Employee Performance

6 tips to fuel EOY employee performance with the power of appreciation

About the author: Alyssa is the VP of Account Management at Blueboard. With almost 20 years of experience in account management, she is passionate about creating a supportive team environment. She is an experienced speaker who has presented for Fortune, Forbes, Boston Globe, and Massachusetts High Tech Council’s Women in Leadership, to name a few.

For proactive leaders looking for innovative ways to reach stretch company goals and benefit the bottom line, there's never been a more perfect time to create an end-of-year (EOY) employee appreciation campaign. By recognizing and rewarding your top performers, culture champions, and innovators for their unwavering dedication, effort, and achievements, you’ll drive engagement, performance, and employee retention where it matters most.

In fact, a pay and benefits report by The Josh Bersin Company found having a consistent employee recognition program is more important to employees than lavish perks—and that the most successful organizations take a systemic approach to employee rewards. The outcomes speak volumes in terms of ROI: organizations with systemic recognition are 1.7 times more likely to exceed financial targets. 

For those who care about the overall employee experience, research shows that when you truly invest in meaningful rewards, with dedicated, formal recognition initiatives, the positive impact is even more significant.

Employee recognition data that shows the positive impact of employee recognition on employee engagement and retention.
Rewards and recognition can’t be a “check the box” program; the more intentional the investment, the greater return.

At Blueboard, we’ve seen the power of EOY employee appreciation to inspire teams to drive a little harder, finish the year strong, and set the stage for an extraordinary new year of great work. A year-end appreciation campaign, done right, has the power to exemplify the company values, workplace culture, and teamwork best practices that drive your business forward. By rewarding your top talent, you’ll inspire other team members to replicate their high performance behaviors.

One way we help our clients do this is through an EOY "10 Days of Appreciation" campaign. This effort is a peer recognition and manager-driven nomination program that helps companies tie recognition to specific, individual employee contributions and behaviors from the past year. Not only does an annual program like this inspire discretionary effort, it also helps employees understand what’s expected of them, motivating them to perform their best.

A screenshot of a person sitting on a stool and smiling for an employee appreciation campaign.
Here’s an example of a landing page to submit a nomination for Blueboard’s “10 Days of Appreciation” campaign.

Your EOY employee performance fuel: Discover the power of experiential rewards.

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For the past two years, we've seen remarkable results from this targeted type of recognition program, including spikes in program participation and engagement—and major impact on employee morale and motivation. Across the board, winners of the EOY “10 Days of Appreciation” program report positive feedback and feeling appreciated for their hard work, with 99% of respondents feeling more appreciated for a job well done and 95% feeling more motivated to perform. 

There are many ways to approach a year-end campaign to engage, motivate, and reward employees. For example, some of our clients opt for a big end of year Sales Incentives contest to hit revenue goals or launch a personalized President’s Club to roll out the red carpet for top performers. Others kick off a Spot Recognition program driven by managers to personally recognize and reward their direct reports. The trick is to not do nothing or half-heartedly.

6 tips from Blueboard’s "10 Days of Appreciation" to get the EOY employee performance results you want.

As you think about how to drive desired employee behaviors in the final stretch of 2023, consider these valuable lessons we've learned from our "10 Days of Appreciation" program:

6 employee appreciation tips to fuel performance to finish the year strong.
Your appreciation tips to drive EOY employee performance cheat sheet!

1. Clearly define the behaviors and contributions you plan to reward.

By tying year-end recognition to specific behaviors and contributions, you’ll help employees understand what’s expected of them, support their well-being, and inspire them to perform at their best. This approach ensures consistency and fairness in the recognition process, fostering a positive and supportive culture that encourages excellence and aligns with your organization's values and goals. 

Below are examples of desired behaviors and contributions Blueboard clients have used in EOY employee appreciation programs:

A screenshot of examples of desired behaviors and contributions Blueboard clients have used in EOY employee appreciation programs with icons.
Pro tip: Align your award categories with your employer brand, the values you want to emphasize, and/or the desired behaviors that will drive employee engagement, employee performance and successful bottom line outcomes.

2. Create a specific timeline for your employee appreciation program and focus on participation.

Employee appreciation should be a daily occurrence—Blueboard’s free, customizable Employee Appreciation Card sender is one of our most popular features for a fun way to show daily appreciation. But it’s also critical to acknowledge and reward milestone moments through the employee journey.

When it comes to end of year campaigns, it’s all about focusing on your top performers and rewarding the people who went above and beyond to truly impact your business. In our 10 Days of Appreciation program, we encourage clients to do this during a specific window of time: October 1 to December 31. A natural transition period, we find this timeframe is an ideal time to reflect on accomplishments, align goals, and build a team that will embrace the new year with enthusiasm and a hunger for excellence. We’ve also seen clients opt for a “Start the New Year'' program in January, harnessing kick-off energy. 

Regardless of your window of time, it’s important to set your program up for success with clear messaging and a promotional strategy to build excitement. Then, it’s about announcing the program internally and getting people to submit nominations. Finally, tally up your votes to determine which employee (or employees!) received the most votes in each category.

3. Make rewards valuable, meaningful, and memorable.

With end-of-year rewards, you’re emphasizing the behaviors you value you most, so don’t skimp. We have a bias (backed by research) for personalized, higher value experiential rewards that center around inspiring people to challenge their comfort zones, indulge in their passions, and try new things. In order for rewards to be meaningful and have impact on your employees, they must have value—they must be tailored to individual preferences and create an emotional connection.

