How to show appreciation to employees

Investing in employees has big benefits. When employees feel their contributions are recognized, they are more engaged. Engaged employees are more productive because they find their work fulfilling and rewarding. They are also less likely to quit, making employee appreciation an effective retention strategy.

Creating a culture of gratitude in your workplace starts with being a great leader. Take the time to learn about how to show appreciation to employees in the way that will be most effective for your workplace and most beneficial to your bottom line.

Types of employee appreciation

When you think about how to show appreciation to employees, you might think of hosting a pizza party or happy hour, taking the team out to lunch or stocking up on their favorite snacks. These are all one type of employee appreciation, known as informal recognition. It’s often used to mark progress or to show general appreciation at a regular interval, like once a month.

Another important type of appreciation is microrecognition. These are the small, everyday acts of appreciation, like writing an email or giving verbal praise to an employee who has gone above and beyond. Daily microrecognition helps you build rapport and create a culture of appreciation.

Finally there is formal recognition, which usually happens less frequently and has a structured process for choosing who will be recognized and why. If you want holiday employee appreciation ideas, you’ll likely want to choose informal recognition, although you could also host a more formal awards ceremony at your annual party.

13 ways to show employee appreciation

Providing a nice lunch or buying the office a ping-pong table are perfectly fine – but the most effective employee appreciation ideas are more personal and memorable. Here are 13 ideas for how to show appreciation to employees.

1. Write a note

With our busy lives and the rise of all things digital, handwritten notes are becoming more rare – and that’s what makes them so special. Write your employee a nice card or make a tradition of leaving quick sticky notes to recognize a job well done.

2. Post on social media

We live in the digital age and social media is everywhere. The public, “shout it from the rooftops” nature of social media is part of what makes it such an effective way to show employee appreciation. Employees are bound to feel special when you post their picture and accomplishments for all to see.

3. Celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries

Birthdays are each employee’s own personal holiday and the ideal time to recognize each one individually. Don’t skip celebrating work anniversaries either: When employees feel rewarded for their loyalty, they’ll give more of it in return.

4. Recognize personal achievements

Your employees are superstars, and not just at work. Outside of work they are giving back to their communities, participating in sports and clubs and accomplishing incredible things. Celebrating these achievements shows that you appreciate employees as people, not just workers.

5. Pay for professional development

Employees don’t just want snacks and foosball tables – the best employees know that if you’re not growing, you’re dying. Let them choose a conference to attend or a course to take online that will provide the professional development they crave.

6. Use peer-to-peer appreciation

Learning how to show appreciation to employees isn’t just for managers and executives. Peer-to-peer recognition can be even more effective. Create an appreciation box where employees can drop notes recognizing each other’s accomplishments or create a channel in your messaging platform for appreciation.

7. Take suggestions

The best employee appreciation starts with what your employees want – but you won’t know what that is if you don’t ask. Put out a suggestion box or use an online survey service to let employees make requests anonymously. Choose one per month to follow through.

8. Promote self-care

Many leaders talk about self-care and the importance of taking time away from work, yet their company culture doesn’t reflect it. Take it seriously by providing quiet, comfortable spaces in your office, with yoga or meditation sessions and always encouraging vacation time.

9. Create a workplace “currency”

This is a great way to provide microrecognition that ladders up to formal recognition. When you see an employee do something nice or reach a small goal, give them a ticket. Then hold a raffle each month for prizes, or let them turn in tickets for rewards like half-day Fridays for a month or company swag.

10. Give them special treatment

The biggest key to how to show appreciation to employees is to make them feel special. There’s no better way to do that than to give them the corner office for a day, the prime parking spot for a month or a morning off to do whatever they please.

11. Go on a fun outing

Remote work has been on the rise for years, but nothing can take the place of face-to-face interaction. Shared experiences during outings help teams bond, which in turn helps them work better together. Let them choose a fun day trip once or twice a year to keep teamwork strong.  

12. Make a wall of fame

The wall of fame is one of the most traditional ways to show employee appreciation – but in the age of remote work, it’s getting an upgrade. Use an online forum or message board to make a digital “wall” that employees anywhere can see and update.  

13. Listen

Ultimately, learning how to show appreciation to employees is about building gratitude and genuine connection into your company culture. The best way to do that is to truly care about your employees and what they want. There’s no replacement for practicing empathy, listening to their needs and doing your best to meet them.

Team Tony: Team Tony cultivates, curates and shares Tony Robbins’ stories and core principles, to help others achieve an extraordinary life.
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