Employee recognition ideas for when the piggybank is empty

Zero budget: Cheap employee recognition ideas that work

Working a few employee recognition ideas into your workplace is not expensive. It just costs your time and the will to make it happen.

Cash-value rewards are exciting, and they do affect motivation and performance, but they’re more like an amplification tool to recognition. The recognition still needs to be there.

These ideas work because they tap into an important necessity in the modern employee experience. Employees want to feel valued, want to know their work is worthwhile, and want to feel that they’re contributing to something bigger than themselves.

Any manager who simply puts the time aside could implement anything on this list.

No-cost employee recognition ideas:

Verbal recognition

Let staff know their work is excellent, valued and is helping your team and company reach their goals. When you say it out loud it’s personal, and it has a greater impact.

Written recognition

Write up a small note and leave it on an employee’s desk or computer monitor. It validates the effort your employees put into their work, even though it’s a small gesture.

Team level recognition

Not every successful project has a standout performer. It’s important to let the whole team know they’ve gone the extra mile as a unit as well as individuals.

Public recognition on a noticeboard or whiteboard

Highlight contributions on a public item. A whiteboard, noticeboard, or similar. Put messages of recognition up on the wall, and encourage staff to do the same.

Ask for feedback

Having a voice in the company matters as much as hearing one. Use exceptional efforts as a springboard to ask for feedback and ideas about the workplace.

Boast achievements internally

Use your newsletters, emails or other internal communications. Put the achievements of staff in front of other departments.

Share achievements externally

Put your wins to the world. Social media makes a great low-investment tool to share positive news about who’s doing well in your workplace. So does newsletters or external publications about your work.

Measure achievements

Measure progress towards personal and departmental goals. Acknowledge employees when they get pass milestones on their way to those goals.

Remember important dates

Keep track of birthdays, work anniversaries, and other important dates. Write it down and make an effort to reach out on those dates. Recognise and act on your staff’s need to be treated as human beings and not just worker bees.

Making it work

Put values in the spotlight

Focus on your company’s values to get more out of your recognition. Filtering recognition through your values puts employee behaviour through a lens. It lets them see how their work contributes to a greater whole. This is a building block towards an engaged workforce.

Be consistent

Make recognising staff a habit. Build it into your daily, weekly and monthly work. A lot of staff will notice if you suddenly start then stop something or lose interest over time. If you buy into the idea, make sure you show your staff that you buy into the idea.

It’s not complicated or expensive to recognise employees. Platforms and cash-value rewards have an impact, but they’re not the focus. They’re a welcome addition but the crux of your effort needs to be about making employees’ value feel seen, welcome and treasured.