10 employee appreciation ideas to implement for 2023

If your goals for 2023 are to increase productivity, motivation, and retention, we’ve got good news. Focusing on employee appreciation can accomplish all three. 

Finding it hard to believe that something as simple as employee happiness in the workplace can do all of that? It’s true.  Workers are burnt out, exhausted, and tired of feeling unappreciated. In this time of “The Great Resignation”, employees need more than a quick “thank you” as you ask them to pull yet another double shift. 

In this article, we tackle why employee appreciation should be at the top of your list for 2023. Plus, we give you 10 ideas you can easily implement at your company.

Employee appreciation vs employee recognition

Employees need more than a simple “thank you” to feel appreciated at work. 

Employee recognition is the acknowledgement of a job well done. It takes recognition to the next level, which makes employees feel great. Essentially, employee appreciation is the simple act of not only recognizing your employees but rewarding them for the work that they do. 

In the TED Talk: “The Power of Appreciation”, Mike Robbins tells us that while 23% of people who feel “recognized” are more effective and productive, 43% of people who feel “appreciated” are more effective and productive. That’s a 20% increase in effectiveness and productivity all thanks to making the leap from recognition to appreciation. 

Why is employee appreciation so important

According to the Boston Consulting Group, the #1 reason people enjoy their job is because they felt appreciated. In fact, Great Place to Work found that people having their work recognized was the biggest motivator for employees to continue doing great work. Though it may seem obvious, people need that positive reinforcement to feel motivated to work–it can be demoralizing to show up every day and never hear a simple “thank you” or a “well done”.

Let’s look at some statistics from an employee survey with more than 1.7 million respondents. That’s a lot of employee reactions to provide some serious data.

People who feel they’re recognized at their jobs are:

  • 2.6x more likely to think that the promotion they are offered is fair
  • 2.2x more likely to drive innovation and bring new ideas forward
  • 2x more likely to say people at their place of work are willing to go above and beyond

If you’re an employer, having employees who go the extra mile and offer new solutions isn’t just a nice to have. It can add extra value to your bottom line, as well as inspiring other employees to do the same. This reduces employee turnover and creates an overall more positive work environment, reducing mental health days and in some cases, even reducing sick days. iOpener did the research and the results showed that the happiest employees took 66% less sick leave than those who reported being unhappy.

Time and time again studies have shown that employees who feel appreciated are more engaged and stay at their company. Appreciation + happiness = retention. For employers currently hiring and onboarding staff during “The Great Resignation”, this is a huge win.

What are the benefits of employee happiness and appreciation in the workplace?

There are huge benefits to prioritizing employee appreciation and happiness in the workplace. Not just for employees, but also for you, the employer. 

Let’s review three of them. 

1. Employee happiness decreases high staff turnover rates 

Recognizing your employees can improve morale. They can feel seen and heard, which is sometimes all anyone needs when they’re working hard on something. And it goes both ways–when employees are unhappy in the workplace, they start looking for a new place to work that will give them the appreciation they deserve. 

Whether it’s just not showing up for shifts or “quiet quitting”, employers across the country are seeing high rates of employee turnover. Though reasons vary, the number of employees leaving jobs where they feel underappreciated is high. This is bad news for employers. According to this survey, 46% of U.S. workers left a job because they felt unappreciated. Luckily it’s not all bad news: companies that prioritize employee appreciation have employees who are 56% less likely to look for a different job.

What can you do about it? Make those “pats on the back” public. Acknowledging your employees’ accomplishments publicly will help them feel seen and show they’re a valuable part of the team, which means they’re sticking around instead of searching for that next job. Use a team communication tool to give them a shout out in front of the whole team.

2. Employee happiness promotes productivity in the workplace

Keeping staff productive can be an ongoing issue for workplaces. The good news? Companies that have an employee appreciation program have an increase in performance by 14% vs. companies that don’t. If your employees know that you have a system in place to recognize their achievements, they’re 2.7 times more likely to be engaged in their work. It’s simple–the more you appreciate your staff, the more motivated they are to produce even better work

What can you do about it? When you appreciate your employees and their contributions to the workplace, they become invested in the success of the company. Appreciating your team reminds them that company success becomes their success. You can set up an employee appreciation system that tracks performance so you can reward your employees for a job well done. The Homebase employee performance tracking tool can help you do that easily.

