By Ellie Batchiyska

As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you probably often reflect on the days you were employed by somebody else and the long way that you’ve come. There’s nothing like working for yourself, and you respect the hustle that comes with having an employer. As a result, you remember what made all the difference when you were an employee working under somebody else: appreciation.

The fact of the matter is that employees who feel like they are appreciated by their bosses experience increased well-being and overall work performance (factors that are majorly beneficial to employers, as well). The O.C. Tanner Learning Group conducted a 10-year case study on 200,000 managers and employees. In this study, they found that 79% of employees who quit their jobs listed lack of appreciation as a key reason for their departure. Furthermore, 65% of employees in North America claimed that, in the last year, they were not recognized even once by their employer.

Giving your employees gentle reminders of their good work will not only cause them to feel uplifted and respected, but it will cause them to reciprocate those feelings for you as their employer. Perhaps you feel you don’t have the resources to properly express your appreciation to your employees. Fortunately, there’s always a way, even if money is tight. In fact, the same above-mentioned study states that money is not as powerful a reward as many people think.

Sure, competitive bonuses and considerable raises help retain talented and valuable employees. However, that’s not all there is to it, and small businesses often can’t muster up this kind of cash. Furthermore, smaller cash sums, that many employees use to pay off bills or debts, offer temporary satisfaction. The key to an efficient and positive workplace is a manager that takes their time to recognize an employee’s contributions and achievements. In addition to raises and bonuses, there are a number of ways to do this.

1. Acknowledging Anniversaries

It’s unfortunate that the trademark anniversary gold watch is fading into oblivion. Employees that have been with a company for a generous amount of time deserve to have that time acknowledged. While it’s easy to hand over a check to an employee that has been with your company for five years and tell them to buy themselves something nice, it’s much more meaningful to buy them something nice yourself.

A watch, commemorative pin, or charm of some sort are all beautiful ways to tell an employee, “Thank you for your dedication.” These personalized messages show that you have gone out of your way to tell that employee you appreciate their loyalty and give them something to remember you by. These kinds of gifts (big or small) remind an employee of generosity time and time again. A $500 check, while still a laudable gesture, will provide satisfaction for a limited amount of time.

2. Celebrating Special Occasions

Life is full of milestones – birthdays, weddings, newborn babies, holidays. Encourage celebration of these momentous events in the office. This will make your employees feel more personally connected to each other and to you as their employer. Whether this involves simply buying a nice lunch or having a company outing, it will enhance feelings of camaraderie and connectedness. They will also enjoy knowing that you respect their need for leisure and the occasional opportunity to unwind.

3. Flexibility with Time Off

If it’s right before a holiday, a special event, or a big occasion, let employees go home early. Reward long-time employees with a little more paid time off when they need it, and offer mental health days here and there when possible. We often don’t realize just how much 40 hours a week is, and even sparing your employees one hour of work time will make a difference. In fact, it could make them better workers too. Nearly 64% of executives surveyed by Korn Ferry say they are refreshed and excited to get back to work after a vacation.

4. Simply Saying “Thank You”

Maybe you can’t afford to buy your dedicated employee that Rolex, or don’t have it in the budget to give them a Christmas bonus. Sometimes, just telling your employees you appreciate them, their time, their effort, and accomplishments is enough. You can even be candid with your employees, and explain that you don’t have the resources for a gift. This will only make your message of appreciation more valuable and meaningful. At the end of the day, when they’re beat from dealing with customers or daily stresses, hearing that they did a great job can make all the difference.