10 Low-Cost Perks to Boost Employee Morale

Employee morale is closely associated with good things in the workplace. Just ask The Internship characters Billy McMahon and Nick Campbell played by actors Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, respectively.

But it’s not always easy for small businesses to know what gets the best results when it comes to making employees happy and engaged. Nor do small businesses always have the deep pockets to implement lavish employee perks, like on-site gyms, sleep pods, and free gourmet food—all of which are guaranteed morale boosters.

Fortunately, there are ways to spoil employees without having a Google-sized budget. Check out these 10 work perks that cost employers very little to implement, yet let hard-working employees know they’re sorely appreciated.

1) Work with local retailers to arrange for employee discounts. Businesses who look out for their employees have loyal employees. Pursuant to that, work with local businesses to arrange discounts for employees who show work ID. Sometimes businesses must offer a reciprocal agreement, but the benefits are well worth the sacrifice for savvy business owners.This is a win-win scenario for small businesses as it doesn’t typically affect the budget, while providing rewards to employees.

2) Celebrate with employees. Employees have a lot of life events to celebrate throughout the year: birthdays, employment anniversaries, marriages, graduations, and the birth of children—just to name a few. While it may be impractical to celebrate all the important events with cake and ice cream celebrations or pizza parties, considering doing so once a month to acknowledge all events in a given month. This simple celebration recognition and action makes employees feel valued and appreciated by their employers. Sacrificing 30 minutes a month and a few dollars for a pizza to celebrate and acknowledge is a small price to pay for the many benefits this action provides.

3) Make shift exchanges convenient for employees. Top-notch shift scheduling software makes it simple for employees to exchange schedules or request shift changes to accommodate issues that come up from time to time. This empowers employees to enjoy things in life that are important to them without making them feel chained to the job. As an added bonus, scheduling software can take into account state laws and union policies regarding overtime and shift requirements for workers.

4) Offer employee awards. A kind word and pat on the back are great. So are merit salary increases and bonuses. However, award plaques, certificates, and trophies provide a public way of acknowledging employee efforts and accomplishments. Businesses that offer awards to employees for their achievements build a base of loyal employees who feel appreciated for their contributions of time, attention, and talent.

5) Smile more. Inc.com recommends smiling more as an essential tool for making workplaces happier all around. It goes beyond simply smiling though, the article warns. Workplaces where CEOs and members of management are able to talk, joke, and interact, informally, with employees have happier employees all around.

6) Criticize less. This goes hand and hand with smiling more. People who are criticized frequently feel unproductive and unwanted in their roles. They’re not motivated to do more. They’ve motivated to leave before they can do more damage instead. Offer criticism with great care and focus attention to the fine art of motivating employees through words of inspiration, encouragement, and praise.

7) Adjust shifts carefully when planning the employee work schedule. Because the body clock is important for employee health as well as for the mental well-being of employees (not to mention too frequent shift changes can throw the Circadian rhythms of employees out of balance), use shift-scheduling software for staff scheduling to help avoid scheduling moves that could harm the delicate sleep balance part-time, hourly, or shift employees need in order to thrive.

8) Encourage competitiveness—in a healthy way. Competition among employees is almost always good for business—as long as it’s done in a healthy and inspiring manner. Businesses should look for competition opportunities in various areas including sales, safety, and production levels. The competitions could be team based or individual in nature and businesses can decide for themselves what types of incentives they’re willing to offer in order to enjoy the many benefits of a productive and engaged workforce.

9) Promote from within and train accordingly. Businesses can boost morale, encourage engagement, and maintain a productive and motivated workforce by promoting advancement from within. Consistent training and education on the job to help employees who want to advance is an ideal way to accomplish this mission. Businesses get the benefit of educated and trained employees and employees feel like they’re on career paths rather than simply doing a job.

10) Ask employees what they want. Last, but not least, go straight to the horse’s mouth. It’s a novel concept to many small business owners, who may feel this solution is a little too simplistic in nature. But, the simplest solutions are often the most effective. Online survey tools are great ways to get insightful employee feedback anonymously, though old-fashioned suggestion boxes may net a greater ROI for the effort.

When it comes to an employee’s work schedule, fulfillment, and engagement, little moves yield big results—particularly when it comes to keeping morale high on the job site. It’s not necessary to offer a full-ride college tuition or a life coach available at the employees’ beck and call. These small, inexpensive work perks offer small businesses low-cost ways to boost employee morale—and keep it that way.