With clear goals and objectives, your team will know the expectations and what to reach for in terms of productivity and success, whether it’s hitting a target of meals ordered that day, upselling a certain item, or signing up a certain number of new members. When someone achieves a performance goal, you can reward them in different ways–stay tuned for 10 simple ways to show your employees you appreciate them.

3. Employee appreciation builds trust with your employees

Trust is an important factor to workers and it should be an important factor to companies. And what helps build trust? Recognition. In fact, 86% of employees felt they could trust managers who had recognized them in the workplace. Trust is important for employees to feel valued, seen, and heard. After all, no one wants to feel like they’re just a cog in a wheel. When employees are appreciated, they feel like their bosses value them as human beings—not just a body doing work. Demonstrated appreciation shows that their employers have their best interests at heart, which builds the trust required to consistently perform at their best. 

What can you do about it? Be consistent in your recognition of your staff. You can commit to daily positive feedback, a monthly work activity for a job well done, or create an annual event that your staff looks forward to. If you start appreciating the small things without an expectation of more work, then your employees are more likely to feel appreciated with no strings attached. Believing that your employees will work harder after they feel appreciated is your part in building trust.

Types of employee appreciation

There are many different ways you can show your employees that you appreciate them. Let’s break them down into five main categories.

1. Micro appreciation

Micro appreciations are the little things. This category of appreciation is usually ongoing, frequent, and happens day-to-day. These are things that can be done easily and without high cost, like notes and cards, a shout out in a team communication chat, or in-person “thank you”.

Micro appreciations—despite being small—should never be underestimated. Consistent and frequent appreciation builds a culture of recognition in your company. Even better—it spreads among team members, creating a more fun and supportive work environment. Building micro appreciations into your company values is a great way to show your employees that acknowledgement is important to you.

2. Informal appreciation

Informal appreciations are typically unexpected and reward hitting certain milestones or recognize a job well done. These types of appreciation are less frequent and can involve bigger acknowledgements.

Informal appreciation can be a pizza party after a long inventory day, or treating the team to a round on you as a spur of the moment way to recognize the team or an individual who unexpectedly put in the extra effort.

3. Formal appreciation

Formal appreciations have much more planning and preparation than other types of appreciation. Think quarterly awards for the top salesperson, employee of the month awards, and annual ceremonies to recognize achievements that were set out from the beginning as goals to reach.

Formal appreciation has a clear and defined structure and typically happens less frequently than other types of appreciation. It’s usually more involved and can be more costly, though the benefits can certainly outweigh the costs.

4. Peer-to-peer appreciation

Peer-to-peer appreciation is exactly what it sounds like–a fellow employee appreciating the work of another employee. This type of appreciation shouldn’t be overlooked. Even though getting a shout out from a manager can feel great, knowing that other employees and teams see your hard work is a different level of appreciation.

This type of appreciation can be encouraged through examples being set by managers. For example, when you call attention to a great close by a team member via something like the Homebase team communication app, other team members see this as the norm, and start to do the same. It can fall under the micro appreciation category, which means it’s fast, easy, and effective.

5. Manager appreciation

Manager appreciation can be informal with a solid “well done”, but it’s more commonly structured. It can look like achieving certain milestones, like a work anniversary, or reaching a company target.

Manager appreciation should be a top priority for companies: managers guide company culture. If employees see managers offering employee appreciation, then they’ll likely follow suit.

For the optimal mix of appreciation in your workplace, combine and test a few different options. See what naturally integrates into your team, and what requires a little more heavy lifting. Depending on your workplace, you could use each type of appreciation to offer a mix of employee appreciation throughout the year.

10 simple ways to show your employees you appreciate them

What we’ve learned so far is that employee appreciation is essential if you want to retain staff, increase productivity, and keep employees happy. Now let’s explore 10 simple employee appreciation ideas that any company can implement.

