Skip to main content

Getting the Most out of Your Employee Recognition Budget


There are a some tactics for streamlining employee recognition budgets to provide the most value when times are tight.

The reasons for keeping employee recognition efforts going during times of crisis are obvious. In addition to providing comfort and aid, they keep employees engaged and informed and bring consistency in their daily work experience. When combined with compassionate leadership, they become a reliable buffer against burnout, turnover, and otherwise poor mental health. But how can organizations get the most out of their employee recognition budgets?

Uncertain Times

It shouldn’t be that surprising, since times like these are precisely when employee recognition programs can help out the most. Most organizations understand that if they curb recognition in a time when employees are already feeling detached and anxious, management loses perhaps its best cultural communication tool, and if the program is popular among employees, it has a chilling effect on morale.

Employee Recognition Budgeting Tips

However, economic uncertainty and lean budgets are still a reality for the foreseeable future. Companies are perpetually evaluating all the places they can save costs, and employee recognition is no exception. Fortunately, there are a some tactics for streamlining employee recognition budgets to provide the most value when times are tight:

Eliminate overspending. Many organizations have multiple business units, teams, and/or locations to manage, making recognition budgeting a complex task. Eliminating overspending and giving managers enough visibility into their individual budgets to self-manage are surefire ways to save a good amount of budget in the short-term. Enterprise recognition platforms should have centralized budgeting functionality to keep tight control over budget issuance and spending as a best practice.

Inventory and reshuffle priorities. The way we work has changed rapidly during the pandemic. Re-evaluating your new priorities against the types of recognition you offer can reveal areas where your budget can be spent more wisely. For completely remote workforces, focusing on digital and online channels may be more valuable. Companies with essential workers on the frontlines may want to bolster on-the-spot efforts. The more contextual your recognition is, the more powerful its impact.  

Repurpose where possible. Some HR-related budget cuts are easier to make than others during the pandemic – business travel, conferences, trade shows, and holiday parties to name a few, leaving some room to repurpose. Some organizations are already exploring ideas on how they can use holiday party budgets to support end-of-year employee appreciation initiatives. Search for ways to generate more recognition opportunities with the resources you already have.

Leverage low- and no-cost recognition. Low- and no-cost recognition options provide balance to a program, give managers more options for day-to-day appreciation opportunities and alleviate some stress from employee recognition budgets. Thoughtful acts of kindness cost nothing yet arguably deliver the greatest personal impact. Things like eCards and daily affirmation and praise from management are great ways to maintain strong bonds with your people when times are tough.

Calm in the Storm

Employee recognition programs are a reliable lifeline for companies at times like these and present a great opportunity to reinforce cultural priorities. At the end of the day, it is the best method for keeping kindness and compassion in the forefront of everything you do. With proper planning and common-sense adjustments, your recognition program can increase in value and continue to flourish even as budgets become leaner.