Employee recognition

10 Ways to Show Employee Appreciation All Year Long

Laura Saracho
February 23, 2022
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You can take the trophies back—not everyone is in it for the keepsakes. 🏆

Showing gratitude is important for wins in your business, but great workplaces find ways to show employee appreciation all year long. Here are some ways that you can build trust and a connection with each employee throughout the year!

Showing employee appreciation takes time and effort, and will continually change and adapt according to company growth, workplace diversity, and initiatives from your People Operations team. Variety and creativity are essential components of employee appreciation and rewards programs.

You want to keep employee appreciation efforts fun, engaging, and surprising (think parade and not a graduation ceremony 😉). A healthy work culture promotes a balanced approach of taking overall performance and each individual’s unique value into account.

Get started with this hilarious activity to recognize and appreciate your team!

Employee recognition vs. employee appreciation

Something that often gets confused is using “employee recognition” and “employee appreciation” interchangeably. While both are important, Harvard Business Review makes this distinction clear.

  • Employee Recognition = Positive feedback based on results or performance.
  • Employee Appreciation = Acknowledging a person’s inherent value.

Great Places to Work conducted a study that showed the importance of employee recognition and job performance. 37% of respondents said that more personal recognition would encourage them to produce better work more often.

Similarly, there are many studies that highlight the importance of employee appreciation. A Glassdoor employee appreciation survey concluded that 53% of people said feeling more appreciation from their boss would help them stay longer at their company.

Before jumping on the idea wagon for employee appreciation, slow down and take inventory of your current practices. Here are some questions to consider before you get started on those first steps to a more positive work environment.

  1. Are you getting negative feedback on employee motivation and satisfaction?
  2. Do your current employee appreciation activities and events feel stale?
  3. Is your praise lopsided with the same people being acknowledged?
  4. How are you keeping track of employee milestones, shoutouts, and rewards?
  5. In what ways are you celebrating individuals for things other than performance?

10 ways to show employee appreciation all year long

1. Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day! 🎉

This one’s a no-brainer, but missing it would be like missing your friend’s birthday! The origin of Employee Appreciation Day dates back to 1995 when a publishing company set aside time to say “Thanks!”

Here are some ideas for celebrating Employee Appreciation Day.

2. Employee spotlights and social sharing 🌟

Do you have a communication plan to highlight employee stories? Blog posts, social media sharing, or podcasts are awesome ways to show off an employee and make them feel like a valuable part of the team.

These efforts can go a long way in recruiting top talent! You are letting the world know that each team member is special and giving a personal glimpse into your company culture and values. If your team or company website pages could use an update, be sure to seek out ways to incorporate each employee’s personality and interests.

3. Personal gestures or gifts 🎁

Everyone enjoys being rewarded according to their interests or personalities—sometimes this doesn’t even have to be a physical gift. Find out what each individual values, whether words of encouragement, some extra time off, a gift card to travel, or a bag of good coffee.

The possibilities are endless! But make the appreciation special for each individual. Don’t just default to the latest company swag in the storage closet…it could backfire on you.

4. Fewer meetings, please ❌

More companies are taking meeting fatigue seriously since virtual interactions all day, every day can take a huge toll. Here are a few ways to tell if your remote workers are feeling signs of meeting burnout.

Is there a time you incorporate into each week for a no meeting policy? Maybe even a full day, while you’re at it. Meetings are great and all, and a necessary part of communication, but offering a little break can show your employees you appreciate their time and mental health.


5. Lunch outing 🌮

Food can be a great motivator and a sense of community for everyone. If it feels safe, a small gathering for lunch could be a great boost for your team! Find a convenient spot to gather and enjoy some good food and conversation. Bonus points: try not to chat too much about work!

If your team is remote, send funds via a takeout or payment app for everyone to enjoy. Even if your activity involves simply blocking out a specific time for lunch it can go a long way towards employee appreciation. Many workers feel glued to their schedule and don’t balance their time with a proper meal during work hours.

6. Professional development perks 💯

Is there a clear path for growth and professional development for employees at your company?

Organizations that offer comprehensive training programs enjoy a 24% higher profit margin. Workers will feel more connected and valued if they believe you are truly investing in them and not solely in the company’s interest.

Think about ways to incorporate professional development conversations into routine review processes and company culture. Employee appreciation goes beyond just rewards for their current position, they need to know that you are investing in them for the long term.

7. Recognize birthdays and special events 🎈

You’d be surprised how many times a birthday or work anniversary can be looked over for employees. This is a prime time to make a special moment happen and celebrate a team member. Don’t miss out. Writing a personal note, or creating an event can go a long way in positive reinforcement.

As talent recruiters are working through the Great Resignation, moments to show respect and celebration for employees can help with loyalty and retention. Those who feel appreciated are less likely to seek other opportunities and can picture a future of potential at their current workplace.


8. Have an adventure day 🎢

Spontaneity in a work setting may be even more enjoyable than outside of the workplace—it’s much more unexpected! An adventure day or afternoon outing can be a breath of fresh air for a busy team or satisfaction following an important project. If your team is remote, surprise them with a gift card or day pass to a local attraction. 

9. Support a cause together 🌱 

There’s nothing better than giving back to the community and feeling a part of something larger than yourself. Younger employees put a great emphasis on social impact and making a difference in the world with daily activities from work and play.

Finding a way to volunteer or give back to a worthy cause can empower your workforce to appreciate what employees care about. Visit the local food bank, serve meals at a shelter, or start or join a mentor program for students.

10. Find a reward program that fits 👍

Organizations are finding more ways to connect their workforces and employee appreciation efforts into simplified and measured environments. Take advantage of the latest technology and solutions to acknowledge each person at your organization.

As Gallup reports:

The best managers promote a recognition-rich environment, with praise coming from every direction where everyone is aware of how others like to receive appreciation. This type of employee feedback should be frequent -- Gallup recommends every seven days -- and timely to ensure that the employee knows the significance of the recent achievement and to reinforce company values.

The benefits from such programs can have a lasting impact that reduces turnover and makes the working environment more enjoyable.

The takeaway

The bottom line? Recognize that employee appreciation is a year-round effort. Each individual is looking for ways to feel proud of their work and workplace. Find ways to incorporate a structure that works for your team and keeps workers engaged to be your biggest advocates. 💚

Want more ideas to appreciate your employees throughout the year?

Take a tour of Bonusly, talk with one of our rewards experts, or check out this resource:

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