Whether you’re strapped for cash or just looking for other impactful employee recognition ideas, creative bonuses can speak volumes. These alternatives to a check will leave your team feeling valued.

1. Flexible Hours or Bonus Time off

Nothing feels better than an extra day off. Rewarding an individual or team with bonus PTO can make your employees feel valued. (Be sure to respect the day by treating it like any other time off. That means no emails, calls or texts unless there’s an emergency).  

Make it even better and let your employee choose the day he or she takes off.

If you can’t afford to give away a full day of labor — or want to save that for special occasions — consider gifting an employee a half-day or a work-from-home day.

Other alternatives include a long lunch, with a gift certificate to a nearby spot.

2. Professional Development

Reward your employees, and one-up your workforce, with professional development and training. Many employees expect extra development, so you need to go above and beyond to make it feel special. There are options for every budget, from books and e-courses to an out-of-state conference.

If you can’t afford to splurge on travel costs, local seminars or classes are less likely to break the bank if you want to stick with in-person learning. Otherwise, consider a subscription to an e-learning platform like Skillshare or Code Academy. Be sure to find one pertinent to your employees’ needs, skill level and expertise.

If you’re tight on funds to reward a junior staff member, ask a senior employee or industry leader to teach a workshop or lesson.

3. Personalized Gifts

Scrap the one-sized-fits all approach, and give unique employee recognition gifts. Get to know your team from the get-go with new employee questionnaires. Include questions about hobbies and favorites (restaurant, snack food, beverage and sports team are a good place to start).

The right employee recognition gift will depend on the employee. Stick to a price range, but cater to your recipient’s interests — anything from a gift card to a local restaurant for your resident foodie, movie tickets to the new IMAX theater for your staff movie lover or a class card to a home and garden show for your resident gardener. 

Keep on giving with a subscription-based gift. A subscription service exists for just about every interest: food, beauty products, fruit and even socks.

4. Staff-wide Bonuses

Sometimes your whole team is worth celebrating. When your team has hit a big goal or finished a tough project, get out of the office and make the festivities feel special. And no, cake in the break room won’t cut it.

Be sure to schedule the celebration during work hours if you can. While your employees may appreciate the gesture, taking time away from family, friends and their other obligations can create more stress than you intend.

Try an after-work get-together (leave the office a couple hours early), long lunch or crowd-pleasing activity your whole team will enjoy.