Five unusual ways to reward your employees

I hate to drop the c-word – Christmas – but it really isn't that long before fairy lights are strung around lamp-posts, which means that it also won't be long before the term 'end of year bonus' is mentioned (or at least thought about by your employees).

These days it's not just the festive season when bosses have to show employees their appreciation. These days, as salaries stagnate, it's more important than ever for managers to find alternative currencies to reward their prized staff members. If you want to keep top talent, it's more important than ever to be perky.

Here are some benefits your staff might not expect.

1. Offer a clean slate

Take a tip from Phil Libin, the chief executive of Evernote, whose wife is to thank for one of the key benefits he offers his team members. It was his better-half's idea to offer a free housekeeping service to employees of the software company, to make their lives easier in busy periods.

If your company is on a budget and can't afford to offer a weekly service, consider offering a spring cleaning service at holiday season or when staff are working on a big deadline. Or follow Google's lead and offer a car-washing service.

2. De-flea their pooch

Allowing your employees to bring their pets to work is all very nice, but how about going one step further and paying for their pet bills. This is an employee perk offered by Zappos – frequently named as one of the best companies to work for in the US.

Zappos is famous for its extra-curricular perks. At Halloween they transform their headquarters into a haunted house and on 'take our daughters and sons to work day' they hold screaming competitions to see whose kid can holler the highest.

3. Publish their granny's recipe

A growing number of companies are arming their staff with fitness bands like FitBit or Jawbone, which measure health stats such as heart rate and how many steps you take daily. To encourage camaraderie, the cloud consultancy firm Appirio, who offer a virtual CloudFit training program with workout advice and fitness tracking, also published a cookbook of healthy recipes crowdsourced from employees.

4. Hand out 'clutter coupons'

When the topic of employee benefits was raised on the question-and-answer website Quora, start-up employees were quick to nominate their wish list. Amongst the suggestions was an idea from Mike Borras, the co-founder of the review app Tupalo.

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"Amazon credit," he suggested. "Every employee has the ability to order €50 ($75) worth of books, hardware or chotchkies." What's a chotchkie? According to the urban dictionary, a decorative knickknack with no purpose. Let them buy tat!

5. Teach them to build a teepee

Offering your employees training opportunities isn't a new benefit, but we're not just talking about teaching them how to use the Intranet. At Dropbox, employees can sign up to classes on coding 101 or public speaking, and a recent resident workshop taught attendees how to make teepees out of recycled t-shirts.

During the company's 'Hack Week' – a seven-day brainstorming session with intermittent extra-curricular activities – employees can sign up to python handling classes and 'StarCraft coaching sessions' where they are taught how to get to the next level of the computer game. Inspiring? Apparently!

Got any more offbeat employee rewards ideas? Let us know in the comments.

The founder and editor-in-chief of The Collective, a monthly business and lifestyle magazine, Lisa Messenger has become a leading authority on the business world, specialising in entrepreneurship and disruption. She has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books and three times been a finalist in the Telstra Businesswoman of the Year awards.  

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