5 ways to thank your employees

With the end of year in sight, it’s a great time to recognise your employees’ hard work.

Saying thank you for a job well done boosts morale and job satisfaction. It’s also an effective way to retain your staff – 62% of employees are likely to stay in their job longer if they receive recogntion, SEEK research shows.

Of course, financial rewards are always a winner. But time off, learning opportunities and personalised gifts are great too.

Here are 5 meaningful ways to thank your employees.

Give thanks in person

4 out of 5 candidates prefer receiving recognition through an in-person conversation than through email, SEEK research shows. So, whatever the gift, deliver it face-to-face with a personal thank you, HR consultant Shelley Johnson from Boldside Consulting suggests.

“Giving specific positive feedback is free, and the return is so high,” Johnson says. “It can be tempting to skip this step and deliver a gift via email or in a card, but specific gratitude is something employees don't get very much of. Put simply: how often do you tell your people you're grateful for what they're doing on the job?”

Give surprise bonuses

End-of-year bonuses are a popular and powerful tool, but over time they can become predictable. Johnson says if you’re able to offer them, ‘surprise bonuses’ can give monetary rewards an extra boost.

“There's a lot of value in ‘surprise’ moments for employees,” she says. “If you approach someone out of the blue and say, ‘I'm giving you a bonus’, the surprise element brings a special kind of joy.”

Johnson says taking your employees by surprise and thanking them for a specific contribution puts the focus on their efforts rather than the value of the bonus.

It might be a $200 gift card or $2,000 bonus – what matters is you’re showing appreciation for something specific.”

Offer time off work

During busy periods, time is a valuable currency. Thanking your employees with the gift of time – longer holidays, early finishes, or time off work for an activity – is a great way to show your appreciation.

SEEK’s Resident Psychologist Sabina Read says giving time off for a specific activity shows you’re in touch with your employees and value their contribution to the workplace.

“If you know someone’s been talking about wanting to do an art class, you might give them time off at 3pm on a Friday to take that class,” she says.

If you’re keen to thank your department or wider team, extra annual leave days go down a treat.

“You might say, ‘we're going to give you 3 days extra between Christmas and New Year when we close, because we want you to capitalise on this time to switch off’,” Johnson says.

Create bespoke thank yous

71% of employees say receiving recognition makes them feel more valued, according to SEEK research. But, Read says, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for what that looks like.

“What’s meaningful for one person might not be for someone else,” she explains. “If you're rewarding someone in a way that's not meaningful to them, you're missing the mark.”

The solution? Customised – or bespoke – thank yous that speak to individual qualities and interests.

“If someone in your team is interested in the arts, you might give them a couple of theatre tickets,” Read says. “If someone is more extroverted, they might like their recognition to be shared more publicly in a meeting.”

Unsure what to give or do? “Don't be afraid to ask your employees what’s meaningful to them,” suggests Read.

Provide learning opportunities

Extra training, attending conferences and other learning opportunities are highly valued by employees, says Johnson, although they are often under-used.

“It’s important to sell it as a benefit, that you’re investing in your employees and that it’s a thank you gift,” she says.

She says one client took their team overseas for a conference. They splurged on the accommodation and “explained that it was a really huge thank you to the team.”

Of course, there are smaller-scale, more budget-friendly options too. A local conference, workshop or online learning platforms subscription shows your staff you care about helping them grow their skills.

Recognition comes in many forms – verbal, monetary, time-based, and learning opportunities – and the benefits to both employees and businesses are impressive. Focusing on personalised, in-person thank yous can deliver even better results and ensure a happy and productive workplace.

Source: Independent research conducted by Nature on behalf of SEEK interviewing 4000 Kiwis annually. Published October 2023.