We don’t all have the budget to thank and recognise our colleagues in the way we might like to. Even though the team might deserve VIP treatment for pulling out all the stops and delivering that project on time and under budget, our champagne imagination might well outstrip our fizzy pop budget. But don’t despair, there are plenty of ways to thank and recognise your team for their hard work, which can be arranged with little or no budget, and only a smattering of imagination and organisation on your part.
Understand what they want
It may sound obvious, but for this to work (and not back fire and result in you looking like a skin flint boss), you need to know your colleagues well enough to understand what they want in terms of improving their working life. Small things often go a long way - putting a TV in the staff canteen to show the cricket during the ashes series, or streaming Olympic or World Cup coverage, costs virtually nothing, but can feel like a magnanimous gesture.
Team it with a few free snacks, and a message to your team demonstrating that you trust them to manage their time and therefore encourage them to catch any of the matches or sports they’re personally particularly interested in (provided this doesn’t cause detrimental impact to the business), and your team are sure to feel more motivated.
The bonus here is that by doing this, you also limit the possibility of colleagues taking time off sick to watch at home, as well as making it clear that if something is important to them, it’s important to you too as boss.
Time is - famously - our only finite resource, and as such, a gift of time to your employees is always appreciated. Allowing the team to come to work an hour early or late on the Monday following the changing of clocks from or to summer time, or suggesting everyone clears out an hour early on a sunny Friday, are gifts you simply can’t buy. The reality, of course, is that this doesn’t imply that people can work less on those days, but the productivity of the team is likely to shoot up to more than compensate for the hour out of the office.
Recognise your colleagues as people
Again an obvious tool in the manager’s tool kit, but sadly underused. Set up a birthday club allowing everyone to receive a card or gift on their special day (team this with the suggestion above and send them home early too on their special day!), or schedule a weekly update for the whole team where you can share matters of importance to the business as well as celebrate occasions like birthdays, weddings and engagements together.
Collaborate with local businesses
Think a little outside the proverbial box to work with local businesses to provide opportunities for your team to have a bit of fun at work. Your local department store or beauty counter might come in to offer free makeovers to your ladies, for example, or local craft companies might come in to demonstrate their wares before Christmas to help everyone along with their preparation; negotiate a group discount, offer some free wine and get the party started an hour or so before the working day ends usually, and everyone will feel like they’ve had some fun at work.
Depending on the size of business, local gyms, masseurs and nail technicians might also come in and offer special packages for your team - taking only a little organisation and a couple of calls to arrange.
Don’t forget the fun
Finally, think about adding a fun element to working meetings and ’normal’ working days. Have everyone share a breakfast once a week, or bring in home baked cakes for a Friday coffee time. At meetings or away days use the chance to bring in a fun and competitive element with games, quizzes and styled award ceremonies - which can be as serious or silly as you like, but should give everyone a bit of a giggle and recognise some achievements along the way.
Having a nominal (or nonexistent) budget for thanking colleagues can be an excuse for doing nothing - but it does not have to be. Some of the most interesting and appreciated ideas are low budget as creativity starts where the cost line ends. Enjoy thinking about what you can share with your team, and improve their morale, motivation and productivity along the way.