A downward economy is the perfect time to motivate employees and reward worker bees.
With the slowed financial landscape, not all companies can raise salaries and offer big bonuses this year. In a recent report by msn.com, employees stated that their biggest concerns included the price of fuel, and they've sacrificed going out to dinner and the movies in order to make ends meet.
Employers, this is your big opening. Instead of waiting until the end of your fiscal year to boost morale, why not get a jump on it now? Although a gift card cannot replace cold, hard, cash, keep in mind that one of a company's most important resources are its people. If you can keep your talented employees happy during less-than-steller economic times, you can certainly keep them during an economic boon.
Here are some suggestions to reward your best performers:
(1) Time. Employees increasingly complain that they cannot balance life and work. Here's your opportunity to improve the balance. When an employee has just finished an overtime project (perhaps without the overtime pay?) give them flex-time off. This gesture accomplishes several goals: your employee feels like their hard work has been acknowledged, they realize that "the man" remembers employees have lives outside of work, and you can promote how your company favors a work-life balance.
(2) Cake. Yes, Marie, let them eat cake. This one is simple. Each month, purchase cake to recognize employment anniversaries, birthdays, whatever. Just let your employees take a break for a piece of cake. Trust me, if you get a good baker, everyone will look forward to this month's "cake day."
(3) Gift cards. Who said there was no free lunch? An easy way to recognize an employee's performance is with an inexpensive gift card to the movies, dinner, or your local gas station. Remember, these were on the list of things employees were most concerned about- the cost of fuel and giving up entertainment to make ends meet.
Now, not everyone will appreciate your efforts. National Public Radio recently reported on the growing number of "happiness committees" cropping up at large companies. The committee's purpose was to surprise employees (a.k.a. worker bees) with unexpected milkshakes and cookies to entice employees to work late that day, or to reward them for working late the day before. Not all of the bees appreciated the effort, and some said they would rather the company take the Happiness Committee's budget, divide it among the bees, and send a check appropriate for people. In any event, working towards keeping employees happy is never bad for business.