Promotional Food Tips & Trends

If you make your money selling food, should you give it away as a promo product? The connection seems like a natural fit, but the reality is that the food service industry looks first to apparel and hard goods when it comes to their promotional needs.

Still, don’t discount food as a powerful gift, especially as suppliers offer the capability to integrate it into a kitted package. Mosinee, WI-based Maple Ridge Farms (asi/68680) has added logoed mugs, beach bags, towels, tumblers, cheese boards and office accessories to its food baskets from suppliers that distributors already trust. “The great thing for our distributor partners is they get to utilize those same supplier relationships and pair it together with our food gifts,” says Jodie Schillinger, director of customer care for Maple Ridge Farms. “Suppliers are trying to be more agile in competing with e-commerce. We’re competing with insta-click and ship. We need to ask ourselves, what are you doing to disrupt it back?”

As far as food trends, Schillinger says spice-infused foods and candies are popular now, echoing the National Restaurant Association report that saw ethnic spices come in at number 10 on its Top 20 Food Trends list for 2018 and number two on its Condiments and Accouterments forecast. Sea salt is also on-trend, Schillinger says: Maple Ridge Farms’ sea salt chocolate caramels – a “rookie product just a few years ago,” she adds – is now its bestselling chocolate.

Wood is also trending, she says, in the form of crates to hold food and cutting boards inside food-gift baskets.

US, China Agree To Suspend Planned Tariff Increase

A détente has been reached in the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China. President Donald Trump has agreed to suspend a previously-planned increase of import tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. That increase was set to begin on January 1, 2019. Reaction in the promotional products industry, which imports the vast majority of the items it sells from China, was mixed.

Per the agreement, the Trump administration will hold off on boosting tariffs from 10% to 25% for at least 90 days, Newsweek reported. During that timeframe, Washington will continue to negotiate with Beijing to resolve ongoing trade tensions. However, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement after the three months, the 10% tariffs will indeed be raised to 25%.

Import tariffs are a major issue for the promotional products industry, so the development in trade talks between the US and China garnered ample attention from promo executives.

“This is a hugely positive, but likely short-term development, for our industry and the global economy,” Eddie Blau, CEO of Top 40 supplier Innovation Line (asi/62660), told Counselor. “A 15% additional tariff increase would have been a tremendous blow to continued promo industry growth. I believe China will make enough concessions to satisfy the Trump Administration and avoid the further increase. However, I wouldn’t bet on the current 10% rates going away in three short months. This is a long-term and contentious negotiation.”

David Nicholson, president of Top 40 supplier Polyconcept North America, suspects that the stay on the tariff increase will make things a bit easier for the promo market to start the year. Nonetheless, “suppliers will still need to increase prices, but at more moderate levels, which should help keep the current market momentum going. In terms of the broader economy, we remain in a situation with a great deal of uncertainty. I’m not sure that is going to change any time soon. As long as this exists, businesses will be hesitant to make long-term investments and will likely take a ‘wait and see’ approach. That is never good for the overall health of the economy.”

Meanwhile, Paul Lage told Counselor that the 90-day extension lengthens uncertainty for the promo products marketplace. “Many products take longer than 90 days from purchase order to receipt,” said Lage, president of Top 40 supplier IMAGEN Brands(asi/93990/47700). “Pricing to the end-user can be variable, especially for custom overseas orders.” Even if tariffs don’t rise to 25%, Lage anticipates that they will be in place, in some form, through 2019 – a negative for the branded merchandise industry. “There’s a list of issues between the two countries that’ll take years to resolve,” Lage told Counselor.

Executives at Top 40 supplier BIC Graphic (asi/40480) said they’re hopeful that the 90-day hold on the tariff rate increase signals a de-escalation of the trade war, but added that the full implications for the promo industry won’t be known until negotiations are complete. In the interim, the firm is aggressively marketing that its product portfolio contains a wealth of items made outside China. “Nearly 50% of BIC Graphic’s order volume is produced in our U.S. facilities, and we have product sourced from other areas (Korea, Vietnam, India) to provide additional options that will not be impacted by potential tariff increases,” said Melissa Ralston, chief marketing officer at BIC Graphic.

