Didn’t plan ahead for Employee Appreciation Day which occurs the first Friday in March? Or are you just looking for anytime employee appreciation ideas to help you and your team brainstorm for the coming months?
We’ve got you covered!
First, don’t worry that you haven’t planned ahead. A big appreciation dinner that takes months of planning — with catered food, entertainment and party games — can be a treat for employees, but it’s far from the only way to thank employees for their hard work.
In fact, spontaneous “Thanks!” are just as important. Everyday expressions of gratitude show employees that their efforts are noticed day in and day out, not just once or twice a year.
It gets to the heart of why employee appreciation is so meaningful: it communicates to staff that leadership is paying attention to them and cares about their performance. A few words of recognition from leadership mean a lot to rank-and-file employees, particularly in a distributed workforce, where face time with the C-suite is infrequent or nonexistent.
Bottom line: people love to be noticed for what they do. Everyday appreciation is a reminder that their work matters.
“Saying ‘Thank You’ encourages a gracious, polite and civilized workplace,” writes ChicagoNow’s Scott Huntington.
Over time, thanking employees fosters a culture in which gratitude is shared frequently and effortlessly. And that has a real business impact: 78 percent of employees say they would work harder if their efforts were better appreciated, according to Limeade.
Employee Appreciation Ideas: 10 Ways to Say ‘Thanks’ on the Fly
Even though gratitude is simple, there’s no reason not to have fun with it, even on the fly. Try some of these last-minute employee appreciation ideas — you won’t need more than a day’s notice to undertake most.
1. Host an Ice Cream Social
Spring is in the air! And that means warmer days, more sunlight and, of course, ice cream! Thank your team with an impromptu ice cream social. The supplies you need are easy to gather: tubs of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, a few scoops for serving, paper bowls and disposable spoons, and a variety of fun toppings (sprinkles, maraschino cherries, chocolate sauce, nuts, caramel). Have managers, or members of the leadership team if they’re available, scoop ice cream for employees.
2. Tell the local newspaper about an employee’s good deed
Everyone enjoys a “feel good” story about an employee who went above and beyond at work or demonstrated kindness on the job. It gives much-deserved public recognition to the employee, plus it’s great PR for your company. One recent example? A cashier who covered the cost of a customer’s groceries after a big snowstorm, as covered by a newspaper in Minnesota. (Find more in our blog post on “4 Inspiring Stories of Workplace Kindness.”)
3. Get the ball rolling on an employee-led “recognition committee”
Take the first step to organize an employee-led committee to build year-round appreciation within your organization. It’s an engagement effort that’s worked well at the University of Calgary.
4. Let employees to recharge over an extra-long lunch break
Do staff members routinely scarf down lunch in front of a computer or in a windowless break room? Encourage them to get out, eat a sit-down meal at a restaurant and do whatever they need to do to recharge in the middle of a long workday (a walk, game of basketball, meditation). Better yet, treat your team to a long lunch at a local restaurant. Either way, be sure to express your thanks to employees! (Hat tip to Limeade for this suggestion, from the blog post “Why You Should Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day.“)
5. Bring in breakfast
It’s amazing how a breakfast spread of doughnuts, bagels, coffee and juice can set a positive tone for the rest of the workday! Wish everyone a Happy Employee Appreciation Day (or other fun holiday, like International Day of Awesomeness) and spend time socializing over the breakfast treats.
6. Nominate an employee for an award
Internal (or external) awards are a great way to show your appreciation. Let your nominee know privately that you’ve nominated them and why. Even if they don’t win the award, your praise and confidence in them will make a big impression.
7. Encourage managers to thank their team
Your company’s lower-level managers and supervisors often have the most day-to-day contact with employees. Encourage them to thank employees for recent, specific examples of outstanding work. When praise is specific, even for a team as a whole, it clearly connects praise to performance. It makes appreciation more genuine and heartfelt. For more tips on sharing appreciation, check out our blog post “7 Ways to Thank Employees Better.”
8. Write a handwritten Thank You letter
Be inspired to start a Thank You note-writing habit! Some of the most successful CEOs in history write hundreds of Thank You notes to their employees, customers and other shareholders every year. It’s a habit many started early in their careers — and it became a lifelong habit because it’s so effective and memorable. For step-by-step letter-writing tips, download our free ebook on writing employee Thank You notes at Thanksgiving or anytime of year.
9. Share small appreciation gifts
You may not have time right now to undertake a big employee gift program, but you can buy little gifts of appreciation to share with your team — bags of candy, tickets to a movie theater, $5 ice cream gift certificates, etc. Don’t forget to include a short note with your tokens of appreciation.
10. Say “Thanks!”
It’s the simplest, most spontaneous way to show your gratitude, yet it’s also the most powerful.
Feeling tongue-tied? That’s natural. Due to outdated myths, the workplace is the last place many of us feel comfortable thanking others. If thanking employees feels awkward or forced, read this excellent research-backed Greater Good Science Center article on why workplace gratitude is so rare — and how to change that unfortunate dynamic, today.
However you choose to share your sincere thanks, your employees will appreciate you care. We hope you and your colleagues have a joyful day celebrating your workplace.
Make Employee Appreciation Day Every Day: Download Your Calendar Now
Celebrate appreciation in the workplace all year long while invigorating your employee recognition planning for the year! Download gThankYou’s FREE “Day-to-Day Employee Celebration Calendar” today and start building an everyday culture of gratitude that employees will love. You’ll find inspiration and employee appreciation ideas for every month and day of the year.
We’ve updated our annual day-to-day appreciation calendar with lots of new topics, new case studies and even more holidays and reasons to celebrate! As in previous years, the gThankYou calendar is jam-packed with insights into the latest HR trends, how-to tutorials for engaging and thanking employees, case studies to inspire you, examples of holidays to celebrate each month, and research statistics to help you make the business case for appreciation.
Download yours FREE today!
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