10 powerful employee appreciation day ideas for small teams

In 2021, Employee Appreciation Day falls on March 5. However, it’s important to get in the habit of showing employees you care and acknowledging their achievements, even when it’s not an official holiday. 

In fact, 40% of employees say they’d put a bigger effort into their work if they felt they were more appreciated, according to the Harvard Business Review. 

We thought outside of the box and came up with a few creative employee appreciation ideas so you can show gratitude for your team on both Employee Appreciation Day and throughout the rest of the year. 

1. Make employee recognition public

Appreciating an employee’s accomplishments is one thing, but making it known to the rest of your team is a great way to make people feel recognized on a larger scale. 

Consider using a tool that allows you to praise employees in front of their team members for their hard work. Homebase Shout Outs allow you and your team to show appreciation for a job well done through virtual cards that celebrate going above & beyond, being a team player, or having a great attitude.

homebase shoutouts

2. Create incentives for peer-to-peer recognition

Once you’ve got a peer-to-peer recognition program in place, encourage your team to use it by offering a small incentive. 

For example, every time an employee recognizes a coworker for a job well done, put that employee’s name into a jar. At the end of the week, draw a couple of names out of the hat and reward those employees that recognize their peers with a prize, like a free lunch.

4. Keep a rotating trophy

Find a trophy, figurine, or a fun object that captures the spirit of your business and use it to honor an employee who has gone above and beyond for the week. 

Let them keep it at their desk or work station, or even create a wearable trophy such as a customized badge or special t-shirt that they can show it off to your customers as well. 

5. Let employees choose projects

Instead of doing all of the planning, let employees choose a special project to work on a few times throughout the year. For example, instead of assigning them the same tasks, honor their request to create an innovative marketing plan or create a cool new event for your customers.

Your staff will not only appreciate the opportunity to try new things and grow professionally in the way they want, but also that you trust them enough to take the wheel on the responsibility. 

6. Keep a pulse on what your employees like 

The age-old saying “it’s the thought that counts” is true, but if you’re spending money or time on an employee appreciation idea that results in no one actually feeling appreciated, what’s the point? 

Ask your staff during your next team meeting what they’d like to see in terms of recognition. 

  • Do they prefer gift cards? 
  • Do they want to leave early once a month? 
  • Are off-site happy hours a good idea? 

Making incentives count will show them that you care. Here at Homebase we celebrated Employee Appreciation Day with donuts, because our Head of People knows we all just can’t get enough! 


7. Listen to employees and implement their ideas 

It’s also important to listen to your team in terms of changes or ideas they would like to see in their day-to-day activities. Give them a voice, take action on what they say. 

If one of your team members has a great idea on how to improve your employee meetings, try it out. If you run a restaurant and your server has an idea on how to be more efficient, encourage the rest of your team to follow the new practice. 

Some would argue that this is one of the most important forms of appreciation, because if an employee doesn’t feel heard, they might take their ideas somewhere else. 

8. Feature your staff on your website 

If your current website only shows off the leadership team, consider letting your customer base get to know your entire team when they’re checking you out online. 

While you may not be able to include everyone due to a large team or privacy reasons, think about increasing the number of staff members on the site by adding their photos (with their permission of course) and letting them write their own bios. 

If you can’t provide a solo photo and bio for all of your team members on your site, highlight a fun group photo on your “About Us” page, like we have here at Homebase. 

homebase staff

9. Give your break room a boost

Does your break area actually give off a relaxing vibe? If it consists of bare walls and a smelly refrigerator, it probably doesn’t. Spruce it up by making sure it’s clean, has modern furniture, and is away from your customers’ view.

But also take the opportunity to make it more than just a room. 

Use the intel you learned while questioning your employees on what they like to do during break time to add a little extra. 

  • Do they like to read? Create a library wall. 
  • Do they like video games? Add a gamer station. 
  • Do they like to work out? Add some yoga mats and exercise equipment

A next-level break room not only creates a welcoming space, but also opens the door for building a community among your staff. 

10. Invest in their careers

Show your staff how invested you are in their success. Send them to leadership training events or even online classes as a way to reward people for their hard work and effort. 

Be lenient about time off so they can attend educational events, and as they continue to grow in their learning and qualifications, think about how you can promote them.

These Employee Appreciation Day ideas may seem simple, but the results can be powerful. By instilling in your team that you care, you hear them, and you value their work and ideas, you’ll create a much stronger bond and a more effective and inviting work environment. 

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