For example, in our “10 Days of Appreciation” campaign, we recommend a balance of reward tiers. For example, to ensure a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winner in each nomination category, we suggest a minimum of 25 total rewards with a mix of our three travel tiers and luxury local experiences.

A photo of a person and a dog on a paddleboard in the ocean.
Sage S. learns to paddle board with a furry friend while on the “Stand. Paddle. Glide.” experience, a Blueboard reward from their employer, Included Health.
A person at Universal Studios theme park, posing in front of an animatronic T Rex while on a Jurassic Park ride.
Dion W. narrowly escapes a T Rex encounter while on the “Tickets to Universal Studios” experience, a Blueboard reward in recognition of their stellar performance from their employer, USI. 
A person learning to surf in the ocean.
Gavin Y.’s family got to learn to surf as part of the “Local Getaway” experience, a reward from their employer, Micro Focus.

For significant EOY milestones, companies may reward employees with Blueboard’s highest level rewards, which allow for multi-day international travel.

 A photo of two smiling people posing for a photo in front of a historic statue in Budapest while on a Blueboard reward experience.
Eric B. enjoys the “Miles from Budapest” experience, a Blueboard reward as part of their employer’s, Micro Focus, 2022 President's Club. “We were able to do things we would not normally do for ourselves.”
A photo of a family posing with a beautful mountain background in Jackson Hole, WY, enjoying a Blueboard reward experience from their employer.
Anthony P. and family enjoy the “Journey to Jackson Hole” experience, a Blueboard reward from their employer in recognition of their work anniversary.

4. Empower managers to get better at showing appreciation.

According to Gallup research, 70% of team engagement is attributable to the manager, so it’s important to involve them in EOY recognition campaigns and to give them the tools needed to do it in a meaningful way, but at scale. By empowering managers to use employee appreciation tools to finish the year strong, you will teach them how to use employee appreciation as the powerful leadership tool it is to inspire their teams to go above and beyond to achieve collective goals.

Beyond EOY appreciation, at Blueboard, we help our clients build programs that support strengthening the manager-employee relationship at scale, including spot rewards and recognition. Through this type of program, managers can quickly reward high performers with personalized experiences that match their special contributions. We then help the manager strengthen their connection to the employee by providing them with actionable data that measures employee engagement, motivation, interests, and sentiment. This data can be used to help them engage employees on a new level and make informed decisions to improve the manager-employee relationship.

5. Celebrate your people publicly (according to their preference).

At Blueboard, we’re big advocates for a public, end-of-year awards celebration, where winners are announced at the same time and peers and colleagues get to celebrate together! This generates genuine excitement and gives you an opportunity to showcase why the winners received rewards and  reinforce the behaviors and qualities you’re trying to drive. During this time, it’s critical that you stay focused on equally celebrating the person and the accomplishment! Celebrating both the person receiving recognition and the alignment of the accomplishment with organizational values reinforces positive behavior and fosters a purpose-driven workforce.

In our “10 Days of Appreciation” campaign, we encourage our customers to generate additional buzz with an in-person or video announcement from leadership shared with teams for especially meaningful end-of-year celebrations. For hybrid or fully remote teams where a large celebration may not make sense, we’ve also seen clients have success rolling out one winner (or one category's winner) per day in Slack or Teams. This approach allows the entire company to celebrate virtually together over the course of a week.

Pro tip: Encourage managers to check in with their people about how they prefer to be recognized. Many employees will enjoy public recognition, but some might not. While we recommend a shared, public celebration, be sure to take individual comfort into account as much as possible!

6. Keep the appreciation afterglow going all year.

Our final tip? Don’t let the fun stop with your celebration ceremony. The most successful organizations create opportunities to extend the impact of year-end recognition, showcasing the winners’ accomplishments as real examples of success, driving future desired behaviors and reinforcing a culture of excellence. 

At Blueboard, when an employee uses their experiential reward, they upload their post-experience photos, videos, and reward details. Admins of our most savvy clients use this employee generated content for social recognition on social media channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as internal communication channels like email, all-hands, career web pages, newsletters, intranet, and more. This afterglow content helps extend the celebration of the employee's achievements, creating an opportunity to receive additional recognition from peers, managers, and the broader organization.

The Blueboard Afterglow is the post-experience details like photos, videos, and stories that are shared and live long after the actual experience itself to extend and amplify your recognition program impact.
#Blueboarding Afterglow brings experiences to life for all to celebrate your company values and culture long after the moment of real-time recognition.

Fuel your team's performance and embrace an extraordinary 2024 with end-of-year appreciation!

Systemic employee appreciation and recognition offers a strategic approach to inspire your team to do their best work, fuel employee performance, and cultivate a culture of success. Don't underestimate the power of EOY recognition to not only finish the year strong, but to make a lasting impact on your company culture by showcasing core company values, rewarding your top performers with meaningful awards, and building hype and enthusiasm for the new year. 

Already a Blueboard client and interested in launching a 10 Days of Appreciation campaign at your organization? Connect with your Account Manager today!

Not a Blueboard client but interested in bringing more meaningful recognition to your organization? Talk to a Blueboard expert about your goals and discover the power of experiential rewards, and why they have nearly 4X the impact of traditional rewards. 

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