61 Simple and Low-Cost Ways to Reward Employees and Boost Motivation

Ways to Reward EmployeesAre you looking for simple ideas and suggestions on how to reward your employees and increase motivation?

Is bringing the best out in your employees high on your list of priorities?

There’s no doubt that praising and rewarding employees is good for your business and helps create a positive work environment which increases productivity and, ultimately, profits.

In today’s difficult and, sometimes harsh, economic climate, a well-structured rewards and recognition program becomes and effective (and often low cost) way to improve employee morale and performance.

It’s important to point out that it’s often the things that don’t cost money – or are reasonably cheap to implement – which are most effective.

If you’re under the impression that employees are only motivated by monetary rewards, you’re actually mistaken. Studies such as this one from McKinsey prove that personal recognition can have more profound effects on employee motivation.

Rewarding employees doesn’t have to break the bank. There are plenty of free and low-cost ways to reward and motivate your team. I’ve put together 61 of my favorite in this post.

Many of the ideas and suggestions are easy to implement right away at little of no cost to your business. So what are you waiting for? Choose a few of these ideas and start motivating your team right away.

61 ways to reward your employees

#1: A Simple ‘Thank you’

Say thank youThis is the easiest and, perhaps, least valued tip to reward and motivate your employees. If you apply just one of these 61 suggestions, make sure it’s this one. It’s an easy and highly effective way to thank an employee for a job well done. I actually wrote a post about the power of the the simple ‘thank you’ here.

#2: Offer Flexible Work Hours

You can either set up a system whereby they work to achieve certain objectives or you can establish a minimum number of hours that need to be worked and allow them to set their own hours. If they need to take the kids to school in the morning, let them, they’ll make up the hours in the afternoon or the following day.

#3: Praise them publicly (for example at your next meeting)

This is a great way to give your employees a boost in confidence and self-esteem and makes them feel valued by the company. Just make sure the employee in question is comfortable with this. Introverts may feel a little uneasy at being singled out in public, even if it is for doing a good job!

#4: Send them a hand written letter thanking them for their efforts

Note I said handwritten! No emails or typed memos. If you take the time and effort to send a handwritten note, you’ll be sending a powerful message that you value their contribution to the team.

#5: Dress-down Friday… let them wear what they want on Fridays

Wouldn’t you love to be able to go to work in shorts and flip flops? Although there are companies that already allow this, most require some form of decent attire to be worn to work. However, creating a more flexible dress code for a specific day of the week (Friday tends to work well) will certainly be appreciated by the team.

#6: Offer them an exclusive parking space

It doesn’t have to be permanent, a month would be fine. If you can get it next to the boss’ space, even better!

#7: Give them a side project to work on

Giving someone a side project to work on helps them disconnect from their everyday tasks. You could get them to write a special report or set up the new company blog, anything that’s deemed important and special.

#8: Let them have an extra-long lunch break

Employee Reward-Extra long lunch breakThis one is simple. If lunch break is usually half an hour or one hour, tell your employee(s) that they can have an extra hour lunch break. Make sure you tell them why you’re letting them have an extra-long lunch break 🙂

#9: Let them go home early

If you and your team have been working hard on a specific project or task and have managed to finish it before deadline, let them leave work early as a small reward for their great work and effort.

#10: Give them the day off!

Let them take a day off to spend with their family, go to the beach, head to the park or just stay at home to read a good book. The important thing is that they get some ‘me’ time to recharge the batteries and de-stress.

#11: Promote them!

If you see potential in your employees, don’t be afraid to promote them. Let them show their true potential by offering them new opportunities within the company. They will be grateful and the rest of your team will also be motivated seeing that there are opportunities for personal growth in the company.

#12: Invite them to be part of a special team or project

This takes them out of their daily work routine and offers the possibility of shining in front of their superiors giving them a fresh sense of accomplishment. The more important the project, the greater the motivation and sense of achievement for your employee.

#13: Celebrate birthdays

Make a big deal of your employees’ birthdays. Buy them a gift or throw a party in the office to celebrate. It could be a breakfast party or an afternoon tea, it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s fun! It’s a great opportunity for business owners or managers to have informal chats with their team and get to know them a little better.

