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21 Great Ways to Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day

Employee Appreciation Day (1)

Did you know that the first Friday in March every year is Employee Appreciation Day? That’s Friday 1st March 2024. The day gives everyone who manages a team – from a small project squad to a big organisation, the perfect opportunity to express appreciation to their hard-working staff. Why celebrate it? Because appreciating and celebrating team effort boosts morale and builds a positive workplace culture. It’s Recognition by another name – and recognition is what we all crave. Employees who are recognised for their efforts and contributions are more likely to be satisfied in their jobs – and less likely to be browsing for a new position.

Here are 21 employee appreciation ideas to help celebrate the day and celebrate your employees. Pick just one or try two or three! It’s a good way to build a well-valued, well-motivated workforce, which continues delivering their best work for the rest of the year.

1. Spotlight Employee Achievements

Create a dedicated physical or digital space where you showcase employee achievements. The digital space can be a part of your website that only staff access. The physical space can be a corridor or cafeteria space, where you display pictures of individuals and teams with a note of the successes you are recognising and appreciating. Plan to regularly update the space, and on this year’s Employee Appreciation Day, ensure you highlight this year’s individual and team accomplishments. Your efforts will help to reinforce the importance of celebrating success throughout the year.

2. Employee Appreciation Gifts

Surprise your team with thoughtful employee appreciation gifts. Quality, branded gifts and swag, like high-quality branded bottles, cups, tech gifts, umbrellas, notebooks, and pens always go down well. Bundle these gifts together and hand them out to staff in a box branded with your company logo and in your brand colours. Employee appreciation gifts can also be used as onboarding packs for new hires. You can also consider giving time off, such as a half-day or a full day. Again, be sure to mention ‘Employee Appreciation Day’ when presenting the gifts as it links the occasion to the gift.

Employee Appreciation Gift

3. Thank You Notes for Employee Recognition

In workplaces where managers and colleagues regularly give written notes of appreciation, supply them with company-branded ‘Thank You’ cards. These help to foster a culture of speedy, targeted acknowledgment of an individual’s hard work. They are also easily shared on social media by recipients. If you don’t have physical cards, an email message that gives thanks and shows appreciation to a colleague is always appreciated.

4. How to Write an Employee Appreciation Message

When writing an employee appreciation message consider three factors. Is the message clear and written in easy-to-understand language? Does it communicate why you appreciate the individual staff or team member? Will it be appropriately received and have the intended, positive impact? To ensure you deliver on these, make sure your message is:

·         Authentic – you write the message as if talking to your team member who is sitting in front of you.

·         Complementary – say ‘Thank You’ and compliment them on their achievement.

·         Timely – appreciation needs to reach a person in good time.

·         To the point – boil down the message, don’t waffle.

·         Specific – be clear as to what action/work is being appreciated.

·         Fun – a fun message is easy to digest, putting a smile on their face.

·         Light-hearted – let the message communicate your happiness with the recipient.

If you can, share the message with others to magnify the recognition being given. Don’t allow recognition to be siloed – share its positivity and spread the joy!

5. Host an Employee Recognition Town Hall

Begin Employee Appreciation Day with an employee recognition Town Hall. Highlight outstanding achievements, commendable team efforts, and any employee milestones. The latter might include Years of Service milestones or employee retirements. Make sure to speak about the theme of the day as you acknowledge their contributions. Include a short contribution from their team leader or line manager, which is the appreciation and recognition most valued by staff.

6. Recognition Initiatives from Managers

Employee Appreciation Day is the perfect occasion to encourage managers to actively participate in recognising team members. Receiving recognition from a manager, supervisor, or team leader is proven to be the most effective and best received. A simple word of thanks goes a long, long way. Leaders can set aside time (just a few minutes will do) during meetings to acknowledge and celebrate individual contributions. It’s always good to consider the individual before giving public recognition. Some love it and others will run a mile – so be sensitive and let your soft skills guide you.

