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7 cost-effective ways to reward staff for free
Managers at all levels know that when it comes to getting the best performance out of your team, the carrot is more effective than the stick. Nevertheless, the same incentives will only prove effective for so long. Even if your organisation is known for generous annual bonuses and financial rewards, good leaders know that intermittent rewards are needed to ensure long-term and consistent performance from employees at all levels.
The lengthy period between bonus evaluations can often mean the incentive falls out of sight on a day-to-day basis. To keep employees motivated and ensure good performance does not go unnoticed, use a combination of these seven sincere ways to recognise your team without having to break the bank:
1. Provide some positive reinforcement
Daily or weekly encouragement can go a long way to boost morale if it’s executed sincerely and thoughtfully, and with the recipient in mind. Some employees thrive on being singled out for outstanding behaviour in front of their peers, while others prefer to maintain a low public profile, meaning private congratulations may be more appropriate. It isn’t just about complimenting employees on the quality of their work; it’s about showing real appreciation and genuine gratitude for their efforts.
2. Peer recognition
Setting up a peer recognition program can be a collective way to reward staff for outstanding performance. Many modern organisations are built on teams and collaboration, which means that in many instances, people working directly with one another will be in a better position to know about individual performances within the team. Capitalise on this by setting up a nomination system where colleagues can submit one another for outstanding performance, and you show not only your appreciation for the individual but your faith in the team and their opinions as a whole.
3. Flex time
Many recent studies have shown that the average employee is working increasingly longer hours and spending more time at the office. Work-life balance can suffer as a result, which in turn can lead to disengagement and dissatisfaction. Offering flexible work schedules, such as the option to come in an hour later and use mornings to run errands or the freedom to take a longer lunch, can be a valued means to reward staff and give them something that they can really use and appreciate.
Flex time acknowledges that employees have lives beyond work, and that in order to do their job well, they also have to attend to their families, health, and personal admin. You may also consider implementing options for employees to work from home if suitable – the positive attitude this can create will have major repercussions.
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4. A handwritten note
Between computers, emails and phones, most of our interactions are sent and received in electronic form. However, a personal, handwritten note can be a significant, if small, gesture. While some employers may choose to delegate employee rewards, it makes more of an impression if it comes from a leader.
Similarly, you can also offer a written letter of recommendation or to show your appreciation for high-performing employees–it’s a simple offer that goes a long way to making people feel appreciated.
5. Online recommendations
Online profiles and social networking bring with them new forums to reward staff. LinkedIn gives colleagues and managers an opportunity to recommend individuals for their professional work and leave public testimonials about the candidate (these need to be approved by the profile owner before they can be viewed by the public). Check your company policy to see if this is an acceptable way for you to reward your staff.
6 Keep track of individual efforts
When you see an employee going above and beyond, make a record to follow up – particularly if it’s an area where they’ve previously struggled. While generalised thanks are always appreciated, by detailing the times a particular employee stood out you can convey a more sincere position and make them feel recognised on an individual level. This can also assist you in the future as a way of keeping track of your staff’s strengths in between performance reviews.
7 Time off
Everyone loves being let out early. If your team has come to the end of a busy period, or just completed a project, acknowledge everyone’s hard work by sending them home a few hours early on a Friday to enjoy a summer afternoon, or to get home while it’s still light in the winter. The few hours of time lost will be more than made up for in the morale boost when they return to the office.
When it comes to staff rewards and recognition, be sincere, observant and meaningful with what you do. As a manager, the personal effort that you go through to reward your staff is often appreciated more than the act itself.
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Rewarding staff is a key component of engagement and making employees feel good about the work they've done. Not all companies have the budget for lavish rewards, but anyone can offer:
- Personalised thanks, whether in public or in private
- Flex time and working from home options
- Positive feedback on progress