More than two-thirds—67 percent—of people surveyed by Boston-based Globoforce said they were motivated by praise from a manager and 78 percent said they’d work harder if their contributions were recognized. So, thanking folks isn't just a social nicety. It boosts the bottom line.
“Even in this climate with higher unemployment, people can change jobs,” cautions Victoria Krotzer, PHR, an independent HR consultant with Maximum Business Consulting in Pennsylvania. “You want to encourage loyalty, and appreciation from the manager and the company can do that.”
Consider these 18 ways folks in the trenches recommend doing it, be it during the Thanksgiving season or year-round. For even more ideas, check out Bob Nelson’s 1,501 Ways to Reward Employees (Workman Publishing Co., 2012).
How does your company recognize its workers? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Give to give. Giving to charity is a personal decision, and even well-intentioned efforts to make a donation in someone else’s name fail. Opt for a giving card like those offered by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. Using this gift card, the recipient can give to the cause of his or her choice.
2. Ask what they want. Not all employees have the same goals, some want more education, others flex time that enables them the chance to see their kids' soccer games. “If you recognize people with things they don’t want, it doesn’t work,” says Charlie Ungashick, chief marketing officer at Globoforce.
3. Upgrade the coffee. Still using that ancient coffeemaker to brew a cup of Joe? Invest in a quality coffee program to keep them in the office, looking forward to their coffee break.
4. Make time fly. You can't add more hours to the day, but you can give an extra day (or afternoon) off to someone whose work has been exemplary. Make sure the workload is realistic so that folks won't be working on their day off. Bonus days can be taken in the new year if the holidays are too crazy.
5. Issue hall passes. No, this is not junior high. But a novelty hall pass (like that offered at Boulder, Colorado’s Cloud 9 Living) that rotates through your staff is a fun way to convey extra perks (such as an extra-long lunch break) to workers.
6. Give up the good parking spot. Consider offering the best spots in the lot employees for a job well done. If most of your staff takes public transportation choose a transit pass for the employee of the month.
7. Make life easier. Alleviate the pressure of everyday errands. Offer on-site dry cleaning drop-off and pick up or other services that get rid of those time-sucking errands.
8. Praise often. “You have to recognize people as soon as it happens,” says Globoforce’s Ungashick. “Otherwise people forget and they think no one is paying attention.”
9. Value wellness. You probably can’t offer an on-site gym, but picking up the tab for a nearby yoga studio or YMCA may be feasible, and healthy employees are productive workers.
10. Have fun. After an important launch, plan something fun -- a rock climbing outing, a hike or paintball session -- to show people you know they accomplished something special. Ungashick suggests picking something that fits with your corporate culture.
11. Free food. A meal or snack is a great way to show your gratitude. Track orders on Google Drive for easy ordering or open an account at a local food delivery company so staffers can order on their own when they are working through a busy period.
12. Cubicle comforts. Upgrade the office. Do folks have ergonomic chairs and decent lighting? If not, upgrade to keep things comfortable and efficient.
13. Write a note. A hand-written thank you note—on real stationery—is appreciated. Krotzer suggests mailing it to your employee’s home address, where his or her spouse will also see it and know that the time away from home is valued.
14. Recognize good work. Give credit when it is due. When someone makes a project go smoothly, tell the whole team at a meeting or in a group e-mail.
15. Go up the chain of command. Make sure higher ups, board members and others know of the standout accomplishments of your staff. Send an email and CC your staffer. Ungashick says a letter from the CEO has more value for employees than something with an actual price tag.
16. Pay attention. If you offer tangible rewards, ask staffers what they’d enjoy. One employee may love a gift card for a manicure while another may bite her nails and not care, Krotzer explains. “I tell people to get to know their staff, their likes and dislikes and offer rewards they want.”
17. Consider cash. No one has ever been disappointed to get an unexpected year-end bonus. If it is in the budget, consider rewarding people monetarily.
18. Just say it. Finally, the easiest way to make people feel appreciated? Make a habit of looking staffers in the eyes and say those two words: “Thank you.”