If there’s been a business slowdown for a while, paying out large bonuses would be difficult. You need an alternate that lets you reward and recognize employees without stretching your funds. In fact, your logic need not necessarily be a funds constraint. It could be organizational factors like internal competition or reluctance to pay high salaries.
In any such cases, use the below:
When was the last time you wrote something in your own handwriting other than signing for the credit card slips? Writing by hand is a lost art in the digital age. Nobody takes the trouble of sending anything other than an e-mail with a digital signature. Sending a handwritten note of appreciation to the employee speaks volumes about how much you value their contribution.
Introducing them to major clients
It’s a major boost to interact with large clients of the company. If you include these employees in the meetings with the major clients, it imparts confidence to the employee and demonstrates your faith in him.
Sponsor them for conferences and training
This could be expensive but if funds are not such a problem, this would an excellent reward. The employee could pick out his preferred form of training, subject to a budget and rationale. It would be ideal if the conference/training were out of town with spouse/family depending on the budget. The golden rule is that it should be outside of office premises.
Gifts for spouse, partner, family
Family is critical to the employee, far more than money. Getting flowers sent to the partner or toys/video games for the child would be a wonderful way of expressing appreciation for a good job.