8 Ways to Appreciate Employees All Year Long

Early March brings a holiday that was established in 1995 by Bob Nelson – a member of the Recognition Professionals International (which previously was the National Association for Employee Recognition.)

This is the “official day” for bosses to thank their employees for their hard work and effort throughout the year. This year, Friday, March 1st is THE day.

Customer appreciation is something companies almost automatically do. That’s great since customers should be top priority since happy customers readily expand their relationships with you and recommend you to others.

Mark Mahoney, CEO and co-founder of Jackrabbit Technologies, has a great way perspective on this. “Happy employees make happy customers.” It’s a belief that has earned Jackrabbit recognition as a best workplace quite frequently and – even more important – has ensured that the companies employee retention remains very high.

Employee appreciation most certainly can be celebrated more than the designated March day and there are many companies doing this. HubSpot prioritizes company culture and has employees work on projects that they genuinely care about – creating an atmosphere of appreciation each and every day.

Jackrabbit invests in an appreciation program that also extends beyond that day set aside in March. There are appreciation elements throughout the year and each employee’s life cycle.

Yes – good employees are hard to find and research shows that most prefer to feel appreciated even over financial compensation. Good employee retention also costs companies less than constant training of new people.  Also – a study by the University of Warwick shows that happier employees are 12% more productive than unhappy ones. Showering your employees in appreciation confirms within them that they are appreciated and they, in turn, appreciate their work more.

If you’re looking to start an employee appreciation program or freshen up the one you already run, the following ideas (along with the ones we’ve already mentioned from Jackrabbit’s appreciation program) that you might like for showing your employees how much you appreciate them.Whether you have a large budget, a small one or practically no budget at all, you might try these 8 ideas:

1.      Celebrate small wins/Reward jobs well done.

2.      Make investments in employee professional development.

3.      Celebrate the end of months or quarters.

4.      Organize meals.

5.      Celebrate anniversaries of individual hire dates.

6.      Invest in your employees’ health.

7.      Allow flexible schedules.

8.      Ask employees how they want to be appreciated.

Here are some details that will help you plan your own employee appreciation program.

1.   Celebrate small wins/Reward jobs well done. 

The big goals are easy to celebrate but they don’t happen without the small milestones that pave the way. This doesn’t have to be huge – in fact simple shout-outs often work best! Recognizing it when they’ve done a good job shows that you’re keeping track of their performance.

Certain provides employees with a messaging platform called Kudos to show appreciation for their peers, managers and teams and offers #Slack channels for announcing random acts of excellence. They take it one step further by awarding those who are

Company-wide events are often great but individual awards are a great way to recognize performance or celebrate small wins. Having that Employee of the Month certificate or plaque in their office may mean more than you think. You can get creative with individual awards. Maybe recognizing those who stepped up as leaders, surpassed their goals, innovated to get their project done or took on new responsibilities.

Jackrabbit shows appreciation for the hard work that all employees contribute to achieve goals. Events range from happy hours, group dinners and entire weekends in popular vacation destinations.

The company also does weekly team shout-outs to celebrate spontaneous acts of excellence or “rocks” achieved and awards Golden Carrots annually for those who best exemplify the company’s core values to support the environment that the other appreciation elements highlight.

Zoom views employee appreciation not as a day but as a way of life. The company even has a happiness crew that delivers happiness to employees, customers, and community through unique activities, perks and experiences. They reimburse employees for books they or their family members buy and for their fitness or gym memberships/class. These reimbursements have no caps! The executives also take turns hosting monthly breakfasts for their teams.

Commvault has organized a global photo project for employee appreciation. They have employees around the world and have asked that they submit photos of life at Commvault.

They have collected 3000 photos. By the official employee appreciation day, the company will have created a mosaic from the images that will live as artwork in their offices around the globe. Employees are invited to place more photographs and help with assembly at their local offices.

The mosaic coincides with a social hour in which everyone is encouraged to recognize one another’s talents and show appreciation for those talents.

2.   Make investments in employee professional development.

At subscription management company Zuora, the initiatives focus on helping each employee achieve their professional goals.

Employee appreciation can focus on helping each employee achieve their professional goals – even when those goals may be outside of their present career path. Companies achieve this in different ways.

Zuora has incentives that are set up on a points system they can cash out for real gifts; that include an annual stipend for professional development that can be related or unrelated to their present career path; and quarterly awards where they’re recognized by the executive leadership team.

The essence of this is to show your employees that you are noticing their hard work and that gives them more reason to continue over-achieving.

3.   Celebrate the end of months or quarters.

HubSpot has pizza day as the last working day of the month. It’s a special treat to say thank you for hustling so hard to hit big goals.

Cupertino Electric, Inc organizes things a little differently out of necessity. Instead of one event or day when all employees feel pressure to attend, they invest in in-person gatherings that appeal to different groups. There is an employee appreciation party for California-based employees in February and a big party in Las Vegas for employees working across the U.S. Every quarter, the company organizes an activity to bring employees together in the service of a volunteer cause. These unite people who work on causes that matter to them. These events have something for everyone and focus on fun.

Jackrabbit hosts social nights at one of the team’s favorite sports bars nearby as a way to show appreciation for team hustle. This works especially well for Jackrabbit because the company doesn’t have a traditional office hub. All employees work remotely, using web-based tools like Zoom to hold meetings or – in the case of the development team – having in-office Tuesdays when the engineering ad product teams work collaboratively in person. The social events get the entire team (or as many as can come) together face-to-face and get to know each other better. It’s not a working event but a time to build relationships and have fun.

