Studies have shown that ample employee appreciation can have a tremendous effect in terms of raising a company’s employee retention rate. In fact, some studies show that over half of employees don’t feel recognized at work. And they’re not happy about it. But you can ensure that doesn’t happen at your company.
If you’re looking to maximize employee satisfaction and retention, investing time and energy into employee appreciation and recognition is one of the smartest ways to do that.
The Different Levels Of Employee Appreciation
Successful employee appreciation methods come in all different shapes and sizes. It’s important that employee appreciation happens at a variety of recognition levels — micro, informal, and formal.
Micro-recognition is the day-to-day appreciation applause you give to team members. The sincere thank you note, chat, or email. The $5 gift card or the surprise coffee. Those little “thank yous” for an employee’s small extra efforts that means a lot to you.
Informal recognition is the way you show employee appreciation with an intermediate level of effort and expense. And it usually involves fun.
As an example, the office potluck or pizza party, a trip to a local bowling alley, an in-house visit by a masseuse. Celebrating success and effort with your team helps everyone bond and get to know each other aside from the work experience.
These types of celebrations typically happen once a month or once a quarter.
Lastly, formal recognition typically happens on an annual or semi-annual basis. Think of the annual work dinner at a nicer restaurant or a catered event, complete with a formal awards ceremony.
A formal recognition event doesn’t have to be astronomically expensive, either. When I worked for a small business years ago, our boss would hold our annual event at his home.
His wife would cook up a nice prime rib roast with all of the fixings. We’d enjoy a sit-down dinner at their older suburbia home. He’d give out awards with gift cards, we’d share stories and a glass of wine or two and head home.
It felt like being with cherished family members. But the value was still there because of the efforts he went through to make us feel special.
Be Sincere And Act From The Heart
Sincerity is of the utmost importance when it comes to recognition. In other words, be sure your efforts are coming from the heart and out of a deep appreciation for the contributions an employee makes to your team.
Along with sincerity, work to ensure your appreciation gesture is customized to the specific employee. Does your employee have a dog? Get him or her a special doggie cupcake as an appreciation gesture.
Do they bow out when you order coffee for the group? Get them a fruit smoothie instead. Notice the little things about their personality and their life, and tailor your appreciation gestures to fit their personality.
Doing so will help ensure employees know you really care about them and their lives.
Variety is also important when it comes to employee appreciation. It goes along with customization and helps reassure team members you’re really noticing their efforts.
Incorporate surprise as a part of your variety too. For instance, instead of the normal muffin selection on Friday mornings, bring your team homemade cinnamon rolls or kolackys.
Keep them guessing, keep it light, and keep it fun.
Include Individual, Team And Company Appreciation
Public recognition is important — and necessary. However, so is that private one-on-one meeting where you express your sincere thanks for their efforts.
Likewise, rewarding your team for accomplishments is important. But so is rewarding them simply for being good at working together as a team.
When you put a half a dozen or more people with different personalities together to work on a common goal, it can be difficult just making it through the week, not to mention accomplishing a goal.
Working as a team takes serious efforts to put aside grievances and annoyances, and to think “big picture” for the sake of the company. Reward your team accordingly when they work hard to accomplish team efforts.
Related Article: 6 Key Steps To Building A Focused Company
And while it’s vitally important to reward individuals and teams, it’s also smart to hold company-wide outings if you can.
Again, these larger gatherings don’t have to be expensive. Hold them at the office, or rent a pavilion at a local park. Offer to provide the main dish (for example, BBQ pork) and beverages, and have everyone bring a dish to share.
Company-wide outings give all employees a chance to have some fun together and get to know employees they may not have much contact with during the week.
If the holidays are coming up, here are some Christmas office party ideas.
Now let’s talk about realistic ideas you can use to show your employees you really do appreciate their efforts.
20 Ideas For Employee Appreciation
Here are some of our favorite ideas for employee appreciation. We’ve got employee appreciation ideas both large and small. And for individual employees and for groups and teams.
1. Have A One-On-One Lunch
Take employees out to lunch — on their first day and once or twice a year after that if you can. Try to make it non-work focused if possible — at least some of the time. Use the time as an excuse to get to know your employee better and catch up on life’s goings-on.
Make it a scheduled lunch, or if you happen to be running out for lunch, surprise a random employee and ask them to join you — your treat of course.
2. Surprise Them With Coffee
Have a surprise “coffee day” at work. Take orders and bring in the team’s favorite coffee or juice drink. If it fits in your budget, add in donuts, muffins, or other snacks.
3. Give A Sincere “Thank You”
Gratitude means more when an employee feels it’s sincere. Give a deserved employee a sincere, face-to-face thank you for a job well done.
Or, leave a thank you note with an inexpensive gift card on an employee’s desk. Be sure the note expresses your gratitude with a personal touch regarding the employee’s performance.
Note: Employees can get in on the fun in this capacity as well. Have “Good job!” notecards or certificates of appreciation that employees can fill out and give to each other to recognize a job well done. Doing so will help bond your employees and promote a positive workplace atmosphere.
4. Make Annual Reviews A Two-Way Street
Employees feel appreciated and valued when their input is asked for. When holding annual reviews, take some time to ask each employee how you can improve upon your company or management style. Take the feedback graciously and work to implement changes as needed.
