According to a September 2008 article on the web site for the Society for Human Resource Management ( under organizational & employee development, “Money isn't the primary driver of employee loyalty and retention, recent studies suggest. Open communication, employee recognition and involvement in decision-making top the list.” This article will give any supervisor and personnel manager ideas to implement an employee recognition program, and fresh suggestions if you have one but want to kick it up a notch!

First off, I’d quickly like to address a myth out there: employee recognition will cost lots of money and I don’t have the budget for this! I have certainly heard that one before. So I make sure to list some FREE ideas for you in my FREE article so you have no-cost employee recognition!

Secondly, I’ll give a baseline recommendation for any employee recognition program. This comes from my business expertise working in diverse industries in the non-profit and for-profit world. BLEND both individual & team rewards into your program. The logic makes sense. If you recognize the team, you will invoke a certain amount of peer pressure where people will self-police and motivate each other when you can’t be around at all times. “Come on Paul, pick up the pace please! Do you want to be the reason our department doesn’t get the pizza party?” If you only recognize the team though, there is not ample motivation for people to stand out and individually go above & beyond. They may feel like, “What difference does it make? We all get the afternoon off for FREE before the holiday weekend and I do so much more than Sally!” So blend individual & team for the best of both worlds!

A final guideline for all employee recognition programs before the ideas is shift your thinking from the “Golden Rule” to the “Platinum Rule.” I, like perhaps many of you, was taught the Golden Rule when I was young. “Treat others like you want to be treated.” This actually caused me to make a mistake when I first got into personnel management recognizing an employee very publicly in a group meeting when she would have preferred private recognition to being put on the pedestal in front of her peers.

The Platinum Rule in people management is “Treat others like THEY want to be treated!” With that being said, put a personal touch in your recognition. Get to know your employees individually. Interview them and find out what they prefer & then in a very individualized way that shows them you listened and remember, leverage your knowledge to lower employee turn-over and increase job satisfaction!

Does the employee prefer public recognition or private (thinking of the above example!)? When was the last time you wrote an employee a handwritten Thank You note? Did you know there are FREE ecards you can send on websites like and You can call an employee into your office just to thank them for something they did recently. Make your praise timely and very specific vs. “Chris, just wanted to tell you what a great job you’ve been doing!” How meaningful was that?

I promised FREE ideas, so in addition to the above which are free . . can you create a Wall of Fame and hang the employee’s picture? Give the outstanding person a prime parking spot? Could you handwrite specific notes of praise on post-its and hide them in the person’s office . . they find one when they open their top desk drawer, one when they pick-up their phone, etc.? Especially for salaried employees, remember their entire salary for the year is already built into the budget and if they’re working extra hard reward them with a handmade certificate for ½ day or day off of their choosing (with approval by you).

For low-cost recognition ideas, could you order lunch for the person or team and deliver it to them? Many companies offer “lunch with the boss or owner of the company” and really think about if this is a reward for the employee . . or more like a punishment if they’ll be nervous or terrified or not know what to talk about at lunch with the owner of the entire company?

Could you pick-up the employee’s favorite drink at Starbucks and have it on their desk when they arrive? Do something for their child? Call their loved one (spouse, parent if younger, adult children) and tell them what a great job their loved one is doing?

If you have budget for employee recognition, the job becomes significantly easier but you still have to remember to implement and come up with creative ways to recognize and leverage those $$’s! Pizza parties or lunch for the group and build-your-own-ice-cream sundaes for an afternoon break, etc. are fun ideas. Free food always seems to be a winner!

For individuals, find out if they would prefer a gift card to the mall, the spa, or for golfing! One day, a former manager I used to work for announced as a team reward we were knocking off early at 2:00 and going golfing. Well, who liked to golf? The former manager of mine! Who didn’t like to golf? Me! Not to mention I wasn’t and still am not good at it! I was horrified and nervous to make a fool of myself with my lack of golf skills in front of my peers and began the process of communicating “the tickle in my throat” and how I “might be coming down with something” in an effort to try to go home vs. going to this ‘motivating employee reward’ he had planned for us in recognition of our work. Keep that Platinum Rule in mind and make sure it motivates the employee to continue the very behavior you are seeking to reinforce to begin with.

I have so many ideas on how to manage people effectively, lower employee turn-over and associated expenses, and increase employees job satisfaction and engagement! Don’t hesitate to contact me at

Author's Bio: 

Joy Huber – “Ms. En’Joy’able” - is an award-winning Speaker & Business Communications Expert

For more great information, check-out my CD Programs:
“An Interview with Joy Huber, Business Communications Expert” and “Talk to the Hand: A Woman’s Guide to Truly Thriving Amongst Difficult People” when you visit JoyHuberOnline. Or email me at

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