Everyone wants to be appreciated, and your employees are no different.  There are books written on employee recognition, articles published in every periodical you can imagine, and companies whose sole purpose is to help you acknowledge your employees.

But is it really that hard to recognize the value of good employees?  It doesn’t have to be.  While formal employee appreciation programs can be extremely beneficial, acknowledging employees can take many forms and can be done without breaking the bank.

There are many  cost-effective – and engaging – ways to say “You’re appreciated.”  Below are 10 employee appreciation ideas to get you started:

  1. Send an e-mail, or better yet, a handwritten note to thank the employee for a job well done or for going above and beyond.  It shows you noticed his/her hard work and can do wonders for morale.
  2. Have a supply of gift cards in various denominations on hand for “on the spot” recognition.  After a particularly grueling assignment or workweek, hand out a gift card or tickets to a movie and tell your employees to relax and enjoy on the company’s dime.  If you can afford tickets and dinner for two, all the better.
  3. Food is a simple way to keep your employees happy and engaged.  Another benefit: it keeps them in the office working!  Bring in donuts or bagels for the morning meeting, have an annual catered company BBQ, serve ice cream and toppings for an afternoon ice cream social, or order pizza for lunch on the day before a holiday when there’s a skeleton staff.  Food brings people together, is always appreciated by employees, and the cost doesn’t need to cripple your organization.
  4. Offer a simple please or thank you.  Sounds effortless, doesn’t it?  Now, survey a group of employees and ask them how often their supervisors use those “magic words.”  You may be surprised by their response.
  5. Recognize birthdays and work anniversaries.  It’s easy to buy cards in bulk through an office supply store.  Sign the card and put it on your employee’s desk; if there are multiple supervisors, have them all sign.
  6. Take a group to lunch, or, better yet, dinner for no specific reason.  Talk about something other than work to engage your staff on a personal level.
  7. Know your employees.  In doing so, it shows that you care about more than just the work they do.  Call them in to your office and talk to them on occasion – about something non-work-related.  Give them YOUR time.  Ask them how things are going, thank them for a job well done, let them know you notice and appreciate them.  Congratulate them on a life event such as engagement, birth of child, or wedding.  This is a small investment of your time that can yield big rewards.
  8. Tell others supervisors about an employee’s accomplishment and encourage them to mention it to him/her, as well.
  9. Repeat what you hear.  When you hear something positive about an employee, repeat it.  Tell her supervisors, or, if you are the supervisor, recognize it!  Talk to him in person, call her, or send an e-mail and let him/her know what you heard.  And of course, remember to say “thank you.”
  10. Monthly employee recognition plaques.  I have to be honest, I’m not a big advocate for service awards or having someone’s name on an employee-of-the month plaque; these gestures can easily become stale and sometimes fail to truly recognize an employee.  However, if these work for your organization in a positive way, certainly consider implementing them.

While none of these ideas are new or innovative, they are sure-fire ways  that are easy to work into everyday corporate culture to let your employees know that you value them and recognize what they bring to the organization.   When it comes to appreciation and employee engagement, the “little things” really do matter.

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