Here's Why Employee Appreciation Is So Important
A business is only as strong as its community and culture.
No matter the seniority level, a company hires each employee for their specific ability to expand and support the office. But what happens when someone’s hard work becomes commonplace or simply overlooked? Since respect and appreciation are directly linked to retention, unrecognized employees are now more likely to head right for the door.
It’s not just about monetary recognition, either. According to a recent study, a third of employees would take a lower salary for a position in which they felt seen and heard. This new shift in work culture comes from a wave of driven and focused employees looking to find purpose in their daily regimen.
What creates this sought-after feeling of whistling while you work?
It turns out that it’s not about having an easier job, but often quite the opposite. After polling 24,000 employees across eight countries, Robert Half found that the top reasons for employee joy came from feeling supported, heard and respected.
Setting the scene for an enthusiastic office
With startup offices across the country adding foosball tables, puppies and fully stocked bars to the mix, how do companies determine which efforts work best for their office?
Caribou Coffee's Mike Tattersfield told Fast Company that it’s all about creating a casual space that encourages conversation for both his employees and customers. Implementing quirky awards, such as watermelons or ribbons, can serve as public markers for employees reaching important milestones.
The Robert Half study also found that empowerment and opportunities to develop their skills on the job are two major leaders in employee appreciation tools. When workers have more independence in doing work and making decisions — and are given the space and tools to grow — they are more likely to report that their job brings them happiness.
Milestones are an excellent way to weave employee appreciation into your company’s culture. For example, by celebrating an employee’s recent success on a project or work anniversary in a personalized way, the smallest investment in a celebration speaks worlds to an employee considering moving to a new company.
Zappos Insights encourages managers to start by taking a look at their company mission and core values. For instance, its immersive three-day culture camp ensures that business leaders fully comprehend and make decisions based on their company’s purpose. Beyond this, each employee should feel that their daily tasks connect to this purpose and feel recognized for upholding it.
When you find holes in executing the company’s mission, how can you shift an employee’s day-to-day schedule to make them feel more connected? This sense of belonging has been found to directly increase productivity and retention. Incentives, office competitions and recognition awards allow employees to redirect and re-motivate their daily work while knowing that their work won’t go unrecognized.
Employee appreciation tips
Before we jump into the literal examples of employee appreciation, consider approaching your employee-appreciation game plan with a few general tips.
Every employee is different
Your team’s versatility and diversity are their strength. Be sure to check in with each person before celebrating their accomplishments publicly. While some will revel in this attention, others will more greatly appreciate a personalized note or something equally quiet.
Mix up your audience
Consider a list of company appreciation tactics that serve individuals, small teams or entire departments. This balances individuality with a teamwork mindset.
Vary your schedule
Celebrations can lose their effectiveness if they’re seen as an annual task to check off the list. Surprise teams with celebratory lunches after big projects or notes of thanks when someone has gone out of their way to help another employee.
10 personalized ways to recognize your employees
1. Structured incentives
The Business Journals reported that the vagueness of discretionary bonuses often discourages and confuse employees. Specific and clear incentives drive teams forward without creating a company culture of secrecy. With clear rewards, progress is placed more in the hands of the employees instead of their managers.
2. Training and education
Use your annual review to chat about growth opportunities. Whenever possible, offer workshop or conference opportunities to teams or individuals that are looking to grow. Invite them to return and report back to the department on their findings.
3. Handwritten thank you notes
Taking the extra steps to buy a card, handwrite a note and deliver the message goes much further than a quick email or verbal pat on the back. Many employees will hang the card up on their desk, which then acts as a daily reminder of their connection to the team.
4. Leverage their community
Each employee’s work community is more likely to know about their favorite activities, hobbies and foods. Poll the group to learn the best way to personalize a birthday, work anniversary or project celebration specifically to them. Work friends can also help advise if each person would prefer a public or quieter to-do.
5. Off-site lunch
A change of scenery makes all the difference when meeting with a boss or work friends. Host a long lunch or happy hour at a nearby restaurant where everyone can take the time to relax and not feel as if they need to run back to their desk. Personalize the experience by finding a place based on your team’s dietary preferences.
6. Holistic and lifestyle-focused gifts
Experiential gifts can make a huge impression. Consider certificates for local restaurants, spas or movie theatres, personalizing your choice for each employees’ hobbies and personalities. This also gives them the opportunity to destress outside of work, encouraging a company culture of work-life balance.
7. Remote work day
Some workers function best with fewer office distractions. Reward concentrated work with the option to either work from home once a month or take the team to an off-site spot to brainstorm a new project. The different energy can boost creativity and shake up routine.
8. Newsletter shoutout
Praising an employee in print is not only a professional way to show their work is appreciated but also a tool for employees to keep in their portfolios to further their career.
9. Sabbaticals and time off
There’s a reason why sabbaticals are so common in educational settings. Creative thinking in the long-term often results from time away to learn from new sources away from the steady rhythm of work. By allowing promising employees to take the time to rest or study away from the office, this may set them up for longer-term growth within the company.
10. Project independence
Annual reviews are a key time to check in with your team and ensure they’re working on projects that excite them. If they’re feeling stagnant — or even ready to leave the company — consider shifting them to new projects based on their guidance.
Changing your culture
How do you begin implementing these employee recognition tactics when you’re already busy enough? Start small and weave these traditions into your company’s core values slowly.
At Zappos, each team and department has the opportunity to celebrate their colleagues for a bevy of reasons. This broad approach sets the tone for all the specific incentives that follow.
A small investment of your energy can result in greater retention, enhanced creativity, increased morale, and a more satisfying workplace for everyone.