Higher Education Innovation In Action

4 Creative Ways to Reward Your Staff on a Budget

Mindy Starcher, Vice President Oct 12, 2016

Registrars are always being asked to do more with less. This was true when I was an assistant registrar, and it’s true now in my current role as a Senior Sales Consultant at Credentials.  I often hear from registrars that their budgets are being slashed, but they’re still expected to provide the same high level of service to students and alumni.

With so much emphasis on student retention these days, employee retention and satisfaction can get lost in the shuffle—and yet, they are not mutually exclusive. Back when I was in the registrar’s office, one of my passions was working with our managers to find creative and cost-effective ways to say “thanks” to our staff, and I thought I would share a few of those ideas with you. The best part? Most of them won’t require the layers of approval your department typically has to go through for these types of efforts.

Spot Awards
Spot awards are a fun and impromptu way to recognize employees for a job well done. All you need is a file cabinet and some goodies to fill it with: mugs or T-shirts with your university emblem, favorite candies, $10 gift certificates for a local retailer, and anything else you can think of that your people will appreciate. The nomination process can be formal or informal, just be sure to allow staff – as well as managers and supervisors – to nominate their peers. They’ll have almost as much fun giving the awards as they do receiving them!

Tip: Have folks fill out a brief form with the employee’s name and an explanation of why they are getting a spot award so it can be shared in your office newsletter (another nice way to recognize employees). 

Movie Days
Another informal perk that doesn’t require committee approval is a “movie day,” and it’ll only cost you the movie rental plus some popcorn and candy. At the university where I worked, we typically held our movie days over the summer because the dorms were empty and we could use one of the common rooms and big-screen TVs. Since everyone knew in advance when movie day was scheduled, they could bring in their cozy blankets and any special snacks they liked, and have something to look forward to!

Tip: On the designated day, hold two showings (one in the morning and one in the afternoon), so that staff can plan around their individual workloads and everyone isn’t out of the office at the same time.

Staff Appreciation Picnic
A company picnic is not a new concept, but it’s often one of the first things to go when budgets are cut. To keep costs down, ask your managers to bring a side dish and dessert or help offset larger expenses like burgers, hot dogs and beverages.  For extra fun, provide outdoor games like volleyball and cornhole and set up tournaments with the different areas of your office teaming up to compete against their colleagues!

Tip: Touch base with vendors throughout the year for great deals on employee gifts to give away at the picnic. You might try novelty office supplies, pedometers, or even funny awards that everyone receives – think “best proofreader,” “first to laugh,” or “best practical joker.”

Formal Awards
Finally, you can organize a more formal event to honor a member of the registrar’s office each year for outstanding service. My university’s award consisted of a bonus, a beautiful plaque and the employee’s name engraved on another plaque that we kept on display in our public area. We would accept nominations from the staff for this award and put together a committee to review the nominations and make a recommendation to the registrar on the winner.   

Tip: Hold a ceremony to recognize all nominees, and enlist the registrar and university president to present the winner with the award. Your staff is sure to look forward to the nominations and celebrating their peers each year.