37 Employee Appreciation Ideas Your Staff Will Love
In the midst of the Great Resignation, reducing employee turnover is more important to your business than ever.
A study by Great Place to Work found that feeling appreciated is the top motivator for employees to do great work. Giving your staff proper recognition can create a more motivated workforce, helping you retain talent and increase employee engagement.
So what are some ways to show your employees appreciation? We have 37 ideas for you to pick from:
1. Plan to recognize your staff.
This blog post should help give you ideas, but until you make plans and figure out how you’re going to implement them, nothing happens. So, the first way to show how much you appreciate your staff is to actually create a viable plan for what you’re going to do and when you’ll be doing it.
Read this list. You don’t have to implement all of the suggestions, but pick out a handful that you could manage to do well and that would carry sincere meaning for your staff. Some are easier to implement than others, but they all carry their own results. With these ideas, consider creating a recognition program so your team can consistently show appreciation.
2. Celebrate those happy birthdays.
If your staff doesn’t mind (some may want to fly under the radar on their birthday), celebrate their birthdays!
Cater in a meal or get a cake so everyone in the office can take part. Give the employee a day off that they can use whenever they want in the future. Give them a day off from the sales floor. Birthdays are for gifts; what would your staff appreciate the most?
3. Cheers from peers.
Make it easy for your staff to show appreciation for each other. Coworkers can recognize the “unseen” efforts that go into day-to-day activities. Give them a chance to call out the positive things people are doing so they come to your attention, as well as everyone else’s attention.
4. Ask your employees what they would like.
Survey your staff. Ask them what they’d like from you as far as how you show you appreciate them. You may be surprised at the results and you can feel confident that you’re rewarding your team with something they will value.
5. Have a trophy.
In professional sports, the grand champion trophies travel from one year’s winner to the next. Create a trophy of sorts (an actual trophy, or something more humorous) that is recognized as a symbol of staff appreciation, and pass it around the workplace to staff members who have accomplished something good.
6. Go very public with your appreciation.
Show you appreciate your staff by extending it beyond in-house recognition. Let your customers know through signage or on social media. Take a photo, talk about how much you appreciate what your staff did, and how they earned this award.
7. Track team wins.
Think of how nonprofits use a thermometer or some other visual device to show the gradual increase of donations as they get closer to a goal. Whether you use an actual visual approach, or keep everyone updated in regular meetings, you can do the same.
What goals do various teams have? A little friendly competition can be motivating. As your staff keeps climbing towards a particular goal, you can not only congratulate their hard work, but spur them on for a reward for whichever team makes the mark first.
8. Reward your staff based on individual interests.
You know what says “I appreciate you” really well? Showing that appreciation in a manner that is unique to each person. Sure, a standard blanket kind of reward works (and is necessary) in some situations, but if you want to show how much you appreciate an individual, the best way to do it is to find out what they really like, what they’d be interested in, their hobbies, or what they want the most.
9. Thank you notes are not dead.
An actual piece of paper thanking a staff member for their work can go a long way in a digital world. Whether it’s as simple as a quick post-it note or an actual card or a certificate (try our free employee certificate generator) on their locker door, try cracking out the age-old practice of thank you notes.
10. Give employees real choice and real voice.
Appreciation isn’t just a game and reward system. It should be built into your culture. One way to do that is to give your employees real choices and actual voices.
Does your staff get to choose the projects they work on ever, or are they always assigned tasks? Do you listen to their ideas or concerns and actually take action on them, or do you listen but forget about or dismiss what you’ve heard and continue on with business as usual?
Genuine appreciation is foundational. You can give a staff member a gift card on their birthday, but if they’ve come to you repeatedly with concerns and you’ve never made any real attempt to do anything about it, that gift card is pretty empty.
11. Don’t knock the wall of fame.
A wall of staff photos might seem a bit old school, but hey. It was popular for a reason. Even if it’s only where your staff can see it (i.e. the break room), it’s a good way for staff to get to know names and faces.
12. Treats, just because.
Who doesn’t like a surprise treat that no one expected? Have a pizza lunch. Grab bagels or muffins and leave them in the break room. Treat your staff, just because you appreciate them.
13. Put your staff on your website.
Take a look at your website. Is it bragging about the top level staff only? Is there any staff on there? Is there an opportunity for customers to get to know your staff before they show up on the premises?
While it might not be feasible to put everyone on your website (especially if you have a large business, or for privacy reasons), consider putting a fair number of staff on your website and letting them write their own bios.
