When's the last time you came up with employee award ideas to show appreciation for your team? It may have been too long: Employees who don't feel appreciated may be more likely to quit their jobs.
Cory Summerhays, founder and CEO of the construction and painting business Unforgettable Coatings and Blue APE Painting, both based in Las Vegas, Nevada, says showing appreciation to his team is “just good business." By coming up with different employee award ideas and employee appreciation activities throughout the year, Summerhays has built a positive culture that his team is happy to be a part of.
The result? “They don't leave," says Summerhays.
I asked business leaders across the country what employee award ideas have worked for their businesses. Here's what they shared.
1. Write it down.
When it comes to employee award ideas, Geoff Alexander keeps it simple: he's a fan of the handwritten note. Alexander, who is president of Wow Bao, a fast-casual Asian restaurant with eight locations throughout Chicago, says he writes thank you notes to employees when they receive compliments from guests. He also writes them notes when they celebrate a work anniversary and he breaks out the stationary when they get promoted. “People want to be acknowledged, and in this day and age of texts and emails, a handwritten note is greatly appreciated, especially one of thanks from the company's president," says Alexander.
2. Take them out for a treat.
This can be as simple as planning a co-worker appreciation day picnic in the middle of the week, or it can be more elaborate, like a field trip. Steven Novick, DDS, who owns Celebrity Dental in Franklin Square, New York, wanted his team of five to feel like celebrities. So he hired a limousine to take them on a private, VIP shopping experience at a luxury department store, inviting each to select a designer handbag and then celebrating with a party in a private room. “Of course, everyone was shocked and surprised. They all left with a gift they never would have spent that much money on themselves," says Novick.
3. Be kind and understanding as a business leader.
The mantra of Kathleen Sarpy, who is CEO of the marketing communications firm Agency H5 in Chicago, is “lead with kindness." Sarpy is a mother of six, and understands that challenges can come up for working parents. And when those moments happen for her team, she wants them to feel comfortable knowing that they can bring in their toddler in a pinch, or set up a pack 'n' play for a baby. “It's vital that moms feel supported at Agency H5," she says. “This environment brings a sense of relief to our employees and serves as a reminder that things do come up, and while life doesn't always go as planned, we offer support and flexibility to help you get through it."
4. Offer coaching and materials to help them continue learning.
Toni Vanschoyck, who is co-founder of Toni Vans LLC, a business based in Charleston, South Carolina that focuses on success in network marketing, says she does whatever she can to help educate her employees, whether it's coaching them one-on-one or sharing motivational lessons. She also loves giving gifts. “Every quarter, I send each of them a leadership book with which I have fallen in love," says Vanschoyck, who is author of the book Effing Simple.
5. Host an awards party.
Be creative and come up with employee award ideas that energize your team. Walter Smithe, president of Walter E. Smithe Furniture in Chicago, throws a bash for his staff every February called The Wallys. During an evening filled with food and live music, top performers are recognized with a “Wally" statue. “Our designers are the heart and soul of the business and recognizing them formally with a first-class party each year demonstrates what valued family members they are," says Smithe.
When you pour into people, they will perform harder, they will perform longer and they will exceed your expectations.
—Toni Vanschoyck, co-founder, Toni Vans LLC
6. Include their families.
Summerhays has found that when the partners and spouses of team leaders at his businesses are happy, the team leaders themselves are more likely to be happy with their jobs at his paint and construction businesses. Each year, the spouses of the management team are invited to participate in a retreat with his wife. “We found that, certainly for people who work in our organization, it's important for them to feel as though they are appreciated, but a lot of times, they also have spouses at home who are supporting them and doing what they need to do to ensure our people are successful at work," says Summerhays. “It's been a fun event that everybody looks forward to."
7. Give back as a business.
As a way of team building and showing gratitude, some company leaders will organize service days, where employees spend time outside of the office volunteering with a nonprofit. Other company leaders will even make service a part of their own business model. That's the case with LaManda Joy, owner of City Grange, an education-based garden center in Chicago. As a social enterprise, the organization trains people for future opportunities, offering permanent positions to employees who excel. “We recruit at-risk individuals to work at City Grange, who are eager to learn and develop a skill set in the gardening and landscaping fields. We provide on-the-job training and support (and often-times, needed basics such as seasonal apparel) to help employees learn and grow and hopefully create a life-long career path," says Joy. “It's been so rewarding to see people really blossom and shine in horticultural jobs."
You don't have to break the bank with employee award ideas. Writing thank you notes, offering flexible policies, coaching your team and recognizing them regularly are all simple employee appreciation activities that speak volumes. When business leaders take care of their employees, they find that their business ultimately benefits.
“When you pour into people, they will perform harder, they will perform longer and they will exceed your expectations," says Vanschoyck.
Photo: Getty Images