Beyond Employee Appreciation Day: Tactics For Year-Round Gratitude

Christina Zurek
Christina Zurek

employee celebrating at desk while working remotely

No matter what you call it—gratitude, thanks, appreciation, acknowledgement or recognition—people thrive on knowing their contributions (in the workplace or at home) have value.

What’s more, according to research from Gartner, during periods of disruption, employees’ desire for being recognized for their contribution increases by about 30%. Which is all the more reason that, as nice as it is to be formally recognized on a holiday like National Employee Appreciation Day, showing your people you value them needs to be an ongoing effort.

Beyond positively impacting individual employees, expressing gratitude in the workplace is also an important way for leaders to create a culture of appreciation and signals to other employees desired workplace behaviors.

Here are seven tactics for team leaders to consider who are looking to ensure their recognition is meaningful, memorable and supports overall organizational culture.

Tactic #1 – Lead by Example

Appreciating your team starts with living the values of your company. If your actions align with the corporate goals and principles, you’re demonstrating the behaviors you expect from your employees. By acting in ways that align to your culture and following through by doing what you say you will, you’ll show that you personally believe in your company’s values. When you align your team to those values, you’ll not only improve your organizational culture—it’s also been found that companies who reinforce their values outperform companies who don’t in both customer experience and revenue growth.

Tactic #2 – Personalize Recognition

This one’s easy—put their name on it. Whether it’s an email, ecard sent via recognition software or in a team meeting, using a person’s name and associating it with a specific task amplifies the recognition moment for both the recipient and those witnessing it. Bonus tip: if you’re providing a tangible reward with the recognition, be sure it’s something the employee would want—personalization improves emotional connection and supports memory recall.

Tactic #3 – Provide Opportunities for Career Growth

While verbal or written recognition is appreciated by most employees, they are also increasingly eager to develop their own skills and looking for support from their organizations to do so, a trend we have seen increase even more in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Show your gratitude for hard-working employees by providing them with resources that will help them further enhance their value.

Related: Learn how upskilling employees can create a well-rounded workforce and increase your organization’s effectiveness.

Tactic #4 – Don’t Overlook Alternative Forms of Growth, Either

Some companies recognize their employees for reaching company goals. Others recognize them for reaching performance goals. But why not recognize other professional and personal milestones? Earning a certification, finishing a significant project, volunteerism in the community—there are countless opportunities for recognizing an individual for their commitment and hard work What’s more, it reminds workers that the organization is invested in them as people, and not just as contributors to a bottom line.

Tactic #5 – Encourage Psychological Safety by Embracing Authenticity

Inclusivity takes root when employees feel safe and supported bringing their authentic selves to work. By encouraging open, honest conversation about opportunities or challenges—and then recognizing those employees who step up to support those efforts—you’ll demonstrate the value you place on their unique contributions.

Related: It can be especially challenging to create this connection for a dispersed workforce, so be sure to check out our tips for how leaders can connect with mobile employees for more ideas.

Tactic #6 – Make It an Experience

For many, the COVID-19 pandemic was a lesson in the value of shared experiences. While employee events like company celebrations have always been a great way to recognize your people, we’ve learned other approaches that can ensure a meaningful and motivational experience for the recipient, including virtual events and a return to physical mail usage to ensure important messages are shared (no matter where employees are located).

Related: Learn more about how you can surprise and delight employees with our Employee Connection and Appreciation Kits.

Tactic #7 – Create Goodwill

Social scientist and New York Times bestselling author, Dan Ariely believes that creating goodwill in the workplace is key in true motivation (see video below). He states in his book, Payoff, that the “exchange of trust and goodwill is an important and inherent part of human motivation.” More than that, it’s the emotional result of effective recognition and nourishes human connections between people. The more trust and goodwill are inspired, gratitude for one another becomes contagious and productivity and morale flourishes.

Gratitude Leads to Altruistic Behavior & Long-term Organizational Success

When companies celebrate the value of their employees, everyone wins. Employees are more likely to be engaged and employers are more likely to benefit from that engagement, including improved productivity and performance.

So why limit employee appreciation to a single day? Use this year’s Employee Appreciation Day as a chance to kick off ongoing efforts to show every worker they count.

Looking for even more ways to inspire goodwill within your employees? Download our ebook to get insights from social scientist and New Your Times bestselling author, Dan Ariely, as well as 50+ Ways to Motivate Your Employees for Measurable Results.

50+ Ways to Motivate Your Employees for Measurable Results

Christina Zurek

Christina Zurek

Christina is an experienced leader with a passion for improving the employee experience, employee engagement and workplace culture. Few things excite her as much as an opportunity to try something unfamiliar (be that a project, development opportunity, travel destination, food, drink or otherwise), though digging in to a research project is a close second.