Employee appreciation can be powerful. A survey commissioned by OGO (O Great One!) showed 82% of employed Americans don’t feel supervisors recognise them or their contributions enough. The negative impact this has on staff morale and productivity directly impacts the bottom line.

The lack of employee appreciation and recognition costs companies money.

In the same study, 40% of employed Americans say they’d put more energy into their work if they received more recognition for their efforts. This may sound ‘needy,’ but that’s just it. Humans must have certain needs met to progress beyond just survival

Our need for recognition is real 

Abraham Maslow pointed this out with his pyramid of human needs. Beyond basic physiological requirements, like food and shelter, people have social needs as well as esteem and self-actualization needs. Everyone is needy, and this presents opportunities for employers.

Tapping into the art of employee appreciation and recognition can cost-effectively return great benefits for businesses, and at some level, most businesses already understand this – 80% of organisations have some type of recognition program in place.

The impact of employee recognition

It’s important to clearly understand the impact employee recognition and appreciation programs can have so we can understand how they fit into a business strategy. Employee appreciation can:

  • Increase employee productivity – impacts the bottom line
  • Increase employee satisfaction – impacts recruiting and training costs
  • Increase employee security – impacts company culture
  • Increase employee motivation – impacts productivity
  • Increase employee wellbeing – impacts company culture
  • Reduce turnover – impacts recruiting and training costs
  • Reinforce desired actions and behaviours – impacts sales and productivity
  • Reinforce a positive workplace culture – impacts wellbeing

Small acts can have a big impact

One of the most telling questions on an employee engagement survey is the one that simply asks whether a person’s manager provides them with recognition.

If the answer is no, that leader is missing a huge opportunity – not just to engage and motivate that employee, but to shape and guide behavior in a positive – and extremely effective – way. And they’re unwittingly creating feelings of uncertainty and stress for the people they fail to simply thank.

Even the shortest notes or texts to simply say “good job” will bring a smile to a person’s face. And when you use positive reinforcement to back up feedback or recognise an employees’s growth and development, you’re also rewarding their efforts, and showing them they’re on the right track.

A kind word or moment of positive feedback can be extremely beneficial to an employee’s mental health. A dearth of positive feedback from one’s leader is easily read by some as a signal that one’s not doing a good job. On the other hand, those quick “attaboys” provide a clear signal that the employee’s efforts are directionally correct.

“It’s a well-known fact that people like to be valued at their jobs, with appreciation being one of the most sought-after forms of praise in the workplace,” writes Janet Linley in a Forbes article titled “The Importance of Saying Thank You in the Workplace.” “It’s motivating and encouraging, and it creates job satisfaction, thus resulting in better performance and less turnover. It builds trust and promotes employee engagement.”

Coaching your leaders to compliment their employees’ work, call out a job well done, or simply say “thank you” when someone is thoughtful and does something that’s appreciated can be remarkably effective in lifting morale, engaging individuals, and improving productivity simply because people are more confident that their work is valued and their contributions are meaningful.

Simple employee appreciation ideas

Appreciation and recognition don’t have to be expensive. A low-cost way to recognize employees is through some simple employee appreciation ideas. For example:

Celebrate birthdays. This doesn’t need to involve a cake, party hats, and everyone coming into the office – but it could. Celebrating birthdays can be a handwritten card from a senior executive, donuts delivered to the celebrant’s home office, a couple of minutes of recognition on a team call, or well wishes on the company collaboration platform. It may seem like a small thing, but being thought of and recognized can be a huge boost for morale.

Reward employees of the month. Either company-wide for smaller businesses, or within departments for larger businesses, recognize someone each month with a certificate or other small award. This can be for contributions to a current project or for assisting colleagues to solve problems. It can be simple or complex, but the end result is the same. It encourages desired behaviours and raises morale.

Allow employees to recognise and/or reward each other. Create a program where each of your employees can pick someone who has been helpful to them at work. Create a digital platform where employees can post notes recognizing their colleagues for going above and beyond their duties. Increase the value of these actions by awarding “Peoples’ Choice” awards at the end of the year, based upon those employees who were recognised most frequently, by the most different people, etc.

Take an employee to lunch. This can be for service anniversaries or other career and job accomplishments. If the person is remote, arrange for it to happen when they are vising headquarters or when their manager will be traveling near them. An alternative is to have a lovely lunch delivered with a note of appreciation.

Employee recognition programs

Beyond employee appreciation initiatives, there are and should be more formal recognition programs that employees can work toward. These programs tend to be very formal, have very specific criteria that must be met, and are usually more costly. But remember, cost is relative if your business is profiting from greater employee engagement the program creates. Options include:

  • Create a President’s Club. Only the best contributors and top sales performers are chosen. This usually involves a yearly, all-expenses-paid trip to a popular vacation destination and employees get to bring a guest. It allows for your best performers to spend some quality bonding time together and encourages everyone else to work hard to achieve this recognition.
  • Host a formal dinner and awards ceremony. These dinners are often in high-end hotels or restaurants, and attendees are allowed to bring a guest. Senior executives generally present awards and introduce the winners and their accomplishments.
  • Give cash awards regularly. Create an ongoing awards program where money can be won for specific achievements or particular outcomes – senior executives having the final approval. Think beyond your sales team and sales commissions.

Not sure if these ideas will work? Ask your team. 

Not sure if any of these programs will work with your team? Involve them in planning or expanding your employee recognition program. The best way to ensure success and buy-in is to ask your team. Our Suggestion Box feature is a great way to solicit ideas on the fly, and an On-Demand Survey can be a great way to share collected ideas broadly and have your team pick the winner.

Employee recognition programs and employee appreciation initiatives can be simple and inexpensive or more formal and costly. However, they all have a positive impact on business outcomes. Employees need to know that their efforts are appreciated – and to have a sense of belonging. It softens the struggles of difficult projects and long hours.

And most importantly, don’t forget to say “Thanks.”