A new year, a new resolve: Retain your key talent and reinforce that your company is the perfect place to build their future. You might, however, feel a bit challenged when it comes to nailing down memorable and meaningful employee appreciation ideas.
Don't despair! You've landed on a resource to help you generate staff appreciation ideas—ones that can help your team and company thrive for the long-term while building both culture and careers in the process.
1. Look beyond the dollar signs.
“When it comes to recognition, most programs make the mistake of only focusing on money," says Mike Ganino, a company culture advisor and author of Company Culture for Dummies.
When companies focus solely on money, it's possible to devalue what seemed like a valuable staff appreciation idea (money) from a substantial reward to a simple transaction. The last thing you want to do is have an appreciation idea backfire. That's why it's time to put cash and gift cards on the back burner and put the people you appreciate at the heart of all your employee appreciation ideas.
2. Make employee appreciation ideas personal.
Now, putting cash-value rewards on the back burner doesn't mean taking them off the table entirely. But if they're going to remain a part of your company's appreciation repertoire, those cash-based rewards have to be personal.
What better way to show someone that they're doing a great job than to invest in them personally? Take them out for lunch, ask them to join you at an event or conference.
—Leslie Ehm, president, Combustion
Leslie Ehm, president of a training company called Combustion, suggests tailoring cash-based rewards to a high level of specificity and on a per-person basis.
“Find out what an employee's favorite snack or coffee drink is and then load a gift card with exactly five times that amount and then tell them what it's for," she says. “The fact that you took to the time to know their preferences will make all the difference."
Ganino suggests recognizing employee anniversaries to amp-up personalization on your staff appreciation ideas.
“A simple way to get started is to designate the last Friday of each month as the official celebration day for all of the anniversaries that happen in the following month," he says. “One organization I worked with did this by having senior leaders cook a waffle breakfast in each of their offices."
This leads perfectly into the next important aspect of morale-boosting employee appreciation ideas: making appreciation a public and welcomed gesture.
3. Bring on the verbal (and public) praise.
“Recognition is always best served in public. Create a shared space where people can submit positive comments of recognition for others across the organization," says Ganino.
He's seen companies use rotating screens in common areas; others use a digital tool like Slack to create a #recognitionwall to share praise, especially if Slack is already used as a company communication channel.
Don't have access to a digital tool? Don't sweat it. Create a congratulations wall and stock it with plenty of notecards and pens for people to submit.
“The best thing you can do for your people is to tell them how much they matter—to you and the company," adds Ehm. And that brings us to the next pay-it-back idea to keep morale high: the incomparable gift of time.
4. Don't overlook the value of time.
Savvy companies are using time as a gift by giving the one thing employees can't give themselves.
“Time is the one finite resource facing us at work," says Ehm.
So how about adding flextime to the list of staff appreciation ideas that can help you raise spirits and employee retention rates?
“Let employees choose how—coming in late one day, leaving early, taking their kid's birthday off. As long as it doesn't impact the team, it's an easy way to say 'thank you,'" says Ehm.
She's also an advocate for managers and executives investing their time in critical employees.
"What better way to show someone that they're doing a great job than to invest in them personally?" Ehm says. "Take them out for lunch, ask them to join you at an event or conference."
This active engagement allows execs to spend time learning about specific employee goals and aspirations, and offer insights, support and strategies to help employees realize those goals.
5. Help employees shine with their peers.
Employees can also receive a substantial morale boost through invitations to share their recognized expertise with other company members.
“Today's workforce wants to be recognized for the work they do, how they contribute to the company and have the opportunity to continue developing their professional skills," Ganino says.
He suggests adding employee-led activities to your company's employee appreciation ideas list.
“One organization I researched while writing the book created a #showyourwork series where people who had done something great recently would lead a lunch-and-learn, webinar or live stream sharing details about their recent win," he says.
According to Ganino, encouraging active employee involvement through ideas like whatthese have the most power to put valuable employees at the helm of their role within the company.
As you move to put these employee appreciation ideas into action at your company, never be afraid to ask one key question: “Have we connected our employee appreciation efforts directly to contributions to our customers and company?" Doing so helps "drive the link between recognition and culture," Ganino says.
“The real secret to showing employees that you appreciate them is the sincerity that drives your efforts," says Ehm.
Read more articles on employee retention.
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