How Birthday Cake and Reserved Parking Spots Can Increase Productivity

By • July 15, 2014

Tara Ericson
Tara Ericson, Naylor

Our world consists of a never ending barrage of deadlines. It’s hard enough to complete the core high priority tasks for your members on any given day. So why should we make the time to call an employee to congratulate him or her on their recent promotion or write a short note of gratitude to commemorate a team member’s four-year company anniversary? Because you shouldn’t underestimate the impact that appreciating employees has on your organization’s culture and bottom line.

Appreciated employees are more productive. Appreciated employees don’t resign. Appreciated employees yield better results.

  • Appreciate your employees and they will be happier and more productive at work. 
  • Recognize your staff for personal and professional accomplishments.
  • Rewards don’t have to be fancy, but rewards tailored to individual interests will tell the recipient you really do care about and appreciate their efforts.


On occasion over the years, I have elected not to write a thank you note or offer public recognition to a deserving employee. When I do, I’m forgetting the fact that our company experiences lower turnover and higher productively when we do recognize employees for anything from a birthday to achieving a sales goal or the birth of a child! In our fast-paced world of deadlines, we need to make employee appreciation activities a top priority.

When it comes to recognition, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. I find the most success when I tailor the way I acknowledge employee achievement to how they want to be appreciated. Knowing your employees on an individual basis is the only way to know how to manage and recognize their accomplishments effectively.

As an example, during their first week of employment, ask each employee how they would like to be recognized – publicly or privately, with gifts or money, or with small acts of kindness, for example. Create a list of each employee’s “favorites” so you can custom fit gift cards and rewards to their interests: favorite restaurant, coffee, dessert, food and hobbies are good areas to explore. Keep this list on file and reference it when looking for reward ideas. This is also a great time to note the names of their family members, pets, hobbies, age of child(ren) and any other personal information they feel comfortable sharing.

Preferences may evolve over time as the employee’s life changes, so make checking in with your staff on a personal level a regular habit. This check-in doesn’t have to be an in-depth probe, but chat with them for a few minutes in the coffee room about something other than their latest project, or suggest lunch out every once in a while. One of our branches forms an impromptu “walking club” in the spring and fall, when the weather is nice enough to walk outside during lunch. The only rule of walking club? No work talk allowed!

What could you recognize about your staff? No accomplishment is too small when recognizing employees. Consider celebrating personal milestones—birthdays, engagements, new home purchases and births—along with professional milestones, such as promotions and work anniversaries. Birthday celebrations provide a short but welcome mid-day break, and who doesn’t like sweets? Leaving a card for an employee to congratulate them on their new home purchase says to them, “I value you. I am invested in you. You matter to me.” Allocate a portion of your budget each year to funding the materials that recognize these special milestones with your team.

Acknowledge professional achievement. Everyone wants to be recognized. Whether it is a new employee’s first time achieving a certain sales goal, a veteran marketer recording the highest attendee registration at a trade show, or a manager’s successful direction of an important project, letting employees know that their hard work is appreciated will encourage them to continue to achieve.

Recognize your staff in multiple ways. In addition to monetary incentives and the occasional jeans day, our company immediately recognizes individuals who make a large sale over the building PA system. This accomplishes twice the recognition: The individual hears acknowledgement from management themselves that their sale was big, that it matters, and that they’re doing a great job, and so does everyone else in the building, who then have the chance to give the individual a yell or a pat on the back.

The acknowledgement of a job well done coming from the executive director or a high profile member will mean more to an employee than you may think.

Reward accomplishments. Sometimes when a pat on the back or a thank you note just won’t do, monetary incentives can do the trick! Rewards can be as small as a Starbucks gift card or as large as a paid vacation. Just be sure the reward is commensurate with the achievement.

Free or Low-Cost Rewards

Free Low-cost
Flex hoursTelecommutingThank you notes/emailsCasual dress codePublicly recognitionFeature them in your association newsletterArrange for an executive level boss to email or call to recognize

Certificate of appreciation

Reserved parking spot in the front row

Thank you/congratulations sign at the entrance to the office celebrating their success

Post the employee’s picture in the lobby and note their accomplishment

Feature them with a plaque/on a Wall of Fame


Nail gift certificate—go with them!

Happy hour with team

Time off—come in or leave early, long lunch, day off

Throw a party in their honor

Send them flowers

Purchase a book

One-on-one lunch with a member of the executive team

Lottery tickets

Gas gift card

Movie tickets

Concert tickets for a local band

Coffee shop gift card

Car wash

Source: Association Adviser and Naylor, LLC

Sometimes, a reward isn’t justified, but your staff still deserves feedback. Be transparent and direct. My rule of thumb is to say what’s on your mind. If a team member is performing well or not meeting expectations, I tell them immediately. Being direct and honest lets your team always know where they stand with you. It encourages better productivity and a more secure job culture by combating rumors and unjustified fears, and creates a constructive environment where coaching and open feedback are the norm.

However, practice what you preach. Ask team members for feedback about your performance as a supervisor. Are you meeting their expectations? What can you improve upon? Make opportunities for feedback more inviting and less awkward by creating regular one-on-one meetings, confidential surveys or a comments/suggestion box.

When staff members feel that they are a valued and integral part of a team, they will work harder, be more flexible, and support each other more in the pursuit of the company’s goals. Positivity fuels more positivity—and a more enjoyable, productive workplace for everyone. This type of culture is everyone’s responsibility, but it starts with you, the manager, CEO or executive director. Take some time this week to recognize the people who deserve it.

What are one or two creative ways you can show your employees how much you appreciate them?

Tara Ericson is the group vice president for Naylor, LLC, where she currently oversees Naylor’s Atlanta and Winnipeg sales divisions and specialized industry market teams in Atlanta, Gainesville and Winnipeg.