Motivate, Recognise and Reward Employees on a budget

Need to motivate your teams but have ZERO budget to do it?

Here are some ideas that will cost you next to nothing but by implementing them you will help to motivate and reward your teams.


Make eye contact and use employee’s names


Verbal praise – A ‘thank you’, a nod, a smile, a handshake, a pat on the back


A short, written note of praise to the employee


Written praise to the employee’s file


Written or verbal description of success to Senior Management with copy to employee and employee file


Verbal or written praise from a Senior Executive


Letting the person directly report on or describe his/her success to Senior Management


Asking the person for input, advice, or their opinion on something


Increased responsibility that the person will find challenging and motivating


Allowing the person more autonomy and independence to make decisions affecting their work, organization, strategies or work plans


Passing along compliments of the employee that were made by others


Giving the employee first choice of new tasks or new equipment


Put positive information in Personnel folder


Allow employee to represent the department at a meeting


Give time off – an extra break, an early out for the day, etc.


Provide quick follow-up on requests and other communications


Visible recognition on a bulletin board


Talking to employees about something they are interested in


Allow employee to work on special projects of interest


Re-arrange work schedules, flex time


Job rotation


First choice on extra training or new equipment


Parking spaces, bus fare to work, etc.


Food – cup of coffee, donuts, cookies, etc.


Free use of vending machines – vending machine coupons or coins


Create a “Best Accomplishments” scrapbook and include picture, name, and statement of achievement


Name a space after an employee or put up a sign in an area (‘Suzy Jones Corridor)


Attend a regularly-scheduled meeting and express relevant appreciation for what the team is working on


Show personal interest in the employee’s career development


Hold a project luncheon at the end of a project to celebrate as well as debrief and capture learning’s


Honour peers who have helped you by recognizing them at your (or their) staff meeting


Nominate your employees for any formal award programs the organization may sponsor


Share latest management books or periodicals with employees


Allow employees to attend meetings in your place when you are not available


Create a “Good Tries” scrapbook and include innovations that didn’t quite achieve their full potential – recognize those who put in the effort, celebrate the successes (there usually are at least some) and the learning’s so others can benefit later.


Say hello to employees when you pass by their desks or pass them in the hall – and possibly even recognize an recent achievement too!


Invite an employee (or employees) to coffee or lunch (with you and/or a Senior Executive) to recognize and appreciate their achievement


Establish a place to display information, posters, pictures, etc., recognizing individuals and teams and describing their accomplishments. HEROES – Honouring Excellence and Rewarding Outstanding Employee Service


When an employee makes a suggestion, take it seriously, evaluate it, and respond in a timely manner to the employee about the final actions regarding it.


When discussing an employee or team’s ideas with others, be sure you give them credit


When problems arise, involve them in analysing root causes and coming up with possible solutions


Give special assignments to those who have shown initiative – make sure they will see this special assignment as a ‘thank you’ and not an extra burden


Get your employee’s pictures and a write-up in the organization-wide newsletter


Present “State of the Place” reports periodically so employees learn directly from you what is going on – use this time to recognize accomplishment and say thanks


. Introduce outsiders to individuals and groups that have been making significant contributions, thereby acknowledging their work


Develop a “Behind the Scenes” award specifically for those whose actions are not usually in the limelight and make sure the awarding of this award does make it to the limelight!


Recognize and thank those who recognize others because it fosters the culture you want to develop


Ask employees how you could best show your appreciation. What would they like? Develop a list of ideas so that when you need one, it is easy to make it personal and unique


Celebrate their contributions and accomplishments when someone enters or leaves your department – it is a great welcome for new comers and a nice way to say ‘thanks’ to those who are leaving.


Personalize the gift or any form recognition – make it unique and special to that person


Create an ongoing ‘traveling’ recognition award named after a particularly outstanding employee (or event.) The FRED Award (for being Friendly, Resourceful, Enthusiastic, and Dependable)


Post a client’s complimentary letter in a conspicuous place – and then file it in a “Warm Fuzzies” scrapbook


Make time for employees – schedule a ’10-Minute Check-In’ to ask how they are doing and what resources they need. Do not discuss any of ‘your business’ in this session.


Create a “Pass Along Trophy” – person can keep it as long as they want and then it is up to them to ‘award’ it to a peer when they feel he/she deserves it and holds the ‘awards ceremony’ to recognize that individual as the trophy is passed.


Give a flower, a balloon, or some other inexpensive gift with the appreciation and recognition.


Offer to wash the employee’s car in the employee parking lot – allow the employee to supervise and others to watch


Create a ‘Wall of Fame’ so that recognition has lasting visibility


Pay for an inexpensive service: manicure, pedicure, facial, massage, etc.


