Employee appreciation: How to show gratitude in the workplace

Showing appreciation in the workplace is essential if you want to keep your people happy. We discover some of the most effective ways to thank staff for their efforts and find out what Employee Appreciation Day is all about.

Employee Appreciation

Everyone wants to feel valued. It’s a basic human need. As 19th-century American psychologist William James put it: “The deepest principle of human nature is a craving to be appreciated.”

This not only relates to our personal relationships but our professional lives too...

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What is employee appreciation?

What is employee appreciation?

Employee appreciation can be defined as the act of acknowledging someone for the contributions they make to the workplace. You’re celebrating their worth as a colleague and human being, not just for the work they do but their personal qualities too, like their willingness to help others or their calmness in a crisis. It’s vital to have appreciation in any workplace – people need to know their leaders and peers notice their efforts (and not just their big wins).

Appreciation shouldn’t be confused with recognition. While these words are often used interchangeably, they’re not the same thing. Recognition is linked to employee performance and outcomes. For example, if an employee meets a target or lands a big contract, they’ll often be rewarded with a bonus, award, pay rise or promotion.

Appreciation, on the other hand, isn’t linked to a specific objective or achievement. It’s more about praising someone for the little things they do every day to make work a better place.

Types of appreciation

Gratitude can come in many forms. Here are some of the most common types of work appreciation:

  • Public – praising an employee in an open forum, for example team meetings, group emails or company updates.

  • Private – acknowledging an employee discreetly, either through a private chat, email or handwritten note.

  • Peer-to-peer – praise for an employee’s efforts from a co-worker rather than a manager.

  • Event-based – positive responses triggered by a specific event, such as a work anniversary.

  • Informal – a quick thumbs up or shout-out on the company messaging app.

Why is employee appreciation important?

Why is employee appreciation important?

Employees want to feel valued. While a constant stream of flattery isn’t necessary, a heartfelt compliment every now and again never goes amiss as it can improve self-worth, pride and confidence. Other benefits to the business include:

Improved morale

If employees are putting in the hard graft but feel like they’re being taken for granted, you’re soon likely to see a drop in enthusiasm. Showing staff appreciation can prevent negative feelings creeping in. When employees feel appreciated and recognized for their contribution, they’ll be more connected to their work, co-workers and the organization as a whole. The feeling that their work is important and making a genuine difference is a great motivator.

Although appreciation is harder in a remote setting, it’s important to make it work to avoid feelings of isolation and low morale.

Productivity boost

If workers know you care, they’ll be more inclined to go the extra mile. In fact, 65% of workers say they would work harder if they felt like their contributions were noticed by management.

Appreciated employees who understand how they fit into the bigger picture will feel invested in the success of your organization and will want to be a part of helping it grow.

Lower staff turnover

You can spend all the time, money and energy in the world on the hiring and onboarding process to get the right people for your business, but if you don’t work equally as hard to keep them by acknowledging their contributions, they’ll soon walk away.

The stats back this up. People who work for organizations that make employee recognition and appreciation a priority are 56% less likely to look for a new job. Think of it this way – it’s much cheaper to thank an employee than to replace them.

Building trust

When people treat each other with respect at every level in the workplace, a culture of trust and loyalty evolves.

Employees trust leaders who are appreciative of their opinions and don’t dismiss their concerns, while the bonds between teams grow stronger when colleagues start to feel safe in each other’s company.

With two-thirds of US employees saying they don’t always feel appreciated for their contributions at work, it seems that organizations still have a way to go to win trust and make their people feel valued.

What is Employee Appreciation Day?

What is Employee Appreciation Day?

Held on the first Friday in March, Employee Appreciation Day is an event for employers around the world to make an extra effort to say thank you to employees for their hard work and dedication.

Since it was first launched in the US in 1995, an increasing number of organizations have embraced the occasion to recognize the contributions of their employees with special events, gifts and surprises. When companies celebrate together, they’re 20 times more likely to feel connected to their organization and want to stay, according to OC Tanner’s 2022 Global Culture Report.

Whether your employees work in the office or remotely, make sure everyone feels included in the celebrations. Employee Appreciation Day ideas for remote workers include sending them a heartfelt thank you card, playing an online escape room game, having a virtual team huddle to celebrate team successes or posting a personal gift to their home.

While it’s a great idea to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day, it shouldn’t just be for one day; appreciation needs to be ingrained in your company culture 24/7.

Employee appreciation ideas

Employee appreciation ideas

You can show your gratitude to employees for all they do in a variety of ways. Here are a few work appreciation ideas you might like to try.

  • Have regular check-ins with staff

    Holding regular, informal meetings with your team can give you valuable insight into how they’re doing and the sort of challenges they may be facing. Use this time to offer reassurance that you’re there to support them so they leave the chat feeling better about themselves and well-equipped to thrive in their role.

  • Celebrate birthdays and milestones

    Make employees feel special on their birthday, work anniversaries and other important milestones. While not everyone will want a big fuss, others will love receiving a card and a cake to share around the office. If your budget allows, consider offering floating holidays as a birthday perk.

    For each employee’s work anniversary, make a point of thanking them for their continued service in a company-wide announcement.

  • Give praise at team meetings

    Appreciation can be as simple as giving public praise to employees who are doing a great job. Make it easy to give kudos to a team member, such as during a regular meeting or by setting aside time at the end of the week to give props. Co-workers are often better placed than managers to recognize day-to-day ‘unseen’ efforts.

    Appreciation in front of a group is more likely to be effective than employee appreciation in isolation as it fosters an atmosphere of teamwork and respect.

  • Give meaningful rewards based on individual interests

    Nothing says appreciation like showing it in a way that is unique to each person. Taking a one-size-fits-all approach to rewards isn’t the best way to show your gratitude. If you really want to show how much you appreciate an individual, start by finding out their interests, hobbies and what makes them tick – then base your rewards around these.

    Appreciation is most valuable when it’s delivered in a timely, personal and meaningful way.

  • Offer opportunities for growth

    A career-based reward is not just beneficial for employees but for your business too. Let employees choose an online class they’d like to take, or train them in the latest technology, such as virtual reality, to show your commitment to innovation. It's important that virtual training matches the quality and wealth of topics workers have access to in person to make the employee experience great for everyone.

  • Ask for feedback

    Genuinely listening to employees can make them feel appreciated, especially if you’re willing to take action when they offer constructive feedback. When people can have their say on company values and their working environment, they’re more likely to feel as though their views are taken seriously.

    Consider carrying out pulse surveys periodically to gather this feedback, and make sure you act on the responses you receive. Giving your staff a voice can be more powerful than giving them a gift card.

  • Arrange a wellness day

    In recent years, work-life balance has become a hot topic. Burnout and stress can severely impact an employee’s mental health and productivity, which is why employers are increasingly recognising the importance of people’s emotional wellbeing in and outside of the workplace.

    Arranging wellness days can show that your company appreciates these challenges. Offer self-care activities like head massages, mindfulness sessions and free health check-ups.

    Taken together, these ways of showing gratitude can help retain staff, boost the feel-good factor and create a more positive work environment. When your employees are happy, most other things fall into place. So, be sure to regularly show appreciation to the people who put the work in to make your business successful every day. You never know, you may even find that gratitude is reciprocated with a thank you card waiting for you on your desk one day.


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