10 Free (Or Nearly Free) Ways To Recognize Employees

Employee recognition is an essential part of any healthy, productive work environment. Recognizing employees increases their productivity, morale, quality of work and customer service.

In 2012 completed a comprehensive research project on employee recognition. The project found recognition programs can have a huge impact on business performance, especially when it comes to employee turnover. It showed companies that scored in the top 20 percent for building a “recognition-rich culture” had 31 percent lower voluntary turnover rates, i.e. employees that left on their own. This is huge when finding reliable staff seems like a never-ending battle.

It’s no wonder many of our past Boss of the Year winners excel at employee recognition.

Gary Coln, Locator UpFront Boss of the Year 2014, rewards sales employees at Raceway Auto & Truck Parts, LLC with a cash bonus if they hit their numbers. There are monthly sales incentives where employees have the opportunity to have lunch with Coln, and he buys. Coln has also treated his production team to new work boots and taken groups to hockey games and deep sea fishing in Destin, Fla.

Jim Butler, 2013 Boss of the Year, focuses on employee acknowledgement of a job well done at Butler Auto Recycling, Inc. Butler reads positive customer feedback cards aloud at monthly employee breakfast meetings. This recognizes the employee is front of his or her peers plus management which is important.

Alvin Collier, 2012 Locator UpFront Boss of the Year, thanks each employee at Alvin's Auto Recycling, Inc. as he personally hands them their paycheck. He also celebrates each employee’s birthday by buying a cake, which is shared with staff.

When J.C. Cahill, the 2010 winner, was manager at B & R Auto Wrecking, he held monthly employee meetings at where he focused on the positive steps the company was making and asked the employees for their input. Each month one department won a golden gun award, a tribute to recognize hard work. It was also presented in front of the other employees for peer recognition.

It’s important to note, employee recognition doesn’t have to cost a dime. Here are 10 free, or nearly free, employee recognition ideas compiled from and

  1. Offer flexible work hours. Allow employees to adjust their schedules to fit their family or personal obligations, like picking the kids up from school or going to doctor appointments.
  2. Write employees a hand-written note for a job well done. A personal note from upper management lets the employee know they’re not just a number.
  3. Give a casual or dress-down day. Give the entire company a casual day one-day-a-week or once-a-month, or offer a dress-down day as a reward for individual employees that they can use anytime.
  4. Reward efforts, as well as successes. Sometimes it’s important to recognize an effort rather than just a result. Give an award or recognize great ideas that just didn’t work.
  5. Create a wall of fame board. Put up photos of recognized employees where everyone can see them, like a reception area or front hallway.
  6. Offer up the best parking space as a reward. Every employee loves a primo parking spot. This is always a coveted reward.
  7. Allow trusted employees to telecommute. Sick kids, inclement weather or traffic congestion doesn’t have to keep employees from work. Telecommuting is a great option employees would appreciate.
  8. Give the gift of time. Reward employees with an extra-long lunch, extra break or even a free, paid day off.
  9. Involve an employee’s spouse in recognition efforts. If an employee is putting in extra time, send their significant other a “Thank You” card. A restaurant gift card for a night out can even be added.
  10. Simply say “thank you.” These words are huge. Just saying thanks goes a long way.

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