In return for the stay on the tariff increase, China will agree to purchase a not yet agreed upon, but reportedly substantial, amount of agricultural, energy, industrial products and more from the United States “to reduce the trade imbalance between our two countries,” according to the White House. In addition, China has agreed to designate Fentanyl – one of the drugs driving the opioid crisis in the U.S. – as a Controlled Substance, meaning that individuals selling the drug to the U.S. would be subject to China’s maximum penalty under the law. “The principal agreement has effectively prevented further expansion of economic friction between the two countries,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the media.

Investors around the world are breathing a sigh of relief, as stocks and oil jumped on Monday, CNN reported. Major indexes in Hong Kong and Shanghai grew more than 2.5%, and stocks were up 2% or more in London, Frankfurt and Paris. Crude oil spiked by more than 4%. “The good news is that this truce should be seen as Washington recognizing the potential damage on the US economy if tariffs escalate further,” Tai Hui, chief market strategist for Asia Pacific at JPMorgan Asset Management, told CNN.

The deal came as a result of Trump meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping during the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires over the weekend – the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since the trade war erupted in July. The Trump administration has already imposed tariffs on about $250 billion worth of imported Chinese goods, affecting approximately 6,000 items. Trump has pushed for these tariffs as part of an intellectual property investigation of Chinese high-technology companies. As for China, the total amount of U.S. products subject to Chinese tariffs comes out to $110 billion, which is 85% of U.S. goods that entered China last year.

The damage has already been done to the world’s second-largest economy, as China’s manufacturing sector failed to expand for the first time in more than two years in November. China’s National Bureau of Statistics said the stagnation was a result of “trade frictions” with the United States and a weakening global economy.

The promotional products industry has been keeping a close eye on the trade war, fearing that tariffs will cause increased product costs, price fluctuations, supply chain disruption and thinner margins. At the ASI Power Summit in October, a majority of surveyed industry leaders forecast the anticipated price jumps to be along the scale of 11% to 20%. So far, headwear, bags, keychains, technology products and accessories, certain drinkware (including stainless-steel items), stationery, coolers, cases and some outerwear are among the items suppliers and distributors anticipate will be affected by tariff-driven price increases.

Christopher Ruvo contributed to this report.

CORRECTION:
An earlier version of this article said that Top 40 Distributor Kaeser & Blair (asi/238600) did not include pricing in its 2019 catalog. That is incorrect. K&B’s Best Buys catalog is indeed carrying pricing.

Five Smart Marketing Tips For 2019

Today marked a typical milestone for this marketer: planning for the coming year. Planning involves assessing all that was, or wasn’t, accomplished over the past year, and prioritizing the focus for the coming year, along with the tools and resources needed to reach these goals. It also requires being thoroughly honest about accomplishments and shortcomings—hey, we all have them—and the new strategies in place to resolve them.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we are sharing five key points to consider when developing your 2019 plans, as according to Billee Howard, founder and CEO of BRANDthropologie.

1. Focus on emotion. Successful brands succeed in anticipating what consumers will do. Howard says these brands also succeed in anticipating how their consumers will feel, and how to encourage them to take action. We live in an “emotional economy”—an economy based on people and their relationships with each other and the brands they love—and recent advances in technology have moved the economy even further towards this. Marketers who understand this and learn how to draw value from it will become vital to the success of any organization.

2. Sharing is caring. According to Howard, we also live in a we-conomy, which involves a greater focus on finding solutions to problems rather than mass-producing products. People entrust the opinions of others, as well as reputable sources of information, but are gravitating less to traditional ads. The launch of Uber, Airbnb, Yelp and other highly consumer-driven resources has created an environment for sharing. These companies are structured by new business models that use trust as their foundation. As marketers and storytellers, we must build this trust by creating content that is authentic, reputable and purpose-driven. By doing so, this also leads to content that others will want to share with influencers and advocates.