7. Customised Employee Rewards

Have you considered designing employee awards and giving them to colleagues who have made a significant contribution during the year? A simple glass award with the winner’s name and award name can be displayed at their workspace or taken home to share with family. These awards are not costly, can be easily designed and manufactured, and create lasting memories. They also serve as something for other team members to strive to earn in the coming year.

Glass Awards

8. Wellness & Relaxation Initiatives

At times, work is stressful for everyone, and more stressful for some. Consider initiatives that promote wellness and relaxation. They need not be too costly or complicated. For example, initiatives like giving staff a branded water bottle will help colleagues stay hydrated, which supports concentration. When we are focused, we get through the work we need to do, meet our deadlines, and contribute more fully at team meetings. We flow!

Giving employees an option to take a short 10-minute walk outside can be equally effective. It can clear my mind, helping me to focus on the next task while contributing to my step count! Simple initiatives like these express appreciation while contributing to overall staff well-being.

9. Team Building Events

Organise team-building activities to celebrate and appreciate your employees. This might include a day out mountain biking or road cycling – with the necessary stops for cake and tea. What about paintballing, panic rooms, or bowling? Organise tickets for a local GAA, rugby, or football match. These all bring people together. When people come together outside of work, new alliances form, existing relationships deepen, and people learn about the other’s talents and interests. You are quietly using Employee Appreciation Day to emphasise the importance of friendship, teamwork, and collaboration.

10. Encourage Staff Volunteering

You’d be amazed to hear how your colleagues spend their time when not at work. Some support relatives and neighbours, others climb mountains or play tennis. Others dedicate their time to supporting local charities. Charities can benefit as much from a donation of skills as they do from cash donations. Employee Appreciation Day can be the yearly focus for individuals to give a working day plus their skills to one or more local charities. Employees can be canvassed to select suitable charities. Staff will also receive personal appreciation from charity leaders for their skills generously given.

Charity Work

11. Donation to a Favourite Charity on Staff Appreciation Day

Your staff appreciation day can also be celebrated by making a public donation to a named charity. To magnify the event, the company may consider matching the amount raised. Make sure you have a large cheque designed for the presentation and ask colleagues to take pictures to share on social media. Invite a representative from the charity to receive the cheque and to share a few words of thanks. If you have a recognition platform for staff, you can include a named charity as a reward option, giving employees the option to donate to a charity.

12. Recognition on Social Media

Many companies and organisations have internal media platforms. Some companies also use external social media platforms. Both give options to allow for Employee Recognition Day celebrations to be shared within and outside of the workplace. Make sure to share well-prepared and clear success stories, with photographs – so, consider hiring a professional photographer and videographer for the occasion. Using social media amplifies the messages of employee appreciation and the joy of the occasion. Remember to use relevant hashtags like #EmployeeAppreciationDay and company hashtags to magnify appreciation and reach.

13. Implement Employee Reward Programs

Many organisations have implemented employee rewards programs. They are used to recognise outstanding performance and long-term commitment such as years of service and retirements. Ensure that all employees understand how your reward programme works, when they are eligible, and how their contribution has supported the company over time. Employee reward programmes contribute significantly to fostering a culture of appreciation and recognition. As people receive their rewards, other staff are encouraged to contribute or they look forward to receiving their reward. If they are looking forward, they are looking to remain with your company. And staff retention issues become less of an issue. If you don’t have a recognition programme consider starting one, and announce your plans on Employee Appreciation Day.

14. Flexible & Remote Working

The pandemic demonstrated that many staff members do not need to be in the workplace every day. Indeed, working from home can help us to focus without workplace distractions to get that big project over the line. Post-COVID, we realised that a balance between working from home and being at work is an attractive option. Organisations can demonstrate their appreciation by offering remote working or flexible working. Both acknowledge that employees have diverse needs, and each provides flexibility that supports and encourages their work-life balance.

