Getting a budget for an employee recognition programme

Jamie King, Xexec

“I run a small business and want to better recognise the efforts and achievements of my brilliant team. Though we would love to implement a formal employee recognition programme we don’t currently have any spare budget for this. Is there anything you could recommend in the meantime?”

This is a common query amongst HR professionals and rightly so. Distinct from salary and benefits, recognition has an important role to play in motivating and engaging staff, and by properly recognising your employees’ achievements you can implement positive change in the workspace, reinforcing the culture and values of your organisation. The good news is that it’s not just about money – here are some ways in which you can better recognise your staff for free:

Say ‘thank you’

It sounds simple but saying thank you (and encouraging managers and colleagues to do the same) can be the most effective way to recognise hard work. Whether in a hand written note, or at a team meeting, a study by Glassdoor found that 80% of employees would be willing to work harder for an appreciative boss and 70% said they’d feel better about themselves and their efforts if their boss thanked them more regularly. Think about how you could encourage staff and managers to say thank you, as well as how to make it more meaningful. If you have a staff Yamma or Facebook page, you could publicly thank high achieving members of staff on one of these platforms – social recognition is a powerful tool!

Peer-to-peer recognition

Peer-to-peer recognition is as important as recognition from leadership and it doesn’t have to cost a penny. Try allowing staff to nominate each other for non-financial awards. These can include things such as an extra hour in bed, a day off, or even a coveted parking space. Awards that reflect the tone and culture of your organisation, or a specific team, can be much more meaningful than financial rewards. Think also about the way in which these awards are presented, as this can feed into the overall culture of your business. Face-to-face presentations are one of the most effective forms of ‘social recognition’ so doing things like presenting scratch cards in front of the team is a good way of ensuring your recognition of their hard work is shared with the rest of their peers.

Work-related awards

Giving an employee additional responsibility, the opportunity to pursue a personal interest within their role, or a work-related prize, lets them know that they have earned your trust and respect and this can be a powerful thing. A 2009 survey by McKinsey found that praise from management, leadership attention and having the opportunity to lead projects are more effective motivators than cash, pay rises or stock.

Learning and development awards 

Awarding your team learning and development opportunities is one of the most effective ways of supporting their long-term engagement in your business! There’s also been a lot of discussion amongst the HR profession about the fact that, for the millennial workforce in particular, having the opportunity for learning and development is more important than financial incentives when it comes to job satisfaction. Make awards meaningful by tying them into individual interests and performance objectives. You can even link L&D awards to your existing performance management, co-ordinating with employee review procedures to emphasise the link between performance, recognition and career development.