A Guide to Effective Employee Appreciation

We help our clients become the hero in their own story.

If you’re looking to increase engagement, satisfaction, job performance, happiness, and loyalty among your employees, look no further! There’s one thing you can do that is both inexpensive and effective in having a positive influence on all the factors we just mentioned: sincere and frequent expressions of appreciation. 

Employee appreciation is too often overlooked. Sure, everyone knows appreciating employees is a good thing, just like everyone knows regular exercise is a good thing. But like exercise, too many of us neglect the simple power of something relatively straightforward. The power of thanks to increase employee engagement is incredible. Recognition of value and expressions of appreciation increase engagement by 2X. That’s 200% for those of you who don’t love math. Another interesting factoid? 91% of employees say recognition is meaningful when they receive it. It doesn’t matter in what form appreciation is conveyed—only that it’s actually expressed!

So, dear reader, how can you express more appreciation? How can you make sure your employees feel valued? What even IS employee appreciation?

For those of you word nerds like us, we’d like to give a simple definition just so we’re all on the same word nerd page. Employee appreciation is loosely defined as the act of recognizing and rewarding employee efforts and contributions to the workplace, both through formal and informal channels. Appreciation, in other words, is the act of seeing/noticing/recognizing the value team members contribute and then rewarding those efforts in any number of ways.

We help our clients become the hero in their own story.
We help our clients become the hero in their own story.

Why Should You Appreciate Your Employees?

Many of the old guard of the workforce may deem employee appreciation outside of a regular paycheck as superfluous. We’ve heard legends of executives saying things like “I already give them a paycheck, why should I also give them something else during the holidays?” or “I already do enough for my employees by paying them—they don’t need more bereavement leave.” Yikes.

The truth of the matter is that recognition, appreciation, and thanks builds trust. 66% of employees feel that they’re more trusted to do great work (and consistently deliver great work) when they receive more appreciation. More trust in organizations, in teams, and between individuals is key for a healthy, dynamic, creative workplace. 

If you need more reasons to appreciate employees, consider this: something truly magnificent happens physically in the brain when appreciation is expressed. Expressions of gratitude reduce stress, help regulate negative emotions, improve decision making ability, and activate empathy in both the receiver AND the giver. That kind of influence should not be so easily overlooked, and all it takes is a simple expression of thanks.

Finally, if none of that really speaks to you, let’s get down to the nitty gritty—the true ROI of employee appreciation. 

  • Productivity. Employee appreciation boosts productivity by an average of 17%. If you have an average employee making an average salary, a productivity boost of that magnitude would give you about $28,000 more in revenue per employee. 
  • Longevity. Employee appreciation reduces turnover by 40%. In an average organization, a reduction in turnover can save you $18,000 per employee retained.
  • Stability. Employee appreciation reduces absenteeism by 41%. In our aforementioned average organization, this could save nearly $5,000 per employee. 

Hopefully, that gives you a savory taste of the goodness to come when you appreciate your employees more often.

We help our clients become the hero in their own story.
We help our clients become the hero in their own story.

When you think about appreciation best practices, always keep one thing in mind: any appreciation is good appreciation. You can’t go wrong if you’re doing literally anything to show your gratitude to your employees. However, we have a few recommendations to help you effectively show true appreciation.

1. Celebrate Everyone

We’re all humans here. Well, hopefully we’re all humans. We’re not entirely sure about Doug, but that’s beside the point—and even then, Doug deserves to be celebrated! The idea of humans in the workplace being degraded to a resource called “human capital” should bother you. Have we devalued each individual so much that we now see them as a cog in a wheel, a resource to be exploited and managed? Gross.

Whatever your viewpoint on the whole “human capital” thing, it still stands to reason that every individual in your organization deserves to be celebrated simply because of who they are—and there are multiple ways to do that. Everyone has a birthday. Everyone has a work anniversary. Every company celebrates at least one holiday. And you know what else? Every organization has an employee appreciation day, whether they knew that already or not. 

We recommend three celebrate programs to make sure you celebrate every employee at least three times a year. Consider celebrating the following every year:

  • Service anniversaries
  • Birthdays
  • Employee appreciation day

If you do this, you’ll be way ahead of the average recognition rate of one per year for almost every organization.

2. Recognize High Performers

When you’ve got a great base of celebration in your organization, it’s time to start recognizing those that really excel at what they’re doing. Recognition can help drive the behavior your values promote, and, to be effective, must be given out early and often. We recommend two recognition programs that might consist of some of the following:

  • Spot recognitions. Recognize and appreciate your employees for anything and everything, even if it’s not work related. 
  • Sales incentives. Your sales team often brings in more value than you might realize. Help them feel your appreciation by giving incentives and rewarding those power players.
  • Customer service achievement. Keeping existing customers happy is incredibly important. Do your best reps know how valuable they are to you? Show them.
  • Peer-to-peer. Let your employees get in on the action to recognize their peers and team members. When employees feel supported by those they work with daily, magic happens. 
  • Manager-to-peer. Appreciation from a manager can often mean more than anything, and it carries a lot of weight for many employees. 