14. Celebrate all the time.
We already mentioned birthday parties as a way to show appreciation for individuals, but why not celebrate together, as a complete staff, on other special occasions? Holidays, meeting project or sales goals, Wednesdays, because it’s five o’clock somewhere— sometimes the celebration for a non-obvious reason is the most fun. And, in those cases, choose a day and a time when staff might be struggling to chug through the week or day.
15. Choose creative rewards.
Food, time-off, a bonus, a promotion—these are all good but typical rewards. Be creative and think about how you can make your reward different enough that it actually stands out as a part of your culture. Some startups and businesses have portraits painted of staff members who have achieved a certain number of years, letting the staff have fun with how they are depicted. Others bring in caricaturists.
In some ways, returning to the very old school approach of honoring CEOs of businesses can be adapted down to your current staff so that they get a taste of what they might not normally ever experience.
16. Give rewards that are career-based.
A career-based reward is great for employees and will benefit your business as well. You can send employees to leadership training or let them choose an online class they would like to take. Even if it’s not directly related to their current job, you can show your employees you’re invested in them and their career.
17. Do not miss the anniversaries.
A huge study found that employees were likely to leave after a year of employment. Upcoming generations move around more in their careers. Because of this, don’t let the anniversary of an employee’s hire go unnoticed. Reward them for staying. Call attention to them, so other staff members can see you not only appreciate it, but back it up.
18. Take staff out to lunch.
Whether you choose to take your staff out to lunch in groups (large or small), or individually to talk about how the job is going, it gets them out of the workplace and shows them that they have your ear. Sometimes talking about ideas for work is easier when you’re not sitting in the boss’s office, but across the table over a burger and fries.
19. Encourage continuing education.
Whether you help pay for education events, or are lenient with time off so that staff can attend education events, show you appreciate them so much that you want them to continue to grow in their career. And, as a staff member increases their qualifications, promote them. Few things are as frustrating as working hard to be the best possible only to have a boss who locks you into a dead-end job.
Reward that drive for education and improvement.
20. Breakroom boss.
What if your staff had the chance to choose the music, a new snack, or suggest one improvement they want to see in the breakroom. Of course you may not be able to grant every suggestion, but if it is done once in a while as a reward of appreciation, it livens things up a bit.
21. Create memorable small moments.
What words come out of your mouth? What do your actions say?
Again, moments of reward don’t make up for months of action and words that show very little appreciation. Do you have an employee who is going above and beyond to make sure the office functions? Are they cleaning up after other employees because someone has to? Are they a kind of de facto manager because employees seem to come to them with questions?
When you have staff that are naturally desiring to do good work especially when it’s outside their job description, acknowledging that goes a long way.
Sometimes it’s as simple as calling a staff member into your office to say “I’ve noticed what you’re doing around here, and I appreciate it so much.” For some people, that’s actually enough, to know that someone has noticed.
22. Help with the commute.
Depending on your business, you may have staff that incur additional expenses for an excessive commute, or parking. While you can’t cover all transportation costs, consider helping out by paying for parking garage passes, for example, or bus tickets. Reimburse some or all of the expenses to help staff.
23. Encourage mentoring.
Mentoring is a wonderful two-way street. If done right, mentoring programs afford experienced staff a place of importance and authority, and new staff a sense of caring and security.
When done correctly and is a cyclical program where the mentored someday become the mentors, it’s a way of showing your staff you trust and appreciate them.
24. Create a staff appreciation holiday.
Who says you’re locked into the holidays on the calendar? Why not create your own, dedicated specifically to staff appreciation? If you’re really gutsy, you might even close the shop and let the world know that you and your staff are off on their special day.
While you could just give people the day off, a better approach is to actually do something together. Have a joke awards ceremony. Spend a day at the lake having a barbecue. Take everyone on a river boat cruise. Whatever it is, make it a high point of the year that your staff looks forward to.
25. Recognize non-work achievements.
You have people on your staff who are doing incredible things. They are creating, volunteering, and doing all kinds of activities on their own time. Why not recognize them in front of the group? We all like to have people know more about us, but most of us don’t want to brag about ourselves. Do the bragging for your staff, and show your whole team how amazing everyone is. That can go a long way in boosting morale.
26. The suggestion box is still a good idea.
Anonymous. Legitimate ideas or concerns. Heard, discussed, and action taken. The suggestion box is a powerful tool for your staff. It gives them a safe avenue to communicate things they might not otherwise feel comfortable doing. It shows you appreciate them by giving them every possible avenue of communication.
