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Sometimes a simple 'thank you' will do, employees say

SUNation Solar Systems employee Victoria Walker with her

SUNation Solar Systems employee Victoria Walker with her adopted rescue dog Reeses, at the company's Ronkonkoma office. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Some large companies can afford to shower employees with expensive perks, from free unlimited food options to onsite laundry and dry cleaning services.

Smaller companies, not so much.

But that doesn’t necessarily put them at a disadvantage, because even inexpensive perks can be great motivators if they make employees feel valued, say experts.

“It’s not so much about the dollar investment in your employee perks and recognition strategy,” says Jonathan Burg, senior vice president of marketing at Reward Gateway, a Boston-based employee engagement platform. “It’s more about listening to your people to understand what will make an impact for them.”

The key is aligning company perks “with an overall strategy to create an environment where employees feel valued, recognized and respected for their work,” he says.

A recent survey by Reward Gateway found that 75% of U.S. employees agreed that motivation and morale would improve at their companies if managers simply said thank you more and noticed when people did good work.

“We believe it’s the actual act of recognition that makes the impact, and that essentially could be free,” says Burg.

But if you're looking to recognize employees with perks, there are many free or inexpensive options,  such as giving a reserved parking spot for a month or offering a monopoly “go home early” card, both on Reward Gateway’s list of 38 inexpensive perks (see tinyurl.com/y3bueckb).

Locally, employers that made Newsday's Top Long Island Workplaces list said they use many methods to engage and reward staff that don't break the bank.

At SUNation Solar Systems in Ronkonkoma, employees are not only allowed to bring their pets to work when needed, but are also enlisted to help care for litters of puppies delivered by pregnant rescue dogs,  thanks to CEO Scott Maskin's commitment to helping the nonprofit Southampton-based Last Chance Animal Rescue.

Since 2015, Maskin has cared for more than a dozen litters with an average of 6 pups each. The puppies are brought to the office at about four weeks, and the staff helps care for them until they are ready to be adopted.

“It’s a great break in the day,” says Maskin.

Other perks include a parking spot next to Maskin's for an employee of the month; themed dress-up days (ie., wear your favorite t-shirt); rotating half-hour, one-on-one chats with Maskin; and a "wall of fun" of photos from events employees have participated in, gatherings and inspirational words.

“It’s really nice to work for a company that gives so much back to you,” says Victoria Walker, town liaison for the firm, who enjoys many of these perks including occasionally bringing in her dog, which she adopted after caring for it at the firm. “It makes you want to give so much back to them.”

Ronkonkoma-based law firm Campolo, Middleton & McCormick promotes engagement by offering weekly training sessions where staff  members train other employees in different areas; a mentoring program in which associates are mentored by partners; and a monthly development meeting for associates where they meet with managing partner Joe Campolo, says director of communications Lauren Kanter-Lawrence.

“A lot of suggestions and programs have come out of that meeting,” she says.

A "culture committee" also brainstorms about programming and events that would be motivating and engaging, including monthly themed luncheons and ice cream socials. In addition, the firm has a charitable arm, CMM Cares, through which employees can get involved in volunteer programs, says Kanter-Lawrence.

Similarly, Janover LLC, a Garden City-based CPA firm, has a mentoring program for new hires and a charitable giving committee that looks for charitable activities and fundraising opportunities. In addition, senior staff members act as volunteer career coaches to help other employees with their career paths and job performance, says Jennifer Yan, senior manager of human resources.

Janover also offers a summer Fridays perk, when the office closes at 1 p.m.; employees may also choose to work remotely that day. A wellness committee brings in speakers from Northwell Health and distributes a monthly newsletter, Yan says.

Beyond these types of incentives, allowing flexible scheduling can also be a great perk, says Myron Harmon, director of human resources at Dale Carnegie & Associates in Melville. It just requires making sure you have coverage for that function, he says.

In addition, giving employees an opportunity to provide feedback costs nothing but goes far.

At Dale Carnegie, employees quarterly are asked their opinions on various business issues via a survey they respond to in real time on their smartphones or computer screens.

“It’s all about communication,” says Harmon. “Engagement is about being able to interact with employees so they feel part of the organization.”

-Jamie Herzlich

Fast Fact:

Employees need recognition more than once a year. Only 20% said they liked receiving praise at a single event or function.

Source: Reward Gateway

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