3. Empathy continues to be important. Howard points out that we also live in a time of purposeful business, which is driven by the desire to make the world a better place. This requires successful leaders to focus on the world they live in as much as their own bottom line. Here are some things that Howard suggests when building a purposeful brand:

  • Clearly articulate your brand’s purpose. Purpose is different from a mission statement or company values.
  • Be aware that purpose is not cause and cause is not purpose.
  • Brands must demonstrate empathy by valuing consumers and demonstrating an understanding of their needs. They must place their managers and employees in the customers’ shoes. Purpose is about what a brand is doing for someone else, not what the brand is doing for itself.
  • Make purpose motivational, because it connects with the heart as well as the head.
  • Use emotion-driven storytelling to bring your brand’s mission to life.

4. View attention as your customer’s most precious resource. In today’s busy world, the most valuable commodity we have is time—and many of us don’t have much of it to spare. Do you treat your customer’s time with high value? A customer experience strategy should translate into the creation of an engaging and memorable experience for your customer. At every interaction or encounter brands must ask: are we seizing the customer’s attention?

5. Finally, invest in digital technology, not just digital marketing. Today’s technology and digital tools can be overwhelming, so it is important to first focus on those areas of the business that will drive growth as direct result of improved consumer relationships. This includes characteristics such as loyalty programs, personalized customer experiences and other types of high-touch opportunities. Then, invest in the technology that supports those experiences while also providing you with the data and insights to continue building on those personalized experiences.

Review these recommendations and allow 2019 to be your most personalized and profitable year yet.

Source: Billee Howard is the founder and CEO of BRANDthropologie, a consultancy firm that harnesses creativity and technology to solve business problems. Howard works with clients to identify their purpose and then creates the content experiences that will help define distinction and positively impact their bottom line.

Market Efficiently With Segmentation

When launching a new product or service, it may seem very limiting to narrow your market, but it will work in your favor. If your target is too broad, it will be difficult and costly to develop effective promotional messages or reach your more active end users.

Targeting a specific market does not mean that you are excluding people who do not fit your criteria. Instead, target marketing allows you to focus your marketing dollars and brand message on a specific pool of prospective clients that are more likely to buy from you. Think of the brand Huggies, which sells a line of disposable children’s diapers. The people most likely to purchase from Huggies probably have or care for young children. For this reason, it would make more sense to market this product to new families as opposed to single Millennials. Relevance of the product to the consumer is just one of the reasons why target marketing is both an affordable and effective way to reach prospective clients and generatemore revenue.

Here we share three steps developed by Jill Johnson, president and founder of Johnson Consulting Services, to help you establish effective target markets for sales results.

1. Clarify Your Market Segments. The first step is to start identifying patterns in the attitudes, desires, concerns, and decision-making criteria of your prospective consumers. By understanding these characteristics, you can tailor your marketing approaches to reach your target audience and influence their purchasing decisions.

A common step in identifying these patterns is to assess the demographics of your consumers base. There are many demographic variables that can be identified and measured in a consumer market, such as age, gender, income and marital status. Business consumers can consider aspects such as number of employees, revenue, or years in operation. Knowing where your consumers live or work is another method of evaluating your target market.

Understanding your consumers’ intentions, buying motivations and interests also provides powerful opportunities to develop messages designed to trigger a buying response.

2. Mine Your Data. The critical step to developing your target markets is to quantify your market size. You can do this by data mining. Data mining involves analytically reviewing your internal consumer and comparing this to external market information. Look for patterns and relationships to help understand your consumers’ buying patterns, which present opportunities to influence them at each stage of their buying decision-making cycle.

