8 ways to show workplace gratitude without spending a dime

Showing your appreciation for your employees is one thing you can do to increase team loyalty, morale and productivity. So why aren't you doing it more often?

Companies that show they value employee contributions and care about the well-being of each employee have seen increased productivity. However, there are two challenges bosses face in implementing this. First is making time to show appreciation and second are budget restraints. Let's remove the budget issue and focus on what you can do without spending a dime to recognize your team.

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Deliver thanks in person. While publicly acknowledging an employee's work is great, it doesn't go far enough. Too often, managers only announce achievements in group meetings or emails. Go one step further and make the time to have a one-on-one conversation. During your meeting, specifically and sincerely acknowledge not only the work the employee has done but the value the individual brings to the workplace. Express your appreciation for the whole person, including their unique skills, talents, contributions and sacrifices.

Give something of value. When showing your appreciation, be sensitive to the individual and what they value. Each employee is motivated by something different. One option is to give an employee time off. This isn't exactly free, but it doesn't require a separate budget. Another option is to offer a temporary flex schedule which would allow an employee to adjust the hours they are in the office. Or you may allow an employee to work remotely. Every organization has rules and regulations around how time off, flex time and remote work are administered. You may have to get creative in how you implement these rewards to allow your employees access.

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Advocate for your employees. Show your support for your team or an individual by going to bat for them whenever you can. If your team is under the gun to meet a deadline, it is up to you to advocate for them if deliverables shift or requirements change. At the very least, you should be aware of these changes and try to negotiate more favorable terms for your team.

It's the little things that count. You may be surprised by how employees react when you walk by without saying hello. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Saying good morning, hello or goodbye is not only polite, it acknowledges the employee. You may not be a morning person, but that's not an excuse for ignoring people. Congratulating an employee on a milestone with the company or wishing happy birthday are subtle ways to show you care. Good leaders are self-aware, which means they understand how their words and actions are perceived by others.

Make time for small talk. If you only engage with your employees to provide feedback, that's all your team sees. Take time to speak with your employees as people. Ask questions about their lives and interests. These small interactions go a long way to establish rapport and build trust. And employees who trust you are more likely to go the extra mile to help when you ask them to.

Organize a potluck luncheon. Bringing the team together over food is a great way to bond and celebrate. There's no need to wait for a special occasion, but if the team has achieved a major accomplishment, make sure to tell the team that the luncheon is to recognize their work.

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Build a platform for group sharing of gratitude. If there isn't a forum for sharing appreciation within your group, there should be. You may allow a few minutes in every meeting, a bulletin board or a page on your internal website or newsletter. If you create a culture that expects people to share their gratitude, you'll begin to see the rewards. Of course, it starts at the top, and as the manager, what you do sets the example of accepted behavior.

Praise in public, criticize in private. Publicly recognizing your team's work is important. However, there's one basic rule many managers forget. Never discipline or provide negative feedback in a group setting. Any individual criticism should be done privately. However, you may decide to tell the team that you're addressing an issue privately with the employee without going into detail.

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report

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