How to thank your staff without overspending

Co-author: Michelle Norton 

We all want to be recognised for a job well done. But that doesn’t mean employers have endless budgets for huge bonuses or monetary rewards. So, how can employers thank their staff without overspending? Canstar explores

The absence of any sort of “thank you” from the boss is a huge lost opportunity. Why? Because employees perform better, are more loyal, have improved morale and decreased absenteeism, and are happier on the job when their bosses recognise their efforts.

The Hays 2019/2020 salary guide for Australia and New Zealand also stated that:

  • 76% of employees who are a looking for a new job see flexible work practices as an important benefit.
  • 19% of employees who are planning to leave their job in the next 12 months are motivated to move because they have a poor benefits package in their current employment.

It costs nothing to say “thank you”, and letting your staff know that their hard work and successes are valued has a huge impact on staff engagement, loyalty and morale. An engaged workforce doesn’t just happen. It’s a two-way process in which an organisation needs to work hard to engage its staff and, crucially, where employees themselves decide how engaged they will be in return. It’s a symbiotic relationship where both the employer and employee support each other; if one side fails to back the other, engagement levels deteriorate rapidly.

Four approaches to a staff rewards programme

Where end-of-year bonuses once stood as the gold standard, today’s staff incentive programmes are more varied and reflect an organisation’s unique culture and creativity. Your own incentive program plays a key role in driving innovative behaviour so, it must serve your business goals while offering an array of aspirational carrots.

Many companies now use a blend of compensation, gifting, recognition, and perks. This combines monetary rewards with recognition, and individual with team rewards, in order to achieve a balanced programme.

Using a clear understanding of short and long-term innovation goals, here are four reward strategies that may help meet those objectives and ensure a steady flow of ideas from employees.

1. Compensation

Compensation typically translates to bonuses, cash-for-ideas, or stock options. Today’s innovators continue to expand the possibilities within this category. When you need to motivate employees in the short term, financial compensation offers an effective route.

2. Gifting

Gifting doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive, but creative gifts must carry enough perceived value to incentivise employees. Gifting is ideal for reinforcing exemplary behaviours in the short-term and fostering long-term loyalty.

3. Recognition

Recognition enables you to publicly showcase employees who demonstrate the behaviour and performance that you want to cultivate. For long-term goals, this approach is often more effective than financial compensation.

4. Perks

Perks are rewards built into the overall work environment in order to attract and retain top talent, as well as increase long-term employee performance.

As for how to make sure employees feel valued and recognised, forms of recognition vary depending on what works best for each individual organisation and its employees, but the one thing all successful recognition programs have in common is that they are sincere.

Some organisations choose to formally recognise top performance at regular weekly, monthly or annual meetings or events. This formal approach serves to both recognise success while also inspiring other team members.

Other organisations prefer an informal and spontaneous approach that provides recognition as and when success is achieved. This can range from sharing positive client feedback in a team email, newsletter or company blog, to shouting morning tea or letting an employee finish an hour early for a job well done.

Sincerity has impact

There’s just no excuse for not taking the time to reward your employees for doing a good job. You don’t have to spend a fortune – small gestures can make a big difference but they must be sincere.

Eight simple and effective ideas to reward staff

Here are eight simple and effective ideas to get you thinking.

  1. VIP rewards: Highlight Great Performers with posters, including stories and pictures about top employees. Display them prominently in all offices or branches.
  2. Hero of the Month: What about use of a specially designated premium parking spot? Or free car wash and detailing?
  3. Pampering: Why not organise a massage therapist to come to the office for expert neck rubs?
  4. Team lunches: Shout the team to a lunch, whether it is in the office or at an outside venue. Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch?
  5. Movie night: Who doesn’t like a double movie pass to the film of their choice, especially when it’s an ultimate Gold Pass Package with reclining armchairs and personalised waiter service?
  6. Theme park tickets: A yearly ticket to a theme park will reward not only the employee with young kids but his or her whole family.
  7. Gift card: A gift card at a store used regularly by the employee is always appreciated. Otherwise a Visa card offers a wider choice of redemption.
  8. Increasing your KiwiSaver contribution: Employeers need to contribute a minimum of 3% of the employer’s salary for any employee who is enrolled in KiwiSaver. However, it is up to the employer if they choose to do more than this. Read our earlier guide on employers’ role around KiwiSaver contributions.

Flowers, chocolates, hand-written “Thank You” notes, widely circulated emails or intranet posts are all valued and appreciated methods of thanking staff for going above and beyond just doing their job. Placing importance on staff recognition now will pay dividends in the long run. And, the bonus for employers is, it makes for a happy workplace!

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