#14: Share the Love

Ask co-workers to write something they like about a team member, it can be about anything, as long as it’s positive. Once you’ve got all these comments you could frame them and give them to the employee in question.

#15: Celebrate their accomplishments… on video!

Putting together a short video nowadays is relatively simple (Tools like Animoto and Magisto can help) so why don’t you put together a short video celebrating an employee’s accomplishments and trajectory in your company.

#16: Send them on an adventure

Employee Rewards - Send them on an adventureTreat them to a special activity or class, something they won’t forget in a hurry! Skydiving, driving a , a ride in a hot air balloon or fly boarding are a few fun and exciting options.

#17: Personalized gift

Are your employees into any specific hobbies? Do they collect things like stamps, coins or baseball cards? Why not give them something to add to their collection?

#18: Say Thank You with flowers

Imagine going into work one day and finding a beautiful bunch of flowers on your desk with a handwritten note from your boss thanking you for your hard work. You wouldn’t forget that gesture in a hurry would you? Simple, yet,  powerful.

#19: Employee of the Month Award

A classic in many reward and recognition programs is to offer an employee of the month award. Whilst this may not be appropriate to all companies, it’s relatively simple to put into place and can have positive results if implemented properly. Just make sure you have a fair and democratic system in place for choosing the monthly winners.

#20: Friday afternoon happy hour

Knock off work a little earlier on a Friday and treat the team to a few beers at your local bar. It doesn’t have to be every week; once a month would do the trick. And it doesn’t have to be a bar either, a trip to the bowling alley works well too. 🙂

#21: Let them work from home

It’s not for everyone, but working from home can be a great way to relieve the stress of the daily commute to work and the chance to spend more time with the family will certainly prove motivational. Try offering a couple of days a month and if your see that performance and productivity improve, you can extend to more days.

#22: Offer free drinks and snacks whilst at work

Find out what your team’s favorite drinks and snacks are and stock up the break room or kitchen with these items for them to snack on throughout the day.

#23: Buy them a book

Buy them a book on a subject they are interested in. Another alternative is to buy them an Amazon gift card so that they can choose their own book.

#24: Pay for them to go to the movies

Employee Rewards - Buy them tickets to the moviesBuy your employee tickets so that they can take their family or friends to the watch the latest movie release. Cheap, simple and highly effective.

#25: Buy them a gift card from their favorite store

Find out what their favorite store is and buy them a gift voucher to use. They will love the fact you’ve bought them a gift card but will be even more grateful that you took the time to find out what their favorite store is.

#26: Order a giant pizza for a team lunch

Surprise your team by treating them to pizza for lunch. Order their favorite pizzas and get everyone to meet in the conference room or breakout room for an informal group lunch.

# 27: Relieve stress with free massages

Pay for a masseuse to come in to work for a day to give employees shoulder and neck massages. This could work well as a reward for a team that has been working hard to finish a large project or on key dates such as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.

#28: Celebrate Halloween… With a costume contest!

A great way to celebrate Halloween (or any other major holiday) is to hold a costume contest in the office. Everyone comes to work dressed up in their best costumes and you choose a winner(s) who receive a prize. Exercises like these help to reduce stress and create a good atmosphere amongst workers.

#29: Organize a BBQ for all your employees

This is a perfect motivator for the warmer summer months. Organize a BBQ for all the team and make sure you’ve got lots of great meat and cold beers at the ready. For bonus points and a little added fun, get all the bosses and managers to dress up as chefs and do all the cooking! 🙂

#30: Ice-cream treat

Everyone loves ice-cream… so the next time you’ve been through a busy period at work – and which coincides with warmer weather – head down to the local ice-cream shop and buy a selection of flavors which you can then dish out amongst your team back at the office. If you could get hold of some sort of trolley and make your way round the office handing them out, even better.

#31: Treasure Hunt

This is a great activity to reward the whole team. Whilst it takes a little longer to organize, the fun factor makes it well worth the effort. Make sure you offer fun prizes for the winning teams.

#32: Makeover time!

