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Small Business Tips

Employee Appreciation Ideas for Small Businesses

Justine Rabideau
a group of businesspeople in the office applauding a colleague after a successful group meeting|Employee motivation written in a note

Employee retention is a concern for every business, no matter how big or small. Some HR experts estimate that it can cost almost 200 percent of an employee's annual salary to replace them.Instead of replacing employees, lower the rate of turnover to keep people on your team. Gallup found that employee engagement and well-being are the two most significant factors that influence performance.

Recognise and reward your team

Although cash is a great motivator, many ideas won't break the bank. Check out these employee recognition ideas that aren't cash. Some of them are even tax deductible.

  • Flexible hours - giving your staff the room to work the hours that work for them can be a huge motivator. It could mean the difference between having to hire daycare or not. Of course, you have to set boundaries, but a generous PTO policy is a great benefit.
  • Take a tour - Tour a vendor's facility to understand how your businesses work together. Have lunch together. A field trip can break up the monotony of a slow off-season.
  • Boxing Day Swap - Swap offices with an employee for a day, like Boxing Day in England, when the servants and masters would change roles.
  • Bring in lunch - or breakfast, gourmet coffee and bagels, cake and ice cream, you get the picture. Make sure you do the setup and cleanup or have someone outside the staff take care of things. Give everyone an extra 30-minute break to enjoy some team bonding.
  • Hire a massage therapist - give everyone a 15-minute chair massage as part of their day.
  • Purchase quality equipment - you can reward exceptional employees with new office chairs or desks.
  • Bring your pet to work day - allow employees to bring dogs (or another pet) to work.
  • Bring your family to work - alternatively, offer one day a year to bring in family members and show what they do.
  • Office double breaks for a month - recognise an employee for going above and beyond by giving them double break time for a week, month or a year.

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Employee motivation written in a note
  • Music choice - recognise an employee's hard work by letting them choose the office music for a day.
  • Random gifts - token gifts, such as gift cards, movie tickets, flowers or candy bars, can be left on someone's desk. Leave a note that says, "thanks for the hard work."
  • Stock the fridge with healthy snacks - you might want to bring in fresh fruit one day a month or keep things around all the time.
  • Celebrate holidays and birthdays - you may not even have to do much but recognising birthdays and milestones can go a long way toward good will.
  • Show respect - it won't matter how much you appreciate your employees if you don't respect them. Don't disrespect or belittle them in public or private. There are ways to manage problems without being discourteous.
  • Offer career-based rewards - send your staff to leadership training or education that is related to their job. It shows that you're willing to invest in their career. Plus, it benefits the company, too.In place of training, find a mentor for younger staff members and give them time with the mentor each month. At the very least, encourage continuing education. Offer to pay a portion of the tuition if you can't afford the entire bill.
  • Recognise non-work achievements - brag on your employees who are running marathons, volunteering and creating things on their own time.
  • Thank you notes - Getting a note from the boss is a great way to show appreciation. Genuine gratitude is remembered for a long time, especially when the overall attitude toward staff is positive and grateful.

Get creative

Small things can build positive morale in the work environment. Painting the walls a fun, bright colour that goes with your brand can impact productivity. Decorating for un-traditional holidays, such as the Chinese New Year or Diwali, can be lots of fun. Be creative about making your business a positive experience for the people who keep it running.Build appreciation into your company culture. Ask your employees what they would like. Give your staff a voice as to what they want. It's nice receiving an occasional reward for doing a good job. If you want something more formal, a recognition program might fit your company.

Tips for effective recognition

Employee recognition programs need to be available to all employees. If you have a formal policy, it can't exclude any employee. You need to communicate the criteria for awards and rewards. Don't allow managers to select the people who receive recognition. You don't want this seen as favouritism. Plus, it won't be as effective as a program that outlines rewards.Random employee recognition is often just as effective as a managed program. An element of surprise makes it more fun. It also prevents rewards from seeming as an entitlement. Your employees shouldn't expect to receive an award for doing what's required.

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