6 Ways to Reward Employees When You’re on a Budget

The holiday season is a time for giving.

Even if you’re on a budget, you can still do something meaningful for your employees to spread holiday cheer and show how much you value their support.

A few thoughtful acts can remind employees how much they mean to your business, and in turn, you’ll be rewarded with a happy team that’s eager to build positive relationships with your customers.

Here are 6 simple ideas to reward employees during the holiday season:

1. Share your smarts.

Teach your team members a new skill or trick of the trade. Get creative — if you own a retail store, consider holding a gift wrapping party where you help employees hone their wrapping skills. Restaurant owners may want to teach their staff how to create the perfect holiday cocktail.

Your employees will learn to do something they couldn’t do before, and you are building their confidence and capability.  Investing in your employees is something you should be doing all year round, but the holidays offer a good opportunity to have some fun with it!

2. Make music.

The music you choose to play at your business affects how you, your team, and your customers feel. What if you let your team members select the music and try it out for an hour, or even for a whole day? Letting them express themselves and take control over something will affect their mood and sense of belonging.

You can even create a playlist with all of your team members’ favorite songs. That way everyone has a chance to hear their song of choice!

Tip: Now’s a good time to make sure the music subscription you have is designed and licensed for business use, to make sure you don’t violate any music licensing or copyright laws.

3. Re-gift with flair.

Let’s face it, during the holidays most of us are recipients of well-meaning gifts that don’t really work for us. Rather than going out and buying more stuff that might end up in someone’s re-gifting pile, organize a gathering where everyone brings that perfect gift to exchange in Yankee Swap style. It’s good for the planet, good for morale, and easy on the wallet.

4. Pen a quick note.

That’s right, using a pen and a piece of paper. In our digital age, handwritten notes show a different level of caring. Craft a simple message that acknowledges something specific someone did that made an impact.

Then, tuck the message where they will surely discover it, like the sleeve of their coat or under their windshield wiper. Taking a few moments to write down your appreciation can do wonders in making people feel noticed and appreciated.

5. Give an hour.

Imagine the goodwill that happens when you enable a team member to pick an hour (honoring your “blackout periods”) where they can take off and take care of something important to them. Not everyone is at liberty to offer time off (with or without pay), but challenge yourself to acknowledge a slow period, or be prepared to step in for your hardworking employees.

Time is precious — time is a gift. Think how much it would mean to you if someone said: “This hour’s just for you. Spend it however you want.”

6. Welcome feedback.

Honestly, what could show that you care more than wanting to hear from your employees and encouraging their input? Asking thoughtful questions and listening deeply, without interruption, is an amazing act of generosity. Ensure that your team members’ voices are heard, that you’re working to support them, and you understand what’s important to them.

Here are some potential questions to get you started:

  1. What is your favorite part of this job?
  2. What’s one thing about this job that you think could be better?
  3. What could I be doing better to support you?
  4. What’s your dream job?
  5. What are you favorite things to do outside of work?
  6. If you won the lottery and didn’t have to work, what would you miss?

You don’t need to break the bank to give something valuable.

Whether you offer a holiday bonus or not this year, you need to make time to reward your employees.

Hopefully, these ideas offered some inspiration — think about what would matter most to your employees and make it happen!

Your gifts will come back to you in the form of happier employees, and customers, in the New Year.

And don’t forget to thank your customers and supporters this time of year, as well! Sending your mailing list a holiday email will strengthen your business relationships and remind your subscribers how important they are to your success.

Editor’s Note: Originally posted in 2015, this article was updated for relevance and accuracy on November 13, 2019.

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