Start by reviewing your internal consumers data. Prepare historical summaries reflecting several years of data. Most people only look at one year of data—this is not sufficient to help you determine whether your market has achieved its maximum potential or whether it is declining. What types of consumer profiles can you create about the end users that buy from you? When do they buy? Who is most profitable to you? Start evaluating how effectively your marketing approaches reach them and match their purchasing decision approach. Then, conduct a detailed review of the available external data. Assess how your current consumer profile aligns with the real market opportunity. Do the demographics show a potential for long-term growth? Does the data show anything else that might impact your sales?

3. Tie Your Target Market To Your Promotional Activities. Your promotional activities must be consumer-oriented and align with how, why and when the consumer buys. Where do they look for information to solve their problems or meet their needs? Who or what influences your buyer? It is not only about the product. You will need different marketing messages for those who are at the awareness stage, which consists of gathering information, then those who are ready to make a final purchase.

Help your prospective consumers understand how you will help them solve a problem or meet a need by using your target market insight to customize your promotional messages. Tie your promotions to their decision-making cycle and move them through their purchasing decision-making stages.

Source: Jill J. Johnson is the president and founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the Compounding Your Confidence.

Johnson helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted more than $4 billion worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results.

Why Rituals Matter To Your Success

In business, rituals play an important role. The famous business and life coach, Tim Ferris often talks about his five morning rituals: he makes his bed, meditates for 10 to 20 minutes, does at five to 10 reps of a light exercise followed by some strong tea and finally, he finishes his routine by journaling for five to 10 minutes.

Since we are creatures of habit, rituals can set the intention and tone of our day. Like running through scales, rituals can be mindless ways to clear our minds and allow us to listen to ourselves.

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Michael Hyatt & Company, a leadership development firm, says that there are five benefits to rituals, which we’ll explain here.

First, Hyatt points out that the whole point of the ritual is as much mental as physical. He uses the game of golf as an example. He has a set of rituals, or steps, he goes through every time he approaches the tee box. He says, “I’m not just fine-tuning my stroke, I’m also conditioning my mind for the best possible shot. By dropping into the groove, I get out of my own way.”

Hyatt points out five benefits of optimized rituals:

  1. Help put you in a mental and physical groove for high performance, whatever you’re doing. You’re lined up for the workday with far fewer distractions.
  2. Allow you to perform at a predictably high level. The routine leaves less to chance, so you can focus on performing your best.
  3. Stop you from overthinking, so you’re not constantly engineering and reengineering your entire performance. This frees you up not to worry about whether you can perform but helps you focus on simply how best to do so.
  4. Allow you to upgrade your performance because you’ve broken apart the individual steps. Now, you can focus on tweaking them individually.
  5. Give you a sense of purpose and confidence. By working your ritual, you set your mind and body at ease and take control of what you can control.

That’s why even the most seasoned musicians run their scales before performing. So what are your rituals?

Source: Michael Hyatt is the founder and CEO of Michael Hyatt & Company, a leadership development firm specializing in transformative live events, workshops, and digital and physical planning tools. Formerly chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Hyatt is also a New York TimesWall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of several books, including Living Forward and Platform.

Top Three Things Employers Look For In Job Candidates

In a recent article, Forbes author Shelcy Joseph interviewed Michael Fraccaro, chief human resources officer at MasterCard. She asked him to share what he looks for in a potential hire. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we’ll share what he had to say.

Skills and culture fit. “We’re looking for people who can demonstrate the skills needed for the job they’re applying for—but, equally, if not more important, are people whose motivation and attitude fit with our culture. Candidates should definitely look into those aspects of the company beforehand. Just as you might check Yelp before trying a new restaurant, research the kind of work environment and culture you’re applying to. You can use resources like Glassdoor, Fishbowl, YouTube and other social sites to get an idea of what a company is like from the inside.”

Personality.“In the interview process, candidates who demonstrate grit, curiosity, optimism, a global mindset and a knack for problem-solving tend to make a positive impression. We also value people who are good at building relationships and have a healthy outlook about work-life balance. Being able to speak simply is also important. We deal in a very technical space, but we need to be able to translate what we do so people of all backgrounds can understand. Sharing stories and giving relatable examples are two good ways to make a complex subject simple and engaging. This shows not only that you know your content, but that you’re also able to help people connect with a topic they may not be familiar with. This is a kind of leadership that people at all levels of an organization can demonstrate.”

