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Employee Appreciation Day, celebrated annually in the US on the first Friday of March, was invented in 1995.
And while many modern organizations enjoy celebrating Employee Appreciation Day, here at WorkTango we can’t help but feel that the concept is fundamentally flawed. Here’s why.
Employee Appreciation Should Happen Every Day, Not Just Once A Year
Compare the idea of Employee Appreciation Day to Valentine’s day. While saying “I love you” to your significant other on Valentine’s Day with flowers and a box of chocolates can be special, the appreciation will feel somewhat hollow if Valentine’s Day is the only day you ever express those feelings. In fact, you might find you won’t have a significant other for long if you only say “I love you” once a year!
The same can be said for Employee Appreciation Day. Appreciating employees ONLY on one specific day isn’t particularly impactful if they feel their work goes unnoticed for the rest of the year. By recognizing and rewarding employees regularly, the trust and appreciation felt by employees for their managers and for their organization will grow ever stronger.
At the end of the day, grand gestures of appreciation aren’t what is most important to team members. It’s the small everyday moments of recognition a manager offers when 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 team members feel valued, no matter what day it is.
When employees feel like they’re making a real impact on their organization and receive appreciation from a teammate or even an executive, they feel even more valued. Employees who see the results of their hard work and are reminded just how important their work is will continue to strive to reach desired results.
Here at WorkTango, our aim is to expand the culture of workplace appreciation so that it’s felt by all employees every single day of the year. If you’re considering celebrating Employee Appreciation Day, go ahead by all means. But consider putting the below three best practices into place as well for the other 364 days of the year.
Employee Appreciation (Every) Day Best Practice #1: Real-Time Recognition
Recognize your team members regularly (not just on Employee Appreciation Day), and make it easy for them to say thanks to each other via peer-to-peer recognition. Naturally, we all feel better when our work is appreciated and acknowledged. Even simple employee recognition can go a very long way towards motivating teams, so it’s important not to underestimate the power of recognition and giving praise when it’s due.
Recognition sets off a powerful chain reaction: higher engagement levels lead to more motivation, improving performance. In addition, recognizing a specific action taken by an employee is more likely to prompt similar behavior in the future. By promoting employee recognition 365 days a year, organizations create a supportive workplace environment that not only serves to keep current employees happy but also will help attract top talent down the road.
Be sure to remember the four components of effective employee recognition when implementing a frequent recognition program:
- Recognitions should be Timely
- Recognitions should be Personalized
- Recognitions should be Specific
- Recognitions should be Consistent
Recognitions do really need to be consistent in order to seem authentic. Companies should try to avoid situations where they purchase an employee experience or engagement platform, only to have senior leaders or members of the ELT log in once a year only on Employee Appreciation Day.
Leadership participation is a huge driver in employee engagement, and having senior leaders abandon the platform for 364 days of the year and only provide recognition on a scheduled day makes employees feel like a task on a to-do list. The goal should be to have senior leaders consistently recognizing employees within a platform, not because they feel they have to, but rather because they really do appreciate their teams and want them to know they care.
Employee Appreciation (Every) Day Best Practice #2: Offer Incentives
To put it simply, offering ongoing incentives is by far the easiest and most popular way to drive desired habits and actions from employees. The benefits of incentive programs — for executives, managers, and for employees — are undeniable. Year-round incentive programs boost employee engagement and appreciation, which increase employee retention and productivity. Incentives are also an integrated way to bolster an organization’s culture and values.
Incentives allow leaders to express appreciation for employee engagement with organizational culture by offering incentives that support it. For example, an Incentive for completing an organizational survey lets the employee know that their participation is appreciated, and that they will be rewarded with the points associated with the Incentive. And while a Survey and its corresponding Incentive may be relevant only a few times a year, ongoing incentives will prompt employees to engage in a wide range of desired actions throughout the year. Companies can create Incentives that allow employees to earn points for participating in training, leading events, staying healthy, and more.
Use Incentives to drive employee appreciation via growth opportunities such as:
- Skill-building trainings
- Lunch & learns
Employee Appreciation (Every) Day Best Practice #3: Ongoing Awards
It’s fairly standard for organizations to recognize employees for milestones like anniversaries, safety records, sales numbers, birthdays, and more. Nominations and Awards present an opportunity to shake up this classic approach and reflect your organization’s values along the way.
“Employee of the Year” awards and President’s Club Sales awards may be prestigious, but they also come once in a blue moon and exclude the vast majority of employees. Try building smaller awards and nominations into the daily culture of your organization to boost culture and make recognition a year-round norm. Examples of ongoing awards could include:
- Quarterly Culture Code Award – Create a nomination form that helps reinforce your organization’s values. Employees would be asked to nominate a fellow co-worker that best exemplified one of your core values during the quarter. You can choose to select only one winner or even one winner per core value.
- Helping Hand Award – Open an Award where employees nominate their fellow team members for the amazing help or guidance they provided to them that month or quarter.
- Customer Service Award – If managers often receive submitted praise for their team members (such as customer reviews/surveys), create a nomination form that is exclusive to managers in order for them to submit positive feedback from customers. Depending on the volume of nominations, you can elect a winner each month or quarter.
- Host an organization-wide bake-off – Employees can submit photos of their sweet treats and team members can nominate a winner. Bonus points if you can hold the event in-person so everyone can enjoy the treats!
- End of year superlatives – Open several different nomination forms so employees can vote for fun rewards like:
- Muted Award – For the employee most likely to talk on video while muted.
- Top Chef Award- For team members most likely to bring tasty treats for the team to enjoy.
- The Human Encyclopedia Award – For the person everyone turns to for answers to tricky questions.
- The Awww-Ward – For that one employee who’s always quick to share the newest cute animal pic.
- Rookie of the Year – Only eligible for employees that have been with the organization for less than a year.
At the end of the day, if your organization ultimately chooses to move forward and celebrate Employee Appreciation Day on the first Friday of March, that’s great. We’ve seen companies do some of the following in the past to thank their employees:
- Physical, Personalized thank you notes
- On-site masseuses or manicurists
- On-site Professional barista
- Treat employees to lunch
- Half day of work
- Host a Virtual Happy Hour
- Organize a Team-Building Event
- Call out big wins or achievements in the past year in a organization-wide meeting.
But once the confetti is swept away and the excitement dies down, we encourage you to think about the next 364 days of the year. How will you recognize and retain your employees from now until next year’s Employee Appreciation Day?
Keep the appreciation flowing with WorkTango
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, supports alignment through goal setting and feedback, and offers actionable insights through employee surveys.
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 improve (work) lives, schedule a demo today.