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Beyond Employee Appreciation Day: 8 Tactics For Year-Round Gratitude

Jane Sarles Larson

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Employees collaborating on Employee Appreciation Day

Employee Appreciation Day, which falls on the first Friday in March, is a day for companies and bosses to say thanks to the members of their team for all their hard work.

It’s a tried-and-true way of demonstrating to your employees that you care, but the approach many companies take to Employee Appreciation Day leaves a lot to be desired.

Here’s the issue:

If you’re only showing how much you appreciate your employees in that singular 24-hour period, you’re doing them and your company a huge disservice.

According to one poll, 48% of American workers never feel appreciated at work. But when they do, they stick around longer and are more productive.

Keeping the members of your team happy can’t be accomplished by ticking a box marked “appreciate employees” once per year. It should be interwoven with the daily work your people do.

Here are eight strategic employee appreciation tactics that should be interwoven into your overarching business objectives the other 364 days of the year.


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Tactic #1: Autonomy

In her book “Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals,” psychologist and speaker Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson writes that “autonomy is about experiencing a feeling of volition, of authenticity, of choice…It’s believing that you are the origin of your own actions.”

Simply put, people value blazing their own trail. It makes them more engaged with their work, as there’s more ownership for positive outcomes. As one study details, individuals who are engaged in what they do also experience greater physical and psychological wellbeing than those who lack control of what they do.

This kind of autonomous choice is a huge motivator, and employees who get the opportunity to exercise total power over aspects of a project or task feel appreciated for the work they do.


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Tactic #2: Culture

The culture of your company is a key element in building 24/7 employee appreciation. No matter the industry, when companies put focus on an intentional organizational culture, the result is lower turnover and happier people.

A growing body of research suggests that having just a few disengaged or incompetent employees can sow the seeds of negative culture and potentially ruin the performance of a whole organization. That’s all the more reason to double-down on appreciating your employees.


Related: Download our ebook, “Ensuring Successful Business Transformations Through Powerhouse Culture,” to learn how a strong, thriving organizational culture can help companies navigate change.


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Tactic #3: Respect

A study of 20,000 people across a wide array of industries and organizations discovered that the number one thing that people want from their leaders is respect, and half of employees don’t get that respect from their bosses.

The study found that being treated with respect was more important to employees than recognition and appreciation, providing useful feedback or even opportunities for growth and development.

More respect equals higher engagement, and engaged employees feel appreciated year-round.


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Tactic #4: Immediate Feedback

Today’s employees need proactive, continual and real-time feedback. A retrospective “good job” a week or two after a project is completed is nice, but, by then, it has lost its impact.

Younger generations put something on Instagram, and in 15 to 20 seconds, they’re expecting to know whether it’s good or not. If their workplace isn’t providing the same immediate employee feedback, there’s a problem.

Show your employees that you appreciate them by providing frequent, prompt and direct feedback on their work.


Related: Check out our interactive employee feedback infographic for more stunning facts about employee feedback and its importance in the modern workplace.


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Tactic #5: Motivation

As he describes in his recent book, “Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations”, behavioral psychologist Dan Ariely sets up an experiment where employees are offered pizza, cash or praise from their boss as a motivator. Which incentive worked best? Surprisingly, it wasn’t cash—pizza and praise took the lead.

While you think you know what motivates your people, motivation really isn’t a one-size-fits-all tactic, and neither is appreciating your people. The most interesting thing about motivation may be how complex it is. It’s really a blend of many intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

Ariely echoes this sentiment concisely: “The more a company can offer employees an opportunity for meaning and connections, the harder those employees are likely to work and the more enduring their loyalty is likely to be.”


Tactic #6: Events

Employee morale is an extremely significant aspect of your business, as it can either make or break your organization. People with increased, positive morale are a lot more eager to do their jobs, and they don’t see challenging tasks as a chore, but as an opportunity to develop their set of skills.

A corporate employee event is an excellent way to let your employees know that they are important and highly valued in the organization. It is also a great way to appreciate them for their hard work and provide well-deserved rewards.

Office team-building events are a great way to improve employee morale and help people get to know each other in a less formal setting. Plus, many morale-boosting events don't cost much to execute.


Tactic #7: Emotional Connections

People bring the most to their work when they feel connected to the mission and the people around them. Even knowing this, loneliness is on the rise.

What’s more, weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity.

But we haven’t focused nearly as much effort on strengthening connections between people as we have on curbing tobacco use or obesity.

Workplace connections encourage teammates to work harder—and more safely—regardless of the task, which means it’s important to reinforce social connections.


Tactic #8: Advocacy

When it comes to marketing, nothing works better for a brand’s representation, than a recommendation from someone who has experience or practical knowledge of the organisation. A friend or family member is most effective, followed by objective sources, but employees can (and should) also work as reliable advocates for a company.

According to data from Hinge Research Institute and Social Media Today, almost 64% of companies with formal employee advocacy programs credit advocacy with attracting new business. Additionally, 45% attribute new revenue streams to employee advocacy.

Depending on your brand and industry, capturing attention can be more difficult for brands than individuals. So getting your employees to share articles from your corporate blog, pictures around the office or other types of content on their own social channels can significantly improve your reach.

Employee Appreciation Day isn’t just a Friday in March. With a proactive approach, it’s an everyday occurrence.

Demonstrate that you appreciate your employees on a deeper level by recognizing and rewarding top performance in a wide array of areas, and you’ll see the bottom-line impact of a motivated, thriving team.

Jane Sarles Larson's picture

Jane Sarles Larson

As the Research Manager for ITA Group’s Marketing Strategy, Jane is on the forefront of market research and thought leadership. Her interest in neuroscience and how it applies to human behavior and engagement has led to the development of ITA Group’s approach to motivation called Motivology. Her 30+ years of international advertising, sales and marketing experience is second only to her knowledge of dark chocolate.