Written by Meghan Kennelly on Dec 09, 2016

Ways to Reward & Recognize your Team on a Limited Budget

Rewarding and recognizing your employees is a great way to show your appreciation, boost morale and retain valued workers. When you’re working with a limited budget, however, we often feel an added pressure to come up with creative ideas to acknowledge those hardworking employees.

The holiday season is a perfect time for companies and managers to take a few moments to show their appreciation for their dedicated employees. If money is not something the company can spare this year, there are plenty of other ways to do so. You’d be surprised how far a simple, cost-free gesture of recognition will go and can sometimes mean more than a gift or money.

To help with some ideas and tips, I connected with three of the CIO Executive Council’s Accelerated Leadership coaches to get their suggestions.

Coaches-reward employees

I first connected with Barbara Cooper, President, Cooper Consulting Service LLC, Former CIO, Toyota North America and Executive Coach for the CEC. Barbara made some great points about recognizing your employee’s accomplishments. Three words that stuck out during the conversation were “personal, specific and timely”. Barbara stated, “personal recognition from you to an employee regardless of their level in the organization, especially if it is one-on-one, can have a huge impact.  It is always better than an ‘attaboy/girl email’.” Barbara also said that keeping a complimentary shout out specific to the accomplishment is always preferred to a general “Great job – keep up the good work!”.

For those employees that like some recognition in public forums, I liked Barbara’s idea of creating an award. This is a great way for other employees to get involved too, notes Barbara. “Set up an award using a creative title with some published parameters and present the winner on a monthly or quarterly basis,” she explained. “ The actual award can be as simple as their picture and a brief statement of their accomplishment at one of your Town Halls or all-employee gathering.”

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask! Barbara suggests pulling your team together and asking them to brainstorm on ideas for fun and meaningful ways to recognize employees without spending money. “It is surprising how creative they can be”.

Rohinee Mohindroo, co-founder of Dyjit LLC and Executive Coach for the CEC, pointed out that in order to craft some recognition that is meaningful to your employees it’s important to “be a friend and listen for what is important to each team member”. If you know an employee would prefer their reward in a one-to-one setting versus public recognition, keep that in mind when the time comes to give recognition. Another great point she made was around recognizing a team. Her advice: “Celebrate and acknowledge the contribution of each team member.” This will acknowledge the contribution each individual made to the group effort as well.

Rari Hilditch, Director of Talent and Leadership Development at the CIO Executive Council and Leadership and Executive Coach, also offered some thoughts on employee recognition.  She suggested offering time for their efforts as a reward. “I enjoy giving the gift of time as a way of saying thank you when I consider occasions that I have limited funding to reward or recognize.  This might mean coming in late, leaving early or taking additional time at lunch, though I always tie it to something they’ve done so that there is meaning behind it.” Rari said. “I’ve even offered up an extra work-from-home day for a job well done.”

She went on to echo Barbara’s thoughts as well. “Though a simple ‘Thank You’ can go a long way, you’ve got to make a solid connection to what you’re thanking them for, and the impact it’s had on the company or team.” One of the resources Rari likes to recommend when it comes to this topic is 1001 ways to Reward Employees by Bob Nelson, as it focuses on three key areas of recognition: informal rewards, awards for specific achievements and formal rewards.

I’ll end with a great quote Rari shared: “The greatest asset any organization has is its people. Taking time to meaningfully reward and recognize your team is essential for any leader.” I couldn’t agree more. Take the time this season to show your employees how much they mean to you, the organization and the mission.

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