Whatever programs you choose, make sure your employees know how much you appreciate them and how valuable they are when they put in great work.

3. Reward Your Power Players

Now that you’ve got a solid base of celebration and recognition built, it’s time for the pinnacle of reimagining recognition: rewarding those employees that truly knock it out of the park. We recommend one truly fantastic reward program when appreciating employees that go above and beyond.

Every company has employees who push the envelope, truly exceed expectations, and do incredible work. Those power players need to know they’re being seen—and rewarded. If that seems a little overwhelming, just think about this: the cost to reward your most valuable players is very small compared to the cost of losing them. 

When rewarding your best employees, make sure you consider multiple forms of rewards. Things like a public ceremony (if that’s their thing), a commemorative award, a monetary amount, or perhaps the most potent: the power to choose their own reward coupled with the recognition you already have planned to give them. The Spice Girls said it best—all you need to do is ask your employees what they really really want. You might notice a theme here: we’re big on choice.

The Bottom Line

Whatever you decide to do to express your appreciation to your employees, the most important thing is to just get out there and start somewhere. Appreciating your employees has demonstrable returns and a powerful impact, and it will help you along the path to greater company culture and success.

We help our clients become the hero in their own story.
We help our clients become the hero in their own story.

If you’ve never heard of Employee Appreciation Day, don’t feel too bad—you’re not alone. You can certainly use this as your wake up call, however, because appreciating employees often is only going to become more important in today’s work environment. What better day to start your new resolution of showing employees more appreciation than an entire day dedicated to the idea?

We help our clients become the hero in their own story.

What is Employee Appreciation Day?

It was started in 1995 in response to National Bosses Day, because, well, bosses wouldn’t even exist without employees!

Employee Appreciation Day is a day set aside to appreciate employees for all they do to help your organization. After all, they show up for you day in and day out, and the least you can do is to take one day each year to show up for them in important, appreciative ways.

We help our clients become the hero in their own story.

When is Employee Appreciation Day?

Every first Friday in March is Employee Appreciation Day. If you’re a forgetful person, here’s a little memory tool to help you remember:

If you want to come in first place at the race on Friday, try to walk in your employees’ Marching boots…yeah, it needs some work. Scrap the memory tool for now and take note of the following dates that show the next four upcoming Employee Appreciation Days:

  • 2022: Friday, March 4th
  • 2023: Friday, March 3rd
  • 2024: Friday, March 1st
  • 2025: Friday, March 7th

This should help you remember the days for the next few years while you build up a tradition of appreciation each year. As you create (or more deeply establish, if you’ve already celebrated it) a tradition of employee appreciation, your workforce will start to look forward to the first Friday in March and get excited about their work and the company. And that increases employee engagement.

We help our clients become the hero in their own story.

Is There An Employee Appreciation Week?

The short answer to this is no, not officially. But we think there should be!

Employees typically spend eight hours every weekday in the office, working to help their company succeed. Why settle for a single day to show gratitude for that year-long sacrifice? Use an entire week to spread out the festivities and really make your teams feel valued.

You could make the first week in March all about the employees. Schedule activities, games, giveaways, and other fun things throughout the week to show how much you appreciate your workforce.

And if you're worried about lost productivity for a whole week, remember: appreciation boosts productivity by 17% and reduces absenteeism by 41%. You’ll make up for any lost profits in no time at all.

This goes without saying, but we thought we should mention it anyway. While taking advantage of an established holiday is a great idea to get the appreciation train rolling, you don’t have to wait for that Friday or even that week. You can use employee recognition and rewards to show your appreciation for your workforce throughout the year! As you build a culture of employee recognition, your entire workforce will lift each other up to new heights.

We help our clients become the hero in their own story.

You may be wondering how to incorporate all this knowledge into actionable plans. Below, we have ideas to help you start thinking about what you may want to do for the upcoming holiday (hopefully you took notes so you remember what day it is!).

We help our clients become the hero in their own story.We help our clients become the hero in their own story.
We help our clients become the hero in their own story.

How Can You Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day?

Now that you know all about this vital holiday (probably more than what you initially wanted to know—you’re welcome!), what are the best ways to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day so that your employees really feel cared about? Below are some of the best ideas we could come up with to help you plan your palooza of appreciation.

  • Throw a party. Everyone likes a good party, especially if you bring food, games, or other fun activities. You could also plan an award ceremony to hand out prizes to each employee. Whether they’re serious or fun, make sure each one is personalized.
  • Provide a company gift. Gifts are a great way to show appreciation, and quality gifts from the company really show employees that you care (especially if your gift allows each employee to choose their own gift!). We’ll talk more about this below.
  • Give a day off. Time off gives everyone a chance to take a break from work and relax. When you give everyone a day off as a show of appreciation, no one will feel bad about taking that PTO (whereas some people don’t like to take their regular PTO). They’ll come back refreshed and full of the knowledge that you care about their wellbeing.

We could go on and on with different options, but the point is, you can decide for yourself which type of celebration is best for your employees and your company culture.

