Show Your Employees How Much You Care

It’s not rocket science. When we feel like our work is appreciated, we work harder and give our best – but when we feel like no one notices our efforts, we start not to care too much about our jobs.

As a manager, you have a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of this basic human instinct. Want highly productive, thoughtful employees with can-do attitudes? Start by showing them how much you care.

Compensation, benefits, recognition, and appreciation are all part of the package, but while wage and benefits increases are great, they’re not always in the budget. Recognition and appreciation, on the other hand, can be implemented without breaking the bank. Recognition means the public act of acknowledging an employee’s contributions and achievements, while appreciation is the more private act of showing them gratitude. A simple “thank you” is totally free, and goes a long way.

Creating a good employee recognition system doesn’t have to be expensive – but the rewards of doing so are great.

What do you want to reward?

When deciding what to reward, consider an incentive plan that’s directly linked to your organization’s goals and values. Are you trying to promote healthy lifestyles? Engage more community members? Be sure that you’re promoting results and behaviors that go with your organization’s values, not against them.

In many organizations, rewards are results-based. Employees who reach certain goals are recognized, or rewarded with bonuses or perks like an Employee of the Month parking spot. It’s less common for organizations to incentivize behaviors. Things like clocking in on time, mentoring new hires, contributing to meetings, and putting in extra hours to meet a deadline may not earn a plaque on the wall, but reinforcing good behavior with a sincere thank you will ensure that it continues.

Just remember that in order for a reward system to be effective, it needs to be timely. If you notice an employee going above and beyond the call of duty, thank her immediately, or recognize her at the next staff meeting. Don’t wait for months!

8 simple rewards that go a long way

  1. Say thank you: If an employee stays late, pull him aside to thank him personally or write a sincere “thank you” note to leave on his desk. These two words may seem quite simple, but forgetting to say them can mean a big drop in morale.
  2. Promote her work: Take your personal thank you one step further, and express your appreciation in the form of a commendation. Mention how your employee’s achievements are positively impacting the organization in front of her coworkers, or upper management.
  3. Consider career goals: Your organization may not have the big budget for huge salary packages, but instigating programs to help employees advance their career goals can be just as big a benefit. Talk to your employees about their paths, and brainstorm ways your organization can help with training, education, conference attendance, etc.
  4. Inject a bit of fun: When was the last time you all laughed at work? Reward employees after a particularly busy time with an afternoon bowling, a barbecue, or a paid visit from an ice cream truck on a hot afternoon. Giving employees a chance to mingle and laugh together will invigorate their productivity when you all return to work.
  5. Get personal: It can be easy to get wrapped up in office work. Remind everyone about the outside world with monthly birthday parties, and by recognizing milestones like work anniversaries, weddings, and births in the organization. A box of cupcakes and an hour of time may be all it takes to spread some love.
  6. Reward team effort: If your team has done a stellar job to meet their goals or get through a tough patch, reward them with a lunch out. This can give everyone a chance to get to know each other better, too, which will boost morale and raise the teamwork effort next time around.
  7. Staff meeting shout out: Make a point of recognizing someone for something specific at the start of each staff meeting. Pointing out how an employee went above and beyond, solved a tricky problem, or innovated a new solution will not only provide an opportunity to thank him, but will also encourage others to follow his example.
  8. Public recognition: But don’t just thank that person in the employee meeting or company newsletter – consider giving her a shout out in your public newsletter or blog, too. As a bonus, showcasing your employees is a great way to connect the public with your organization, and give them glimpses behind the scenes.


Photo Credit: Sarah Reid

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Amy DeWolf

All of these are really great ideas! I personally like the fun team outings as a way to reward an entire team for working hard. At GovLoop, we just started the team meeting “kudos” or shout out — and I think it’s a good way to quick and easy to way to let someone know they are doing good work.

I think what is most important as a manager is figuring our which type of recognition your employees appreciate and then make the recognition specific to the individual. This is the most effective way to incentivize them. because everyone responds differently.

Terrence (Terry) Hill

Great advice! The two missing pieces in many organizations is communication and recognition. It doesn’t take a lot of cash to say thank you. It turns out that there are 1501 Ways to Reward Employees (http://www.amazon.com/1501-Reward-Employees-Nelson-Ph-D/dp/0761168788#)! With limited travel and training funds, I would recommend that we recognize high performers with travel and training opportunities. As a senior level professional, membership and professional conferences mean more to me than trinkets!


I think one of the most overlooked items is to just say Thank you. A handwritten short note would mean the world to most employees. Too often, employees feel like a cog in the machine….not realizing how important their jobs are, and the fact that day after day they do them well. It only takes a few moments to recognize the good jobs they are doing. After all, no one wants to only hear the complaints!

Eva Fulton

Amen! It doesn’t take much to improve employee morale, but how things evolve down from the top is the temperature and pulse of the organization. it doesn’t take long to trickle down and to make people feel like they are valued and if you want increase productivity then acknowledge the great work that the team puts in!