The female members of your team will love you for this one! Make arrangements for them to get a professional makeover (hair, nails, makeup… the works). They’ll feel a million dollars and you’ll get the added benefit of having a team of stunning looking ladies.

#33: Offer discounts on your products or services

Employee Rewards - Give them discounts on company productsOffer your employees important discounts on your company’s products or services. It’s a simple gesture but one that will be greatly appreciated.

#34: Buy them a lottery ticket

Another simple gesture which works wonders if done right. If an employee has been staying late after work to complete a project or has gone above and beyond their duties to help a client, just buy them a ticket for the lottery as a small gesture of your appreciation. It’s probably best not to think about what would happen if they win! 😉

#35: Say it with fruit

A good way to show your appreciation for a job well done is to buy your employee a fruit basket filled with a colorful assortment of the freshest and most exotic fruits.

#36: Let your employees choose their own uniform

If you require your employees to wear a uniform, why not let them choose from a variety of styles? It’ll make them feel part of the decision making process and they’ll feel happier wearing a uniform they actually chose.

#37: Help your employees quit smoking

If you’ve got smokers on your team, you can pay for them to attend a ‘quit smoking’ seminar. If they manage to kick the habit, for at least a year, reward them for their achievement by treating them (and their partner) to dinner at a nice restaurant.

#38: Offer bonuses or gifts to employees who help with recruitment

This is a win-win situation. Your employees help you find great candidates for new job openings and they get rewarded for their efforts. Just make sure that the gifts are worthy of their efforts.

#39: Pay for a family photo session

Who doesn’t like to have photos of family and friends throughout their home to rekindle fond memories and remind them of their loved ones? Rewarding an employee with a professional photo session for all their family is a gesture that’s considerably more powerful than a cash reward or bonus. Guess who they’re going to remember every time they look at those photos?

#40: Relief from personal chores

There’s nothing worse than getting home from a long hard day at work and having to face cleaning the house or mowing the lawn. So why not surprise your employee by paying for a full house-cleaning service or hiring a lawn care company to mow their lawn for the next month? If your employee isn’t happy, I’m sure their spouse will be!

#41: Create a ‘Quiet’ room

Employee Rewards - Create a quiet roomCreate a special space where employees can go and relax and take a break from the stress of their daily work routine. Let them use the room whenever they need to and for whatever they want (within reason). It can be used to read, meditate or even to scream out loud (make sure it’s well soundproofed) if it helps them reduce stress and makes them feel better.

#42: Babysitter for the night

Pay for a babysitter so that your employee and spouse can go out for a romantic evening. Even better… pay for them to have dinner in a nice restaurant!

#43: Full car service

Does your employee own a car? An ideal reward for a job well done may be to pay for a full service for their car. This is a great perk for employees who commute to work every day and clock up thousands of miles on a yearly basis.

#44: Send them to a seminar

Let your employee choose a seminar they’d like to go on. It doesn’t have to be strictly related to their job. Hobbies and interests work well as they get a chance to attend a seminar on something that really interests them, always in the knowledge that their company or boss made it possible.

#45: Buy them an amazon Kindle

Most people enjoy reading and a Kindle is a great little gadget that makes reading your favorite books easy. To make the reward a little sweeter, give them a voucher for 10 free books of their choice!

#46: Spend a day with the CEO

Let an outstanding employee spend a day with the CEO or Managing Director and get an inside look at how the business is run. This is a great exercise in transparency and allows the boss to show off their more ‘human side’.

#47: Face-to-face question and answer session with the Management

Another great one for transmitting transparency, this idea allows a certain number of high performing employees to spend time with management and ask them questions about the company. Make sure it’s an informal session where employees are made to feel at ease and can ask whatever they wish.

#48: Wash the employee’s car

Employee Rewards - Wash their carGet an employee’s car washed for them. For bonus points, do it yourself. Grab a bucket and soap and wash the car in the car park where everyone can witness your kind gesture. The lucky employee will be delighted that the boss is cleaning their car and the rest of the team will have a good laugh too. 🙂

#49: Create a ‘Wall of Fame’ with photos of outstanding employees

This one is self-explanatory. Find a visible space in the office and hang photos of employees who have gone ‘above-and-beyond’ for the company.

