Six ways to show employee appreciation

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America’s fingers are crossed that the hefty corporate tax cuts will accomplish the trickle-down economic and wage benefits Congress intends. Some companies, such as AT&T and Idaho’s Melaleuca, have given out hefty staff bonuses. There’s nothing like a little unexpected cash to make an employee feel valued.

For small businesses, bonuses might not be an immediate option. There are other ways to show employees that management and owners appreciate them.

1. Discreet dough: If you do offer a bonus or incentive pay, The U.S. Small Business Administration (and common sense) advises distributing it discreetly, such as in sealed pay envelopes or hand-delivered in private. Or simply give the same amount to every employee.

2. Gifts: Don’t have that much cash on hand? Consider a gift that works for all genders, ages, or family sizes. Noise-canceling earphones in a call center. Fresh, comfortable, and personally embroidered uniforms. Restaurant gift cards.

3. Donate or volunteer together: Most people have a sense of community. Consider a corporate donation to a local cause, perhaps close to your company’s mission. Bring the staff in on the selection, learn more about the organization together, and perhaps volunteer together on company time for a shared experience, spreading that good feeling company-wide.

4. Profit-sharing: Instituting a profit-sharing plan — however small — not only rewards employees, but creates a feeling of investment in the company’s success, motivating good job performance. That’s a win-win for owners and staff.

5. Year-end (fiscal or calendar) bonus: If you give them, SBA advises documenting and sharing the policy (ideally available to all) well in advance, so everyone knows how they’re earned, and has a chance to do so.

6. Learning opportunities: Local community college courses are generally cheap. Or bring an instructor in-house. Encouraging employees to learn more job skills by paying the bill can lead to advancement and reduce costly turnover. Some companies even provide learning opportunities unrelated to the job, which can benefit the company in other ways. Shared experiences, such as a company-wide art class, or learning something fun together (especially when of staff’s own choosing), foster camaraderie, create a sense of fun at work, and increase happiness and loyalty.

However shown, employees who feel appreciated are happier at work. And happy employees are strongly linked with greater efficiency and job-longevity. That’s a gift to any small business owner.

Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network.

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