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10 ways to say "thank you" on Employee Appreciation Day

February 12, 2021
This image of a man shaking hands with a woman while onlookers applaud represents the importance of Employee Appreciation Day.

Employees are the driving force behind your business. To recognize their hard work and boost their dedication, it’s important to say thank you. That’s why, each year, companies observe Employee Appreciation Day as an opportunity to show gratitude and engage employees.  

In this guide, we’ll walk through the importance of Employee Appreciation Day and suggest ten top ways to celebrate.

What is Employee Appreciation Day? 

Held on the first Friday of March each year, Employee Appreciation Day recognizes and rewards the contributions made by people in the workforce. While you should show appreciation for your team members year-round, this day provides an opportunity to say thank you in an especially meaningful way.

Why is Employee Appreciation Day important? 

Employees are one of a company’s greatest assets. The work they do each day not only drives revenue but also promotes a positive perception of your brand. It’s important, therefore, to recognize and appreciate their efforts. 

Many organizations include employee appreciation as part of their business model to boost morale, support a strong company culture, and increase job satisfaction. In fact, 63% of employees who receive recognition remain loyal to their company. Rather than spending precious resources constantly hiring and training new employees, retain your current ones by showing them that you care.

Top 10 Employee Appreciation Day ideas

Here are ten engaging ways to express gratitude on Employee Appreciation Day: 

1. Personalized outreach

Whether you're writing a heartfelt email or saying thank you in person, it’s
important to personalize your outreach. Employees are much more likely to pay attention and feel appreciated when you speak to them directly, rather than to the company as a whole.

Simply addressing them by name and mentioning their duties and milestones can go a long way towards humanizing your management and building strong interpersonal relations. Send a handwritten note or have a face-to-face conversation with your employees, making sure to include personal details. For instance, you might say something like, “Sam, thank you for taking the initiative to launch our most recent marketing campaign. It’s been a pleasure working alongside you, and we look forward to hearing more of your innovative ideas. Keep up the good work!”

2. Financial compensation

Besides helping your employees cover their living expenses, a pay increase is associated with higher levels of job satisfaction. Consider giving outstanding employees a raise or providing each employee with a small bonus. Even better, if an employee deserves a promotion, say thank you by making it official on Employee Appreciation Day.

Team members who receive financial recognition for their performance not only feel valued by the business but also experience more fulfillment in their careers.

If you can’t afford to provide your employees with a boost in financial compensation, allow them to take a longer lunch or leave the office early. Any time you can give back to employees is a welcome gift. 

3. Office improvements

Show employees you care by providing them with a workspace that they’re excited to show up to each day. Give your office a makeover on Employee Appreciation Day by moving the desks around and making the space more comfortable with soft couches, a new espresso machine, or an exercise desk. A change of scenery can inspire new ideas and boost creativity.

4. Merchandise and gifts 

Gifts are popular among employees because they receive a tangible reward in return for their hard work and dedication to your company. Provide your team with a few of the following items on Employee Appreciation Day:

  • Branded merchandise: Hand out company-branaded clothing, pens, coffee cups, notebooks, or water bottles. This helps increase loyalty and can spark conversations about your brand when employees wear or use these items in their everyday lives. 
  • Personal desk gifts: A leather folio, plant, card holder, photo frame, or nameplate can make an employee’s desk feel like an extension of home that they’re excited to work at each day.
  • Tickets: Free or discounted tickets to a concert, sporting event, or theater performance will certainly get your employees to sing your company’s praises!
  • Subscriptions: Pay for monthly subscriptions to services like Netflix, Spotify Premium, Amazon Prime, or a gym membership. As employees receive your gift each month, they will have a constant reminder of how much you appreciate their work.

When possible, hand out these gifts in person along with verbal recognition or a handwritten note. This adds a personal touch and makes each of your team members feel special.

5. Charitable giving

Launch a corporate volunteer program to enhance your team’s overall sense of purpose and morale. Besides helping the community, corporate volunteer programs allow organizations to reap the benefits of better employee engagement and increased productivity. 

Make your appreciation go further by giving to the causes that your employees care about and matching their individual donations. This not only shows that you’re invested in your team’s interests but also emphasizes the importance of giving back to the community. Your employees will feel like they’re making a positive difference in the world as well as in the workplace.

6. Employee appreciation events

Hosting an employee appreciation event creates a stronger sense of camaraderie by allowing employees the opportunity to socialize with one another. This year, consider hosting a company-wide:

  • Contest: Get your employees excited with a contest. Whether you host a raffle or a trivia game, they’ll welcome the change of pace!
  • Athletic event: Offer your departments a chance to partake in some friendly competition with a softball game or other physical activity of your choice.
  • Happy hour: Happy hours provide a relaxed atmosphere that reduces stress and can contribute to positive company culture. Just be sensitive to team members who don’t drink and provide alternative options.

If your team is remote, shift your contest and happy hour online or host a virtual team-bonding event. Some ideas include a virtual escape room, photo challenge, or viewing party. Engaging in a fun group activity will keep both your remote and in-person employees feeling motivated and connected.

7. Company retreat

A retreat or trip away from the office allows employees to get to know their coworkers without the pressures of work. A company retreat might include team-building activities and downtime for informal socializing.

As you plan, be mindful of the size of your company and tailor your trip accordingly. For instance, booking transportation and lodging for an out-of-state retreat might be better suited for a team of 20 employees, while a day trip to a local venue would make more sense for a large company of 500 or more people.

8. Free food 

Who doesn’t love a free meal? Food is one of the simplest and most effective ways to recognize your employees. Consider catering a meal, surprising your team with a box of treats, or taking employees out to a local restaurant. You can also host a company-wide cookout to bring employees and their families together for a memorable occasion.

9. Office awards ceremony

Give your employees the spotlight they deserve with your own in-office award ceremony. Invite everyone to dress up and hand out certificates or engraved plaques with achievements like “employee of the month,” “outstanding service record,” and “best team player.” 

Memorialize these accomplishments by creating a dedicated appreciation wall in your office and adding to it throughout the year. 

10. Professional development

Offering a career-based reward is not only perfect for your employees but also benefits your company. Train your employees by sending them to leadership seminars or allow them to choose their own professional development course. Even if the course isn’t connected to your employee’s current role, taking the time to promote continuous learning increases their confidence while developing their skills, which they can then use to improve your business. 

A final note about Employee Appreciation Day

Whether you choose to host an event or cater a free lunch on Employee Appreciation Day, make sure your recognition engages employees and appeals to their interests. Survey team members or host meetings to gather feedback about the forms of appreciation they find most meaningful. Then, tailor your approach accordingly to show your employees that you care. 

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