27. Calculate how your business has positively impacted the community.
Whether it’s through green energy, volunteer hours, or donations, let your staff know that the work they are doing is not only appreciated by you, but by the community at large. Help them get excited about the good they are doing even while they are earning a living. This leads to the next point…
28. Make it easy to volunteer and help.
You want people who are civic minded, who care about others, on your staff. So, when you have staff so inclined, make it easy for them to help others. Whether you help them start a food drive at the office, bring kids to work to learn about the business, or take a week off to build houses, encourage them. Show them you appreciate their concern about the world around you.
Bonus? You can talk about what your business and your staff are doing and let your customers know that doing business with you has a positive impact on the community.
29. Got dogs?
Not every business would allow for such a thing, but if you have staff members who are pet-centric, consider having a day where they can bring their pet in (under specific circumstances). This is one of those appreciation events that you can also share with customers who might get enjoyment out of encountering a furry friend when they come in to do business.
30. Keep taxes in mind.
Every employer knows that the tax law can get complicated when it comes to how you reward your staff, and what might be considered a taxable benefit. Talk to your accountant, and do some asking around to find a way to provide worthwhile benefits that don’t decimate employee paychecks. Regular catered meals and some other seemingly innocuous rewards can, indeed, be taxable.
31. Have great swag.
Whether it’s company apparel, water bottles, stickers, pocket notepads, or iPad covers, make cool company swag available for employees. The catch is that, if you’re going to do it, choose high quality items. Don’t go for the cheapest tent-like T-shirt brand you can find, but get a quality shirt with a quality fit. Choose a water bottle that fits the lifestyle of your staff. No one needs more cheap junk. Give swag that people would be proud to use for a long time.
32. Have a lunch and learn.
Most of us like a chance to let others know interesting things about ourselves. Have a lunch time where your staff can share a hobby or interest with the rest of the staff. It’s a fun way to get to know each other and learn something you may never have thought to look into.
33. Rethink your break room.
Is your break room a dingy gray room with a smelly microwave? It’s time to rethink what the room is for: to give your staff a break. Obviously, you should keep it clean with attractive furniture and functioning appliances and appealing decor. Make sure you have rules and a system to make sure everyone works together to keep the place clean. Make sure customers can’t see or bother your staff back there. Keep the bulletin board under control, removing unnecessary posters and papers and making sure what’s there is appropriate.
But that break room can be so much more than just a place to eat a meal.
What if it was also a library? A gamer station? A place where people could listen to music or read a book, or play a game with others on staff? A place with comfortable chairs? When you take your break room to the next level, you start to open the door to things like staff book clubs, or encouraging further education. You create a welcoming place to truly get away from work and refresh.
34. Bring on the food trucks.
If you have food trucks in your area, why not give them a call and have them regularly park near your business? Whether you help cover the cost for the meals in full or through reward coupons, it’s a fun perk that breaks up the usual brown paper bag lunch.
35. What’s in your window?
If your business has window displays, consider having competitions between staff teams or rewarding individuals or project groups by turning over your window displays. You might do this during some holiday seasons or when sales are typically slow. This is another fun event that you can let your customers know about, perhaps having customers vote on the best window and presenting the winning team with a prize.
36. Boss for a day.
Reward staff with the chance to be “boss” for the day. Obviously you won’t give them the company checkbook, but you can let them sit in on meetings, sit in a private, front office, use a prime parking spot, or any other perks managers at your business might have.
It gives your staff a taste for what it’s like to be in charge. That might change their attitude (for the better) on some things they’d been complaining about, and it might encourage others to work hard for promotion.
37. Last but not least: Say “thank you”!
When was last time you simply said thank you?
Some owners take for granted that employees are there to do the work assigned to them, and think that because it is expected, there is no need for a thank you.
A thank you, whether the work is required or not, is such a simple way to show appreciation. You might not think it matters, but there is a noticeable attitude difference between a staff whose boss genuinely thanks them periodically compared to one where the staff never hears it. While not everyone needs a “thank you” to do a good job, many do. It won’t hurt those who don’t need to hear it, but it will mean much to those who do.
It’s easy to get caught up in the fun and obvious methods of staff appreciation, but the one method that you can start right now, that will register immediately, that will make a change in a person’s day…is to say thank you. In a sometimes thankless world, just hearing another person acknowledge that they know we are working hard and that they are thankful for it is all the appreciation we need to get through the day.
Employee appreciation shouldn’t be reserved for one day, but should be integral to your company culture and be an all-around attitude that management adopts. Your employees are your most precious asset, yet some businesses show more care and concern to maintaining equipment than letting their staff know that they are valued and appreciated!
Employee appreciation is yet another page in your turnover-reduction playbook, as well as a way to increase a positive culture and positive customer experience.