5. Reward Them With A Day Off
Do you have an employee that really went above and beyond? Consider rewarding them with a “Paid Day Off” coupon to use at their discretion. Be sure the coupon or certificate states how they earned the paid day off.
6. Acknowledge Milestones
Another way to enhance employee appreciation is to celebrate employee milestones. Have a baby shower when someone welcomes a new baby. Celebrate an impending marriage.
Decorate a desk when someone completes a marathon, finishes their degree, or buys a new house. Show your employees you care by helping them celebrate big events in their lives.
Celebrating birthdays and work anniversaries is important too. Create a plan for celebrating these occasions, such as a monthly birthday party for all birthday employees. Or, decorate individual employee desks and leave them a cupcake or gift card to a coffee shop on their work anniversary.
7. Give Gift Cards
Have a reward program in place that involves earning gift cards. You could give away a gift card for each “above and beyond” effort. Or you could have gift card drawings where employees earn chances to win for exemplary efforts. Give gift cards to a local coffee shop or restaurant, or to a local gas station.
8. Reward Employees With Company Swag
Company swag such as t-shirts and coffee mugs can go a long way toward employee satisfaction when given reward-style. Give employees rewards for accomplishments via swag, or buy them a jacket or shirt each year with the company logo on it.
Bonus: Company swag means free advertising for your business.
9. Offer High-End Rewards
Set lofty (but achievable) goals for your employees (or your team) and offer higher-end rewards. Do you or your business have seats to a local sports game? Give away a few pairs of tickets.
Or, give away a mini-vacation to a desirable destination. A spa gift certificate is another higher end gift idea. Set goals for each employee that will show designated serious effort on their part and reward them when they reach those goals.
10. Give A Raise Or Cash Bonus
Does your employee consistently excel when it comes to reaching individual goals? There comes a time when thank you notes and company swag just doesn’t cut it.
If you have an employee who is a consistent valuable asset to your business, reward them with cash. Give them a raise. Hand them a cash bonus at the end of the year.
Make an extra contribution to their 401k account. Nothing says “I appreciate you” more than cold, hard cash.
Next, let’s look at some team or company-wide employee appreciation ideas.
11. Hold a Semi-Annual or Annual Event
As mentioned earlier, one idea is to hold an annual outing such as laser tag, an afternoon at an indoor amusement center, a bowling event, a golf day, or a food truck lunch.
Use the day as an opportunity to relax and have fun, and keep work out of it.
12. Plan Charitable Events
Charitable events can be combined with awards recognition to help your team members give as they receive. Visit a non-profit that packs food for kids in third world countries. Sign up to participate in a Habitat for Humanity event. Serve food at a local homeless shelter.
13. Use Social Media To Recognize Employees and Teams
Public recognition events go a long way when it comes to employee satisfaction. Recognize your team’s efforts on social media, or encourage peers to recognize teams or teammates on your company’s social media channels.
14. Be Open To Flexible Schedules
Part of employee appreciation efforts mean trusting your team members to do their job. When you offer flexible schedule options to those who prove their efforts, you’re saying “I appreciate your hard work”.
Allow your team to work at home one or two days a week. Or do nine-hour workdays Monday through Thursday and let them leave early on Fridays.
Related Article: The Keys To Successfully Managing Remote Teams
15. Hold A Monthly Or Quarterly In-House Team Lunch
Share a meal with your team or company a few times a year. This can be as simple as having pizza brought in or having everyone sign up to bring a potluck dish.
16. Plan An Afternoon Rewards Ceremony
Have an annual afternoon out at a local restaurant or park. Foot the bill and hold an awards ceremony. Be sure every employee gets recognized for a specific strength or contribution.
17. Hold A Self Care Day
Take a day or two a year and designated it “Self Care Day”. Let your employees decide what that means. Employees who take the day off get paid.
Employees who come to work get pampered with an extra casual workday, a fitness class, a neck massage, and a paid lunch.
18. Offer Upgraded Office Supplies
This might seem inconsequential, but quality supplies where it matters can mean a lot. For instance, purchase high quality standing mats for cashiers.
Get desks with standing desk options for desk employees. Purchase ergonomically correct office chairs. Redesign the break room to be more welcoming.
19. Pay For Continuing Education
If it’s in your company’s budget, offer education for employee milestones or accomplishments. As an example, give the gift of a community education class that fits in with your company’s goals as a reward for a job well done.
You could give them a beginner course for a foreign language such as Spanish, or simply give them a gift certificate to your city’s community education organization.
20. Offer Unique Rewards
Lastly, offer other unique benefits as a way to show employee appreciation. Have a “bring your dog to work” day.
Surprise your team with the afternoon off — paid. Have a movie afternoon in the office, complete with popcorn and theater candy.
There’s no shortage of ways to show your team members you appreciate them.
Research done by Fox News Health supports that having fun at work boosts creativity and productivity.
“There is good evidence that if you allow employees to engage in something they want to do, (which) is playful, there are better outcomes in terms of productivity and motivation,”
Dr. Stuart Brown shared with Fox News. “All sorts of creative new connections are made when you’re playing that otherwise would not have been made.”
When you work to establish solid employee satisfaction via successful employee appreciation practices, you create a happier, more productive team of employees. And that typically translates into a more successful business.