Employees not only enjoy, but NEED to be recognized. Managers who do so on a regular basis enjoy more “motivated” employees. There are many ways to incorporate a recognition program into your managerial program.

Certainly you can provide a token gift, or a gift certificate for an employee’s favorite coffee shop. Most companies prohibit such financial incentives since it does, sometimes, complicate the corporate tax matter which may also impact the individual’s taxes as well. Sometimes a financial “gift’ can be “grossed up” by the company to help take the edge off the taxes paid by the employee, but the employee will likely still notice taxes being deducted on his or pay check for the tax paid on the gross up amounts. Okay, so that can get pretty complicated. There are less complex ways to show your contributors that you enjoy having them on your team.

Some companies sponsor pizza and beer gatherings after work. Nice, fun, but tough for any reformed alcoholics in the group and dangerous legal exposure for the company should any employee drive home while even slightly impaired. Your company may not allow you to deduct the costs for booze/refreshments or for such a gathering itself. While on this point of what’s allowed or not…Just because you have signing authority for expenses submitted by your employees, that does not mean that you can violate the SPIRIT and the INTENTION of corporate expense reporting guidelines. If you need more incentive than just pure ethics and morality for being on guard in your role as an approver of expense reports, think of this: the corporate auditors will eventually catch you, and when they do, YOU will have screwed up a good management career.   I urge you and your direct reports to be squeaky-clean when it comes to expense accounts. Besides, you set the example. If you play games with the expense reporting system, you will set the example for your direct reports to also cheat the system. That will all end badly.

To help you stay squeaky clean on expenses and yet still be able to recognize and celebrate successes here are some ideas:

  • Sponsor a luncheon for the team and have it catered into a meeting room, if your company allows and will pay for it, or if you can afford to pay for it out of your pocket. Perhaps the existing food catering company that manages your corporate cafeteria can be of help. Regarding on-site catering companies, if you do want to sponsor a team luncheon, if it is allowed by your company, you may have to respect the terms of the contract with your corporate catering company. Meaning, you may have to have your company’s cafeteria services set aside a section of your corporate cafeteria and it is they who provide the actual meal as well.
  • Print a hard copy of a recognition note, insert into a fancy envelope, and hand deliver it to your targeted employee along with a handshake, a smile, and a verbal “Thank You.”
  • Holding a quickie meeting with immediate and available staff to speak to the contribution and the employee in front of the team.
  • Publishing a BRIEF newsletter, from time to time, (posting on your corporate intranet), mentioning the employee and contribution, and…it would be a nice touch to show a photo of the employee.
  • Ask your vice president or your corporate CEO to send a thank you note on his or her “letterhead”, but you write the body of the note to make it easy for the executive to “edit” and state it in his or her own words.
  • Nab the CEO and have him or her stop by the team workspace to make a few comments to the team with a nod in the direction of the contributor being recognized.
  • Send an email to your employee and copy some of the corporate big-wigs.
  • If there is a social event and you meet the employee’s significant other, be prepared to make a brief statement of  the positive contribution made by the employee…not a generality, such as “So and so does good work.”  Instead, something perceptive such as, “Likely your [significant other] told you about the long hours he/she spent hunting down the glitch we had in our [insert here] and that because of him/her our company saved over 30 jobs…]

All of the above, of course, is to be done with employee and/or corporate consent, whatever and wherever appropriate,  and in strict adherence to corporate protocols and rules for publicity, etc.

Spotting and encouraging those activities that are  working and contributing to your goals is a good idea. But why keep it to yourself? Publicize it by making a deal of celebrating what is working and who is making it work. Not too big a deal. But not too small, either. Think of it as an investment into employee morale and motivation that will create psychological magic, in a way similar to what compound interest does for dollars and wealth-building. Recognition builds on itself and helps to clarify and accelerate the path forward.

Catch what works!! Tag the contributor.  CELEBRATE it in a reasonable and manageable way.