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While the economy hurts business and shrinks our 401(k)s, studies show that the recession is also dragging employee engagement down with it.

Over the past two years, 66% of firms experienced decreases in employee engagement, according to a national survey of U.S. companies by Quantum Workplace.

Improving employee engagement will not make the recession disappear, but it may make the difference in the success your business finds when the economy turns around.

As an employer, you have the power to significantly influence how motivated and engaged your employees are.

Luckily, the solution for diminishing employee engagement doesn’t have to demand a large chunk of your budget. Sometimes it’s the simplest ideas that can have the most lasting results.

Use a few ideas from this list of 10 low-cost employee incentives to motivate employees and show them you care without breaking your budget:

1. Hold an event for no reason.
Come up with a themed event, even if there isn’t a holiday to celebrate. Some examples: Crazy Hat Day, Favorite Sports Team Day. Have employees bring in some snacks from home and treat them to a few pizzas on the company’s tab.

2. Allow employees to take a family day. For those days when kids may be off school, but parents may not be off of work, allow employees to telecommute. Whether it’s a school half day or snow day, let employees skip the commute, still get work done, and spend more time with their kids.

3. Create a contest. Hold a contest that everyone can participate in – post a trivia question on the company intranet or fill a jar full of thumbtacks and place it on the receptionist’s desk. Let employees guess the answer and give a small prize to the winning guess.

4. Celebrate small achievements.
Reward employee achievements with small tokens of appreciation. Give a set of movie tickets to someone who exceeded their sales goals this month or present a small gift card for coffee to an employee who went above and beyond to help a coworker.

5. Give a discount on what you do. Give employees a small discount on the products or services you sell. Encourage employees to pass the offer along to friends and family.

6. Free food. Hold a pizza party on a Friday afternoon or bring in a few dozen bagels one morning. It’s a small gesture that everyone will enjoy and a simple, low-cost way to show your appreciation.

7. Have employees recognize each other. Ask employees to write something they admire about a coworker on a small piece of paper. Frame their message along with a photo of the employee and hang it along the hallways.

8. Create a VIP parking spot. Reserve one of the best spots in the parking lot for employees who have done something outstanding. Give a new employee VIP parking privileges each month.

9. Turn the break room into a game room
. Stock the break room with some classic board games – Chutes and Ladders, Sorry!, Operation, even checkers. The games don’t cost very much and provide some entertainment for employees when they take their break.

10. Say “thank you.” Leave a handwritten note at an employee’s desk telling them ‘thank you’ for a job well done. They’re two small words that can deliver the highest ROI when it comes to employee incentives.

Improve the productivity of your staff by showing them some well-deserved appreciation from time to time. Even the most simple employee incentive ideas can be just as effective as other high-priced options when you want to show how much you care.

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Source by Marie Adams