Agility. “Remember also that how you get things done is just as important as what you’ve done. Employers today take into account how you operate and make decisions in addition to what you’ve delivered. In this fast-paced, increasingly unpredictable world, we’re sometimes faced with new or never-before-seen circumstances. In those instances, it’s important for a company to be confident in the personal qualities such as integrity, fairness and decency that will guide an employee’s responses in situations that can’t be known in advance. They want to be confident that the choices you’ll make will be in line with the company’s values. Personal principles and intentions matter. Be prepared to reflect those in your responses during an interview.”

Fraccaro’s best advice to job candidates: “Be yourself and ask good, thoughtful questions. At Mastercard, as in probably most places, we want people who will bring their hearts and minds and authentic selves to work.”

Source: Shelcy V. Joseph is a contributor to Forbes. She is also the founder of millennial career website A Millennial’s Guide to Life and event series NYCxClothes & Friends. She loves telling stories that move and inspire people to explore their full potential and live their best life.

How To Stay Balanced And Be Heard

For many of us, a large portion of our time is spent at work; in fact, the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime. It’s safe to say a job can make a huge impact on your quality of life.

However, how would you rate the quality of your conversations at work? How well do you know the colleagues with whom you interact on a daily basis? With so much of our time spent at work, it is important to foster an engaged and supportive workplace, and bring meaningful conversations into the office.

In a 2017 study on Global Human Capital Trends, Deloitte found that rather than focusing narrowly on employee engagement and culture, organizations need to develop an integrated focus on the entire employee experience, from the work environment to management practices to supporting functions.

Today, we share advice from business blogger Muir Keir to help businesses positively influence the entire employee experience.

Leaving “balance” undefined. The term ‘work-life balance’ is a regular topic of discussion in modern workplaces. Various strategies are put in place toencourage employees to achieve a work-life balance. However, the distinct line between work and home is no longer clear-cut, and our leisure time is regularly infiltrated by work, because of our own expectations or those of others. With today’s ability to access email and text messages 24/7, it’s easy for this spillover to take place.

The first step companies can take is to recognize that balance is unique to each individual. There is no “one-size-fits-all” concept. Perhaps we can help our teams achieve true balance in their lives by first accepting that the term is entirely subjective or even undefinable. Perhaps we can empower our employees by declaring that as managers we are comfortable that employees create this for themselves.

This means giving employees some autonomy in terms of hours they work and where they work to achieve their personally defined balance, which leads to flexibility.

Engaging through flexibility. Like balance, flexibility is innately personal and strongly valued. Flexibility in the workplace is key not only to increasing employee satisfaction, but also to fostering someone’s unique approach to completing a job to the best of their ability which, in return, results in increased productivity.

An example of flexibility is with the industry giant, Philips. This company developed and implemented employee leave policies that by default enable flexibility at work, including parental leave, grandparent leave, purchased leave and domestic violence leave available to all staff. Building on personalized support, the company also focus on employees transitioning through different stages of their career, including offering detailed career transition planning for those considering their path to retirement.

Creating a forum to be heard. Paramount to ensuring that employers stimulate meaningful conversation is to provide a forum where employees can be heard. Employees face unique personal challenges throughout their careers, and they should be supported to manage these in their own way. This is why many companies now have an employee assistance program (EAP), offering an extensive range of support services to all staff, as well as formal quarterly employee engagement surveys which allows everyone to have a say in how they feel about the organization.

That step of being heard simply starts with a personal question to an employee: How are you doing today and how can I make today a better day for you?

Source: Muir Keir is general manager of personal health at Philips Australia and New Zealand.

