Beyond Employee Appreciation Day: Tactics For Year-Round Gratitude

By: Christina Zurek
happy employee receiving appreciation

It’s time again to plan how your organization will celebrate Employee Appreciation Day (it’s March 4th this year, so make sure the date is on your radar!).

Even though it’s an annual holiday, the way you celebrate should be anything but routine. Lack of appreciation is one of the leading causes of employee attrition, and high performers are the most likely to resent a lack of formal and informal recognition.

Think beyond standby tactics like sweet treats or a virtual happy hour. Appreciation is much deeper than that. It’s not something felt with one day of effort. It’s ongoing and needs to be woven into your culture.

It’s also about being consistent with appreciation and understanding what truly matters to employees. Employees want to feel that they’ve made a positive contribution to the work they are doing and understand how that work fits into the organization’s mission. If employees don’t believe the intention behind it all, none of it will matter.

Appreciation is even more important during periods of disruption (when research shows employees’ desire for being recognized for their contribution increases by about 30%). 

To ensure employees feel truly appreciated, organizations need to embed recognition in the culture, and that takes thinking beyond Employee Appreciation Day. Here are seven tactics for team leaders to ensure their recognition is meaningful and memorable, and supports overall organizational culture.

Tactic #1: Lead by Example

Appreciating your team starts with living the values of your organization and recognizing employees when they do so, too. The effort validates the consistency of your actions with organizational values and culture. What’s more, when you align your team with those values, you’ll not only improve organizational culture, you’ll also have a greater chance of impacting your bottom line, as it’s been found that companies who reinforce their values outperform companies who don’t in both customer experience and revenue growth.

Related: Learn how strategic recognition and reward ideas are helping align and unite one client’s employees across the globe as the organization continues to evolve.

Tactic #2: Personalize Recognition

This one’s easy—put their name on it. Whether it’s an email, ecard sent via recognition platform or verbal recognition in a team meeting, using an individual’s name and associating it with a specific accomplishment amplifies the recognition moment for both the recipient and those witnessing it.

Personalization improves emotional connection and supports memory recall.

Related: Download our latest research report which explores pre- and present pandemic employee needs, including the increased importance of recognition.

Tactic #3: Provide Opportunities for Career Growth

While verbal or written recognition is appreciated by most employees, team members are also increasingly eager to develop their own skills and look for support from their organizations to do so, a trend we’ve 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 improve proficiency in their current role and identify growth paths in other roles within your organization.

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

Tactic #4: Celebrate Alternative Forms of Achievement

Some companies recognize their employees for reaching corporate goals. Other companies recognize them for reaching performance goals. So why not recognize employee milestones that align with your brand, motivate your people and support your organization’s culture?

Earning a certification, finishing a significant project, volunteering in the community, delivering excellent customer service—there are countless opportunities for recognizing an individual for their commitment and hard work. What’s more, those opportunities remind workers that the organization is invested in them as individuals, 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 the efforts—you’ll demonstrate the value you place on their unique contributions.

Tactic #6: Make Employee Appreciation an Experience

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

Employee Connectedness Kit

Related: Learn more about how you can surprise and delight employees with employee connection and appreciation kits.

Tactic #7: Create Goodwill

Social scientist and New York Times bestselling author Dan Ariely believes 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.

Related: Learn how meaningful goodwill efforts can build a community of advocates for your organization.

Gratitude Leads to Altruistic Behavior & Long-Term Organizational Success

When organizations 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, with impacts to both 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 among employees? Download our ebook for 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.