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6 Ways to Show Your Employees You Appreciate Them -- Without Paying Them More

Valued employees are valuable employees. Show your people some love, and they'll respond with loyalty and higher productivity.

Nov 12, 2021

by Chirag Kulkarni, 2018

When it comes to retaining your best employees, more money isn't always the answer.

No one objects to a large bonus or an extra week of paid time off, but sometimes employees just want to feel appreciated. Managers who fail to recognize the efforts of their employees not only create tension in their relationships, but also lower the productivity of their teams.

According to a Westminster College poll on employee motivation, 69 percent of people surveyed would work harder if they believed their leaders appreciated their work. If employees don't feel appreciated, they don't work as hard -- and why should they? From their perspective, no one notices if they beat the average. Their only motivation to do well is to keep their jobs.

Appreciated workers are motivated workers. By instilling recognition as part of the company culture, you can not only improve morale in the office, but also increase productivity while reducing turnover.

Different employees prefer feedback in different ways, though. Some like one-on-one meetings, while others enjoy public praise. Still others would rather receive personalized gifts or attend employee parties. To show your workers that you value their contributions, consider some of the following forms of employee appreciation.

1. Offer career growth opportunities.

Learning experiences might not sound as fun as a pizza party, but some of the most driven employees prefer their rewards in the form of additional knowledge. Give employees new resources to expand their horizons, then provide them opportunities to take on projects outside the scope of their usual duties.

This can be even more beneficial in today's digital business landscape where team members don't always work face-to-face in a traditional office. "When your employees are remote or overseas and interactions are limited, it's essential they not only understand the company vision, but also their place within it. Succession planning helps employees see the next step ahead. Opportunities for advancement, on the other hand, enhance output and delivery but also allow staff a key role in their own long-term success," says Sarosh Rizvi, Executive Director of Kleos Microfinance Group, a nonprofit organization combating poverty through women's centered development programs.

One of the best ways to train motivated employees is to implement a learning management system, or LMS. eLearning Industry maintains a list of some of the best LMS options, allowing entrepreneurs and business leaders to compare different systems so they can choose the right one. Employees appreciate the investment in their professional growth, and the company enjoys a more skilled, versatile workforce as a result. Everyone wins.

2. Provide a fun snack experience.

Food is a great source of energy and a nice pick-me-up. Everyone loves a treat. Of course, the complicated relationship between food and happiness is well-documented, but if the right food is provided, it can provide real potential for long-term satisfaction in the workplace. If the office invests in snacks for the break room, employees can gather, feel appreciated and get back to work without ever leaving the premises.

3. Facilitate health and well-being.

Healthy people make healthy employees. And healthy employees utilize sick leave less often and have more energy throughout the day. That's why 87 percent of employers surveyed by Healthcare Trends Institute in 2015 offered some level of incentive for employees to work out, eat better or lose weight.

Implement a wellness program that rewards employees for healthy activities. People who already work out will be grateful for the bonus, while those who do not will see the program as an opportunity for self-improvement -- or at least an indication that the company cares.

Some companies, like Reebok, even provide on-site gyms and fitness classes. Whether you offer a discounted gym membership or a ropes course in the parking lot, employees will appreciate the investment in their well-being.

4. Involve employees in company decisions and outreach efforts.

Demonstrate trust by allowing employees to help decide what the company does with its profits. That doesn't mean employees should get to vote on potential acquisitions, but employees who feel like their opinions are valued are more likely to work hard for the company's mission.

Eighty-eight percent of millennials surveyed in the 2016 Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study see their roles as more fulfilling when they can make positive societal impacts through work. Let employees decide the focus of the company's charitable outreach efforts. Provide paid volunteer days so employees can dedicate time to important causes without worrying about lost wages.

5. Adopt peer recognition programs.

Research from SHRM and Globoforce discovered that 41 percent of companies surveyed who use peer-to-peer recognition programs see improvements in customer satisfaction. When employees can recognize each other publicly for their good deeds -- for instance, assisting with an important project or producing work of exceptional quality -- those positive feelings resonate throughout the company.

Tools like 15Five allow employees and managers to give each other virtual high-fives. Hold contests to see not just who receives the most awards, but also to see who gives the most awards. Recognize the recognizers to enhance the strength of the program.

6. Give people better time off.

Time off is kind of like money, but even better -- it's money earned while relaxing on the couch, watching a movie or playing with the kids. Provide ample opportunities for employees to create the work-life balance that fits their needs.

Not all PTO is created equal, however. Parents need flexible daily schedules to pick up kids from school. Workers with wanderlust enjoy extended opportunities to travel abroad, even if they have to do some remote work in the process. Show employees that you respect them as people, not just as worker bees, and you will get their best efforts while they're on the clock.

If employees can't think of what to do with time off, give them more options. Gap Inc. provides employees free access to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Seek partnerships to expand employees' horizons, and they will reward the company with their continued effort and loyalty.

Employees are the driving force behind every company's success, and it's time they felt appreciated for that. Implement one or more of these recognition programs or use them as a springboard for your own ideas to show employees how much they matter.

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