March 4 is earmarked as Employee Appreciation Day, so we’re highlighting some of the ways that you can show appreciation for your staff. You may even be surprised to learn about the impact of employee appreciation on job performance. Thank you for reading, you’re a heck of a visitor and we appreciate you.


The modern calendar has lots of days like Employee Appreciation Day, but are they anything more than a good marketing ploy? Perhaps not in the great scheme of things, but even made-up events can have meaning when considered in context. 

Many people think Valentine’s Day is overly commercial, for example, but that doesn’t stop the world from buying 250 million roses and making profound declarations of love when February 14 rolls around. So, maybe making time for employee appreciation could be important too? 

In fact, data shows that people really love to celebrate and to be celebrated with special occasions like commemorative days. Research conducted by Ipsos Reid has found that as many as eight in ten Americans agree that “with life getting more complicated, it’s even more important to celebrate life’s simple moments, like a birthday.

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The same poll showed that one in four believe that celebrating the birthdays of family, friends, and close associates is even “more important” now than it used to be. Nine in ten Americans also agreed that they “feel special when someone puts a lot of energy into celebrating” their birthday. 

Employee Appreciation Day may be important after all

team

Psychologist, Dr Madeleine Mason Roantree, suggests that the importance of holding a celebration where we show our appreciation for another person stems from their ability to create special moments that give extra meaning to our daily routines. By creating such moments on a regular basis, we can elevate the routine into the ritual, bring people together, and “foster a sense of belonging”. 

So, maybe giving roses on February 14 and promoting staff appreciation on March 4 can deepen our romantic and workplace relationships after all. 

Dr Mason Roantree continues: 

Think of our mental state as a battery, it can be fully charged, totally sapped or somewhere in between. When fully charged, you are likely to make better decisions, tolerate difficult people, be more alert and focused, feel more enabled and confident. A drained battery leads you down a more pessimistic path, where you are less able to contain your anger, frustrations and stress, you feel more despondent and hopeless about life, more tired or agitated and generally low. In psychology we call this battery ‘ego strength’, some refer to it as will power.

How can we increase the ego strength of our colleagues?

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One way is through breaks. There is a wealth of academic research which shows that taking breaks is beneficial not just for workers but for their work too. Having lunch, scheduling focus-time away from interruptions, and taking micro-breaks to stretch tired muscles can all alleviate stress and increase productivity. 

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Clearly, weekends and longer vacations are optimal for psychological recovery and resetting, but even small breaks in the workday can contribute to heightened wellbeing. One long-term study of over 800 Finnish workers discovered that something as simple as having a defined lunch break “was related to a decrease in exhaustion and to an increase in vigor” both in the post-lunch period and even up to a year later.

Breaks, both lunch and otherwise, help workers to be more productive in their roles. 

Breaks aren’t just time away from the keyboard though, they also come from actively pursuing wellbeing practices such as meditation, yoga, and social interactions. For many people, having a social break where you speak with peers or attend a celebration together is another way to revive spirits and so to increase wellbeing and productivity. 

This is where Employee Appreciation Day comes back in. The science above – psychological and organizational – all suggests that not only are there good reasons we should mark special occasions as social breaks, but that appreciation itself is also a psychically positive thing to celebrate. 

Dr Mason Roantree again writes:

A full battery, or abundance in ego strength, […] can be partially restored by what we might call positive psychology practices, such as mindfulness, grounding, acceptance, appreciation and gratitude.

The importance of employee appreciation and recognition for performance

If marking occasions is one way to generate good feeling in an organization, marking an occasion with employee appreciation and recognition is doubly so. 

According to Deloitte, organizations that deploy well-structured employee recognition programs enjoy a 14% advantage in employee engagement, productivity, and performance over those that don’t recognize and appreciate staff

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When you think that a 15% improvement in employee engagement may generate a 2% increase in profits, taking the time to recognize team members for their contributions makes sense. 

One of the oft-quoted studies around the impact of personal recognition for workers comes from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. In its study, the Wharton School divided fundraisers into two groups: one which made its usual phone calls for donations, and a second, which received a message of thanks and appreciation from a senior leader prior to the workday. Over the following week, the employees who had received the message increased their productivity and made 50% more calls than those who didn’t. 

Appreciation ideas to thank employees

Finding the right way to recognize employees will depend on the type and size of your organization (is your workforce predominantly remote or on-location? Frontline or desk-based?) and the individual you want to recognize. Some will prefer public acknowledgment during company all hands meetings, while others might respond better to a token of appreciation given during a one-to-one meeting. Inevitably that will be a decision for line managers, but here are some general ideas to raise recognition. 

