How today’s top Employer Brands develop their startup culture by taking care of their people
Culture and rituals will create themselves, whether you like them or not, if they are not developed and continuously held from the top down. For many emerging, growing, and even established organizations, focusing on the internal cultural components, such as activities or mechanisms, to reward employees is often an afterthought. We believe, however, that employee recognition is essential for curating company and brand culture, productivity, establishing loyalty and reinforcing behaviors that serve the overall mission.
Employees do look for satisfactory compensation and benefits from their employer, yes. But employees also want to contribute substantially to their organization and to be valued and appreciated for their efforts. Organizations that offer rewards and recognition to their employees for hitting major milestones or for exemplary personal performance are more likely to attract and retain quality candidates, boost morale and truly engage employees. Rewards and recognition also consistently contribute to overall employee satisfaction and wellbeing.
Rewarding and recognizing employees can include a simple acknowledgment of an employee’s performance, genuine compliments and monetary rewards. For the startup though, it simply may not be feasible to spend excessively on perks or incentives for employees. With this in mind, we’ve gathered a comprehensive list of 25 out-of-the-box (and budget-friendly) ways to reward and recognize employees. These activities will not only bring a bit of levity to the office, but will also work to create an outstanding company culture and build positive and cooperative relationships amongst your team.
Ideas to Consider and Adopt:
- Mini Brunches – Perhaps you are celebrating one member or the entire office, offer an arrangement of breakfast goods to get the body and mind going first thing in the morning. Hey, everyone needs to eat.
- SNAPS Cup – (Pass around a cup and write a moment of celebration, recognition or praise for that person.) Each member of the team writes something encouraging or recognition of a milestone on paper, they then drop that into the SNAPS cup and then go around reading all of the nice sentiments and shoutouts from the cohort.
- Obnoxiously Large Golden Star – Remember when getting a gold star next to your name in school or on assignment meant a job well done? Now take that to the extreme with an obnoxiously large gold star to show your team members they’re stars in your eyes.
- Singing Telegram – Arrange for a group of acapella musicians to perform “Moving on Up” or “Celebration” for the top performer of the week/month.
- Cardboard Cutouts of the Person – Nothing says you’ve done great work like a life-size cardboard cutout, of yourself. Think car salesman or the Jonas Brothers.
- Face Cut Out – The whole office has a cut out of a person’s face on sticks.
- Personalized Bobbleheads – You can design and customize a bobblehead doll of the employee of the moment. Who doesn’t want their own bobblehead?!
- Custom Cake / Cake with their Face on it – This is a treat the entire office can enjoy! When it’s time to show appreciation for a member of the team, order in a cake and customize it with an image of that person. Get the cake and eat it too.
- Birthday Sash or Crown – Get one ask for the day/week – Recognize that special member of your team for their birthday, their company anniversary, because it’s Wednesday, with a Sash fit for a Pageant Queen.
- Joy Ride – A team member gets to take the’ Boss’ out in his or her car, and lunch is on them – They fly, and they buy.
- Surprise Gifts – Rewarding an employee doesn’t need to be extravagant, as long as it’s thoughtful. Even a small token of your gratitude like flowers, or special branded stationary when they least expect it, may just make their week.
- Personalized / Monogrammed Journal – Everyone loves a little personalization. Give your team member something useful, but with a personal touch.
- CEO for the Day – Depending on your organization, this may take a totally different shape. Perhaps this person gets to delegate that days’ tasks, work from the corner office, lead and oversee all meetings, whatever the case may be, let that employee ‘wear the crown’ for the day (figuratively speaking).
- Work From Home Day / PTO – Give your employees the occasional 4 day work week, or let them work exclusively from home.
- Traveling Trophy – unique to your office – Perhaps you’re all GOT fans, then make your traveling trophy a replica of the Iron Throne. When it’s that person’s time to shine, your team member gets to bestow the Iron Throne trophy upon their desk. Think about what is meaningful to your team and create your traveling trophy around that.
- Gong Time – (Celebrate a milestone “We Gong”) – You can order one from Amazon. Whether it’s “Gonging” for a major milestone, or closing a major deal, make sure everyone knows what time it is.
- Fast ‘n Furious Fridays – (cut out early for better engagement and productivity) If you know there isn’t much being done from a productivity standpoint between 2:30 pm and 5:00 pm on Fridays, think about adopting “Fast ‘N Furious Fridays”. Give it all you’ve got in the first half of the day and relinquish your employees from their duties early.
- High Notes or Wins of the Week email – (end week on positive) Let everyone go out with a win before the weekend. Send out a company-wide email detailing the high notes of the week.
- Philanthropy Bonus – (involvement monthly or quarterly) People want to help people. We’ve talked about creating a company with a sustainable future, but employees also appreciate opportunities to give back to their communities. Plan volunteering outings or company donations to a cause that matters to your team.
- Company Promo – (Take pictures in company gear and post on FB wall for points – free marketing) Your company/brand likely has an awesome logo or tagline. Think about how to create merchandise your employees would want to wear, and then invite them to share that swag on social media. This is an awesome marketing opportunity for you, and an opportunity to connect for them. Offer up prizes for the photo in the coolest location or most unusual setting, etc.
- You +2 Competition – (Concert Tickets / Baseball or local monthly event) Give your employees the gift of a good time with tickets to a local event. Whether it’s a game or a concert series, you plus two (or however many you’d like!) others get to partake.
- Badge of Honor – Custom Pin or Badge – (that is tied to a core value) Create a branded logo pin or badge that an employee receives for specifically exemplifying your core company values. This badge of honor can be given by peers as well as management.
- Come up with a NEW activity – (Contribute to the culture with a new concept that engages the team) Let your team come up with and implement new activities for of-the-clock frivolities.
- Rewards for Referrals – (Reward for bringing in a new employee or contact) When an employee refers a friend or colleague for a position within the company, (and they’re hired) it saves you time and resources. Reward successful referrals with a small bonus and a shout out.
- EmPower Hour – Make time to have a one-on-one meeting where you welcome ideas for tasks your employee would want to be empowered with (beyond his or her ‘normal’ role) for 30 days and then work with and transition them out of that task (maybe not 100%) with a mutual understanding of what the KPIs are and how to measure “success”.
- “PROOF IT” – Have team members submit suggestions for a 15-30 minute pitch where they show managers why their way may be better than the current practices or operations. Empower employees to think critically about better practices to grow and enrich your company.
Consider adopting one or all of these fun and out-of-the-box reward and recognition ideas. The impact on employee morale, loyalty, and productivity will be well worth your efforts.