The Top Three Non-Financial Ways to Recognize Employees

Some organizations are maintaining a tight budget as they continue to navigate the uncertainty of the global pandemic. To stay afloat, they are reshaping plans, goals and may need to make further budget changes as 2021 unfolds. Financial rewards and recognition may be falling by the wayside; therefore, non-financial incentives for employees are becoming increasingly important.

Financial incentives can be used as recognition, usually in gift cards, cash, or merchandise with a range of values. Non-financial incentives motivate and engage employees in ways that are not a part of an employee’s pay. Generally, they cost the company little or no money, yet matter a lot.

If you are looking for ways to recognize your employees from a non-monetary perspective, you are in luck! If not, you will still want to take note: The following three non-financial incentives are even more effective at recognizing employees than even the highest-rated financial incentives.

1) Praise and approval from the manager or supervisor. “Continuous, supportive communication from managers, supervisors, and associates is too often underemphasized. It is a major, major motivator,” Jim Moulthrop, Consultant at Management Perspectives Group, stated. In a Gallup workplace survey, employees were asked to recall who gave them their most memorable recognition. The data discovered that the most notable recognition comes from an employee’s manager or supervisor (28%), then a high-level leader or CEO (24%), the manager’s manager (12%), a customer (10%), and peers (9%).

The survey also reveals that the most effective recognition is honest, authentic, and individualized to how each employee would like to be recognized. Managers and supervisors should learn what kind of praise people on their team prefer. For some, recognition during the one-on-one meetings could suffice. For others, they may like to be praised in front of the whole group or organization. When giving recognition, make sure to address the specific occurrence and the positive impact it had.

2) Attention from high-ranking leaders. The same Gallup survey articulates that, “Nearly one-quarter of employees said the most memorable recognition comes from a high-level leader or CEO. Employees will remember personal feedback from the CEO — even a small amount of time a high-ranking leader takes to show appreciation can yield a positive impression on an employee.” A little bit of acknowledgment from a CEO could become a career highlight for certain employees. Is there an opportunity to have your upper leadership participate in recognition? It may be worth exploring.

Many employees are still working virtually; some may never go back into a physical office. That said, various software applications allow employees to virtually show recognition to one another at any level at your organization. A few of these include or Be mindful that adding a software program may add an additional cost.

3) Opportunities to lead projects or task force. Steve Farrar, Senior VP, Wendy’s International, once said, “Always assume each and every person wants to do a better job and grow.” Employees are generally happier and more engaged in their work when they are growing and being challenged.

Recognizing an employee for their excellent work by giving them a promotion or increase in their scope of responsibility shows that the organization trusts them. It also creates personal satisfaction, purpose, and pride in their work.

Below are a few other creative non-financial or low-cost rewards worth mentioning.

  • Use of the president or CEO’s office for a day.
  • The front parking spot.
  • A handwritten thank you note.
  • A vacation day.
  • Bouquet.
  • A public thank you (if this is something they appreciate).
  • Give them the ability to stop working on a least favorite task (maybe for a short period).
  • Mail them a birthday card.
  • Find something they enjoy collecting (like coins) and give them one.
  • Leave their favorite drink or snack on their desk or in the breakroom.
  • Create an award they can keep, frame, or have as a trophy for a job well done.
  • Provide them with some one-on-one mentoring.

As uncertainty is still abundant, now may be a good time for organizations to consider including more non-financial incentives into their recognition plans.

Employers Council is here to help. Reach out to us for assistance with your non-financial or financial recognition plans.