Public employee appreciation ideas 

A wall of fame: A classic of offices and frontline locations everywhere. Create a wall of fame for employee wins, going the extra mile, or meeting company values, and you’ll soon have a simple but effective public gallery. A wall of fame also encourages social cohesion as it gives staff a way to get to know names and faces. 

Now that the world has gone towards a hybrid work model, there’s no reason why technology shouldn’t play a role too. Use digital signage to broadcast employee appreciation messages in all your locations, or create a content area on your intranet where you can have a virtual hall of fame. Social intranet features such as liking, @mentioning, and commenting can all help to generate even more internal sharing too. 

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Values-led awards: Typically held on a monthly or quarterly basis, values awards often involve senior leaders singling out employees whose work has aligned with the organization’s values. This has the double benefit of also publicizing your corporate values continually. The awards may be held on a meeting, via email, or through a blog post from an executive. 

If you want to make it a more interactive session, encourage colleagues to nominate each other. By giving reasons for their nomination, they may also provide a good story for the rest of the company to hear about. 

Surprise celebration: Cake and balloons aren’t just for birthdays. Decorating a colleague’s workstation or sharing a cake can be a low-cost, easy way to acknowledge accomplishments or long service. This can also be a fun way to bring your department together and doesn’t have to stop just because you’re now working in a dispersed way. Arranging a surprise team video meeting can be a good way to let staff members know that everyone values their effort.  

Social announcement: Sharing your staff’s successes on external social media is an excellent way of highlighting great achievements and can help to attract potential job applicants. This kind of announcement is great for celebrating achievements and is good PR for your organization. 

With modern intranet software you also have the benefit of an internal social media network, so why not encourage colleagues to like and make posts promoting one another when it’s relevant (at the close of a big project, for example).  

Private employee appreciation ideas 

Some people are less keen on the spotlight and prefer to be rewarded in a low-key way. If that’s the case, cater to the introverts in your organization with some smaller scale celebrations. 

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Send an email: The email is perhaps the simplest of the tools in our multichannel communication environment. Simple doesn’t mean unimportant though because a meaningfully written email can provide encouragement and confidence to an individual. 

With the advent of chat as a main channel of communication, email has taken on a different status and is often reserved for more important messages. Sending an email from a manager or a senior leader can take on special significance then and shouldn’t be overlooked. You could even highlight their contribution in a staff newsletter and they’ll receive the accolades but be spared the blushes of appearing in public.

Lunch date: Taking employees out for lunch is another way to recognize their contribution in a quieter way. A break from your workspace and some good food is a meaningful way to congratulate them on a job well done. 

Again, remote working shouldn’t be a barrier to this kind of activity. Gift employees with a voucher for a local meal or coffee delivery service and then block out some time so you can eat and socialize together.  

Say thanks: While a sincere ‘well done’ from their line manager will be remembered by the employee, nothing hits home more than the CEO, or another senior-level figure, making a beeline to congratulate the person on their accomplishments. 

Vlog: If a CEO or senior leader is not able to speak to the employee in person, filming a congratulatory video is a quick and easy way to connect with the person in question. 

If you want to go the whole hog and you know which celebrity the employee would love to be congratulated by, you could always use a service like Cameo.com to procure a personalized thanks for a reasonable cost (depending on the celebrity). 

A home delivery: Anything from a token gift to something bigger can make an incredible impact. A gift delivery is always a special thing to come home to and will be well received as a sincere show of thanks. 

Create a space where you can say thanks 

Whether you go public or private on the staff appreciation front, make sure you use the technology at your disposal to make the message even more resonant. One way to do this is by using your employee experience platform to create a virtual community where employees interact, see what everyone is working on, and take the time to acknowledge each other too. 

In addition to setting up a rewards system where managers and colleagues alike can dole out internal recognition points, you can encourage personal blogs and develop communities or forums where workers can discuss accomplishments while sharing comments and praise. If it’s set up well, your intranet should be the perfect place to combine professional and social tools in a way that is encouraging and admiring. 

employee recognition software

Finally, it’s essential to listen to your workforce and find out what individuals want to hear when it comes to recognition. Put it out to the people – how do they want to be appreciated? Ask the question via a suggestion box, or through the use of pulse surveys, and you may find more ideas to make your workplace even better. 

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