Last Updated April 2020
Numerous studies have shown that employee appreciation is one of the top factors in whether employees turnover -- which has a huge impact on whether your team succeeds. For example, a Career Builder survey found that employee recognition was the 2nd most important factor in whether an employee stays with a company.
But not to worry. We’ve got you covered with 25 employee appreciation ideas to amp up your appreciation efforts:
1. Recognize birthdays & work anniversaries
When employees reach milestones like birthdays and work anniversaries, it’s a natural time for them to take stock and consider their futures. A surprising study by Harvard Business school revealed that the reflection that occurs around these big days is particularly crucial in whether folks stick around in their jobs. One easy way to get ahead of it is by going out of your way to recognize work anniversaries & birthdays.
Of course, we would be remiss if we didn't suggest Kudoboard as a great way celebrate your people. It allows colleagues to recognize an employee’s work anniversary or birthday with an online card that’s passed around and signed. Contributors can add pictures, GIFs, or videos – and gives the recipient something meaningful on an important day. Particularly if some of your employees are remote, it can provide an easy way a to bring everyone together.
Just check out this example work anniversary Kudoboard one of our users gave us permission to share to see what we mean.
2. Handwritten thank you notes
Sometimes a handwritten thank you note is more powerful than an email ever could be. The key here is to write something unique directly for the individual employee that you are thanking. The last thing someone wants to receive is a handwritten “form letter.” It feels impersonal, and quite frankly - they’ll question your judgment (or at a minimum, your time management) for not just blasting an email out to everyone.
3. Non-work achievements
One of the hardest things about work is that things often remain “all business.” This is very efficient in the short term, but many folks crave a personal connection at some point. Taking a moment to publicly recognize employees’ non-work achievements can make a big difference in how employees relate to each other and ultimately the job.
Ok this one is not exactly rocket science. People love food. And when that food is a perk or reward – all the better. Bring some pizza into the office every once in a while; it will do wonders.
Have remote employees? Not a problem. Offering gift cards to eat at a restaurant nearby where they live can be a nice perk with a relatively low cost. And if you aren’t sure which retailer makes the most sense, you can always get them a Visa gift card that can be used to purchase virtually anything.
Taking the time to sent up a more formal mentoring system for your employees can make a big difference in whether they stick around for the long haul.
Even if employees are remote or part-time, setting them up with more senior mentors can make them feel connected and also encourage cross pollination of ideas across the company.
6. Continuing Education
There’s a well known quote from Richard Branson: Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to. One way to do both is to help defray some of the cost for your employee’s continuing education.
Whether a weekend course on a particular topic of relevance for their job, a conference, or even a course at a local college – showing your team that their ongoing growth and development is a priority can make a big difference in ensuring your employee appreciation efforts are successful.
7. One-on-one video chats
While much of your interaction with employees may be over email or chat, it makes a huge difference to set up regular 1:1 in-person check-ins with employees. It creates a personal connection and allows you to thank employees for their hard work in a more powerful and authentic manner.
8. Shout outs
When an employee does something well, give them a shout out. This can come informally, or you can have a more formal time (e.g. once a week on Fridays) when your team pauses for 5 minutes to come together and recognize each other.
9. If some employees are remote, respect that
People choose to work remotely for a variety of reasons. One of the most common, however, is the desire for more control over their schedule (and by extension, their life). Recognize that fact by giving your remote employees some flexibility in their schedules. The more you can move toward an output driven culture, the happier many of employees will be.
10. Unique Experiences
Employees have varying interests. Some want to go whitewater rafting, while others would rather curl up by the fire with a good book. If you are going to take the time (and spend the money) to give employees gifts – try to make them sufficiently customizable so that each employee can get what they want. One idea is to check out Blueboard, a site that allows your employees to select from a variety of unique, experiential rewards.
11. Employee of the month
It may sound cliche, but some things have been around forever because they work. Employee of the month is a great way to give a boost (and maybe a little gift) to someone who has been going above and beyond. This is particularly effective when it’s peer nominated and has some basic guardrails in place (e.g. don’t have the same person win again and again!).
12. Help with the Commute
There is nothing more soul sucking then a rough commute day after day. And if your office is located in a particularly high priced area (SF/NY -- we're looking at you), then you may even have some "super commuters" on your hands who are traveling multiple hours each way.
While you can't dictate where your employees live, you can provide them help with the commute. For instance, you can cover the cost of public transportation, help to organize office carpools, or even set up a "work from home Wednesday."
While this may not feel as creative as some of the other employee appreciation ideas out there, anything you can do to reduce this stressor will pay major dividends.
13. Add employees to your website
You know that sleepy "About" section of your website that hasn’t been updated in ages? Use it to highlight your employees.
Make sure to go beyond the mundane (e.g. name, photo, title). Have some fun with it by listing your employees' favorite ice cream flavors, best vacations ever, etc. Bonus points if you can connect some of the fun facts to your company mission (e.g. Rotten Tomatoes employees should obviously list their favorite movie!).
