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Recognition in The Real World
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25 Creative Low-Cost or No -Cost Ways to Appreciate your Employees (…and Sometimes Yourself!)

Posted By Barbara Glanz, CSP, CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame, Tuesday, April 23, 2019

“People get just as excited about receiving a compliment as they do at the prospect of getting money!” ~ Journal Neuron

As you are thinking about applying some of these ideas in your own organization, first think about the people who have made a difference in your own life. List five teachers or mentors who believed in you and encouraged you, five friends or co-workers who have helped you through a difficult time, five people who have taught you something worthwhile, and five people who have made you feel appreciated and special. If YOU want to be remembered for making a difference in someone else’s life, make them feel appreciated. Remember, appreciation is a FREE gift!

  1. When you are forced to sit somewhere for a period of time (commuting, waiting for an appointment, even watching something boring on TV), get in the habit of writing short “thank you” notes. . Carry them in your purse or briefcase so they are easily accessible. Mention two or three specific things that make you glad that person is in your life.
  2. Draw an outline of your hand. Put it on the wall of your office, and when you’ve done something great that no one has noticed, walk back and give yourself a little “pat on the back!”
  3. Call someone’s parent, spouse or significant other at home to thank them for the good work that employee is doing.
  4. Go to the store and look at all the candy names: Skor, Extra, $100,000 Bar, Snickers, Payday, Lifesavers. Plan little surprises with notes tying into that theme to surprise and thank employees.
  5. Ask each of your direct reports or colleagues to list the letters of the alphabet and think of something they are thankful for that begins with each letter.
  6. Give an employee the day off to work with his or her favorite charity. Ask them to take pictures and write about it for the company newsletter.
  7. Give an employee a gift related to their favorite hobby or passion with a personal note. (First, you have to FIND OUT what their hobbies and passions are, however. That, in itself, is a form of recognition!)
  8. Take an employee someplace that would personally delight them – attend a baseball game, go for a walk together, go shopping, attend a class together, take time to discuss a good book, attend an event to see one of their children perform.
  9. Commit to finding someone doing something right each day and thank them for that on the spot.
  10. Send a positive, encouraging voice mail to someone and then send one to YOURSELF!
  11. Have an “Appreciation Board” posted in your breakroom where employees can publicly thank others who have gone the extra mile for them.
  12. Make a “Thanksgiving Tree” and keep it in your lobby all year long. Ask people to write things they are thankful for and hang them on the tree.
  13. As a special thank you to the whole team or company, host a half day event where employees pick an expert to come in and teach them a new life skill (photography, cooking, decorating, golf lessons).
  14. Learn the American Sign Language sign for “thank you” and teach everyone in your department to use it when things are hectic.
  15. Send a gift to the employee’s family to thank them for sharing that person, especially when an employee has been working hard on a project – a restaurant gift certificate with a letter, flowers, or movie tickets for the whole family.
  16. Put 5 pennies in your right hand pocket in the morning. Every time you thank someone, move a penny to your left hand pocket and do not go home until all 5 are all on the left side.
  17. Prepare a home-cooked meal for your employees. If possible, invite them to your home.
  18. Sponsor a Family Day at work so that family members can share in the mission of the company where their mother or father works. As a special perk, give them a logo gift of some kind.
  19. Place five silver dollars in your pocket each week and pass them out to someone who is doing a great job during the week.
  20. Give an employee the gift of time – permission to come in an extra hour later or leave an extra hour early or take an extra hour at lunchtime.
  21. Have everyone on your team create an AIG folder (Ain’t I Great!) and ask each person to fill it with things that encourage them or bring them joy.
  22. For one year, name a hallway, favorite dish in the cafeteria, or special room after an employee. Post their picture with the nameplate.
  23. Have your team brainstorm creative ways they would like to be recognized or appreciated.
  24. Invite an employee to lunch and ask him or her to share some ideas with you that could make a difference in your workplace. Be sure to take good notes and acknowledge any ideas that you implement.
  25. Think of practical needs your employees may have. For example, invite a laundry service to come in once a week to pick up clothes or provide a caterer who will prepare meals to be picked up as the employees leave for the evening.
  26. Place a large poster page next to everyone’s office or cubicle door for a week. Ask other employees during the week to stop by and write something they appreciate about that person.
  27. Keep a “crazy gift” closet (the Dollar Store is a great place to get them), and when employees have done something exceptional or are just having a bad day, let them choose something fun from the closet.

REMEMBER: It does not have to be something big and the more fun and surprising it is, the better. As Mark Twain said, “I can go two months on one good compliment!”

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