1. Offer raises and bonuses

Ok, admittedly, this isn’t a simple one, but it’s the employee appreciation method that’s most in demand. There’s no better way to show your staff your appreciation than to financially compensate them. This can be an automatic raise when they’ve been with the company for a certain amount of time, if they’ve achieved a certain goal, or have proven themselves to be an invaluable part of the team. 

Pay raises should be clearly laid out during the onboarding process or employee performance reviews. Ensure everything is documented and available for both you and your team to refer back to using a digital tool like Homebase for easy tracking.

Another option? Bonuses. A bonus is also a great option when a team member has gone above and beyond. Using a bonus as an incentive during a particularly pressed timeline is a great reward for the extra effort.

A great employee benefit: Homebase offers flexible payroll options with Cash Out. Employees can request pay advances up to $300 with no penalty, and no cost to you.

One way to evaluate whether a raise is possible is to literally do the math. Would it cost more to hire and onboard a new employee than to offer a raise to your current employee who’s doing an amazing job? Employees really value being recognized financially before they even have to ask, so take a look at your team and evaluate who should be considered for financial appreciation.

2. Give opportunities to earn more paid time off

Second to being financially compensated for their hard work, employees want more paid time off as a reward. This is a win/win for a company to offer because a well-rested employee— someone able to spend time with their family and friends and explore their hobbies—is a happy employee.

If an employee achieves a big milestone or nails a project ahead of the deadline, offering them a day off from the company can go a long way to making them feel appreciated.

3. Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day

In the United States, Employee Appreciation Day is a holiday celebrated on the first Friday of March. Because this is an annual holiday, you and your team can prepare and get excited about it. You can plan games and activities, delicious food, and incorporate an awards ceremony—either for achievements or for morale boosters—to recognize those who are contributing positively to the company culture.

4. Gamify your employee appreciation program

The numbers aren’t great in terms of employees feeling like their recognition at work is cutting it. 31% of respondents to a World at Work survey feel that their employee recognition programs are only somewhat meeting their goals, with 4% saying that their goals aren’t really met at all.

Employees are motivated by goals and achievements. If you can gamify reaching these goals and then incentivize by offering rewards, your team is more likely to be motivated to work hard. Gamify your employee program by creating a points system to award to staff members who reach certain goals. They can then redeem these points for things like gift cards or additional paid time off. You can brainstorm rewards as a team so everyone has some input.

Want to track your employee performance? Homebase has a tool for that! Keep track of your employees’ achievements with the employee performance tool.

5. Plan for anniversaries and birthdays

This is one of the simplest ways to show your employees appreciation. Knowing and recognizing their birthdays or work anniversaries publicly will make them feel seen. You can get creative with how you want to acknowledge these dates, but you can’t go wrong with bringing in cake or cupcakes to celebrate. 

Never miss a birthday or work anniversary again with Homebase team roster.

6. Give handwritten “thank you” notes

In keeping with the theme of ‘incredibly simple and low-cost’, you can’t go wrong with the power of a simple “thank you” note. Telling your staff that you appreciate them, that you see them, and that you’re aware of their extra efforts can sometimes be enough to keep an employee happy. The added bonus of a handwritten note can give a special touch and show that extra care and time were taken to say ‘thank you’.

7. Don’t count out classics like “employee of the month”

Although employee appreciation methods like employee of the month or years on the job can feel a bit dated, they’re classics for a reason. Sure, employee of the month can come with the title, but also a reward—like a day off, or an extra discount on something you sell—and recognizes a team member’s hard work publicly. This can have the added bonus of motivating other team members to work hard for the employee of the month reward.

In a time when job hopping is the norm, having a big show of appreciation and some perks for staff who reach a certain amount of time on the job can also be an incentive to stay. Increase team loyalty by having smaller rewards for team members making it three, six, or 12 months, then really up the ante for yearly anniversaries.

