7 Ways to Creatively Reward Your Employees

One of my readers recently wrote me lamenting the fact that while she valued her employees, she was unable to give them bonuses last year because of the economy. She wondered how other small businesses handled the same issue.

In the small business world, employees are a lot like family. They really are our greatest asset and we know that they need to be rewarded.

And yes, sometimes that is easier said than done.

Here are seven ways to reward employees with little or no money:

1. Just thank them: It’s funny how much a “thank you for a job well done” is appreciated, and how often it is not given. Statistics consistently show that the need to receive appreciation is a major motivator in the workplace. Honor that.

2. Give them the tools to do their job right: Yes, that smartphone, netbook, or iPad may look pricey, but really, it’s an investment in a business asset, and your staff. Similarly, by getting your team the software they need, you make their job easier, and they will appreciate you more.

3. Get creative with hours: Allowing employees to creatively set their schedule is a big bonus for a lot of people. For instance, the insurance company Aflac is often cited as a great place to work because it offers, among other things, flex-time and off-site work.

4. Give them a gift: Even a small token of your appreciation is appreciated. A gift certificate, a coupon to the spa or for a massage, some flowers, or a couple of tickets to the game need not cost a lot, but little gifts like that can sure go a long way.

5. Single them out: Mention the person and the great job they did in the company newsletter or website. At Cisco Systems, the CEO hosts monthly birthday breakfasts for all employees with a birthday that month. And, while naming someone the “employee of the month” may seem cliché, it’s not to that employee.

6. Tell the family: A letter from the boss to an employee’s spouse and/or family – saying how irreplaceable the employee is – makes people feel great, and grateful.

7. Give them some extra time off: A little extra paid time off can be a huge incentive.

The bottom line is that recognizing people for a job well done can be accomplished in many ways, and a raise or bonus is just one. A little creativity can go a long way. Catch small business expert and USA Today columnist, Steve Strauss on ABC News as he discusses business trends in 2011.

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