What Your Employees Really Want To Know About Change

Organizations are organic. They grow, shrink, shift and evolve to stay responsive to customers and the ever-changing business climate. Sometimes change is good and sometimes it’s not. Either way, change can affect people’s jobs and create a sense of uneasiness or fear.

Today, we’re sharing key tips for planning and implementing change from Liz Kislik, a contributor to HBR, who helps guide organizations through change.

Plan more time than you ever thought necessary to prepare the content, delivery and necessary follow-up. When communicating across your organization, you should expect to hold not just one initial “all hands” meeting or videoconference, but also a series of smaller team and individual conversations as follow-ups. Also, coordinate the timing of the announcements so that no one is caught flat-footed if the news is released at different intervals by individual managers and organization-wide outlets. Giving people multiple opportunities to take in and process the announcement is essential for thorough understanding; receiving the information from the right sources in the right sequence is crucial for credibility.

Equip all levels of management to explain the context. Provide training and rehearsal or role-play time to everyone who will need to communicate the message; don’t assume they’ll have the right instincts.

Describe the organizational pain, and how the new solution alleviates it. Instead of just announcing a disruptive change, give the background of what’s not working today and why the new plan is the best way to get to the desired outcome. Focus on how customers have been hurt, how the business is incurring extra expense, the negative brand impact—and how the change will help mitigate those problems.

Personalize both the impact and the resolution. If you don’t, employees may not understand which specifics apply to them, or even how the company is providing support or services to help them cope. For example, in the small group or individual meetings, be prepared with all the necessary details to answer personal questions immediately. Without this, you’ll create even more anxiety and aggravation as people wait for someone to work out the specifics you didn’t research in advance.

Give the affected people as many options and as much participation as you can. When they have choices—and the necessary information or support to make them—employees feel more respected and maintain more pride and autonomy. The closer people are to the work, the more likely it is that they’ll generate practical ideas. Kislik gives the example of one organization that was having financial difficulties and provided a series of meetings about cost-cutting measures that asked everyone to look for ways to help—even though they were adversely affected by some of the very measures they proposed.

Demonstrate humility and responsibility, not just authority. Many leaders mistakenly believe that they’ll be given a pass for shaking up people’s lives if they say they’re suffering over the decision or the disruption themselves. Even treating the problem as a shared responsibility can backfire and feel manipulative to employees. Instead, say, “I’m sorry I didn’t anticipate …” or, “I was too enthusiastic about x…” This shows that you take seriously the impact of the situation on others. You can’t prepare for every curveball, so if you don’t have the answer to a question, say something like, “Wow, that’s a question we didn’t think about, but it’s a good one. We’ll get back to everyone with an answer early next week.”

Whether announcing cost-saving measures, a company restructure or an acquisition, by carefully planning your communication and providing the right level of detail at the right time, you can support your employees through the process with transparency and authenticity.

Source: Liz Kislik helps organizations from the Fortune 500 to national nonprofits and family-run businesses solve their thorniest problems. She has taught at NYU and Hofstra University, and recently spoke at TEDxBaylorSchool. Request her free guide,

How to Resolve Interpersonal Conflicts in the Workplace, on her website.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

Trust Your Notes, Not Your Memory

When it comes time for your annual review or to ask for a raise or promotion, you’ll need to back up your request with examples of your good work. If you’re in sales, it’s comparatively easy to track how you are doing. But, if you are in customer service, for example, charting those accomplishments requires more attention. And, with the fast pace of daily work, it’s hard to find the time to stop and document achievements when you’re constantly in motion.

Today, we’re sharing these tips from blogger and personal finance writer Alicia Adamczyk on how to save and document great work throughout the year.

Take Contemporaneous Notes. Make notes in Google docs or the OneNote app, or write them in a journal book documenting each time you have a major “win” at work and when you routinely do tasks above your pay grade. You don’t need to make a record of every accolade but do catalog times when you’re singled out in a staff-wide email, for example, or you help a coworker with a big project.

Be certain your notes include dates, and if you are including an email or message from someone else, make sure the source is identifiable.

