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Free and Fab Employee Rewards

A bevy of no-cost ways to reward your troops

By Sherryll Sobie

If you subscribe to the philosophy that nothing good in this world is free, then you haven’t yet heard of the Golden Banana Award. In an anecdote recounted by bestselling author Bob Nelson, PhD, president of San Diego-based Nelson Motivation Inc., the Golden Banana Award came about after a Hewlett-Packard engineer excitedly burst into his manager’s office with news that he had finally solved an incessant problem. “Well done!” his manager exclaimed as he fumbled around his desk for something to present to the engineer. The most accessible item at the time was his lunch bag, so the manager reached inside and pulled out a banana. Since that day, the Golden Banana Award has become one of the most prestigious honors for that division. 

Nelson sums it up this way: “Anything can serve as recognition given the right timing and context. Be willing to experiment and try new things, bring employees into the conversation to see what they’d like. If what you do works, build on it; if it doesn’t work, move on to try something else. This process alone will help keep the recognition you use fresh and dynamic, not stale and predictable.”

These rewards are simple, invigorating and best of all—won’t cost you a thing!

  1. Two small words with one big impact. “Thank you” and “Good job” are so simple and highly motivational.
  2. Personalized note. When paycheques go out, write a note on the envelope recognizing an employee’s accomplishment. Or for something more formal, keep a stack of blank greeting cards on hand and customize each with a handwritten note.
  3. Compliment from the top. Have the company president or manager’s manager call an employee to thank him or her for a job well done.
  4. Horn Tooting. Feature the employee in the company newsletter or distribute a company-wide email. In both cases, spell out the connection between the employee’s accomplishment and company goals. At staff meetings read positive letters from clients.
  5. Take it up a notch. Give the employee a challenging new assignment.
  6. The fun factor. There’s no better way to ensure that a reward is a positive and motivating experience then to add an element of fun… Banana anyone?

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