Flexible & Remote Working

15. Opportunities for Professional Development

Many members of the workforce are happy to receive training to build knowledge and skills. This year, review the professional development opportunities your organisation offers to employees at all levels. In-house courses, seminars, and workshops are valued ways to recognise ability and appreciate your staff. External professional development like professional certificates, diplomas, and degrees – which you can also subsidise, all support career growth. Investing in professional development demonstrates a commitment to development across the company. It also demonstrates a commitment to an individual’s professional development, which gives all staff good reason to remain.

16. Employee of the Month Recognition

It’s always impressive to see parking bays reserved for the Employee of the Month. It’s such a simple initiative but one that is very public and very practical – who likes driving around looking for a parking space? The winner can be a staff member who has made an outstanding contribution. Consider hosting a small ceremony or lunch to present this month’s award, to celebrate the previous year’s awardees, and all their achievements. PS: there are lots of ideas and initiatives that can be turned into monthly recognition awards, from giving someone a half-day off to giving them an early Friday finish.

Awards Ceremony

17. An Annual Employee Awards Ceremony

Organise an annual awards ceremony to recognise excellence. Step one is to create suitable awards categories. These might include: ‘Innovation of the Year, ‘Safety Award of the Year’, ‘Team Player’ or ‘Leadership Award’. Winners can be presented with an award or a suitable gift. The annual award ceremony can be held at any time of the year but make sure to feature these awards and previous winners prominently on Employee Appreciation Day.

18. Awards Nomination Process

When it comes to shortlisting and naming award winners, make sure to involve all employees in the selection process. Winners can be chosen using a voting system or via a cross-company judging panel. This democratic approach adds a personal touch to the recognition process and encourages a sense of inclusivity and involvement. Highlight this employee-driven initiative on Employee Appreciation Day and thank the panel and all employees for their involvement.

19. Staff Appreciation Lunch

Organise a special appreciation lunch or a fabulous in-house spread for all employees. Companies with a staff canteen can hold it there. Have some special dishes on the menu and lovely cakes, too! Use the time to express gratitude and encourage employees to relax and enjoy the occasion – but keep any speeches/presentations brief. Emphasise the fact that it’s not just the ‘company’ that appreciates staff – Employee Appreciation Day is a collective effort for all to celebrate and enjoy.

Staff Lunch (2)

20. Virtual Activities for Remote and Hybrid Teams

For remote or hybrid work teams, plan some virtual activities. These can include online games, a virtual coffee hour, or even a team-building webinar. To support the initiative, send out a box of goodies (for example a branded mug, biscuits, chocolate, etc.) to your colleague’s home address in time to celebrate the Day. Regardless of physical distance, your actions will remind virtual employees of their continuing importance and contribution to the company.

21. Ice Creams & BBQ Picnics!

On a hot day, what’s better than a cold drink? Answer: an ice cream at a BBQ picnic – that’s what! But March isn’t the best month to be outdoors or for ice cream. So, plan to have the ice cream truck visit in the summer months at your lunchtime BBQ picnic. Make sure Mrs Whippy brings raspberry sauce – and include vegetarian/vegan BBQ options as well as locally sourced meats.

In Conclusion

Employee Appreciation Day is a valuable, yearly opportunity for organisations to demonstrate employee recognition. Putting into action the most suitable employee appreciation ideas will help celebrate your employees and their contributions. It will also help to enhance your workplace culture and build employee satisfaction and motivation.

One last thing to bear in mind: make appreciation a continuous effort throughout the year. Employee Appreciation Day serves as a focal point and a constant reminder to acknowledge and celebrate the hard work, enthusiasm, and loyalty of your teams every day.

About the Author

Dr Paul Gadie is the Managing Director of Gift Innovations. He holds various degrees including a doctorate in Theology, which focused on leadership. He has worked in academia, researching and lecturing in Theology & Religious studies and managing academic partnerships across the UK, Europe, and Africa. He is also a published author. In his research, he encourages the development of leaders with a vision to work with and persuade others, rather than to control and command.

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