8 Apr 2021 | by Abbie Hanton

No matter your industry, we’re all looking for ways to keep employees engaged right now and reward and recognition programmes are a great way to do just that. But, as when implementing any new strategy, budget is an issue which can’t be ignored. Though the very word ‘reward’ may make you baulk at the thought of the cash you’ll have to invest in a new policy, the truth is you can implement an effective strategy on practically any budget.


How much do companies spend on reward and recognition?

The simple answer? As much as they want. There is no set figure which will make your reward and recognition programme a success as the real value lies in how you tailor your policy to your own goals and the culture of your organisation.

That said, we do know that businesses across the globe are making huge investments in employee engagement strategies. More than £36billion is spent on reward programmes, with the average business allocating around 1-2% of payroll to employee appreciation. However, the average cost of these reward and recognition programmes, which often aim to tackle retention too, is difficult to pin down. Large companies can afford to spend more on big rewards while smaller ones, though more able to offer personalised thanks, may have a limited budget. So how do you make your budget work to increase engagement in the workplace?


Ask plenty of questions

Having decided to improve your reward and recognition programmes, you’ll naturally want to start making changes right away. To avoid falling into the familiar trap of over-spending on a project which ultimately fails to meet your goals, especially when you’re trying to work to a small budget, first take a moment to ask yourself a few questions about what you really want these programmes to achieve.

What are the pain points you’re trying to address through reward and recognition? Make this specific to your organisation. It could be the challenge of high employee turnover, falling productivity or you might even tackle specific complaints that have made their way to HR.

What does good look like? Consider what you want employees to do as a result of any rewards they receive. Will your programme be designed to reinforce creative thinking, or to build a genuine passion for the organisation’s goals among your teams? And what actions or behaviours will be rewarded?

Who are your people? It sounds like a simple question with an obvious answer but whether you’ve implemented it intentionally or not, your business will have a distinct culture and personality. What sort of rewards would the people who work with you most appreciate? If you can tailor your programmes to your employees, motivation to reach goals which earn rewards will increase.


Be realistic about your budget

If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on improving recognition in your business, be up front about it. There’s no point aiming to implement a glamorous awards night, lavish incentive trips or monthly cash bonuses if you know you can’t afford it. Instead, you might think more creatively about low spend ways to show your appreciation – we’ve got plenty of ideas below.

Think about time and resource too. It might not take cash out of your budget, but it is still an expense. Time spent designing the programme, training on how it should be used and the creation of any assets should be carefully considered. When your budget is reduced, it’s even more important to communicate your criteria effectively.


7 low-cost staff appreciation ideas

Send an e-card

Generate an easy-to-share ‘thank you’ which can be shared between colleagues for a job well done. These are super low-cost but can have a huge impact, especially when customised to suit your brand with personal, powerful, inclusive terminology.

Employee of the month

It’s an idea that’s stuck around for a long time, and for good reason. Highlight an employee’s efforts to go above and beyond and make sure they’re recognised around the office – could you share the news over email or on digital displays? There’s no need to stick to the term ‘employee of the month’ either, make them ‘heroes’ or ‘stars’ to make it more playful.

Opportunities for experience

Not every reward needs to be monetary. Reward hardworking employees with new opportunities to expand their roles or take on more responsibility. It feels good to be trusted with something new and this is a valuable way to mark progress towards promotion too.

Build a social element into your intranet

This might cost a little more time, but the effect is brilliant. Create a social posting wall where colleagues can highlight other people’s achievement and share thanks with entire groups to show that everyone is a vital part of one big team.

Celebrate with awards

An awards ceremony might sound flashy but they can be held for relatively little expense, especially if you’re able to host an event in-house. An afternoon away from the desk to see who’s won an award and a round of applause for their hard work helps your staff to see and celebrate every aspect of your business too.

Ask the experts

Avoid wasting a single penny of your spend by looking beyond your own organisation for help. At Penguins, we’ve been making anything possible for over 40 years and our Reward and Recognition team know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to increasing employee engagement.



Whatever your budget, we have a solution for you. Get in touch today to chat to our expert Reward and Recognition team and find out how they can help you improve engagement across your organisation and uncover all the benefits that come from a truly passionate workforce.


Abbie Hanton

By Abbie Hanton

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