14. Retirement Matching
Many of the items included on this list of employee appreciation ideas are simple and inexpensive. If we were being cynical, we'd even call them "hacks" (ooof).
But let it be said that often the best way to show your employees appreciation is to simply compensate them generously. This can come in the form of raises (obviously), or you can start offering a benefit like retirement matching.
Surveys indicate that only half of companies offer retirement plans, and of that group only about half offer matching programs. Put yourself in the top ~25% with a matching program and prove to your employees that your company will take care of them over the long haul.
15. Make Time for Volunteer Opportunities
Pay your employees to volunteer. It may sound counterintuitive, but many top companies give their employees PTO to go out and volunteer for causes that they care about. Some companies even go one further and will donate to these organizations on the volunteer's behalf.
If you want to make it a bonding exercise, you can organize a group volunteering event among your team. Giving the employees the opportunity to have a say in the cause makes a big difference, so consider some kind of poll or vote (as opposed to volunteering again and again at that organization where the CEO sits on the board!).
16. The "Silly" Trophy
Senior investment bankers make millions of dollars. But guess what? Many still love to show off "deal toys" that they received after closing a big transaction.
Little trophies sitting on our desks can signify big accomplishments and give people a real confidence boost. Whether it's for employee of the month or something more specific to your company -- you'd be surprised at the mileage you can get out of a little trophy.
17. Suggestion Box
The suggestion box sounds like one of those employee appreciation ideas right out of 1970s Corporate America. Add cubicles and harsh lighting, and you can almost imagine the lifeless workplace droning away.
But it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, giving your employees a public forum to give feedback can be a terrific way to show that you are listening, that you care, and that you will continuously improve.
You can even update it for the modern era with an anonymous digital suggestion box.
18. Employee Wellness Programs
Want employees to feel appreciated? Show them that their health is your priority.
Among employers who offered wellness programs of some sort, more than 50% saw a decrease in absenteeism and two-thirds reported increased productivity.
In terms of exercise, this doesn't necessarily need to be some morning routine schtick where all the employees are out on the front lawn doing Tai-Chi together. Something as simple as reimbursing employees for part of the cost of a gym membership can be the little push needed motivate someone who has put their health on the back burner recently!
When it comes to health, nothing is more important than food. So if you offer employees meals, try to have a healthy option available (and the same goes for vending machines). Don't go overboard -- we all need our M&Ms every once in a while. But making those healthier choices conveniently available can be what it takes to nudge people in a positive direction.
19. Employee Appreciation Week
Employee Appreciation Day is an unofficial celebration the first Friday in March (and is preceded by employee appreciation week).
It's the quintessential hallmark holiday and everyone knows it -- but still - why not use it as an excuse to do something special for your people? As far as employee appreciation ideas go, this one is about as simple as it gets!
20. Matching Donations
According to Double the Donation, 65% of Fortune 500 companies offer matching donation programs to their employees. This is a terrific way to enhance your employees' giving power towards causes they care deeply about while also tackling corporate social responsibility goals you have.
There are a few keys to a successful matching program that you want to consider. First, you need to publicize it among your employees on a regular basis; otherwise, they will forget about it and not ultimately see the value. Second, you need to make the process for accessing the match simple and straightforward. The more 'one-click' you can make the match, the more likely employees are to really consider it a benefit rather than a bit of a hassle.
21. Let Employees Make the Office Their Own
Ordering new furniture for the break room? Give employees a voice.
Looking to add some art to the walls? Give employees a voice.
Replacing desks with something more modern? Give employees a voice.
Updating the smoke detectors and installing sprinklers for safety? Ok this one you should probably just go ahead and handle!
22. Explicitly choose a workstyle
Many teams today are moving towards a more agile-aligned culture vs. the pre-planned, top-down style. To the extent that you can clearly define the way in which your team interacts, it opens up space for your culture to bloom and employees to appreciate each other.
23. Props on Social Media
If an employee knocks the ball out of the park on something, ask whether you can publicly sing their praises through your company facebook page, twitter handle, etc.
Some people won't be comfortable with it (so always ask), but others will appreciation the public recognition -- and as a bonus it broadcasts to future potential employees that your company recognizes its people for hard work and jobs well done.
24. Get them a gift for the holidays
Sometimes the best thing you can possibly do to recognize your team is to buy them a little something on the holidays. There are tons of great employee gift guides out there. The key is to get each employee a gift personalized to their interests as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach. It's not so much about the gift itself, but that you know an employee well enough to understand what they care about.
25. Bring everyone together across multiple offices
Teams spread across multiple offices that interact regularly are an amazing product of the modern age. But the truth is – people still crave a connection to their colleagues. Bringing dispersed together on a semi-regular basis (once a quarter, once every 6 months, etc.) can seem like a daunting expense. But it will pay major dividends over the long run as it strengthens your company culture.