Recognising top performers has long been viewed as a good strategy to motivate future performance. Along with proven engagement and retention benefits, offering employee rewards or recognition allows you to acknowledge the results or behaviours that help your organisation achieve its objectives, which incentivises future similar behaviour.

But when budgets are tight, how can you reward your employees? Regardless of how well-deserving they are, if the money isn’t available then the bonus or raise an employee may have otherwise expected can no longer be given.

It’s at times like these that managers can be left unsure of how to give recognition to employees. The good news is that, for many employees, non-financial benefits are just as important as the monetary component of any staff recognition program. In fact, many employees prefer non-financial forms of recognition.

After all, a little appreciation can go a long way and the fact that recognising employees costs considerably less than rewarding them with monetary bonuses doesn’t make it any less effective. In fact, the opposite is often true, since taking the time to acknowledge good performance is likely to result in a more considered and personal approach, and is therefore a more effective way of recognising staff.

Here are the first five ways to recognise top performance when budgets are tight:

1. Treat people as individuals

Firstly, it’s important to identify and recognise what motivates each individual employee. Good recognition starts with gaining feedback from your employees to ensure the rewards you offer will motivate them. After all, not everyone is motivated by the same things. Therefore, open a dialogue with your employees and invite them to identify which non-financial recognition and rewards they would prefer.

Based on this, you can personalise the recognition you offer based on the motivations and preferences of each individual employee.

2. Say ‘thank you’

A genuine and heartfelt ‘thank you’ can be highly motivating and increases an employee’s feeling of appreciation. There are different degrees of recognition though, so decide which will work for the employee in question. For example, some employees find it very satisfying to receive formal public recognition, while others prefer a deliberate ‘thank you’ in a smaller team or one-on-one meeting. A team email or thank you note are other options that allow you to acknowledge an employee for their hard work.

Regardless of the method you select, offering words of gratitude to an employee for their efforts and acknowledging the value they’ve added to the team or organisation shows you’ve not only noticed their success but value their contribution. It shows that you understand their effort is worthwhile and important.

3. Social media

Many modern recognition programmes also use internal social media, such as recognition-specific tools or apps, to instantly recognise employees who go the extra mile. Managers and peers can single out high performance, with the results displayed on the staff intranet or organisation’s social channels so that anyone can see them.

4. Career progression

Many employees are highly motivated, so offering an opportunity to design a career progression plan to help an employee reach their goals is another way to recognise outstanding performance. Sitting with an employee after their annual review, for instance, to determine how they can position themselves for a future promotion can be very meaningful. It shows you are invested in their future, while acknowledging their strong performance in the here and now.

5. More challenging tasks

Not everyone is motivated by a promotional pathway though. For other employees, the opportunity to work on more challenging or varied work and expand their skills may be more meaningful. Or perhaps you could consider giving them the opportunity to lead a project or scope out an identified opportunity for growth.

Follow us again next week for the rest of the ways to recognise top performance when budgets are tight.

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