Employee rewards are a form of recognition that shouldn’t be thought of as “nice”, but instead, necessary. By providing your employees with simple rewards, you are reinforcing the actions and behaviors you most want to see repeated. Since the majority of employees want you to see them as essential contributors, and truly want to be essential contributors, your positive acknowledgment can make all the difference. Here are five creative employee rewards that are easy, immediate, and powerfully reinforcing.

1. Tailor Your Reward System Around Your Company Culture

What works for one company may not work with your company’s culture. All employees are part of a unique company, requiring a unique set of rewards. For instance:

  • A small company who employs staff that are very close to each other may be able to give small, yet frequent, heartfelt rewards. A handwritten note can be a little old school for a large corporate company, but if it fits your company’s culture, it can be a strong token of appreciation.
  • A progressive company may have an “office pet” or bring in animals from a local shelter to play with. While this may seem silly for some companies, it can be a great way to promote team building and stress relief for other companies.
  • For a large corporate company, a yearly party out of the office may be beneficial. Give out awards, prizes and provide dinner to show recognition.

2. Money? It’s Not Everything

Not all employees want more money. At most companies, employees are offered higher salaries or bonuses in exchange for better output. In actuality, time, affirmation, and personally-expressed gratitude can be much more valuable rewards. Many employees would actually trade more money for happiness, a more understanding boss and a better work environment. Keep in mind that if a socially rewarding environment is non-existent, it is sure to affect your bottom line. In exchange, try these:

  • A getaway can lead to a whole lot of stress reduction plus an increase in performance. You can spend as much or as little as you want. Think of a spa day, or if you want to go bigger, send them to an out-of-state conference with a few included perks.
  • You can offer a certain amount of money to be put towards employees’ vacations. This can allow for many benefits including better engagement and loyalty, improved well-being, an advantage in recruiting and an improved work-life balance.
  • If your employee is passionate about helping people, reward them by donating to a charity or a cause that’s important to them.
  • A gym membership can be a rewarding token of recognition. It can help promote wellness, health and stress relief.

3. Switch Up Your Employee Rewards

Be creative! No matter how tailored your employee rewards are, over time, they’ll become boring. Keep employees begging for more by implementing new methods of recognition. As described in The 1001 Rewards & Recognition Fieldbook, Doris Hausser, former director of performance management for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management says, “One agency has started the Giraffe Award to recognize people who stick their necks out, where you are really awarding risk taking, and that’s the whole idea. The award is symbolic of the nature of the contribution that the employer wants to see.” Here are several other creative ideas:

  • Give an exemplary employee much needed recognition by providing a dedicated parking space for a certain length of time.
  • Develop a points system for an employee reward program. This provides a perfect platform for ongoing recognition. Employees receive points every time they go above and beyond. After accumulating a certain amount of points, employees can redeem them for things of your choosing.
  • Incorporate some fun, healthy competition into the workplace. Generally, team competitions are healthier than competition among individuals, and it can help with team building. Choose the competition, then reward the winning team!
  • Create a “traveling trophy,” which can be any object, that moves from employee-to-employee when they do something above and beyond.

4. Encourage Peer-to-Peer Recognition

Recognition doesn’t always have to come from a boss or a CEO. In many cases, co-workers work closer together and know more about employee performance than the people from the top. Create a culture of encouragement and recognition amongst your employees, and you’ll begin to see employee engagement flourish. Here are some ideas:

  • Create a peer-to-peer point system that rewards employees when they offer to help each other out or answer questions. You can decide what to do with the points at the end. Some companies transfer the points to dollars and donate them to charity.
  • Allow employees to nominate others for an award. This can be an employee who has gone above and beyond, does great work or embraces the organization’s core values.

5. Be Consistent With Recognition

Employees should know exactly which behaviors will elicit recognition. In addition, be sure you aren’t favoring any employee over the other as it could be the demise of the whole program.

  • “Winners” are not to be limited. Everyone needs to have an equal opportunity to be recognized and acknowledged for their hard work.
  • All employees should be encouraged to recognize each other, not just a select few. Also, they cannot recognize themselves.
  • Unless management has a major reason for disapproving such a nomination, a rewarded employee shouldn’t have that taken from them. If someone is recognized by a colleague for their efforts, they should receive it.

Employee recognition goes a long way. But, times are changing and companies are moving away from old school rewards such as bonuses and raises at the end of the year. If done correctly, employees and management can work together to feel highly appreciated. This leads to increased happiness, a healthy work-life balance, stress relief, a closer team and more!