How to thank your staff, without spending a lot of money

We all want to be recognised for a job well done, so much so that 62% of us would look for another job if we did not feel valued at work, according to a survey by recruiting experts Hays.

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 survey also stated that:

  • 97% of employees said a feeling of being valued was a ‘very important’ or ‘important’ engagement factor for them.
  • 95% said that recognition for a job well done was ‘very important’ or ‘important’ to them.
  • 87% would go above and beyond if they were made to feel valued by the organisation they work for

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 program

Where end-of-year bonuses once stood as the gold standard, today’s reward programs 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 program. 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.


This typically translates to bonuses, cash-for-ideas, or stock options, and 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.


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


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.


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.

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

  1. VIP rewards: Highlight Great Performers with stories and pictures on top employees on posters that are displayed 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: You can never get enough de-stressing, can you? Why not organise a massage therapist to come to the office for expert neck rubs? We have been doing this at CANSTAR for many years, which goes some way to explaining why we all love working here!
  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. Rewarding experience: Perhaps a bridge climb, skydiving or swimming with sharks would be a valued way of saying thank you to the thrill-seeking employee. There are lots of ideas in every region that may work for you.
  6. 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?
  7. 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.
  8. Thank-you day: Dedicate a day to the Great Performer and invite all staff to drop by and leave gifts on his or her desk. Be prepared for a lot of fun and laughs at the often mischievous gifts and sentiments that will surface!
  9. Fortune-teller: Treat your successful team to a look at what the universe has in store for them. Arrange for a fortune-teller to visit the office.
  10. 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.

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 is that it makes the workplace a happy one!

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