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Today is Employee Appreciation Day–which comes around once a year. And while it’s great to have an official day to acknowledge and appreciate employees for all the hard work that they do, HR practices need to change from being annual to being real-time.

Many companies do a great job recognizing their employees on Employee Appreciation Day. They go all out, and the festivities may include:

  • Personalized thank you notes
  • An ice-cream sundae bar
  • On-site masseuses or manicurists  
  • Office award ceremony
  • Coffee shop gift cards
  • Better coffee
  • Free yoga
  • Fancy catered lunch
  • Half day of work

These are amazing appreciation initiatives; however, just like saying “I love you” to your significant other on Valentine’s Day with flowers and a box of chocolate isn’t particularly  special appreciating employees ONLY on Employee Appreciation Day isn’t particularly meaningful.

What’s more impactful is when you appreciate an employee when it’s not Employee Appreciation Day. Some meaningful actions may include:

  • Remembering the particulars of what they’re working on and checking in on them to offer help or guidance.
  • Making it a point to thank them and give them an extra pat on the back.
  • Making them and their well-being a priority, even when customer relations are going crazy and you’re up to your eyes in product development.
  • Appreciating them for who they are, not just for the work that they do.

In his excellent TED Talk on the Power of Appreciation, Mike Robbins makes an important differentiation between appreciation and recognition:

Recognition: Positive feedback based on results and performance

Appreciation: More about who they are rather than what they do

Getting Real With Appreciation

When we really learn to start appreciating people, it’s not so conditional. We’re no longer appreciating them because they did something well, or because it’s Employee Appreciation Day. We appreciate them because we really do appreciate them, and we want them to know we care.

Employee appreciation doesn’t have to be a huge deal, a big award, or an announcement in front of the entire company. Appreciation can be as simple as an “I’m proud of you”, or “I value your efforts”. In his TED Talk, Mike Robbins shares 3 simple and powerful tips for wielding the power of appreciation in order to make your employees feel valued and inspired:

How to Unleash the Power of Appreciation Every Day:

1. Look for it. 

Some people are a little easier to celebrate than others. But remember, “appreciate” doesn’t mean “agree with”; or “be best friends with”. So, even if you experience someone as extra-challenging, there will still be things to  recognize about their value and contributions. When you intentionally look for the good, you’ll find it, 

2. Create Routines & Commitments to Continue to Follow Through.

We often become inspired while reading posts like this one, we become more diligent in appreciating our staff and co-workers for a period of time. But then it wears off. It’s easy to forget, to drift back into the daily grind. Other priorities come up, and we stop recognizing people. 

This is why it’s so important to put simple practices into place to make appreciation a lifestyle rather than a passing trend. We need to be intentional about making sure that we follow through, and keep following through, long after Employee Appreciation Day is over. Mike Robbins offers several practical methods to make appreciation part of our everyday lifestyle:

Practical Applications of Appreciation:

1. Just tell them.

Tell your employees, your spouse, your kids, that you appreciate them. Sweet and simple, just say it out loud.

2. Schedule it.

It may feel weird to put a reminder in your calendar to compliment your team, however, it’s a useful tactic to make it part of your everyday routine. And eventually, you won’t need to schedule it anymore. It will come naturally, and everyone will be happier for it. 

3.  Start receiving compliments more graciously.

This is a simple, yet radically transformative factor. Are we nurturing a culture in which it’s okay to compliment others? Sometimes we get a little funny about it. Do you know what you’re supposed to say when someone compliments you? “Thank you”. Usually when you say something after, it muddies the water. For example, imagine if someone came up to Mike after his TED talk and told him: “Great talk!” and he replied with “Thanks–you too!” *oops*

Sometimes we even argue with the compliment-giver about how we’re really not worthy of their words. “No–it really wasn’t that good”. That kind of talk crushes connection (and joy). It’s interesting to note that when one human being expresses kindness and appreciation towards another human being, and the other receives it, it raises the serotonin in both brains. It literally gives both individuals a natural high, and it’s something that’s healthy and enjoyable. When we learn to accept compliments graciously and openly, this creates an environment that’s much more conducive to appreciation being expressed.

In Conclusion

So by all means, appreciate your employees on Employee Appreciation Day. Tell them how awesome they are. Bring in some ice cream. Let everyone go home early.

But don’t forget that at the end of the day, it’s not the fancy infrequent events that matter the most. It’s the small, caring sentiments you offer when your employees aren’t necessarily expecting them. It’s about developing relationships and showing individuals that you care about them as people, not just as workers. It’s about making them feel valued, no matter what day it is.

At WorkTango, we believe in nurturing a strong employee appreciation culture, which is why we work hard to help companies move from annual or infrequent employee engagement surveys to “actively listening to employee voice”. We want employees to feel appreciated. And in order to do that, we need to listen to them, and then we need to take action.

We believe in listening actively, appreciating intentionally, and focusing every day on celebrating and supporting our strongest assets and most powerful points of impact: employees.


At WorkTango, we’re revolutionizing how the world’s most forward-thinking companies engage and inspire their people. We offer the only Employee Experience Platform that enables meaningful recognition and rewards, offers actionable insights through employee surveys, and supports alignment through goal setting and feedback.

WorkTango is built for the workplace we all want to be a part of – where priorities become clear, achievements are celebrated, and employees have a voice. So if you’re ready to make work lives better, schedule a demo today.

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Rob Catalano

Rob Catalano is WorkTango’s Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer. Rob has spent the last 17 years building HR Technology companies.