If you want to go further for your own reflection, use these steps from Idealist Careers to examine your accomplishments:

Think of a challenge that needed to be resolved.

What obstacles did you have to overcome to resolve it?

List the steps you took to resolve the challenge one by one.

What happened as a result of your actions?

You might also document additional wins such as:

Difficult situations with co-workers that you successfully worked through and how you did it.

Tasks and projects that were completed on time, and how you did it: Track all projects and tasks, even ones you think are small.

The times you overcame pressure and still succeeded in meeting your goals.

Track those situations when you know you exceeded expectations and explain why.

Take Screenshots of Everything. If your boss compliments you in an email or Slack conversation, take a screenshot and include a copy of it where you keep your notes.

Go Through Your Calendar. If you keep meetings and project due dates in a calendar, go back through it to jog your memory. You can also make note of accomplishments on your calendar, and be sure to set calendar reminders for occasional mini-reviews with yourself.

Make a Spreadsheet. If a journal app or accomplishments box aren’t your thing, try logging everything into a spreadsheet, which is easily sortable and can be customized however you like.

When it comes time to sit down with your boss for that review or raise, refresh yourself on what’s in your notes, and come with a page or two detailing your best metrics and biggest contributions. Then, write a follow-up email laying out your achievements (with dates and supporting evidence as needed). These extra steps will take you a long way to a top review and future promotion.

Source: Alicia Adamcyk is a personal finance writer and lifehacker.

Simple Ways To Recognize Greatness

How hard do your employees work for you? When your employees produce excellent work, do you take the time to thank and reward them? Not only does recognition make employees feel good, your praise incentivizes them to excel and helps retain them. Cultivating an atmosphere of continued achievement begins with giving credit where credit is due.

Research from Bersin & Associates reveals that 80 percent of surveyed employees feel more motivated to work when they believe they are appreciated. Another 71 percent say they’re motivated by the competition when peers are recognized for their work at least monthly. Proper recognition can do wonders for engaging your employees, even if they aren’t the ones being recognized.

Today, we share five simple and effective ways to recognize outstanding work from employees.

1. Buy a gift. The best employees give a lot of time and effort to their job, and you can return the favor with a gift. Put some thought into what you give. Generic gifts, such as gift cards, are appreciated, but they hardly show how much you truly value your employee. Instead, consider the needs and wants of your employees and don’t be afraid to spend a little cash to make them feel appreciated.

2. Create a personalized plaque. When an employee produces particularly good work, they deserve recognition beyond a simple gift. Give them something to forever commemorate the occasion, such as a glass plaque or award that can be displayed publicly on a shelf or mantel, and becomes a long-term keepsake for the recipient. Within the promotional products industry, the options are almost limitless. Opportunities to recognize good work can include special designations such as Employee of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, or other top-performer recognition awards. You might also reward employees for sales, leadership, milestones, customer service, safety, partnership or special categories.

3. Designate an Employee of the Month. If you’re in an informal setting and a banquet or award plaque seems too formal, consider developing an Employee of the Month program. It might seem like a simple way to recognize great employees, but it’s effective, and engenders productive competition and helps boost morale.

4. Invest in professional development. When you have high-performing employees who are eager to learn and advance their skills, reward them by providing professional development opportunities. You might pay for them to attend an industry conference (bonus points if it’s located somewhere tropical) or education program that provides training in their area of specialty, or pay the tuition for college classes related to their current work or career goals.

By investing in an employee’s education, you’re sending the message that they’re truly valuable. In addition, it motivates the employee to do a better job. It’s an investment in the employee and your company.

5. Donate to a nonprofit. Do some good while showing your top-performing employees you care. Allow your best employee to select a charity, and then donate a high-dollar amount to that organization. Studies show that when employees are enabled to provide service or donations to those in need, even vicariously, they tend to be happier and more motivated in their careers.

Source: Jenna Cyprus is a freelance writer in Renton, Washington, who is interested in travel, nature and parenting.