We opened our webinar, hosted in partnership with 15five and Bravely, by asking our attendees a question: “What are you doing to appreciate employees at your company?”
Some told us that they love to say “thank you” often, and some give shout outs on Slack or at all-hands meetings. Others send care packages or hand-written notes directly to employees while working remotely. There were too many suggestions to list in this post, which, honestly, is an awesome problem to have.
There was a commonality across what we saw popping up though: our audience of HR leaders treat appreciation as a year-round effort. However, even with that mindset there can be challenges to sustain appreciation efforts at a company.
How are you supposed to convince an entire organization it’s worth the effort? What are the best ways to appreciate employees, especially in remote environments? And how can you keep appreciation efforts fresh, authentic and creative?
The team of experts on the panel explored these questions and provided answers for our audience:
- Jennie Yang, VP of People and Culture at 15Five
- Gursharn Dhami, Director of People at Stack Overflow
- Debra Turner Bailey, Trainer, Facilitator, and Coach with Bravely
- Shannon Ferguson, Head of People at Blueboard
- Morgan Chaney, Senior Director of Marketing at Blueboard (moderator)
Watch the full video below, you’ll enjoy this one. And make sure to read through the full blog post below for some quick employee appreciation ideas from our audience (thank you everyone) that can help right now.
Why is employee appreciation important?
Right off the bat, we wanted to show the value in employee appreciation. It might seem like a softball question, but having a clear and concise answer can help you quickly secure buy in for programs at your own company.
Debra from Bravely began with an examination of the link between appreciation and employee engagement. She cited the Gallup Q12, which seeks to find out if employees were actively engaged in their work. One of the questions on the list is: “Do you feel appreciated and recognized at work?”
The inclusion of that question on the survey forges a direct link between an employee’s sense of appreciation and recognition for their work and how engaged they are with your company. It’s a topic we spoke about with Emplify during our webinar Employee Recognition: Why it Matters Right Now and How to Make it Count.
In a different study that Jennie surfaced, only one in three workers felt they received adequate recognition or praise for doing good work. And those who didn’t feel recognized said they will likely quit their job within the next year.
She continued on to say that organizations that appreciate their employees operate at higher levels of performance than those that don’t. And in this context, appreciation equals positive communications, support, and authentic acknowledgement of great work.
So, let’s run it back for a second. Employee appreciation creates highly engaged employees, creates a high-performance work environment, and motivates your employees to be their best self at work.
What does all that impact? Employee retention rates.
When an employee feels a connection to their job, work, and company, they’re going to stick around. That’s the benefit of appreciating your employees on a year-round basis, and that’s why it’s so important.
What’s the best way to appreciate employees?
Honestly, there’s no “best” answer to this question, but employee appreciation should be personalized. Debra pointed out that we all want to be appreciated differently.
Some employees prefer public shout outs while others prefer personal, private messages. Adding to that, not everyone wants the same form of appreciation. As Jennie tells us:
“Don’t follow the golden rule here. You want to make sure team members are being recognized in the way they want to be recognized, not how you want them to be recognized.”—Jennie Yang, VP of People and Culture at 15Five
For context, the “golden rule” is to treat others how you want to be treated yourself. It’s a good rule for life, but not for appreciation and recognition. Case in point, some of our attendees shared anecdotes from their own companies that prove this true:
“The best example was a vegan colleague who received a $200 gift card to Ruth Chris steakhouse. Classic.”
“I had a boss who used to give me $10 Starbucks cards as appreciation. She was a coffee person, I hate the stuff! Always felt very impersonal.”
This spawned a great new rule from another attendee that got some major support in the Zoom chat during our webinar:
“Use the Platinum Rule—treat people the way they want to be treated.”
Gursharn shared that Stack Overflow asks questions about how someone likes to be appreciated during their onboarding journey. The answer is only visible to the person’s manager, and they can continually follow up over time to see if those appreciation preferences change.
Which is where Shannon from Blueboard jumped in to round out the conversation. Your managers, not the HR department, should bear the responsibility for employee appreciation.
The HR department should offer a variety of options and levers that managers can use to appreciate and recognize, but HR has to step out of the role for in-the-moment appreciation.
