Employee recognition for every budget

Recognising your employees and rewarding them for their hard work and achievements is essential to ensure you build and maintain a positive, engaged and motivated workforce. However, when it comes to recognition, this doesn’t have to come at a great expense to your company. In fact, some of the simplest ideas are completely cost-free! With a new financial year just started, this is the perfect time to think about how you can build a culture of recognition into your workplace and it is possible to do this, no matter the size of your business or your budget.

Here are some of our top recommendations for ways to implement recognition in the workplace which won’t break the bank:


  • A simple “Thank You”
    Starting off with the simplest and zero-cost way to implement recognition into your everyday working life, simply saying “thank you” or “well done” to an employee can make their day. If you think about how busy people often are in the workplace, the fact that you have taken the time out of your day to talk with them or send them a thank-you message will make them feel appreciated and as though their contribution really matters. Although it can be a nice gesture, you don’t always need to give a reward to your employees when practicing recognition. In fact, as employee appreciation should be part of your everyday practice at work, it would get expensive very quickly if we did this!


  • Give them a work-related treat
    If you do want to give your employee(s) a treat for their hard work, there are more unconventional rewards that you could give than the typical gift card or bottle of bubbly. Why not reward them with something that might make their working day that little bit better such as an extra day’s holiday, a longer lunch break or an early finish for that day or week.


  • Presenting regular awards
    Whether this is an employee of the month award or recognising key employees each quarter or year, many businesses have found a regular awards programme to work well for them. Publicly recognising employees can be a good option for recognising particularly impressive performance or achievements which warrants more than the usual “thank you”. And these can be easily tailored to meet your budget – you could give each employee receiving an award a small token of your appreciation such as a bottle of wine or it could simply be a place on the employee honours board, where the most recent award winners are showcased. Furthermore, if you wanted to invest more into rewards for these winners, then you could simply change the number of employee awards or frequency that they are given out to manage company costs.


  • Adopt a more formal employee recognition programme
    Another idea is to introduce a more formal recognition and rewards scheme – this will allow you to set guidelines on how employees should be rewarded and for what reasons, ensuring a more uniform and fair approach across the business. Employees may earn points for meeting their objectives, displaying company values or exceeding targets and these could then be redeemed for small rewards which they get to choose themselves. By rolling out a more formal recognition scheme, it will be a lot easier to monitor and maintain in the long-term. Whilst this might sound like it is a costly option, it doesn’t have to be as recognition schemes can be tailored to meet your needs and budget. The advantage of this option over the others is that you will be able to monitor the recognition going on in your organisation and the buy-in of different departments and staff members into the scheme.

The impact of recognition on employee wellbeing

Promoting employee wellbeing is one of the key focuses of many HR departments, and for good reason. It is reported that workplaces in the UK lose up to 27 days of productive time per employee per year due to high stress and other wellbeing issues. With productivity loss predicted to cost the economy £57bn per year¹, the implications of poor employee wellbeing cannot be easily dismissed.

As well as this, there is a clear positive correlation between promoting employee wellbeing and overall company performance. A study by the O.C. Tanner Institute into the impact of employee wellbeing found that employees who rated their wellbeing as “excellent” had a 19% better personal work output when compared with those who said rated wellbeing as “poor” ².

Businesses have resorted to a range of different solutions to try to tackle the issue of employee wellbeing. These range from providing confidential employee assistance programmes, gym memberships or discounted healthcare. However, another practice that has also been shown to have a positive impact (which could involve a lesser financial commitment for the employer) is an effective employee recognition and reward platform.

Not only is recognition a powerful means of boosting employee performance and encouraging employee retention, it can also affect your employees on a more personal level as it influences their mental health and wellbeing. By taking the time to acknowledge and appreciate employees at work, you instil feelings of pride and gratitude in them. These emotions have been shown to make people both happier and healthier in general. The overall positive effects that these emotions can have on a person’s wellbeing, include reducing stress levels and boosting self-esteem. Company recognition schemes also assist in creating a culture of community which leads to improved interpersonal relationships between teams and colleagues. These social factors also have a positive impact on people’s stress and productivity levels.

And what business doesn’t want to have employees that feel this way? These effects have a direct impact on how employees perform within your business so by caring for their wellbeing, you encourage them to work to their best ability and perform well. Whilst you may prefer to incorporate a range of wellbeing initiatives within your company, simply encouraging a culture of recognition is always a good option to include as it can be implemented when you want and does not necessarily have to have a financial cost to it – just a few words to say “thank you” will often make a person’s day.



¹ Reilly, S. (2016), “Stressed Employees Lose Productive Time”, Mercer (https://bit.ly/2IZjvUj)

² O.C. Tanner (2016), “The Impact of Excellent Employee Wellbeing”, O.C. Tanner Institute (https://bit.ly/2H6Pp4P)