Employees are essential to business success. It takes a team to get a business off the ground, and business owners with the most talented employees tend to have the most success. Finding and attracting the right talent takes more than good luck. One of the best ways to attract top talent is to treat your employees well. Treat your people like people and reward them when appropriate.
There's no better time of year to brush up on your employee appreciation best practices than right now. Employee Appreciation Day is right around the corner, on March 1, 2019. So we spoke with business leaders about how they creatively reward employees and show their appreciation.
1. Use a corporate gamification system.
"Each staff member could claim tasks of their choosing and would receive the point values associated with the tasks upon completion. These points could be redeemed by staff members at a corporate rewards portal for anything ranging from an extra vacation and work-from-home days to company-paid continuing education. It's one thing to appreciate employees in the way that makes sense to you, but the gamification platform we used allowed people to be appreciated in a way that was most meaningful to each individual." – Josh Braaten, CEO and co-founder of Brandish Insights
2. Let employees give and receive 'props.'
"At Badger Maps, we like to show appreciation on a regular basis and recognize employees for their work. The way we do this is that we all set aside some time at the end of the day every Friday to give props at our 'TGIF meeting.' Anyone on the team can give 'props' to anyone else on the team, which fosters an atmosphere of appreciation, respect and teamwork. It's a time to recognize co-workers for their accomplishments and contributions that week in front of the group and show them respect for working hard and having done something great." – Steven Benson, founder and CEO of Badger Maps
3. Feed them.
"Bring in donuts or have a pizza party at lunch on the company dime. People ... like to be fed. This type of reward will not only bring your office together [and] ... strengthen their interpersonal relationships, but it will also give them all the feeling of being appreciated." – Tyler Butler, founder and CEO of 11Eleven Consulting
4. Express your gratitude on social media.
"We recognize our employees on their birthdays and service anniversaries on our social channels. Each post will include a photo and something that highlights that employee's contribution to the organization or an interesting fact that their co-workers and others may not know about them." – Michelle Cardin, marketing director of Shawmut Communications Group
5. Connect rewards to your company.
"Once a month, each team (marketing, support, product, etc.) presents what we accomplished during the month, and then we all vote on which team had the greatest impact toward our yearly goals. The winning team gets their choice of an experience with a local Homebase merchant or a donation to a nonprofit organization that's using Homebase. The first time my team won, we visited a mini-golf course nearby – that's using Homebase for scheduling – followed by a dinner at a taco shop that also uses Homebase. The team that won last month decided to have Homebase make a donation in their name to the Houston Food Bank, which also uses Homebase to manage their team. It's a great way to show appreciation for Homebase employees while also building a closer connection to the customers we serve." – Ravi Dehar, head of growth at Homebase
6. Delegate a team award.
"With the goal of pushing recognition down from higher-ranking staff members, newly announced program Cash Me at My Best spotlights team members who go above and beyond during [our] busy season. Employees being recognized receive an email with a description of why they are being recognized as well as a 'WEC Cash' deposit, which can be redeemed for a gift card at any point during the busy season. These 'deposits' are then shared at the firm's weekly staff meeting to make the recognition public and promote positive team morale throughout the duration of the busy season." – Sarah Taylor, talent acquisition and development manager at Wall, Einhorn & Chernitzer
7. Offer fitness opportunities.
"Since our onsite fitness center opened in January of 2018, many team members made major strides in living healthier. One team member lost over 140 pounds in less than a year, allowing him to buy new clothes at regular department stores. He serves as an inspiration to many other team members attempting to improve their health and wellness." – Jason Trice, president and CEO of Jasco
8. Give employees extra time off.
"I think the most valuable way to recognize an employee today is through time – that is, time off, time to do something else besides work. It could be family, a hobby, a charity or a short vacation. I don't think it needs to be routine or regular and has the most value when it's unexpected." – Mark S. Valenti, president and CEO of The Sextant Group
9. Encourage their feedback.
"We distribute a quarterly pulse survey [that] allows them to give us [anonymous] feedback about the company at a macro level. We ask a set of 15 questions around teamwork, leadership, career growth, etc. each quarter to measure movement on any dimension. Then we give them three open text boxes to answer the questions: What are we doing well? What do we need to improve? What else is on your mind? We get our results each month with an average participation rate of about 75 percent and have more than 225 lines of data from the responses to those three open-ended questions. This allows all employees to feel heard and want to contribute to making our company win." – Mai Ton, vice president of human resources at White Ops
10. Host events for the entire company.
"Company events are usually quite popular when we do team-building activities. All employees want to feel part of the team and believe strongly in the company. If we can create a positive, fun and flexible workplace, most employees appreciate the independence of knowing they are trusted to get the work done and feel part of a team." – Patric Palm, CEO of Favro
Additional reporting by Sammi Caramela and Brittney Morgan. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.