These days, it’s not enough for small businesses to compensate employees for the work they do. Too many negative consequences occur when employees feel they’re underappreciated or, worse, taken for granted by their employers. In such an environment, there’s often a significant dip in productivity and morale, as well as a greater inclination among employees to look for a job elsewhere with a business that truly values their efforts and commitment.

The good news is, there are plenty of ways to show your appreciation without cutting into profit margins or the bottom line. In other words, “rewarding and recognizing employees needn’t cost the earth, and can save the company extortionate hiring costs in the long-run.”

Here’s a batch of low-cost ideas for rewarding employees and keeping them motivated and engaged:

Start by Saying Thank You

It’s amazing how frequently managers and business owners simply neglect to say thank you on an individual basis. A brief, handwritten note — particularly from the CEO or senior executive — demonstrates that an employee’s achievement was important enough for someone to take time out of his or her day and send a message of appreciation. This heartfelt message can also be conveyed by email, but perhaps the greatest impact comes when a CEO or business owner stops by the employee’s workstation and thanks him or her in front of co-workers.

Make a Public Announcement

Speaking of co-workers, most employees derive great satisfaction when their contributions are publicly recognized. (This doesn’t apply to everyone, of course, so before undertaking the following suggestions, be sure you’re not causing undue stress to a shy or introverted employee by praising him or her in public.)

Start your team meetings by singling out a handful of employees who did outstanding work since the last meeting. Be sure to highlight specific accomplishments, so everyone understands what constitutes “outstanding” work. Put the spotlight on these same individuals in your company newsletter and feature them in social media posts about your company culture.

Everybody Loves Free Food

An occasional free meal is a great way to pick up employees’ spirits and demonstrate your gratitude for their efforts. Consider these possibilities:

Offering a meal or special treat not only demonstrates your gratitude, it’s a social event that promotes team-building and a sense that “we’re all in this together.”

Reward Hard Work With Gift Cards

Gift cards are another surefire way to recognize employees and make them feel good about their jobs. Reward cards, retail gift cards and network-branded prepaid cards enable business owners to set a preferred denomination that fits with their company’s budget.

Recognize Milestones

In an era where employees change jobs at alarming speed, an individual who marks any kind of work anniversary should be singled out for honors. Look for ways to highlight individuals who stay with your business for three, five, 10 years or more. While operating within a budget, consider milestone rewards that reflect the value you place on hard-working team members who choose to remain with your company for long periods of time.

You can also celebrate specific work achievements and joyful life events (marriage, birth of a child, etc.). All such celebrations tell employees you’re aware of what’s going on in their jobs and personal lives — another ongoing demonstration of support.

Miscellaneous Low-Cost Rewards

Here are other cost-effective reward strategies:

Do any of the above spontaneously, because adding “an element of surprise to the rewards you give out is a great way to keep your employees motivated and feeling valued.”

Be an employer who welcomes opportunities to show your appreciation for employee contributions. It’s a great resource to keep in your “employee retention arsenal” as well.

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