3 Strategies for Showing Employee Appreciation Year-round

By Jason Richmond, CEO & Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes, Inc.

It’s the first Friday in March and do you know what that means? A growing number of forward-thinking companies know that it’s Employee Appreciation Day, the one day of the year when employers, company leadership, and HR can do something special to show their gratitude for the efforts of their workforce.

But why limit appreciation to one day only? Companies that show appreciation to their employees all year round reap the rewards of higher engagement and increases in the behaviors they want to see, especially those related to your company values. They also reap the benefits of better talent acquisition and retention. 

As I write in my book Culture Spark: 5 Steps to Ignite and Sustain Organizational Growth, recognizing employees for living your values is necessary to reinforce them and inspire people to take them to heart. Recognition is an opportunity to reinforce the desired culture of the organization.

Unfortunately, according to Gallup, only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days and employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they’ll quit in the next year. Recognition not only boosts individual employee engagement, but it also has been found to increase productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention. 

Employee Appreciation Day has received some traction, but it is clear a once a year event is not what employees crave. Top companies with thriving cultures realize this and develop strategies to recognize and appreciate the work their teams do, with a dual focus on relevant rewards and fun. 

Here are three areas where you can show how much you value your employees:

1. Training and Development: 

I totally agree with entrepreneur extraordinaire Sir Richard Branson who has said, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” Offer employees the opportunity to excel at their current jobs and support their aspirations for growth while offering managers guidance on their role in employee development. Provide a variety of paths for learning including tuition reimbursement, formal face-to-face programs, self-paced online learning, brown bag lunches, job rotation, job shadowing, and even paid volunteer work are ways to help employees grow. 

2. Formal Recognition Programs: 

The key here is balance. Develop programs that are top down, team focused, and also peer to peer. Such programs can include walls of fame, newsletter articles, handwritten notes from managers to employees, public recognition at all-hands meetings, and gift certificates. The most successful programs have clearly defined parameters, often around demonstrations of company values. An employee committee that reviews nominations monthly according to a set of criteria is a way to build the foundation for an ongoing formal program. 

3. Informal and Fun

Spot awards are great ways for managers to provide just-in-time recognition. Companies can develop theme-based calendars for employee recognition. From flowers in the spring to an ice cream social in the summer to a Halloween costume contest in the fall, and hot chocolate and snacks in the winter, it’s truly the thought that counts and better yet, these do not have to be expensive. 

Think about ways to create spontaneous joy. Office-wide games such as scavenger hunts or trivia quizzes create excitement. Food is always well-received. Spa days, where you bring in professionals to offer manicures or massages are an option. Or what about a mobile car wash service? The key is to find out from your employees what they would enjoy and value. Vary it to keep that spontaneity and freshness. Give managers small budgets to do similar activities within their departments while also offering office or company-wide programs.

A final note: Above all else, I encourage you to be sure to give accolades, rewards, recognition to your teams throughout the entire year. Research shows that 84 percent of workers say praise should be given on a continual, year-round basis.