Answer their phones and or emails for a day


Offer lunch coupons


Prepare bag lunches for an employee for a week


Offer time off


Create awards for others who help you. For example, janitors created a “Golden Broom’ award and shared it with those who helped pick up litter


‘Caught In The Act of Caring’ Coupons – that can be traded for ‘prizes’


Use of special equipment for a short period of time – like use of a sports car for a week


Use charts or posters to show accomplishments


Print special recognition on the employee’s next order of business cards


Allow a ‘two-hour lunch’ with no time penalty


Hand out playing cards for accomplishments – at the end of the week, the ‘best poker hand’ receives a prize


Reward someone with a “Take the Rest of the Day Off to __________________” (start your vacation early, enjoy this lovely spring (or fall) day, etc.)


Give an extra 15-minute break each day for a week


Create certificates of recognition – people tend to keep them and post them


Send greeting cards – be sure to write a personal message in the card to make it unique.


Create a silly incentive – for example, one retailer wore a really ugly tie to work and said that each employee who had a sale of a certain amount (or a certain amount of items) could cut one inch off the tie – his goal was to have the tie cut off by the end of the day!


Send a note to the family members thanking them for their sacrifice and understanding when an employee has had to work a lot of overtime on a project.


Offer to clean someone’s house


Have an A-B-C-D award – Above & Beyond the Call of Duty


Management cooks for employees


Celebrities cook for employees


Management commandeers a coffee cart or some other treat cart and goes through the work area serving refreshments and thanking for accomplishments


Offer to baby sit for the employee


Devise a game or contest that allows for as many winners as possible – not just the one who is the highest.


Arrange a limo to a holiday party


Trade workspaces for a week


Offer pieces over time (like Bingo pieces) and when someone gets a “Bingo” they earn a prize


Get a gumball machine. People earn pennies by doing things and when they put the penny in, the color of the gumball that comes out determines the prize they get


Make inexpensive buttons, badges, or ribbons for recognition. Cut your hand print out of construction paper and write “Pat on the Back” notes that you’ll tape to the person’s back in a fun ‘ceremony.’


Conduct a meeting outside because the weather is beautiful


Do things with color – people will see color before they see words.


Send an electronic thank you from one of the free greeting card sites (,,


Legit Graffiti – Put flipchart or poster paper up on the wall of the work area so employees (and you!) can write kudos and thanks


Allow the person to ‘dress casually’ for the week…or month


Highlight the individual and the accomplishment on the organization’s website


Volunteer to do the employee’s least favorite task for a certain period of time (I’ll do your filing for a week.)


Create a ‘thank you’ screen saver for their computer


Have employees appear in company ads


Have a ‘regular work’ Olympics or Rodeo. While it is the regular work that is highlighted, it is made fun by the competition. For example, fastest bed maker, able to carry 5 glasses on a tray for a certain length of space the fastest with the least amount of spillage, etc.


At Easter, stock up on the hollow plastic eggs, and then at some appropriate time, start a Good Egg campaign, by planting an egg on someone’s desk with a note of appreciation in the egg


Chalk the sidewalk in front of the company with a congratulations message for a job well done.


Hold a ‘compliments’ session. A quick way is to draw names and it is the responsibility of the person who drew the name to same something that they really appreciate about the person whose name is on the sheet. A longer (and more effective) version is that one person is ‘it’ and you go around the group and each person says one thing that they really appreciate about that person. When that round it done, someone else becomes ‘it’ and the process continues. Ideally someone is writing down the compliments on a sheet that says “This is What I Appreciate About You….” and you then hand it to that person to keep.


Chocolate!!!!! always works in our office!! :O)

How to implement a more formal Recognition and Reward scheme is another matter?

The Five Most Important Tips for Effective Recognition

You need to establish criteria for what performance or contribution constitutes rewardable behavior or actions.

  1. All employees must be eligible for the recognition.
  2. The recognition must supply the employer and employee with specific information about what behaviors or actions are being rewarded and recognized.
  3. Anyone who then performs at the level or standard stated in the criteria receives the reward.
  4. The recognition should occur as close to the performance of the actions as possible, so the recognition reinforces behavior the employer wants to encourage.
  5. You don’t want to design a process in which managers “select” the people to receive recognition. This type of process will be viewed forever as “favoritism” or talked about as “it’s your turn to get recognized this month.” This is why processes that single out an individual, such as “Employee of the Month,” are rarely effective.

So what are you waiting for… get incentive setting and have some fun with the team whilst your business and the team benefits.. What’s not to like!

If you liked this… great… for more useful Blogs read on or check out our page @HRREV or join the HR Revolution 


One thought on “Motivate, Recognise and Reward Employees on a budget

  1. Great post. Financial incentives are not enough to motivate employees. Instead, employers should pay greater attention to intrinsic motivation. That means designing jobs that provide opportunities to make choices, develop skills, do work that matters and build meaningful interpersonal connections.You can also find some effective tools that could boost your employee morale.

    Some I would recommend => Employee Motivation & Engagement software:

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