Employee Recognition: Four Tips for Giving the Gift of Appreciation

by Lisa Sordilla

The holidays are upon us, and you know what that means. It’s time to find that perfect gift for that special someone. In the world of work, it’s often customary to offer a gift of thanks to team members. Perhaps a Starbucks gift card or a box of holiday cookies. These are nice gestures, but when it comes to employee recognition, something personal can be more meaningful.

Here’s an idea that doesn’t require you to trek to the mall or ask for budget approval. Give each employee a sincere, handwritten note. Thank them for all that they do for your team and your organization. Write it. Don’t just send an email or IM. Handwritten notes are a thoughtful, meaningful, and — most importantly — authentic way to show genuine gratitude and employee recognition. And nowadays, notes like this are an unexpected surprise.

How to get started

Need some pointers? Here are four helpful tips for crafting the perfect end-of-year note:

  1. Stay positive. All too often, feedback is constructive in nature (and therefore seen as criticism). Be sure to focus on individual contributions that made an impact over the year.
  2. Be specific. Avoid generalities. Instead, highlight unique details and focus on how their efforts made a difference. The best employee appreciation picks out the unique contributions.
  3. Recognize effort and values. Recall what each team member achieved but take care to also give examples of how they live your company values.
  4. Get personal. What do the accomplishments of each team member mean to you as a manager? Share how their contributions have impacted you personally. Be honest and express gratitude.

And then make employee recognition your New Year’s resolution

Employee recognition is a performance management best practice.  So, don’t wait until review season or the holidays to show appreciation. Look for more opportunities throughout the year, such as celebrating workiversaries or observing employees who live your organization’s values in unique ways.

Giving and receiving appreciation plays a role in overall employee health and well-being. It has a strong impact on people, reaching them on an emotional level. It’s also rooted in neuroscience. Beyond making people feel good, showing appreciation encourages a growth mindset that benefits both the individual and the organization. And employee appreciation has a direct impact on employee retention.

It’s true — employee recognition takes a bit of effort. And it may not come naturally.  But you’ll be glad you did it. Because after all, it’s the thought that counts. Happy holidays!