Top Ten Non-Monetary Ways to Reward Employees

chalkboard with a message: top ten non monetary ways to reward employees this holdiay season


If you ask an older generation, they’ll tell you all about the “Christmas Bonus.” In a bygone era, the employee-employer relationship was reaffirmed each holiday season with a bonus check for the employee. If you’ve seen the movie Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase, you can see how problematic this became for employers, and employees.

There are many financial overtures to employees: salary, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing, and 401k match just to name a few. While your employees would undoubtedly appreciate a few extra dollars thrown their way as a ‘thank you’, there are many other ways to reward your hard working emotionally dedicated staff this season that can cost very little (or even nothing).

man double-fisting trophies
A trophy, championship belt, medal and some public recognition go a long way.

#10 – The Trophy

Sure, it’s a little hokey. Maybe your employee would rather have the $20 you spent to get a plate engraved. But a trophy, or medal, or championship belt will stand the test of time. It will be set front and center at an employee’s workstation/desk.  Having a moment with a trophy presentation in front of co-workers (do it on a monthly basis) can create a positive and memorable moment of recognition. It also has a dual effect on other co-workers to try and claim this moment for themselves down the line.

Many of these rewards and recognition are far more memorable than a cash gift or generic big box gift cards, add a personal touch and build relationships to help keep your team engaged. The holiday season provides employers a chance to connect intimately with their talent.  Studies show that an employee is three times more likely to have negative feelings about their employer without occasional recognition. So, show your staff some love this season.

#9 – Food and Drink

A gift card to a popular restaurant or a $50 gift card to the grocery store can go a long way to helping an employee. While this is technically a ‘monetary’ gift, it requires some thought and a personal touch from an employer. Sending someone out to dinner, or getting them a bottle of their favorite spirit shows your employee that who they are matters. Another simple idea is to have food and/or drinks brought in for your staff to enjoy. Do this early in the week to boost morale.

#8 – Outside the Office Experience:

Give an employee or employees a chance to do something for the day outside of the office.  Take someone golfing, to a movie, or maybe a concert. You could even go for drinks on the company after work hours. If you can, make sure the employee is on the clock. Those few hours clocked in and getting paid for something fun will stay in their heads and hearts for many weeks and months to come.

A nice pullover or hoodie makes for a wonderful employee gift.

#7 – Social Media Shoutouts

Some people aren’t going to be into having their face plastered on your Facebook or Instagram. If they are camera-shy, have them send a picture they like of themselves. Then make sure that you’re tagging them by name on your social media channels with details of how important they are to your operation. This public acknowledgement lends employees to feel secure and well loved at their job. This will promote overall performance moving forward.

#6 – Comfort and or Company Schwag

Make it more than a mug. Get something really nice for an employee that maybe isn’t available to everyone or at a price point that most don’t go near. A hooded sweatshirt, even with your logo on it, is a gift that everyone will enjoy. You can give a gift of comfort to an employee as well. It could be a blanket or maybe some nice work boots for outdoor and industrial work. Give your team member something they can use everyday that shows they are part of a team and that they are valued.

#5 – Time

It’s the only thing better than the paycheck. Give your employees time back in their lives to increase their contributions to your operation, and to themselves. Give them an extra mental-health day, or PTO days near a holiday weekend to give them an additional mini-vacation during the year. If you want to give them time during the workday, another popular idea is to let your employee spend the day volunteering at their favorite charity or allow them to work on their own projects on company time. Google lets employees spend 20% of their work time on personal projects. They know this benefits the mental health of the employee and usually benefits them as well from an R&D perspective.

#4 – Autonomy

One of the things people love most about a job is being left alone and not micromanaged. They can do their job with little supervision, and you should be able to recognize employees who can perform at high levels independently. In addition to autonomy, you can also reward employees with responsibility. While that doesn’t sound like a reward, showing your employees you trust them to handle more important tasks in their workload can give them a sense of connection with the team and purpose in their job.

#3 – One on One Time

Simple face time with the boss can go along way. It helps the employee know that they are valued because your time is important and you’re choosing to spend it with them. It gives them ownership of the team by being able to put ideas into management’s head. One-on-one lunches, weekly mentoring sessions, training on jobs beyond their current role and other private opportunities not only make them feel valued, it gives employers a chance to get a fresh perspective and retain employees long-term.

#2 – Education and Well Being

Nobody wants to feel stuck in job. If you want your employees operating at a high level, make sure they’re moving forward professionally and personally. Offering your employees a chance to develop their professional skills or to focus on their health benefits everyone in both the short and long term. Give your employee a paid afternoon off on a nice day, or send them to a spa for an afternoon for a treatment.

You can purchase (or reimburse) your employee for online classes (like LinkedIn Learning or Udemy) to grow their skills. These classes can be as cheap as $10 a course. Be sure to give them time to study and develop while they are on the clock. That Gordon Ramsey Masterclass in cooking might get you a special plate of Beef Wellington in return.

#1 – Flexibility

It is by far the most in-demand job benefit in 2021. People want to work where they are comfortable. If you can give an employee time off early to help them not spend money on child care, or let them work remotely a few days a week or create their own schedule—do it. You’re going to be giving them something that means far more than the dollars on their paycheck. It may not be attainable for every business, but whatever you can do to allow people to balance work vs. life, you’re going to be loved by those who work for you.

Take a moment to recognize those who make your operation successful. You don’t have to break the bank to do so. Just remember that your employees are people, and anything you can do to not be just “a job” is going to make them better employees, which makes your operation better.