Comp & BenCultureEmployee Experience

11 Non-traditional ways to reward employees and show them appreciation

What if we told you that your company can go an extra mile in the reward & recognition process and show appreciation to employees in a non-traditional way?

Today, companies struggle to find and keep talents more than ever. They are thinking of ways to conduct good recruitment marketing and improve their employer branding to attract talents. Next, they are trying to keep these talents engaged, motivated, and happy to retain them as long as possible, because, as it is known – it is all about people who work in your company.

In the past couple of years, we have seen a major switch in the way of how companies function. More and more of them are introducing work from home and flexible work time to help employees with work-life balance.

However, it is not enough. Companies that introduce Staff Appreciation programs realized that these programs need to be revised and changed constantly, all in order to praise their employees and show them an appreciation for the extra effort they have put into the business, or new ideas they produced, or even just to celebrate their anniversaries of working in the company.


Traditional rewards are not enough anymore and the need for non-traditional ones is bigger than ever!


According to 2019, Employee Engagement Report by Tiny Pulse just a quarter of employees feel highly valued at work. Just like onboarding, the process of rewarding employees should be tailor-made whenever possible since “only one in three people from this survey feels they were properly recognized the last time they went the extra mile and did good work.”

Knowing that there is a strong connection between employee engagement and innovation it is easy to understand why knowing how to reward innovative and hard-working employees is important.

Here are some of the non-traditional ways to reward your employees, show them appreciation or encourage them to be creative:

1. Time for a personal project/creativity 

Dedicate some time (an hour or two) for your employees to express their creativity. During the workday, many are multitasking and often don’t have time to think about new ideas or creative solutions to company problems. Besides this, you can allow this time for them to work on their own personal project (if they have one).

In this way, you will encourage their creativity and they will feel happy that their company also matters about their projects or encourages their creativity. If you think this is useless remember that exactly this is how a guy named Art Fry invented the famous Post-It note.

2. Stress relief kit

 Wouldn’t it be amazing if every employee had a “stress relief kit” with them during their work? Of course, it would have to be accustomed to their job position and preferences. Let’s say this could be a small box with: an essential oil that an employee can smell anytime when he or she feels stressed, a small stress-ball they can squeeze. This controls stress levels in the body. Some of the things that the box could include are cards with the funniest jokes or moments from the office, tea bags, a bar of chocolate, fidget spinners…

3. Company’s newsletter: A chance to praise employees

 Use the power of a company’s newsletter to publicly praise the best employees of the month. Not only that, use it to praise their innovative ideas (even if they are not adopted), to congratulate them on their small personal wins (marathon runs, sports results, a painting they made, a delicious cake they cooked and posted on social media, etc.) It is important to know these small personal projects that employees have that are important to them and give them credits for it even if they are not related to the company.

4. Unexpected treats

You don’t have to wait for some particular reason to surprise employees with food and treats. Not expecting it makes it a greater surprise and who doesn’t love them? Invite them to join you in a meeting room for a meeting and surprise them with chocolate, muffins or hot pizza. If there are a lot of people in your company you can turn this into a strategy every month for a different team or you can make your managers in charge of implementing it with their teams. Everyone should be included!

5. Celebrate anniversaries

Here is a study saying that employees are most likely to leave after a year of employment. Not all of them of course but young people especially tend to change their workplaces more often than others. Imagine how nice it would be working in a company that celebrates every year of your employment. A year means a lot to all of us and rewarding employees for staying and helping the company grow is important!

6. Office improvements

How often do companies ask their employees how they feel about their offices and if anything should be changed? What was the last time that you did this with the employees? If you do so, you may get interesting insights but, moreover, you will show them that you and your company care about their work environment.

Give them a chance to choose the music if you have any (if not you may think about introducing it) or adding an “Employee wall” where they can stick best moments, photos or jokes from work. Show them appreciation by allowing them to participate in the creation of company culture and ambient.

7. Pay attention to details

Sometimes it is hard to notice every effort that the employees do daily. Especially if everyone’s into their tasks, deadlines, meeting clients, etc. However, be sure to observe some details that some of the employees may be doing without bragging or expecting any recognition because they are the ones who should be praised and rewarded.

Maybe you have employees who are mentoring others just because they want to help and guide them, or the ones who always wash coffee mugs in the kitchen, or even the ones who casually take small breaks from work to relax or improve the mood in the office with a small chat, funny dance or similar. Notice these small efforts and don’t allow them to go unnoticed and unrewarded. If you are thinking of a way to reward them, often it is just enough to tell them that you and the colleagues notice their efforts and want to thank them for making working days easier and better.

8. Reward commuters

Those who commute daily either with their car or by public transport know how hard it is and how much time it requires (imagine 2 hours every day lost just by driving). It can be frustrating and tiring even before they come to the office. Make sure you know who these employees are in your company and when any of them reach targets or suggest an innovative idea, paying half or whole of their transport expenses for a month or more may be the best reward. Remember that those who commute always envy those who live near work and can spend their money on something else rather than on the gas, bus or train ticket, etc.

9. Parking spots

Does your company have parking spots? Is the best one always reserved for the CEO or some manager? You should rethink this policy when thinking about rewarding top performers. Giving your best employee the chance to use the best parking spot for a certain period as a reward could sound better than giving them a money bonus. It is not all about money!

10. A budget for professional development

If the finances of your company allow it – set some money aside for a “Professional Development Budget.” This budget does not only have to be used when it comes to the development regarding their job. Maybe the employee that you want to reward works in sales but has a passion for marketing and there is a great marketing conference coming soon that he or she would like to go to? Show them that the company values and encourages their development and well-being be it related to their job or not. By knowing that there is this kind of budget, the employees will be inspired to do their work better and expect the company to reward them by paying half of the whole ticket for a conference or seminar they like.

11. The power of branding

If you are thinking of how to show appreciation for the employees who are usually top performers but lately things haven’t been so smooth for them, boost their mood by using short reminders as stickers. Go to the nearest place or store where they make sticky papers and order a couple of them with short messages such as: “There are no bad days, just lessons”, “You are more capable than you know”, “You’ve got this”, “You rock” etc.

Stick these to their laptop, computer or desk before they arrive in the office so that the surprise becomes even better! Now they will have their desk branded with short motivational quotes that remind them they are still good and valuable employees even if things are not going well despite their efforts.

To conclude, appreciation should not only be thought of when you need to celebrate successes. It should just naturally become a part of any company’s culture. Besides the already mentioned ways of appreciation in this blog, here’s one extra to make your employees feel appreciated every day: hear what they have to say.

This means encouraging new ideas daily, carefully listening to their needs or suggestions of new processes, a better work environment and then taking action. Just listening is not enough. Probably not all ideas or suggestions will be adopted, however, carefully listening, giving feedback and taking action is the best way to incorporate this form of appreciation in their daily work routine.

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