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Beyond birthday cakes and bonuses: 5 ways to show employee appreciation

Happy employee standing on balcony

Happy employees are good for business, and showing appreciation for your employees is an important way to keep them smiling.

According to a 2015 survey, 82% of HR professionals felt that employee recognition programs increased employee happiness while 79% believed these programs improved employee relations. Additionally, more than half the respondents saw these rewards as an effective method to increase productivity.

Cash bonuses are an old standby when it comes to recognizing employee achievements. And anyone who’s worked in an office has likely gathered in a meeting room countless times for the obligatory birthday cake to celebrate a colleague’s special day. However, there are many more options for showing employees you care.

1. Social Media Shout-Outs

As we’ve discussed before, using social media is an increasingly popular way for companies to show their employees some love. This can be as simple as a short tweet congratulating someone on a job well done. Or it can be a post that shares an article or video detailing a worker’s achievement. An added bonus of using social media is that it presents an opportunity for other employees to like, share or comment on their colleague’s achievement, which can help to build relationships within your team.

2. The Power to Choose

Co-workers toasting enjoying dinner together

Do you take your team out for a monthly lunch or a quarterly team activity? If so, how about allowing a specific employee or department to choose the destination or activity? This approach doesn’t necessarily cost you anything extra—you’re going to treat the team to this experience anyway. But instead of you making the decision to take everyone out to eat at Chili’s or go-karting for an afternoon, you’re shining the spotlight on someone else by giving them the power to choose.

3. Gift Cards

Give an employee $20 in cash and they may just think of the phone bill they need to pay, but give them a $20 Papa John’s gift card and they’ll enjoy a free tasty meal. With Giftbit, you can send your employees customized digital gift card rewards, track redemption details and avoid wasting money on unclaimed cards. Best of all, there are dozens of brands available—including iTunes, Amazon, Home Depot and Sephora—so you know your recipients will end up with a reward they’ll love.

4. Naming Rights

Employee recognition doesn’t need to be all serious and straight-faced. Why not add some levity to your workplace by allowing employees to name something in your shop or office as a reward for good work? Your business might be getting a new warehouse forklift that could use a nickname. Or maybe you could give your next team project a creative codename. Set some guidelines, if necessary, to keep the name within certain boundaries, and then let your chosen employee(s) have some fun with it.

5. Time Off Work

Hot mug of tea, book and blanket

This one is dependent on the specifics of your workplace and the nature of your business. But if it makes sense for your setting, a bit of extra time off can be a great way to say thank you to an employee. Whether it’s allowing an employee to head home an hour early on a Friday, giving them a free afternoon or letting them take a full day off to relax, this little perk can give them an opportunity to unwind and spend more time with family and friends.

Building a workplace full of happy employees requires far more than paying a decent wage. It involves showing employees that their contributions are meaningful and valued. Employers who understand this know that while pay increases and birthday cakes are a good start, there’s a much wider world of employee recognition to explore. Those who do so stand to reap the accompanying benefits to their business.

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