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Leadership / Gifts

12 Great Ways to Reward Awesome Employees Without Breaking the Bank

If you can't afford to give your employees a raise, these options might help you make sure they feel appreciated.
12 Great Ways to Reward Awesome Employees Without Breaking the Bank
Image credit: Caiaimage | Paul Bradbury | Getty Images
- VIP Contributor
Founder, Market Domination Media®
7 min read

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Your business is nothing without the employees and team members that make the wheels turn day in and day out. Rewarding hard-working employees is a simple and effective way to let them know how much they are appreciated, which can then lead to increased productivity and output.

You don't have to break the bank when rewarding deserving employees -- a well-considered token of appreciation goes a long way, regardless of its monetary value. It's the creativity, rather than cost, that most employees connect with. To help you think of some ways to reward and recognize employees for a job well done, consider these 12 suggestions.

Related: 15 Ways to Lead With Effective Communication

1. Cool company swag (that employees will actually use).

Company swag falls under two categories -- low-quality crap that drains startup funds and gets tossed in the garbage, or tokens of appreciation that actually get used.

Rewarding employees with swag they will use makes them think of you every time they use it, which just helps to strengthen the relationship between employer and employee. Have an avid golfer? Something as simple as quality golf balls with the company logo on them does the trick. It also shows them that you are invested in their happiness beyond the office walls.

2. Sporting event or concert tickets.

Tickets to sporting events and concerts are great gifts, as these are events most people are interested in, yet the cost tends to prevent many from attending.

Most ticket brokering companies, like Ticketmaster, offer an option to set up alerts based on artists and sports teams, but more importantly, location and venue. Set up an alert for your local venues and keep your eye open for fun events. Then, reward top performers with a pair of tickets. Keep it random, so employees don't expect it every time an event comes to town.

3. Team outings.

Taking a group of employees to a movie, group dinner or bowling is not only a nice reward for a job well done, but it also helps to build company morale and culture. You double-dip -- you keep your employees happy and build a stronger overall team.

One of my all-time favorite places to take teams is Top Golf. It's such a fun environment -- one that is competitive and social. This is the best kind of setting to use when you want employees to bond and strengthen their chemistry.

4. Company awards.

Awards are a very powerful reward that will get your employees striving for even more. I know some companies that give out awards where employees display the awards proudly on their desks. It's a sense of achievement that they want to share with everyone in the organization.

You don't have to give out custom Rolex watches or anything outrageous -- there are plenty of attractive, custom employee awards you can have customized for less than $100. You want to give out awards that the recipients will display for others to see. This causes more employees to rise to the occasion in an attempt to receive their own reward.

Related: 22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader

5. Gym membership.

More people are focused on health and fitness now than ever -- rewarding employees with a company-paid gym membership shows them that you care about their health and well-being.

There are also several low-cost monthly options starting around $10 per month, and many of the large gym franchises have thousands of locations, with many open 24 hours. It's a simple reward that will be well-received.

6. Lunch with executives, founders, CEO, etc.

Most employees would love the chance to have lunch with executives or the CEO. It gives them a chance to connect on a personal level and also discuss issues or make suggestions -- something they might not get to do otherwise.

While time is more than likely limited, group lunches that reward multiple employees at the same time can be just as effective. There are several ways to execute this effectively, depending on the company's size and culture.

7. Books based on personal interests.

According to experts, reading makes us smarter and nicer. "Giving an employee a book is a subtle gesture that shows you want to help them better themselves, and when you give them a book based on a personal interest it shows that you are interested in them as a person and not just an employee," says Justin Farar of Farar & Lewis.

Farar is 100 percent correct, and one of my consulting clients actually just gave me a book last month as I was leaving their office. They know Gary Vaynerchuk is someone I have a lot of respect for, so they handed me his new book. While it can be picked up for less than $20, it's not the price, but rather the thought, that is appreciated.

8. Remote-work destination day trips.

Working remotely has been found to increase productivity in some employees, so consider using it as a reward. The employee feels like he or she is receiving a special privilege and you get to see if it's an arrangement that could benefit the company in the future.

You could easily subscribe to the lowest-cost membership options as local coworking spaces and send employees there for the day. If you are feeling extra generous, toss them a gift card for lunch as an added bonus.

Related: Inspirational Quotes From 100 Famous Business Leaders (Infographic)

9. Office happy hour.

Happy hours are very popular among employees, but HR departments aren't usually as enthusiastic. "Whether it's done informally or as an officially sponsored company event is something that you should discuss with your HR department and legal counsel," advises The H Law Group's Nima Haddadi.

There is a fine line the company and employees must walk, but when done right, it can be a nice reward that is appreciated.

10. Gas cards.

What is one thing virtually every single employee will welcome with open arms? Free gas. "While gas cards might seem like a very simple reward, they are something that everyone can utilize and it's one of those necessary expenses that when eliminated, frees up some funds for them to use as they wish," states Adam Boalt of PassportRenewal.com, which features a large team of daily drivers.

When an employee receives a $50 gas card, that eliminates an expense that was already budgeted for, which can now be used for a night out to dinner or to apply toward paying off debt. I think you would be hard-pressed to find an employee who wouldn't appreciate this.

11. Preferred office parking.

If your office location has highly sought-after parking spaces that are significantly closer than other parking options, consider using those as incentive to drive performance. The same goes for valet options -- anything that provides convenience is a reward that employees will compete for.

Related: 50 Rules for Being a Great Leader

12. Charitable donations.

Your company benefits by giving back, and one of the ways you can combine giving back and rewards is by making charitable donations in the name of employees you want to acknowledge. When you make that donation to a cause they feel strongly about it has an even greater impact.

Maxinder Soni of Delancey Street is an entrepreneur who has a system in place that ensures his company makes donations to organizations that each employee is most passionate about, explaining, "Provide a list of a dozen charities, and use survey software to poll your employees, notating their preferences. While you have to have some limitations, giving them the option to select the charity that's most near and dear to their heart makes it more personal."

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