Employee Appreciation: The Year-Round Effort That Pays Off

by Greg Barnett

Friday, March 5th was Employee Appreciation Day. How did you celebrate? If you didn’t, don’t worry. Employee appreciation isn’t about an annual gift or party. Done right, it’s baked into an organization’s culture every day, year-round.

Employee appreciation was a top culture driver in 2020

Employee engagement surveys conducted by Energage in 2020 showed appreciation was the top driver of employee engagement. In other words, it was the factor that most inspired employees to feel strongly connected with their work. That research is based on data from 1.7 million employees.

During the COVID pandemic, when the going got tough, appreciation stood out as the most important thing that kept employees going. In fact, employees initially felt extra-appreciated during the beginning of the pandemic as employers leaned in and prioritized their well-being and safety.

And while the positive vibes for appreciation took a small hit during the darkest days of the pandemic last fall, it bounced back and continues to stand out as the thing that keeps employees surviving and thriving.

When companies don’t prioritize employee appreciation, it shows

That doesn’t mean companies always put employee appreciation at the forefront of what they did. When we looked at what drove the most positive engagement pre-pandemic vs. post-pandemic, appreciation ranked seven in growth. This is lower than other culture drivers such as execution, interdepartmental cooperation, clued-in senior management, meetings, clued-in employees, and working at full potential.

But there’s probably a clear reason for that. Companies had significant work to do in operational and structural areas to make adjustments last year. While that work was getting done, appreciation appears to have suffered a bit.

That’s not a cause for alarm, but it is a cause for awareness. Now is the time to double down on being thankful for hard-working employees. Top Workplaces know the value of showing employees how much their hard work and contributions matter.

How to appreciate your employees year-round

As a top culture driver, employee appreciation is one of the least expensive, most impactful ways to improve motivation, job satisfaction, productivity, and retention. Here are some ways you can create a year-round culture of appreciation, including some quick fixes, big-picture ideas — and what to watch out for:

Quick fixes

  • Take every opportunity to give a sincere compliment or a simple “thank you.”
  • Incorporate meaningful appreciation into team and company meetings.
  • Think about the ways that people prefer to be appreciated. If you don’t know, ask.

Bigger picture

  • Adopt a tool that enables employees to publicly express appreciation.
  • Emphasize appreciation in all training sessions.
  • Explore various formal praise and recognition strategies to find a fit for your culture.
  • Encourage and role model a culture of peer-to-peer appreciation.

Red flags

  • Giving public recognition to someone who is uncomfortable with that type of appreciation. How people prefer to be appreciated is important.
  • Falsely believing that rarity adds value to appreciation. As long as it’s genuine, more is almost always better.
  • Allowing appreciation to fall through the cracks during stressful times when it is usually most valuable.
  • Failing to notice some people feel nervous or even get defensive when getting recognized. It’s important to make sure people feel safe to accept appreciation.
  • Recognition programs that seem inauthentic. To avoid this, make sure peer-to-peer and manager appreciation complement each other.

Go here for more employee appreciation ideas you can start using employee appreciation day … and every day.

Do your employees feel genuinely appreciated?

The Energage Workplace Survey will show you.

Schedule a free demo to learn more.