4.   Organize meals.

Eating together is something all groups enjoy – from families and friends to churches and companies. So having department lunch meetings where everyone orders lunch together to quarterly reporting events where food is catered in gives employees the opportunity to bond over one of our favorite things – food.

Some companies do potluck to defray costs and add the homemade aspect to the meal. This helps companies with small budgets for such activities still provide an appreciation event.

5.   Celebrate anniversaries of individual hire dates.

Long-term employees are your most valuable ones. They not only have skills, they have history and can often be a back of knowledge.

Showing appreciation to them is important. One easy way to do this is to recognize years of service on their work anniversaries. Those reaching milestone years can be recognized at company events such as the company’s holiday events or corporate retreats.

For each employee’s birthday, Jackrabbit sends an email that is quite simple but expresses “thanks” perfectly. The email arrives with an opportunity for the employee to choose a gift card from a pretty broad selection. After the choice is made the e-card is delivered via email.

It’s important to show these employees how important their commitment is to you. You can do this as simply as possible with an email or card or send flowers, have a cake or award them with a plaque or small gift. Some companies offer handwritten cards – and these sentiments are generally more appreciated and have greater impact than any gift.

6.   Invest in your employees’ health.

Showing appreciation to your employees can recognize accomplishments beyond their professional ones. For example, fitness milestones and goals great for this. After all, you also want your employees to take care of themselves because healthy employees are more productive at work.

This is easy to recognize through team fitness events and competitions in which you offer prizes fo for those who “win.” Whether it’s percentage of body fat or weight lost, or number of miles or steps gained during time periods, people love to compete.   FitBits can be an appreciation gift in competitions – and the device used to track competition data.

Competitions offer many things in addition to helping your employees with fitness. They’re great for cross-company team-building and bonding. Those who are extremely competitive enjoy these activities immensely!

And then there is stress. The American Psychological Association has cited that stress costs U.S. businesses roughly $300 billion a year and research shows that chronic stress is linked to 6 leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. More than 75 percent of all physician office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.

Those statistics are some that have inspired GroundTruth to focus on employee wellness to show appreciation. They offer a healthy breakfast, a meditation class, and a paid subscription to a meditation app with the goal to reduce emotional exhaustion and improve job satisfaction. This even helps employees feel happier and more in touch with what they love about their jobs.

Many companies – Jackrabbit is an example – pay for standing desks for employees who want them. Such offers give employees who sit all day a way to be kind to their backs, necks and shoulders.

7.   Allow flexible schedules.

Appreciation can become part of your strategy and mission when you offer flexible schedules, vacation and leave. Appreciation being integrated into the company’s normal routine can ensure that employees feel heard and understood – and appreciated – at all times.

Instead of grilling them down to the minute on the clock, allowing employees to work on their own schedules also shows your trust in them to get their jobs done by deadlines. In turn, they will want to prove that that trust was well-placed. Everyone understands that the important part is that the job gets done – not necessarily when the job gets done (that is unless you fulfill specific hours for client services or technical support).

It’s also a fact that employees who don’t feel confined by their jobs work better. You can be flexible with vacation, leave and personal time as long as time off doesn’t affect results.

Jackrabbit’s business structure supports this theory whole-heartedly. With all employees being remote, there is tremendous freedom in taking care of work, family and personal care at the times they require attention. The result for Jackrabbit has been high satisfaction levels for customers and employees along with effective productivity rates and goals achievement.

8.   Ask employees how they want to be appreciated.

You may think you know what your employees want, but your assumptions may not be accurate. Why not just ask them how they would like to be appreciated? This is simple to do with a poll that offers options for how they prefer celebrations, awards and recognition to be provided. You can also ask how they think their work environment can become more employee-friendly.

Even this shows that you care about what they want and respect their opinions. When you give people what they want and they will reciprocate with respect and loyalty to your company.

Chatmeter has run a social media contest for employees to post their favorite picture from a past Chatmeter activity, with a caption naming an idea for something fun or crazy the team could do next. Once submissions to the contests are done, everyone gets to vote on the best idea, and the company fund the winning activity.

Employee appreciation CAN be a great way to increase productivity but that isn’t your purpose here. You want to thank your employees just as you want your employees to feel appreciated.

Mark Mahoney’s theory that happy employees make happy customers is accurate! A little recognition can go a long way in maintaining an employee’s job satisfaction. Companies who go the extra mile will be rewarded with their workers’ productivity and loyalty.

There are also 9 Ways to Fail at Employee Recognition. Read about them!

Sources:

https://blog.hubspot.com/service/employee-appreciation-day-ideas

https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurencebradford/2018/02/22/8-companies-offering-employee-appreciation-day-initiatives/#11474a7f49c4

https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/new_study_shows/

About the Author:

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After studying graphic design at the University of Georgia, Jill held several positions in media and marketing including Art Director, Editor and Marketing Director. As a student of dance, she has spent plenty of time in children’s activity centers and puts that experience to work for her in the work she does with Jackrabbit. In addition to her interest in dance, Jill also enjoys sports, gourmet cooking, entertaining, singing and spoiling her five grandchildren.

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