This time every year, Fortune rolls out its latest edition of the “100 Best Companies to Work For.” Companies are rated on communication, training, recognition programs, and job satisfaction, as well as those quirky workplace benefits that always make headlines—free M&Ms at Mars, a bring-your-pet-to-work day (“Dog Day”) at Hitachi. And, of course, there’s always a new perk at perennial favorite Google, which subsidized 100,000 hours of massages for its employees last year alone.

It’s always fun reading, but we also know that most workplaces in the U.S. just aren’t in this league when it comes to how they treat their employees. For one, the majority of the winners are fast-growing tech companies, where employees, mostly young, are asked to put in extremely long hours. Most people work in more traditional companies with deeply ingrained corporate cultures, many of which are struggling with budget cuts and lean staffs.

That doesn’t mean they—you—can’t do something to recognize and reward employees. Here are three easy, inexpensive options:

1) Recognition: You might not be able to convince your management to bring an ice-cream truck on campus every week, but you can implement basic recognition weekly. With tools available right on your mobile phone and via social media, it has never been easier to thank employees for going above and beyond and to celebrate their career milestones. (Check out

 2) Workplace flexibility: Studies have proven that employees, especially our youngest entrants to the job market, value flexible hours and working arrangements. The Society of Human Resource Managers found that “the increasing demand for work/life balance will have a major strategic impact on the workplace in coming years.” How can you create more flexibility?

3) Spot rewards: More than 60 percent of companies are now using gift cards to reward and recognize employees, according to the Incentive Research Foundation—are you? They work, they’re convenient, and there’s enormous variety out there. E-gift cards are easy and fast; some online sites, such as Incentive CardLab (, offer dozens of choices. And users have them right on their phones so they are less likely to lose them.

Check out Recognition Professionals International for more resources—and let’s get started!