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5 Employee appreciation ideas you wish you thought of before

Buying gifts for employees is often more difficult that figuring out what to buy your in-laws for birthdays or the holidays. So how do you figure out how to show employees your appreciation for their hard work?

I’ve got a few employee appreciation ideas that’ll knock ’em out of the park. Let’s start counting down from 5:

5. What yearly subscriptions would they love?

Magazine subscriptions can be a really great way to recognize and reward employees because it comes every month. It comes for the whole year. It doesn’t cost a whole lot of money; it’s actually very personal. The whole idea of magazines is that they are about the things that we are passionate about; things about which we are genuinely curious, or in which we have some sort of real life investment (think travel, cooking, design, sports, yoga, hunting, even parenting).

If you’ve done it right, you’ve thought about what that ‘thing’ is for the people that you’re recognizing. Every time they thumb through it they think of you!

4. Don’t just give them a book, give them a Kindle.

Readers are leaders, and so I like to give books. For folks who have done stellar work for you, don’t just give them a book—give them a Kindle. The new Paperwhite is really a nice reading device. It runs about $80, so you won’t break the bank. Otherwise, just pick out a book you think they’d like. Again—it’s personal—you’re thinking about what it is they would like or that would be important to them to read.

The price point is modest, and if you do your homework you can appreciate and inspire your employees at the same time!

3. Get the team together and do something (other than work)

Show your employees you appreciate all of them by getting them all today. Especially if you have a highly virtual team, like some of us do. Investing in some plane tickets and getting everybody in the same room can go a long way building relationships and rapport. In or out of town, buy them a dinner. Take them to a game. Go out to a theater. Whatever it is that’s something that everybody would appreciate. Go have an experience together and create a memory for life. If you have remote people, you will have to test the limits of your imagination and your wallet.

If your team is local, you are freer to just do something wacky. You can do a Wally ball thing, or a Blue Man Group…you name it. If you are having trouble, think about things you might do with your family; and do that with your co-workers and colleagues. Those informal times help build the bonds that make office communication and cooperation easier.

2. Send something home (for their family).

This is especially helpful if you’d like to buy something that will be appreciated by the employee’s whole family. Buying a restaurant gift card, or some movie tickets, or a family museum pass (which can be pricey), and then sending it to them at home, is a way of saying, thank you to the whole family for sharing your employee with you. And sending a gift home (instead of getting all the glory at the office) is good PR for you.

Let’s just be honest here, sometimes our employees might gripe about their boss to their spouses. Sending something home is a way for you to put your best foot forward. Let your employee’s family know you’re the kind of boss that appreciates employees and rewards good work.

1. Give ’em da money.

My number one employee appreciation idea (and it’s my number one because I think it’s something that’s most appreciated )… is cash bonuses. Sometimes, what people really need is simply money. However, if a cash bonus is what your are thinking about, you need to think carefully because giving a cash bonus doesn’t send the same message that a magazine subscription does. When you give a cash bonus, your employees don’t necessarily hear “Thank you, I appreciate you”. They hear “This is how much I value the work you’ve done.”

Even if folks receive just one bonus, they start to count on cash. If it’s a discretionary bonus, if you just randomly decide, “I’m going to give $1,000 to this person and $3,000 to that person, and $5,000 to that person” folks begin to factor that bonus into their compensation.

If you don’t have a rationale for how you decide who gets how much, the dynamic of showing appreciation and getting better performance doesn’t work so well. It’s more like they won the lottery. In fact, you might as well just buy lottery tickets and hand them to everybody because that is less a part of their compensation. If you’re using cash, and if you can use cash, that’s a great thing.

Everyone loves cash. It only comes in one size. It fits everybody. The color is always right.

But a word to the wise: be thoughtful about who you give cash to and why you give it to them; you don’t want it to become an extension of their compensation—something they feel is owed to them, or that they take for granted.

No matter which option you pick (maybe you have a different one altogether) one thing is sure: you need to appreciate employee loyalty, hard work, and great performance. So find a way and appreciate your employees today!

Photo credit: stevendepoloIf you’re looking for a few employee appreciation ideas, we’ve got some for you!

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