To be clear, this isn’t the HR team shirking duty—this ensures that your appreciation and recognition efforts scale as your company grows. It’s simply not feasible that the HR department will be able to know everyone as personally as their manager.
How can you make employee appreciation efforts successful within remote work environments?
As Gursharn reminds us, we’ve lost a lot of face-to-face touchpoints in our remote world as team meetings, one-on-ones, and all-hands have gone fully virtual. The key is to look at the opportunities our remote environment presents instead of focusing on what it’s taken away.
“We haven’t lost our touchpoints and together, we just have to slightly modify how it works.”—Gursharn Dhami, Director of People at Stack Overflow
The intentionality behind your appreciation and recognition efforts is even more critical in a remote environment as well. As Shannon says, it used to be easy to grab balloons or pick up a cake to celebrate at the office, but that doesn’t work now.
“Evolve what you used to do into the setting of our remote world. Think about what can transition well into Slack, Zoom, or a different digital field. What will resonate with people? Is it a newsletter, a weekly email, or a video from your executives?”—Shannon Ferguson, Head of People at Blueboard
In-line with this thinking, Gursharn shared that Stack Overflow has integrated their appreciation efforts into Slack, so employees can see it live as it happens. They’ve also started a weekly blog that showcases appreciation, and they have a video from their CEO that gets sent out with appreciation shout outs included.
Your efforts to better adapt appreciation and recognition to your remote environment will also show your employees that you care. You’re willing to invest the time and energy into appreciation—that can go a long way towards keeping employees invested as well.
Hot takes on showing employee appreciation year-round.
For some, the idea of appreciation and recognition is rooted in a budget conversation. If you’re able to earmark a budget, do it. However, that’s not always an option, and that’s OK.
Gursharn reminds us that 85% of employees are happy with a simple “thank you.” So, get your managers and teams in the habit of saying thank you and recognizing great work that way. It’s simple, effective, and free.
Our panelists also suggest a few more creative ways to take advantage of the resources right around you:
1. Give the gift of time.
Give a day, or an afternoon off. Even having a late start day, week, or a few Fridays each month can help. The gift of time is something that almost every company can afford to give, and it’s always appreciated.
2. Tap into coveted gifts at your physical office space (once we return).
If you’re still going into the office, or envisioning what it looks like to return to a hybrid work environment, think about appreciation in terms of physical space rewards. There might be primetime parking spots you can give, or special priority access to the best conference or meeting rooms.
3. Leverage your networks for others.
Think through how you can use your networks to unlock opportunities, without spending too much money. Maybe it’s securing a one-on-one lunch for your CEO and an employee, or using your marketing and executive connections to get someone tickets to a conference or event. Membership to professional organizations or free copies of signed leadership books are also options.
4. Organize service or volunteer days.
Offering service and volunteer days, to do either individually or with teammates, can be a powerful form of appreciation. Not only does it help you understand your employees’ whole self better by learning what they’re passionate about outside of work, it’s also a great team-building moment. Plus, the icing on the cake is your company is doing something great for your community in the process.
5. Provide development opportunities for your employees.
Provide developmental opportunities as forms of appreciation and recognition—anything that will help an employee grow, get certified, or participate in something that improves their skills and toolkit. Consider sitting down with the employee to discuss how they’ll take the new talents and apply it in a practical way to their work.
6. Give experiences as awards.
Go beyond monetary rewards and invest in the gift of meaningful experiences. With Blueboard, we offer a hand-curated menu of experiences and let employees choose their favorite. They might want to do a spa day, or choose an in-home cooking class to use with the family. Either way, the choice is theirs to make, and that means it will always be something they enjoy.
Keep the employee appreciation energy booming!
There are countless reasons you should prioritize employee appreciation at your company. It increases employee engagement, motivates your entire company to perform, and helps boost retention. But the best reason is that it’s a continuous celebration of your employees.
They do a lot for your company, and when they know their contributions are seen and valued it goes a long way to making them happy. And, at the end of the day, don’t we all just want to ensure our employees are happy?
If you’re looking for the perfect place to start with employee appreciation, send a personalized note to your coworkers, teams, or employees right now at our Employee Appreciation Hub.