11 employee recognition ideas for small businesses

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

By Emma Williams

In big corporations, employee recognition is defined through special policies that leave little room for surprise. However, in smaller enterprises, business owners have to brainstorm how and when to rewards their best employees. Often enough, the brainstorming process can take too long, so why not have 11 nifty ideas for the next time an employee or group of employees deserves recognition.

A gift card for smaller achievements

Business success is not a one-time event but rather the culmination of a series of small accomplishments. Employees should know that you have their back every step of the way and that your support isn’t just empty talk.

Instead of simply saying “Good job!” why not make them a gift card. Whether it’s a milestone, a task completed successfully, or an event such as their birthday, a gift card is a present they get to keep and perhaps display on their desk to constantly remind them that they matter.

“The pizza’s on me”

Although people are constantly wondering why rent is more costly than food, we all have a gourmet hiding deep inside. People love to be treated food and that’s a fact! Ordering pizza for lunch is something that will get you extra points with every worker, especially if the delivery is a surprise.

On the other side, you can treat individual workers by getting them a voucher at a fancy restaurant. Also, if you discuss business over breakfast or lunch, be sure you’re the one paying the bill. Although it seems like a triviality, they will remember that you are generous.

Parking like a VIP

If there is one thing employees hate, then that’s looking for an empty parking spot early in the morning. They are so happy then they are able to park fast, that you should emulate on this happiness by providing the worker of the month with a primo parking space.

Not only will that individual be exhilarated but others will start thinking: “Wow, I want such VIP treatment as well,” and give their 100% the following month. Parking space might not seem like much but it’s all about feeling special.

Marking important events

So far, we have only discussed how you should mark company success. However, in a small firm, the personal success of every worker is equally important. The company should take part in birthday celebrations, retirements, promotions, marriages, the birth of children, etc. If you mark in the office a date important to a particular worker, they will perceive you as part of the family, rather than just the “person they work for.”

Throwing a holiday season party

Apart from personal events, you should celebrate holidays as well. A Christmas party, for instance, is ideal for thanking the effort of workers who were top performers the previous year. For this occasion, hand-picked gift baskets are the most suitable form of recognition. Not only are these hampers beautifully decorated but they contain everything from condiments to wine bottles. Classy!

Holding a contest or organizing a quiz

We all dream of winning a prize contest someday but the chances of winning the lottery are not in our favor. However, if the workforce is small and they are the only contestant, then you stand a good chance of taking home a prize.

Organizing a company contest or a quiz is a great idea for smaller firms since it’s guaranteed that everyone will be a winner. The only thing left is to come up with appealing and topical prizes, such as an iPad, an Amazon gift card, or a Netflix subscription.

Team building with a twist

In a small company, team building activities aren’t that frequent, as in large corporations. However, team building events are more personal and memorable, providing the employer to use them as recognition for their workers’ commitment and results.

For instance, if your staff can’t stop talking about a picnic, why not take them to a nearby national park as a surprise. Organize the trip and then tell them on Monday to pack their bags as they’ll be going on a field trip on Wednesday. There will be pandemonium in the office!

The issue with the dress code

Even solopreneurs who work online have to honor a dress code when chatting with someone on Zoom or Skype. Formal attire is there for a good reason but it doesn’t have to be worn all the time.

You could have a casual Fridays when people would come dressed in whatever they like, as long as the apparel is decent.

Working in flip flops and a T-shirt will make everyone laugh and have a great time that day; enough to motivate them to work hard and be granted another casual Friday.

You cannot buy time

Offer a working single parent a day off and a big fat bonus and they’d take the former! Time is something no one can purchase, making it priceless. Monetary incentives are more than welcome but most workers will be thrilled if you offer them a paid leave as recognition for the effort they have lately been putting in. Heck, even letting them arrive half an hour later to work will get mean a world to them.

Throwing an office party

At times you will have to reward more than one worker. For such joyful instances, you can throw an office part in their honor. The ideal for the party is within regular working hours, so as not to “waste” workers’ free time.

An office party is an ideal opportunity to mingle with other employees and to strengthen the team spirit. As an extra perk for birthday boys and girls, they will receive presents not only from their employer but from fellow workers as well.

Give a public shout-out

Completing everyday tasks isn’t special but if an employee goes from strength to strength, pat them on the shoulder in public. This will boost their self-esteem and show others that hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.


Employee recognition is essential you wish your small business to grow. The people who work side by side with your every day are the ones who will launch you into entrepreneurial stardom, so you should repay them. From a neat gift basket to a day off, there are at least 11 tokens of appreciation suited for small businesses.


Emma Williams is an Australian writer with a master‘s degree in business administration, who has a passion for anything lifestyle and design related. She spends most of her time redecorating and participating in house projects. As a great nature lover, her biggest pleasure is spending time in a small cottage by the river. https://twitter.com/EmmaWilliams204

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