Employee Recognition on a Shoestring Budget

Susan_Rink-portrait-forwebWhile chatting with fellow attendees at a recent SHRM (Society of Human Resources Management) meeting, I got the impression that many team managers and HR professionals are struggling these days to get the most out of an unmotivated workforce.

I can’t say that I blame the employees – most organizations have been in cutback mode for months, hours, salaries and jobs have been slashed, and raises and bonuses eliminated. 

After 18 or so very long months, it looks like the economy is slowly turning around.  But employees are having a tough time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  Clearly, something needs to be done to re-energize the team, and fast.

Now, I know what you are going to say.  “Susan, we don’t have the money to do a big rah-rah program.”  You’re right.  It would be a terrible idea to do one right now when people are still losing their jobs.

Instead, I have a few quick, low-cost/no-cost ideas that will spread recognition through the entire organization:

  1. Thank you notes.  My mom works for a non-profit where a hand-written thank you note (not an email!) is a standard practice.  Managers are encouraged to find a reason to recognize new employees within a few weeks of their start date, and employees are encouraged to write notes to their peers when someone jumps in to lend a hand.
  2. A silly department award.  I love to draw from pop culture, so I’m a big fan of using TV and movie characters as inspiration (e.g., “The MacGyver Award” for the most creative problem-solving).  Look for a way to recognize behaviors that model your company’s culture, and be sure to pass the award around.
  3. One-on-one sessions.  Take time to schedule a coffee break with your employees and ask them to talk about their challenges and ideas.  Remember that this is a LISTENING exercise; don’t dominate the conversation, let the employee talk.
  4. Professional development opportunities.  Most of us belong to a professional association or a local business networking group.  Over the next few months, take a few employees as your guest to these functions.  It’s a great opportunity for them to expand their horizons and network on behalf of your company. 
  5. Pot luck luncheons.  Granted, this actually works best if some of your employees can cook.  But if their culinary talents are limited to the supermarket salad bar, you can still pull this off.  Just do an afternoon snack break instead.  Anyone can buy chips and salsa, right?

At the end of the day, it’s all about creativity and fun.  Don’t be afraid to experiment a bit.  And don’t forget to get your employees involved.  They are the best sources of ideas to motivate the team.

Susan

About Susan Rink

Susan C. Rink is president and owner of Rink Strategic Communications, LLC (www.rinkcomms.com) and presenter of the "Take Note" podcast series (http://www.youtube.com/user/RinkComms).
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