The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

10 Fun, Inexpensive Ways to Show Gratitude to Your Employees

As a supervisor, how often do you show appreciation to your employees? As an employee, how often do you hear “thank you” from your manager? As an HR professional, how do you encourage a culture of thanks and praise?

In honor of World Gratitude Day, which occurs each year on September 21, we’ve compiled 10 simple low- or no-cost ideas for showing gratitude in the workplace. (While most of these ideas incorporate public shows of appreciation, keep in mind that not everyone likes to be recognized publicly. It’s important to meet one-on-one with your team members to find out how they like to be recognized – privately or publicly? Once you know this, you can tailor your appreciation.)

  • Say thank you more often. As simple as this sounds, it can go a long way toward making an employee feel valued, appreciated and recognized.
  • Recognize small accomplishments. You can do this by sending a team- or department-wide email, announcing it in a departmental meeting or having an “accomplishments of the week” corkboard. A handwritten, personal note is even better!
  • Have lunch catered when no one is expecting it. This can be a welcome pick-me-up and a nice surprise during a particularly busy or stressful time of the year.
  • Keep a shareable candy bowl stocked in a common area of the office – everyone loves a good chocolate every now and again!
  • Place some Legos, board games or a few coloring books and colored pencils in the breakroom. This is a great way for employees to destress and give themselves a brain break.
  • Give away movie tickets. When someone stays late, comes in early or puts in a lot of extra hours, write them a note saying “thanks for the extra work and the understanding at home – enjoy a night out on me” and enclose two movie tickets – one for the employee and the other for their partner at home.
  • Provide professional development and learning opportunities. These activities can help employees explore their strengths and build their skill sets.
  • Hand out $5 coffee shop gift cards to employees who go above and beyond. Mmmmmm, coffee!
  • Recognize birthdays and work anniversaries in a group setting, be that via email or at a monthly 30-minute get-together.
  • Give extra time off. Choose one employee per quarter who has done outstanding work, and provide them with a free day off. Who doesn’t appreciate a day away from the office, especially when they don’t have to use accrued time to take it?

There are many more inexpensive and creative ways to let employees know they are valued, appreciated, and seen and heard. For more ideas, visit the Employee Awards and Recognition toolkit in CUPA-HR’s Knowledge Center and read the blog posts 10 Ways to Create a Culture of Encouragement at Work and How to Bring the Fun at Work.