8. Make the break room an oasis

Sometimes your staff needs to decompress in the middle of their workday. Or, they need a little escapism on their breaks. By making the break room a place to actually take a break (instead of a glorified inventory room, or worse, just a few milk crates in the back alley), it shows your team that you value their mental health and their need to destress. Comfy seating, free snacks, coffee and beverages, relaxing lighting, or even fun grown-up coloring books or other creative outlets can all help your staff relax during their downtime and get back to work with a refreshed mind.

Ask your staff what they want to see in their breakroom to get employee feedback. Seeing their ideas being integrated into their space will help them feel heard.

9. Create a health and wellness plans

With the socio-economic struggles we’re currently facing as a society, many employees are experiencing burnout and mental health struggles. As a result, job hunters are actively seeking out employers that offer health and wellness plans as a benefit.

You can show your team that you care about their physical and mental health by offering opportunities at and outside of work to take care of themselves. This can look like offering a yoga class once a month, offering a health expense account that employees can use for a gym or fitness classes of their choosing, stress relief through mental health support, or a subscription to a meditation app.

Everyone has a different thing they do to support their mental health, so making this perk as flexible as possible will benefit the most people.

10. Organize team building activities that align with your employees’ hobbies and interests

Every company needs team-building activities if they want to have a positive company culture. You can combine team building activities with employee appreciation if you structure your team building around the hobbies and interests of your employees. 

Have an employee who loves ultimate frisbee? Plan a frisbee and picnic day in the park. Have someone on your team who loves classic movies? Bring a projector to work for an after-hours showing, or have a movie trivia night. By creating company activities around the interests of your employees, you can show that you’re listening and interested in them as human beings outside of work.

Employee appreciation tips

Don’t wait to start appreciating your employees

Have you ever heard the expression “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now”? The same goes for employee appreciation in the workplace. It’s never too soon—or too late—to work on employee happiness. Start with the small things like thank you notes and public shout outs, and work towards the bigger things like team building days and health and wellness plans.

Allocate hours to employee appreciation tasks

We know: you’ve got a never-ending list of things to do as a manager. However, it’s important to start building employee appreciation into your schedule. Whether that means setting daily reminders to thank one employee or team every day, or allocating hours to a team of people to organize employee appreciation day, block time in your calendar to make sure you’re prioritizing a few things each month. If you don’t start scheduling those hours, they’ll never happen. 

Make room in the budget for appreciation activities

We’ll say it louder for the people in the back: appreciating your employees and focusing on workplace happiness doesn’t have to be an expensive task. Even if you’re a smaller company or a small business owner, you can have a line in the budget for staff appreciation. 

Ask your employees for input on how they like to be appreciated

Nobody knows what they need to feel happy at work better than your employees. Ask for their input on ways that would make them feel appreciated. You can set up something as simple as a suggestion box, or you can get technical and set up a channel in a team communication tool. Either way, allow your employees to have input into how they want to be recognized at work.

Now that you’ve got ideas and tips to put an employee appreciation plan into place, it’ll be much easier to check that task off your priority list for 2023. Once you start implementing, watch your productivity increase and your retention rate skyrocket: you’ll be happy you took the time to make your employees feel appreciated.

Employee appreciation FAQS 

What is employee appreciation?

Employee appreciation is about recognizing employees and rewarding them for their work, attitude, or contributions. Employee appreciation has been linked to higher employee happiness, higher productivity, more motivation, and higher retention rates.

How do I show my employees appreciation?

Showing your employees appreciation can take many forms. From handwritten “thank you” letters to pay raises, every workplace needs to get input from their employees about what they need to feel appreciated. 

How do I know if my employees feel appreciated?

The easiest answer to ‘How do I know if my employees feel appreciated?’ is to ask them! Give your staff an opportunity to give feedback to management on whether they feel appreciated or not. Another surefire sign? Your turnover rate. If you constantly need to hire new employees, you may have an appreciation problem at your company. Employees who feel appreciated at work are way less likely to look for another job.

What is Employee Appreciation Day?

Employee Appreciation Day is a holiday celebrated in the United States on the first Friday in March. It was created to recognize and appreciate employees’ contributions to their workplace. This makes it an easy day to plan a big celebration for your team and a day your employees can look forward to every year.

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