Are you ready for employee appreciation day? It takes place on the first Friday of March every year, and it’s a great opportunity to show your employees how much you value them. When employees feel appreciated, they perform at their best and are less likely to leave. In fact, organizations that rate their culture of recognition highly are 3 times more likely to see increased employee retention and 2.5 times more likely to see increased employee engagement, among other benefits.
There’s no better time than employee appreciation day to start putting ideas for year-round recognition into practice. Employees will never forget the employee appreciation day when they first started to accrue reward points, or when they first started hearing “thank you” regularly from their manager.
Here are 15 ways you can thrill your employees and keep them motivated on employee appreciation day and beyond.
For employee appreciation day…
Employee appreciation day is the time to provide your team members with something special. Here are a few ideas that are bound to please everyone at your organization.
1. Reward with gift cards and experiences
Gift cards are popular for a reason. They give employees the ability to choose rewards that they find meaningful, rather than yet another one-size-fits-all t-shirt or water bottle. And if you’re looking for a reward that’s more unique, you can’t go wrong with providing an exceptional experience. This might be something for the whole team — like renting out a theme park, reserving an escape room, or learning to cook from an accomplished chef — or for individual employees, like paying for a day trip to a spa or a meal at their favorite restaurant.
2. Pamper your employees
Employee appreciation day is your chance to let your team indulge and take a break from their hard work. Hire a manicurist, masseuse, or chiropractor to come to the office. Having a sleep or mindfulness coach teach your employees tips to lower their stress is another winning option. These activities emphasize your organization’s commitment to employee wellness and help everyone feel relaxed and rejuvenated.
3. Donate to your employees’ favorite charities
Giving to charities employees support shows that you care about what they care about. You can donate to organizations in employees’ names or provide employees with a set amount to donate per month, per quarter, or per year. Matching donations is another possibility. And if you’ve implemented an employee recognition solution with points-based rewards, you can let them donate reward points to charities of their choice.
4. Give out fun awards
Remember superlatives at the end of a school year? Everyone anxiously awaited that day, and it’s no different in the workplace. Get creative and make up some awards people will truly treasure, like recognition master, exceptional listener, and coaching champion. You can also focus on employees who have best demonstrated your core values, made your workplace more inclusive, or acted like a true team player. Awards are specific and tangible, making employees feel uniquely recognized.
5. Treat your team’s taste buds
Who doesn’t love a free lunch? Food is one of the simplest and most effective ways to reward your employees. Consider catering a meal, surprising your team with a box of tasty snacks — even if they work from home — or taking folks out for coffee. You can also encourage wellness at the same time by providing delicious healthy treats or taking an outing to a restaurant that provides healthy options.
6. Enjoy activities in-office or remotely
Employees want to spend time having fun with their teammates. Host a pizza party in the breakroom or common area with plenty of board games. You could also set up a photo booth, company-wide jeopardy game, or talent contest. And if your workforce is primarily remote, set up an afternoon of virtual games and fun, complete with a pre-delivered gift package.
7. Let employees pursue their passions
Work shouldn’t consume your employees’ lives. They should have the time and space to pursue their passions and interests outside of the workplace. This could mean volunteering or working on an independent project. Many organizations set aside employee appreciation day for activities their team members have always wanted to try. Besides giving employees a break from work, hobbies can inspire innovative ideas and teach employees new skills that help your organization in the long run.
The best employee appreciation days mark the start of something bigger and longer lasting. Making a once-a-year splash is great, but starting on the path to a true culture of recognition is something that will impact employees the most. Try out the following ideas on employee appreciation day and afterwards to make recognition a key part of the employee experience.
8. Just say “thank you”
Simply saying “thank you” can have an enormous impact on your employees, boosting everything from productivity to retention to engagement. Get your workforce in the habit of recognizing people frequently and in real time, and soon every day will feel like employee appreciation day. Have leadership take part in this initiative — recognition from managers and executives means the most to employees — and you’ll have created an employee appreciation day with a profound, enduring impact.
To make appreciation easy in this era of remote work, look for recognition tools that integrate with the ways you communicate daily, whether that’s Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, or another platform. For instance, your organization could adopt a plugin that, upon conclusion of a virtual meeting, prompts employees to recognize other participants and even provides fun messages and graphics for doing so. And if it automatically links with your recognition platform, giving employees the option to reward others with redeemable points, so much the better.
For a more personal touch, have team members’ handwrite thank you notes. The time and thought that comes with each note goes a long way towards making the recipient feel valued.
9. Recognize major milestones and small victories
Big achievements like hitting sales quotas, launching a new product, or retaining tough clients are all reasons to celebrate. Employees expect to be recognized and rewarded for successfully executing on major undertakings. However, practicing more frequent recognition for smaller victories can be unexpected, delightful pick-me-ups for your employees. Be sure to balance your appreciation for big wins with recognition for the little things as well. Use your website, social media channels, newsletter, company-wide newsfeed, or meetings as forums for practicing recognition on employee appreciation day and year-round.
10. Start a recognition program
There’s no better day to announce a recognition program than employee appreciation day. A fully comprehensive recognition and rewards platform reminds people to recognize their peers frequently and genuinely. Your platform’s user interface should be straightforward and integrate with other software your employees already use. In addition, employees should be able to recognize each other anywhere, anytime. A mobile-friendly platform is crucial for companies whose teams are on the ground.
And don’t forget about the rewards. Many businesses opt for a points-based recognition program to give employees the flexibility to choose their own rewards, reducing administrative overhead and creating a personalized recognition experience.
11. Find out how employees want to be appreciated
Have you ever asked your employees how they’d like to be recognized? Give your employees a voice by gathering their feedback through pulse surveys, together with always-on feedback channels employees can take advantage of whenever they have something to say. Surveying employees about the forms of recognition they find most meaningful will ensure that your appreciation efforts hit the mark.
12. Implement employee feedback
Collecting employee feedback isn’t enough, though — your organization needs to act on it! Making changes employees want to see will give them the confidence that their opinions matter and that your company is willing to adjust. Eventually, this will motivate more employees to participate in your company’s feedback and recognition initiatives.
13. Support work-life balance
Team members who are well-rested and have time to spend with their family and friends are more engaged and productive. Letting your employees have a life outside of work is vital to preventing burnout. When possible, compromise with your employees on their schedule. For instance, employees with children may want to arrive and leave early. Others with extracurricular activities may want to come in late, or even transition to a four-day work week. Your organization can also provide additional PTO or occasional unexpected half-days to preserve work-life balance.
14. Provide time for meditation and mindfulness
Meditation and mindfulness are the keys to employee wellness. Paychex discovered that stressed employees found mindfulness to be an essential strategy in overcoming their wellness challenges. Mindfulness can help employees problem solve, absorb new information, adapt to changes, and increase their empathy for others. Start setting aside time during the work day for meditation — or even bring in a trainer — and begin a key wellness practice on employee appreciation day.
15. Support continuous learning
Continuous learning is crucial to developing an agile, high-performing workforce. For employee appreciation day, offer paid continuous learning courses related to work or personal interests. Recognize the employees who take advantage of these classes to reinforce the behavior.
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