Ten ways to reward your employees -- For free

Here are ten ways to thank and acknowledge your teammates without spending a dime. Try them and let us know which ideas you like best!

  1. Ask each employee which half-day in their work week they would like to work from home. Assign each person their designated Work from Home day (half-day). As you get more comfortable with telecommuting, expand the half-day to a full day or more than one. Flexibility is one of the best rewards and ‘thank yous’ you can give your team!
  2. If some folks on your team don’t want to work from home, let them shift their working hours to suit their schedule. You can do this with everyone, as long as phones and other critical coverage issues are handled in advance.
  3. Ease up on your dress code policy. Many companies started with Dress Down Friday and expanded their business-casual or everyday-casual dress code standards from there. It isn’t just Silicon Valley start-ups that are realizing it’s silly to make employees invest in “business attire” merely to uphold the idea that we need a separate costume for work.
  4. Ask each employee what special project, on-the-job learning experience or other new adventure they’d like to take on in 2017, and then make sure they are given that opportunity.
  5. Bring in your CEO or the highest-ranking person you can grab to sit down with your team. You can talk about strategy, your CEO’s vision, your department and anything else your team wants to discuss.
  6. Right now, sit down with your team and your calendar and map out their vacation and personal-day plans for 2017, so that no one is disappointed and you aren’t caught off guard by a last-minute request you cannot oblige.
  7. Write a specific, warm and earnest LinkedIn recommendation for each of your team members. Also, tell them that you will be happy to be a professional reference for them in the future.
  8. If you aren’t already doing so, schedule regular one-on-one meetings with your teammates. If those meetings are 30 minutes long, don’t use more than ten minutes checking on each employee’s work and making course corrections. After the ten-minute mark, turn the virtual mic over to them. Ask them “How are you doing? What are you thinking about? How can I help you?” and then act on their feedback!
  9. Tell your manager and their manager what a fantastic job your teammates are doing (when it’s appropriate, not every day!). Copy your employees on every piece of good feedback you receive about them. Tell them when you notice them surmounting obstacles and solving problems. Nobody gets enough acknowledgment!
  10. Tell your employees “I trust you to do your job your way. If you need to leave in the middle of the afternoon because you’re exhausted and depleted, then go. If you get here late in the morning, let me know in advance and don’t leave anybody in the lurch. Do your job and live your life. Part of my job as your manager is to buffer you from any corporate nonsense that would punish you for being the brilliant, talented humans you are and not behaving like machines. Remind me when I fall down on that part of my job!”

Trust and respect for your employees, their intellect, their commitment and their personal lives are the rewards people want and don’t always get at work.

You have a fantastic opportunity to turn that tide. You can let your employees know that you could not accomplish your 2017 goals or succeed in your job without their hard work and ideas. Tell them often how much you rely on them, because it’s true.

The surest sign of a confident manager is that a confident manager is not afraid to tell an employee “I need you more than you need me. Thank you for everything you do.”