Running Your Business

5 Employee Appreciation Ideas for Small Businesses


  • Demonstrating employee appreciation is critical to the success of a small business

  • One study revealed that 45 percent of employees have not been recognized at work in the last six months

  • It's important for every team member to feel appreciated and know how critical they are to the success of the business

Posted by June 12, 2018

One of the most critical components of creating a successful small business is demonstrating employee appreciation. When employees feel valued by management on a regular basis, they are generally more engaged in their work.

Employees can see the direct link between their performance and company outcomes. Therefore, it’s a good idea to create a program that recognizes and rewards employees who have gone above and beyond their duties.

Thanking Employees Is Good for Business

Globoforce’s WorkHuman Research Institute recently published the results of its 2017 study on employee appreciation, based on data from 2,700 full-time U.S. employees. Surprisingly, it turned out that 45 percent of respondents had not been recognized at work in the last six months.

However, when recognition programs were instituted (and directly tied to the core values of the company), 88 percent of employees reported having a positive experience. For those companies that made regular employee appreciation efforts, the results included increased worker engagement, better relationships with supervisors and employees reporting that they were willing to recommend the company to their friends.

Ideas for Employee Recognition and Rewards

It’s important for every employee to feel appreciated and know how critical they are to the success of the business. Fortunately, there are many simple and low-cost ways to show team members how valuable they are. Here are five ideas to consider.

1. Celebrations

Employees enjoy being recognized for achievements and milestones. One fun way to show appreciation to all employees is with a monthly company celebration. This can include a birthday party to honor everyone celebrating a birthday that month, an anniversary party to thank those for their years of service or even a gathering of those who demonstrated excellent performance. The celebration can be as simple as a catered lunch or an outdoor BBQ—or it can be more elaborate, like a family event complete with entertainment.

2. Rewards

This is an incentive that can work with any budget and address any performance goal. Management can purchase gift cards for a variety of dining and entertainment venues to be handed out to employees who deserve them. When accompanied by a handwritten “Thank you” card, this gesture means a lot to employees. Make sure the news also gets out on the company’s social media, as this is another way to maximize rewards and motivate others.

3. Peer Recognition

Being appreciated by your boss is one thing, but being appreciated by your peers takes things to a whole new level. Peer-to-peer employee recognition lets employees know that their daily efforts are noticed and they are part of a caring team.

Technology has made it possible for workers to submit a notice of recognition about a peer anonymously. Some systems even have gamification built in, allowing employees to earn points or badges based on these reviews. Think gamification has no place in your business? Spotify and Living Social replaced their performance reviews with a gamification app, and over 90 percent of employees voluntarily participated.

4. Nourishment

When employees are nourished properly, they tend to be more productive and happier. Unfortunately, many employees are too busy to eat a good breakfast and even more don’t take the time to enjoy a healthy lunch. Companies that want to show their workers they are valued can provide free or low-cost snacks, beverages and meal choices.

Skip the donuts and consider starting a “Veggie Wednesday” or “Fresh Friday,” when you bring in a tray of fresh vegetables or fruit once a week. You could also partner with local restaurants to bring in box lunches at a reduced cost for employees who have trouble getting away from the office.

5. Office Upgrades

Every employee enjoys working in an environment that’s comfortable, spacious, sunny and includes all of the latest technology. In fact, the quality of a work environment has a direct impact on overall performance and job satisfaction.

Leesman, a global independent assessor of workplace effectiveness, conducted a study of 250,000 employees in 69 countries. Around 85 percent of the surveyed employees said that workplace design is important to their performance, and 75 percent said that natural light is important. A few simple changes—such as improving natural light, adding some greenery and buying a new water cooler—can all lead to greater work satisfaction. It’s the reward that keeps on giving.

Designing the Right Employee Appreciation Program

Before creating an employee appreciation plan, make sure it ties into corporate objectives and the mission of the company. It’s a good idea to gather ideas from seasoned employees on what they’ve enjoyed about past incentives. Decide what will be meaningful to your employees. Determine if the rewards are fair and attainable based on reasonable performance goals, so that all employees have a chance to earn something during the year. Lastly, keep a record of all recognition efforts and evaluate how well they produced the desired results.

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