are not synonymous, they are certainly linked. Since engagement is largely about how employees feel connected to their work, a positive culture is fundamental to building an engaged team.

A positive approach to employee recognition, in turn, fuels overall engagement, which can have innumerous benefits on performance. A recent Forbes article estimates that a single disengaged employee can cost a business approximately 34% of that employee’s yearly salary. 

Everyone enjoys hearing about a job well done, especially after they’ve devoted a great deal of their time and effort into a particular project. Voicing your recognition for an employee’s successes, whether it be privately or in front of the entire company, lets your team know you appreciate and value their daily efforts.

When you’ve decided to recognize and reward an employee, be sure to go above and beyond some of the more traditional methods.

Offering the same type of reward to every employee each time you recognize them can begin to feel disingenuous and therefore lose value over time.

On the other hand, tailoring the reward to specific employees’ preferences or interests can be a better representation of your appreciation.

3 Ways to Reward Employees

There are a number of ways that businesses reward their employees. Whether a reward is a custom to the employee’s interests, specific to your company, or in the form of an act of service, there are many approaches you can take to show your employees you care.

1. Custom Gifts

Personalizing the reward for an employee shows that, as a leader, you’re thoughtful in going the extra step for an individual and pay attention to their interests and hobbies.

2. Charitable donations

This reward might take a little bit of research, but placing a donation in an employee’s name to their favorite charity is a unique way of recognizing their work. If this seems like a gift they might be interested in, but don’t know a charity in specific, tailor the charity to an interest of theirs.

For example, if the employee is an animal-lover, they might appreciate a donation to a local animal shelter.

3. Travel Vouchers/Subsidies

Everyone needs a break from work once and awhile. Providing travel vouchers or a subsidy gives employees some help with a personal or family vacation, which could motivate them when working.

Not to mention, allowing an employee a bit of vacation time is beneficial for you too, as they’ll return refreshed and ready to dive back into their work.

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4. Movie Tickets

During their downtime, many employees like to talk about new movies they would like to see. This is a great opportunity to reward a department or team for their hard work by offering them tickets to a movie that the group votes to see.

2. Offer Different Types of Employee Rewards

Be sure to mix up employee rewards throughout the year. If you offered up a personalized reward a month ago, provide the employee with a reward that’s related to their day-to-day work at the company.

1. Company-Branded Swag

Business swag is a way to not only reward employees but to market the company outside of work. Comfy t-shirts, branded water bottles, or sweatshirts are often sought after by employees, especially if you change designs or create new merchandise frequently.

However, remember to not provide cheap versions of these items, people will resent the fact that your organization didn’t want to invest in quality products.

2. Time-off

Depending on company rules, providing additional time-off is a big incentive for some people. After putting in long hours, offering a bit of time away from the office is a good way to show appreciation to an employee.

In addition,  it can make up for any lost personal time they might have sacrificed leading up to a big presentation or meeting.

3. Flexible Schedule

 Working from home or choosing what hours to work is another option in lieu of time-off. Again, based on a company or department policy, this reward might vary. Mixing up the schedule a bit might lead to improved work output or engagement from employees.

After all, your employees know their own work behaviors better than anyone else, including the hours they typically put in their best work.

3. Random Acts

Small acts of kindness can go a long way when rewarding employees. Mixing up traditional or non-traditional rewards with random acts of service not only keeps employees on their toes but it can also add a nice personalized touch.

1. Create Notes

 This method is about as traditional as it comes, but a thank you note is one of the most tried and true ways to show your appreciation. Writing out a note that expresses your utmost gratitude for an employee’s work shows that you’ve put thought into the work an employee has done.

It demonstrates the extra step you are willing to take when recognizing an employee’s hard work and dedication. Notes are the best way to put your appreciation into words and can often be something an employee can refer back to if they’re going through a hard time.

2. Showcase Their Success in Different Places

Showing off an employee’s achievements in the company newsletter, on social media, or on an internal communication platform allows the entire company to see what the business values and how much they appreciate their people. This often results in a chain of recognition too.

Once a single post is made online, it often circulates throughout the entire company, allowing others to recognize the employee as well.

3. Encourage Professional Development

Although not everyone may cheer at this idea, continuing to build on success includes additional development. Professional development might not be the most lavish of rewards, but it shows that a manager believes they can take on more responsibility.

Whether it’s a business seminar in another state, a nomination to an exclusive mentorship program, or even enrollment in an online class, providing professional development as a reward will allow employees to learn about or implement new tools to continue their success.

Employee recognition has come a long way in recent years. As many companies begin to place a greater focus on improving their workplace culture, they have also become more innovative in the ways that they can recognize and reward their employees.

Showing your employees you appreciate their hard work not only results in better internal morale, but can also have positive impacts on the company’s overall productivity, output, and performance. If you haven’t made the effort to reward your top-performing employees, be sure to do so. Their ongoing efforts will be sure to make it worth your while.

Written By
Marie Johnson is a contributor to Enlightened Digital, UX Designer and technology writer from New York City. If she is not writing here latest blog post in her kitchen, you'll likely find her strolling through Central Park, cappuccino in hand.

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