7 Ways to Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day

1.BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS

Does your employee like to read?  Recognize employee appreciation day by stopping at a local store and buying them a gift card or a book on a subject you know that they are interested in.

2. UNIQUE SWAG

Sometimes that sweet, sweet company sweatshirt is all you need for employee appreciation day. It not only creates a stronger bond between you and your employee but can help to foster a positive company culture.

3. COMPANY SOCK CLUB

Who doesn’t like a pair of unique socks, particularly when they show how much you know about your employees’ hobbies? You can never have enough socks with musical instruments on them, right!?

4. COMPANY CULTURE

Think of company culture as also rewarding your employee on employee appreciation day with gifts that speak to culture. If you are from a large city, you know just how expensive a theater ticket can be. You can make employee appreciation day special by giving two theater passes to a hot show!

5. A CUP OF COFFEE

Make that a cup of really good coffee for your employee. After all, employee appreciation day comes but once a year.  You’ve been at a local coffee joint with your team. You’ve seen just what coffee your employee likes.  Buy a mug.  Add a bag of coffee and a gift certificate.  You’re set!

6. PERSONALIZED MESSAGE

There are so many small ways to reward someone on employee appreciation day. Go to LinkedIn and congratulate your employee with a personal message. Write them a note and leave it on their desk.  What is most important is that you show that you care.

7. GROUP CARD

We’d be remiss if we didn’t suggest Kudoboard as one way to recognize someone on employee appreciation day. Nothing goes as well as giving your employee an online recognition board created by your whole team . All you need to do is go to Kudoboard (www.kudoboard.com) to get started. You can also order a hard copy for mounting. It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s personal.  It’s also a way to create an office tradition.

23 Employee Appreciation Ideas That Really Work

dwight employee appreciation ideas

Last Updated June 2019 

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 23 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.

4. Food

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.

5. Mentoring

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. 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.  

23. 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.

Giving Kudos to a Colleague

Earlier this year, Alight used Kudoboard to give employees a platform to recognize other members of the company for their work.  Once such board was created for Shalini Arora.  Here are a few choice quotes from the board:

“I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your support and encouragement throughout. It’s soothing to know that I have such compassionate people surrounding me and together we can achieve great results. Thank you.”

“Thank you for converting my mistakes into Lesson, pressure into Productivity and Skills into Strengths.

You really know how to bring out the best in me. You believed in me and supported me in becoming better person and helped me to do better in my work every day.”

See the full board here: https://www.kudoboard.com/boards/DRqJhjcR

Thanks for giving us permission to share your board, Shalini, and Kudos once again to you!