#50: Write Post-It notes saying ‘Thanks’

Another simple but highly effective way to reward employees. For more impact, write a few notes and hide them amongst employee’s work and papers so that they stumble upon them by surprise!

#51: Offer ‘Well Done’ cards on the spot

If you spot an employee doing a good job, hand them a ‘well done’ card on the spot which they can then redeem for gifts and rewards. You assign a value to each of the cards and then create a menu featuring the gifts they can win.

#52: Name a space in the office after an employee

Wouldn’t it be great to have the breakout room or a conference room named after you? For more impact, be sure to put up signage that clearly highlights the name… ‘The Bob Moore Breakout Room’

#53: A subscription to their favorite magazine

This is another simple idea but one that can have a great motivational effect. Find out what your employee’s favorite magazine is and get them an annual subscription as a token of your gratitude for a job well done.

#54: Buy a gift for an employee’s child

Imagine the child’s face when Mum or Dad return home after work with their favorite doll or action figure as a gift. Best Mum/Dad in the world!!!

#55: Contribute to an employee’s favorite charity

If an employee supports a particular charity, a great way to reward them is to donate money to said charity. The positive effect of this action is twofold as you’re making your employee happy by contributing to a cause they care deeply about and you are also showing that you are a socially responsible company.

#56: Pay for a sports club or gym membership

Employee Rewards - Pay for a gym membershipFit and healthy employees usually perform better so why not help encourage a more ‘healthy living’ lifestyle by giving away sports club or gym memberships as rewards for exceptional work?

#57: Let your employee represent your company at an industry event

What better way to recognize their work and efforts than asking them to represent your company at an important event? They’ll feel a sense of pride and honor at being singled out as the company representative.

#58: Hold your next staff meeting in the park

Surprise your team members at your next scheduled meeting by taking them out to a local park or other outdoor location. They’ll appreciate the change in scenery and the fresh air should help brainstorm new ideas and suggestions for improving your business.

#59: Free dry cleaning for a month

Get your employee’s dry cleaning picked up and – once cleaned – delivered back to the office every week for a month. The thought of not having to worry about washing or ironing clothes for a whole month is bound to delight more than one!

#60: Organize a sports and activities day

Just choose a day and take everyone outdoors for a fun day full of activities. It can be anything: A game of softball, Ultimate Frisbee, basketball, volleyball, whatever sports and activities your team are into.

#61: Take your team to the ball game!

Employee Rewards - Take them to a ball gameSimilar to the suggestion above, this one doesn’t involve any strenuous physical activity and may go down better. It’s a great team building exercise that can prove to be highly motivational. Have you just closed a big deal or achieved better than expected financial results? Take the whole team to a ball (basketball, baseball, soccer… let them choose) game as a way of saying thanks.

In Conclusion…

Rewarding your employees for doing a good job doesn’t have to expensive or complicated. The above ideas and suggestions should serve as a good benchmark from which to start an effective employee rewards and recognition program in your business. Just take a couple of these ideas and start implementing them as soon as possible; you’ll be amazed at the results!

Before you start, it’s important that you keep a few things in mind. In his bestselling book “1001 Ways to Reward Employees” Professor Bob Nelson provides three simple guidelines for effectively rewarding employees:

  • Be sure to match reward you are offering to the person receiving it.
  • Match the reward to the specific achievement.
  • Make sure the reward is timely and specific.

Just to prove how powerful a good rewards program that keeps employees happy can be… An article on The Recruiterbox.com blog made reference to the survey program launched by Sears, Roebuck and Company in the late 1930’s and which became one of American industry’s largest and most sophisticated applications of behavioral and social science research to personnel problems.

Through this program, they found that for every 5 point improvement on their employee attitude scale, they saw a 1.3% improvement in customer satisfaction and a 0.5% increase in revenue growth. It certainly pays to keep your employees happy!

What ideas or suggestions do you have to reward employees and boost motivation? I’d love to hear thoughts in the comments below.

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