A company’s potential is only as great as its employees. To retain your top talent and reinforce to them that your company is the perfect place to build their future, consider a few memorable and meaningful employee appreciation ideas.
It may seem challenging, but don’t despair—this guide can 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.
“In the land of positive company cultures," Ganino says, "appreciation and recognition are about taking time to notice things that improve the overall conditions for the team."
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 a good 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.
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, such as virtual gift cards or vouchers.
“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.
In today’s mostly virtual working environment, instead of in-person celebrations, you can celebrate employee or business milestones through sending surprise boxes of donuts or fun desk accessories and recognizing exciting wins through video meetings.
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
You could also schedule breakfast deliveries for your morning meetings and utilize screensharing slides or videos to highlight your team’s meaningful moments.
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 a digital tool like Slack to create a #recognitionwall to share praise, especially if Slack is already used as a company communication channel. Team newsletters or recap emails can also be utilized to showcase work achievements or even personal wins.
“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.
“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. Allowing employees to take some extra time off to look after themselves and their loved ones is important, now more than ever, to help employees feel valued.
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. Sending a food delivery for a virtual lunch together is a great way to replace taking employees out for a meal. Setting up a regular casual virtual chat can help break down some walls and allow a small reprieve from busy workdays.
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 these 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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