Employee Appreciation Day: How to build a culture of year-round recognition

John McNamara
Published on 28th February 2019
3 min read

How do you show your employees you appreciate them?

Friday 1 March 2019 marks Employee Appreciation Day.

Obviously appreciating your employees on only one day of the year is not something we advocate – you should be valuing and recognizing your people all year round – but the day is a good opportunity to take stock and look at what your company is doing to appreciate its staff.

Could you be doing better?

According to a Gallup poll, only one in three US workers strongly agreed they had received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days when surveyed, and only 51% of workers were satisfied with the recognition they received after a job well done, according to Sirota Consulting.

Why does recognition matter?

Recognizing employees helps drive engagement and boosts morale, which in turn increases productivity. That’s vital when productivity levels globally are at their lowest ever.

Appreciation is also a fundamental human need. It falls under the fourth level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Needs – ‘self-esteem’. It is a degree of self-respect and respect from others which includes recognition, attention and appreciation.

With engagement levels reportedly at an all-time low, building a culture of appreciation in your company is not only the right thing to do but also a smart business move.

What kind of appreciation do employees actually want?

According to Gallup, the most effective recognition is honest, authentic and individualized to how each employee wants to be recognized. The key is to know what makes it meaningful and memorable for the employee, and who is doing the recognizing.

The six types of recognition employees highlighted to Gallup as being the most memorable, were:

  • public recognition or acknowledgment via an award, certificate or commendation
  • private recognition from a boss, peer or customer
  • receiving or obtaining a high level of achievement through evaluations or reviews
  • promotion or increase in scope of work or responsibility to show trust
  • monetary award such as a trip, prize or pay increase
  • personal satisfaction or pride in work

So, who’s going the extra mile and showing employees recognition all year-round? And how are they doing it? Here’s five examples of employee appreciation at its best.

1. Motley Fool has made every day Employee Appreciation Day

A few years back, multimedia financial services firm The Motley Fool discovered that its Fools (that’s what it calls its employees!) were not feeling recognized or rewarded for hard work. Writing for the company blog, Erin Miller, People Coach at The Motley Fool, says the company realized that for its people to truly feel appreciated and inspired, ‘rewards needed to be timely and specific’.

At any given moment, employees can now give ‘virtual’ shout-outs to fellow colleagues that can later be converted into prizes. Miller says the program’s been a great success.

2. Omelet grants employees time on passion projects

Creative agency Omelet has a program they call 60/60, which grants employees two hours every week to work on a project they’re passionate about – and it doesn’t even have to relate to a client, reports Snacknation.

Through the program, employees have been able to work on anything from sports sites to food blogs. By recognizing and celebrating an employee’s passions, they know you value them as an employee.

3. Disney: celebrate the everyday and say thank you regularly

Writing for the company blog, Bruce Jones, senior programming director at Disney Institute highlights the value of consistent recognition in the workplace. He says leaders who say thanks as much as possible, and who make recognition a regular, year-round priority create an environment of genuine care, which is a powerful tool for employee engagement.

At Disney, he says they believe that leaders should engage in at least these two broad types of recognition. Firstly, sincere, every-day acknowledgement for ‘going above and beyond’ in daily tasks; and secondly, celebrating special moments and opportunities that focus on larger accomplishments and significant milestones.

4. Federal Brace uses a customer quotes board to recognize employees

Designer support brackets firm Federal Brace has seen its team grow closer since introducing a ‘customer quotes’ board, where it pins up things that customers have said when a team member has gone above and beyond to provide great customer service.

Speaking to Fitsmallbusiness, Marketing Manager Reagan Toal says it helps the company not only focus on an employee’s specific strengths, but also motivate everyone to give our 100%. ‘After 25 quotes are on the board, we take them down, read them as a team, and everyone gets lunch on the company tab for the great work,’ he says.

5. Whole Foods shows appreciation through transparency

Health food giant Whole Foods takes transparency to a whole new level, giving employees votes on new hires, field trips to visit suppliers and visibility into everyone’s salaries.

Giving access to top-level company insights and including employees in areas of the business that are usually reserved for senior management shows recognition and appreciation for your people, along with a high level of value and trust.

Why it should be Employee Appreciation Day every day

When we spoke to 3,500 workers across Canada, the US and the UK about what really drives them at work, 66% said that they saw being valued and recognized as the most important thing to them. They want their employer to say: ‘great job’. They want to feel that their company values the contribution that they’re making to the business.

The companies that get this right don’t just show their employees they value them on Employee Appreciation Day, though – they do this all year round. They put their people first, and they know that great experiences at work mean better performance. At Sage, we call companies which do this ‘People Companies’.

Their employees feel appreciated all year round.

What do your employees really want? Download our research from 3,500 workers on what drives them in the workplace today to find out.

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