Topic: Employee Recognition


12 Low Cost Ways to Appreciate Your Employees

Learn the variety of ways to appreciate your employees that will strengthen your company culture without breaking the bank.

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Updated on 

February 12, 2024






Our research shows that the most successful employee recognition happens frequently and for a variety of reasons. Small, frequent recognition moments have more positive impact on employees than big, rare events. This is good news—especially if implementing a fully integrated recognition program feels overwhelming or challenging.

In this article we offer some ways to appreciate your employees that will strengthen your company culture without breaking the bank.

A culture of authentic employee appreciation

It’s important to note that small steps do not necessarily mean small results. One of the best parts of a culture of appreciation is that when recognition is intentional, meaningful, and tailored to the individual, it truly does not matter how big it is.

Unfortunately, only 61% of employees feel appreciated at work. Many companies mistakenly think that compensation is the only way to help employees feel appreciated and stay. Here’s the truth. While 80% of employers think employees leave for higher pay, only 12% of them actually do. Global studies reveal that 79% of people who quit their jobs cite “lack of appreciation” as their reason for leaving.

You can start seeing the benefits of appreciation on any budget and any scale.

Don’t wait to appreciate

In a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, they found that “employees who feel valued are more likely to report better physical and mental health, as well as higher levels of engagement, satisfaction and motivation.” (Our own Global Culture Report supports these same findings.)

Here are a few more benefits of even the simplest forms of meaningful, tailored recognition:

Improved employee engagement. When leaders fail to recognize and appreciate their people, employees are 42% less likely to be engaged.

Higher productivity. There is an 18x increase in the probability of great work when employees are recognized at work.

Stronger workplace community. A culture of appreciation leads to a 62% increase in employee retention.

Better business outcomes. Organizations that practice recognition effectively are 12x more likely to have strong business results such as increases in shareholder return.

Every organization wants to boast a stellar workplace culture with strong engagement, productivity, retention, and business outcomes. Here are some low cost ways to begin building your culture of appreciation today.

Employees celebrating together in an office and throwing confetti

Simple employee appreciation ideas to show you care

The most important thing about employee appreciation is to demonstrate that you value your team. They want to be heard and seen. And remember—appreciation shouldn’t end with your corporate teams. Make sure to include everyone, from manufacturing to frontline workers, people working out in the field on repairs to those serving patients day in and day out.

Here are some ways you can show your appreciation.

1. Give personalized gifts

Show your employees you know who they are as individuals by giving them personalized gifts. These simple gifts don’t need to be big or expensive to make an impact.

Give them gifts they actually relate to. They don’t need to be expensive—personalization is what’s important.

See how BlueScope worked with us to curate a catalog of gift cards and charitable giving options for employees—so they could pick the gift that meant most to them.

2. Half-day Friday

It always feels good to leave early on a Friday and get the weekend started early. Giving employees time back to manage errands or enjoy some free time is an easy way to show them how valued they are.

3. Catered lunch

Bring your people together over a good meal and relaxed conversation. Allow them some space to unwind in the middle of the day with this simple, thoughtful gesture.

4. Let employees choose projects

As the day-to-day work slips by, it can be easy to lose sight of which projects employees spend their time on. Check in to simply ask if there’s anything they would like to make happen or be involved in.

Research from our Global Culture Report shows that when an employee participates in a special project, they have a 26% increased sense of opportunity. Give your people the chance to be a part of the work they’re excited about and they will show you just how much they can accomplish.

5. Invite employees to an executive meeting

When employees feel that their input and perspectives are valued, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to the company's success. Include them in a meeting with senior leadership, allow them to have a voice, and recognize them in front of executives. This will only strengthen their sense of belonging and community.

6. Destress day

Choose a day to show employees you value more about them than just their productivity. Treat your people to some relaxing activities like a massage therapist or a visit from some furry friends to soothe nerves. You can also consider yoga or meditation. This can help employees manage stress and recharge to perform at their best.

7. Recognize frequently

Company celebrations don’t have to be expensive to make a meaningful impact. Case in point: Our research found that spending as little as $50 per employee per year can improve employee engagement.

And remember to recognize frequently. We recommend recognizing employees 35 times per year, (or about three times per month).

Looking for other creative ways to appreciate? See how symbolic awards can communicate both your company story and your gratitude.

8. Take the team to lunch

Get out of the office to connect with your people and learn more about them.

9. Offer a flexible work schedule

There are few things that employees value more today than a flexible work schedule. ‍The days of working 9 to 5 Monday through Friday are outdated. Many employers are noticing the demand for flex schedules where employees are not glued to a strict schedule, one that allows for some personal time throughout the week.

10. Give employees appropriate development opportunities

None of these ideas work effectively if you don’t truly know your employees and their needs. What are their goals? Where would they like to go with their careers?

Giving employees specific development opportunities that will help their career goals is actually a form of appreciation. Leaders can show employees that they are seen and valued by challenging them to grow and progress. They will see that their leaders really know who they are and what they want out of a job.

11. Regularly ask employees about their goals

Managers should make developmental conversations a regular practice. But don’t ask team members out of the blue. Give people time to prepare.

Let your direct report know that you’d like to spend some time discussing their career goals and experiences at the company. Give them a few questions to think about ahead of time, and ask whether they’d like to respond via email or wait and share their answers with you during the meeting.

By actively engaging with your employees and investing in their goals, you’ll be supporting their growth and development—one of the many ways to show them they are appreciated.

12. Act on your recognition

When it comes to effective recognition, you also have to walk the walk. Sincere, frequent praise goes a long way. But your employees also need to know you value them enough to back your words with action and advocate for them. When you get feedback from employees, the most important step is to act on it so they know you hear them and value their input.

Research shows that when leaders actively listen to employees and act on the feedback, the odds of having a strong workplace community improve by a staggering 6,313%.

Start your culture of appreciation today

As these ideas show, you don’t need a massive budget to start recognizing your employees. Effective recognition can happen frequently in many ways large and small. Just make it deliberate and timely. Even small gestures can help employees feel a sense of purpose and yield big results.

Ready for next steps? Check out Culture Cloud—your fully integrated, structured employee recognition program.

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