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Employee-appreciation strategies: What works?

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Question: “I need ideas and suggestions on what companies do for employee recognition on a quarterly and annual basis. We cannot do gift cards or money gifts as the employee is taxed on this.” — Joanne

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We do on-site chair massages with a licensed professional masseuse, lunches on the company, random days off that don't count against PTO, our CEO takes 3 random employees out to lunch once a month just to visit and get to know them on a personal level, off-site departmental lunches, etc.

In our group we have Quality Lunches every quarter for those that meet certain requirements. We even send out an email with voting button to all participants so they change select the restaurant.

In the past we have had a massage therapist come in for 30 minute sessions and we have been taken out to lunch. Days off that do not go against the PTO (we call them "Award Days") are also nice as well, but of course they are harder to get.

How about preferred parking spots in the company parking lot, or photo and explanation of why the employee is being recognized in a public place? Or, even a special lunch with the recognized employee being treated?

Try thinking outside the box. Pizza parties, free Starbucks for the day (someone goes out to but it), Dairy Queen for the day, 2-hours off, a half-day off, free car washes, etc. These are all things we have done. They are relatively inexpensive and are not counted as compensation.

We have quarterly town hall meetings, with PowerPoint presentations. I create a slide(s) with all of the positive feedback we receive from managers, customers and fellow employees.
Everyone loves to have their names "Up in Lights" and it goes over very well. I have copied e-mails verbatim and sometimes I just use excerpts, depending on the content.
If you don't do group meetings, you could do personal commendations using corporate e-mail groups.

When I catch someone doing something particularly well, having a great idea (even if it turns out not to work) or putting in a particularly stressful day/week, I dispense an ad hoc "award" named after our company. The award is redeemed for a gift card/gift worth about $20-25. I keep a gift supply in my office. When the other staff sees the award, which is always given in public, we have a mini-celebration all around. The staff loves it, and everyone qualifies for the award at some point. I also do unannounced "staff appreciation" lunches or banner. Life is not only about productivity...

I like the idea of Award Days off, not to count against vacation or other paid time off. At our agency we have an annual employee recognition event at which the "honorees" receive money (I know you can't do money) and a day off. This day off is greatly appreciated by all who receive it. The honorees also have their photo and the name of their award placed on a bulletin board in a "high traffic" location where it remains until the next recognition event.

I like the idea of Award Days off, not to count against vacation or other paid time off. At our agency we have an annual employee recognition event at which the "honorees" receive money (I know you can't do money) and a day off. This day off is greatly appreciated by all who receive it. The honorees also have their photo and the name of their award placed on a bulletin board in a "high traffic" location where it remains until the next recognition event.

We have an Employee of the Month award. It is a trophy with a karate guy going a kick and the label on it says "Kick Butt Award". The employee gets their picture on the company bulletin board & has a special parking space all month.

We have an annual staff appareciation breakfas. We reserve a large meeting room at a hotel and have a catered breakfast buffet. We give each person a $25 gift card and a little goodie bag. This year we asked for their ideas on gift cards. Since we do this in October/ November, a co-worker and I made Autum table decorations. and then we drew names and gave them away at the function. They seemed to like this as they could use them for their Thanksgiving table centerpiece. We also mention employment anniversaries and birthdays for the quarter. In addition, we played 1-2 getting to know you ice breakers. Which everyone had fun with, even the VP. Next year we will do a luncheon.

Our company has a "Building Community" group that is company funded. This may not be an "award" but it is an opportunity for employees to get together, socialize, volunteer or simply plan a fun event for the company.

The Building Community group basic premise is to have everyone participate in events or programs that give us the sense of community at work. We also strive to help the wider community outside of "the company".

We discovered that when more employees are involved in these events, the more impact it has on the internal and external community.

The events may involve charitable giving, volunteering in the community, fundraising and other events are just plain fun.

In the past the teams have sponsored fund-raisers, volunteered at local foodshelf, hosted bake-sales, promoted dress-down days and held employee events involving holiday fun and food (of course). The possbilities are endless.

Our company holds an annual Recognition Luncheon in November. Employees are recognized for serving on committees, obtaining higher education degrees, completing industry-related exams and/or acquiring designations, etc. We are large so the number of employees recognized is usually around 300. A nearby conference/hotel venue is chosen, everyone carpools and we are away from the office for about two hours. A booklet is published listing everyone recognized and why. The COO speaks and reads the names as everyone stands when their name is read. The morning of the luncheon, those recognized receive a box of gourmet cookies. After the luncheon, we receive a small company logo gift such as briefcase, lawn chair, umbrella, coffee mugs with hot chocolate, etc. Everyone seems to appreciate and enjoy it.

I avoid birthday or anniversary celebrations due to concern about being overly-aware of employees' ages, and about longevity seeming to imply "pseudo permanence".

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