We help our clients become the hero in their own story.We help our clients become the hero in their own story.
We help our clients become the hero in their own story.

How Can You Celebrate Employee Appreciation With Remote Workers?

Remote work isn’t going away anytime soon, and you may think that celebrating Employee Appreciation Day with a remote workforce isn’t possible. But! You actually have a good range of options you can do to show your at-home workers how much you appreciate their hard work.

According to one study, remote workers are 182% less engaged than employees who work in person, so recognizing their efforts with an appreciation celebration is even more important!

One of the best things you can do (if you haven’t already) is provide your remote workers with better work-from-home equipment.

Are your employees stuck with plastic folding chairs? Gift them nice office chairs. Are their keyboards and mouses simply whatever they could find? Provide them with quality ergonomic equipment. These are great ideas because you know everyone could use them.

Some other fun ideas include:

  • Discounts or coupons for food delivery and takeout
  • Flowers delivered to their door
  • Virtual games and activities
  • Time off for a long weekend

Show your employees that you care whether they work in the office or from their home. Employee Appreciation Day is the perfect time to recognize and reward your teams for their hard work, no matter where they are.

We help our clients become the hero in their own story.We help our clients become the hero in their own story.
We help our clients become the hero in their own story.

What About the Budget?

As an HR rep or a manager, you know the importance of sticking to a budget. Seeing all of these ideas for Employee Appreciation Day might have you clutching your wallet just a little tighter. But your celebration doesn’t have to break the bank!

If you have the budget to give everyone a week off at a tropical retreat, go for it! Your workforce will come back recharged and ready to jump back in. But if you don’t, focus on the ideas that don’t take a lot of money to pull off:

  • Handwritten notes
  • Company swag
  • A party with food
  • A day of PTO

These ideas can fit in nearly any budget. And remember, when you recognize employees and make sure they feel valued, you lower your turnover rate, have more engaged employees, and improve your productivity. The benefits of an appreciated workforce far outweigh the costs.

We help our clients become the hero in their own story.We help our clients become the hero in their own story.
We help our clients become the hero in their own story.

Saying Thank You to Your Employees With Gifts

Giving gifts is one of the best and most effective ways of showing appreciation. In fact, 70% of employees who receive a memorable gift feel more connected and loyal to their employer. On the flip side, 25% of employees state that they receive gifts they dislike or are irrelevant to them. That means a lot of employees don’t build loyalty or a sense of connection with their company!

Thinking of the right gift to give each employee can be stressful, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from giving them something to show your appreciation. Take a look at some gift ideas to help you find that special something for everyone.

Personal Appreciation Gifts

Personal gifts can be some of the most meaningful, and they’re perfect if you know each member of your team well. Do you know someone who always seems to be cold? Gift them a high-quality heated blanket. To make it more personalized, have the blanket monogrammed with their name! Are favorite restaurants a big talking point for your team? Get everyone a gift card to their favorite place to eat! You could even get gift baskets or boxes with a few of the same things and then add a unique item or two into each one to really personalize the experience.

Free gifts aren’t off the table, either. Executives, managers, and supervisors can write personalized notes for each employee

Whether you personalize the gift with the employees’ names or you choose something that each person will personally connect with, your employees will definitely feel appreciated because they’ll know you took the time to think of them individually.

Fun Appreciation Gifts

Work gifts are often focused on fun because you may not know exactly what personal touches to put into each gift. And that’s okay! With fun gifts, you can spread an attitude of laughter and silliness that will make Employee Appreciation Day even more memorable.

Desk calendars are great ideas that are both useful and can be fun. Find ones that are cute or funny (and appropriate) to help employees brighten up their workspace. Boring, ceramic mugs are a red flag for gifts in most cases, but if you find mugs with fun sayings or that show off each employee’s interest (Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Office, etc.), mugs can be awesome fun gifts. 

Interactive Appreciation Gifts

You don’t have to stick with material appreciation gifts, however. Many employees will love an experience that they can participate in instead of a physical gift. Take your employees out to eat or to see a movie. People will enjoy spending time with each other outside of the office setting.

You could also give out cooking or baking classes or—for those who don’t want to cook themselves—a gourmet dinner from a private chef. Provide a gift card for a massage to promote relaxation. Concert, sport game, or amusement park tickets can also be a hit.

If you decide to go with a gift of some kind for Employee Appreciation Day, use these ideas as a starting point to find the gifts that your employees will really love.

We help our clients become the hero in their own story.We help our clients become the hero in their own story.
We help our clients become the hero in their own story.

Make the Most of Employee Appreciation Day

Instead of worrying about juggling multiple ideas and gifts for (say it with us) March 4th, Awardco makes employee recognition a breeze. With our platform and our partnership with Amazon Business, you can provide points for Employee Appreciation Day that allow your employees to get the gifts they want.

You can also set up wellness programs, recurring events (anniversary service awards, birthdays, etc.), and incentive programs that give you even more opportunities to recognize and celebrate your employees. Keep those good vibes going throughout the year!

We help our clients become the hero in their own story.

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