6 amazing employee appreciation ideas that your staff will love

Use these employee appreciation ideas to boost staff retention and increase employee engagement across your business, from the frontline to HQ
What we'll cover

Employee appreciation ideas aren’t just a nice thing to do. They’re common business sense.

71% of highly engaged organizations recognize employees for a job well done, but only 41% of less engaged organizations do the same. Meanwhile, Gartner suggests that a well-designed employee recognition program can lead to an increase in average employee performance.

The numbers don’t lie – employee recognition is vital, now more than ever. You don’t need to spend a lot on employee appreciation ideas for them to be effective either, and some of the best employee recognition strategies are completely free. 

Here’s how to start showing your employees how much you appreciate them, and some staff appreciation ideas to get you started. 

Why are employee appreciation ideas so important? 

Everyone likes to be recognized for the work they put in. For staff appreciation, ‘thank you’ is everything.

In fact, feeling underappreciated at work is one of the most common reasons why employees leave a role. A recent study of UK and US workers by Workhuman found that employees who had been thanked for their work in the last month are: 

  • Half as likely to look for a new job (24% vs 48%)
  • More than twice as likely to be engaged in their work (48% vs 21%)
  • More than three times as likely to see a path to grow in the organization (59% vs 19%) 

All that, just from two short but meaningful words! Imagine the boost more developed employee appreciation ideas could achieve. 

And, with the Great Resignation in full swing, the power of ‘thank you’ has never been more apparent, or commercially essential. Around 4.5 million Americans quit their job in March 2022, enticed by rising wages and more flexible working options. 

Appreciating your employees for all the hard work they put in is vital in encouraging them to stay put. The great news is that this isn’t a difficult task at all! All it takes is the willingness to listen and some creative thinking on your part. 

How to start recognizing your employees’ achievements 

Employee recognition isn’t just a top-down thing. 

Sure, your senior execs can and should take the lead in calling out great performance – it makes it much easier for everyone else to follow. The issue is that senior managers can only be in so many places at once. They can’t recognize everything worthy of being recognized. 

Instead, it’s all about building a culture of continuous recognition from the ground upwards, encompassing both informal and formal recognition methods. This could include: 

  • An employee app that lets managers share great performance with the wider organization
  • A quarterly awards ceremony to recognize employees who have gone above and beyond
  • Peer to peer recognition apps to encourage colleagues to support each other
  • Training all of your employees in how to recognize their peers

That last point is important. In a recent survey, two thirds of businesses said that they trained their managers in employee recognition but only one third offered employees training in colleague recognition. To build a positive culture, it’s important that everyone knows how to offer praise, and its impact on creating an engaged workplace. Don’t leave it to chance.

It’s also essential to build employee preferences into this process. Some people might love receiving an award in front of all their colleagues; for others, this might seem more like a punishment! Ask your teams (or ensure your line managers do) what their ideal way of being thanked looks like. It's an employee engagement best practice worth following.

6 great staff appreciation ideas

1. Salary rise

Almost two-thirds of U.S. private sector payroll workers work in industries where the average weekly wage in the second quarter of 2021 was at least 5% higher than it was in the second quarter of 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

If your rates of pay haven’t budged since pre-pandemic, they’re likely no longer competitive. Show your staff you're serious about your long-term relationship by bringing them up to market rate – or higher! Costs of living are rising rapidly right now, and your team will appreciate it. 

2. Public shoutouts

Use your employee app or intranet to shout about individual and team successes. As well as the warmth of public recognition, this helps your employees build their networks in your organization and get noticed by those who could help them progress. . 

3. Fun benefits and perks

There’s nothing wrong with offering your employees a little treat every now and then. It won’t make or break employee engagement (a decent salary and day-to-day appreciation are far more important considerations), but it’s definitely a great addition. 

Spa days, vouchers for department stores, team days out, gym memberships and personal development funds are all great ways to do this – you might have some ideas of your own. 

4. Identify and celebrate key milestones

What we don’t mean: only celebrating 10-year milestones and giving your employees a watch on retirement. Things have moved on since the 1950s.

What we do mean: finding milestones that are meaningful to your business and celebrating little and often. Passing probation, completing advanced training, promotions and getting that first landmark sale are all worthy of celebration. Identify some that are meaningful to your workforce. 

5. Individual and team specific 

On some level, you’ll have to rely on your line managers to ensure employees feel appreciated on a day-to-day basis. Train them to express their appreciation frequently, and give them a budget for treats like team socials and post-project meals out. It’ll make all the difference.

6. Employee Appreciation Day

Dedicate a day to saying thank you to your employees! In the US, the official Employee Appreciation Day is celebrated on the first Friday of March, but you could hold your own staff appreciation day whenever suits you best. 

Employee Appreciation Day ideas include running an awards ceremony to recognize all the effort your employees have put in over the year, followed by a few hours of fun to celebrate these achievements. Fire up the grill (or hire a food truck), plan some fun activities and let everyone have a great time. 

On a budget? 

It’s not all about the fancy extras. Some of the most effective employee appreciation ideas are free: 

  • Creating a ‘wall of fame’ for great achievements 
  • Celebrating employees’ birthdays, marriages and other life events
  • Putting effort into feedback, so that employees can develop their skills 
  • Providing opportunities that will help build experience, such as shadowing other roles

Working remotely? 

This doesn’t need to stop you! Try using an employee app that will allow you to share your appreciation virtually. You could also try the following employee appreciation ideas:

  • Early finish Fridays, especially in summer
  • Celebrations and awards ceremonies via Zoom or similar
  • Constant engagement and feedback via Slack or your other messaging channels
  • Treats (food, vouchers, care packages) via post. Everyone loves surprise mail!

Staff appreciation quotes 

What you say and how you say it matters! Use these ideas as templates so that you really get the message across. 

Every day: “Thank you”

Often, it doesn’t have to get much more complicated than this. 

“Thank you for getting that report to me so promptly.”

“Thank you for stepping in last minute – we were really short.”

“Thank you for all your hard work this week – it’s been a long one.”

For small, day-to-day actions that have made everyone’s working lives a little easier, there’s no better alternative. 

Recognizing consistently good performance: “I’ve noticed that…”

All too often, it’s large, one-off actions that get noticed rather than consistently good performance that keeps the organization running. Avoid this trap with the “I’ve noticed…” approach. 

“I’ve noticed that you always make sure the shop’s tidy before locking up, even though that’s not your role.”

“I’ve noticed that you always hit deadlines without fuss, and it makes it so much easier for everyone else.”

“I’ve noticed that you always take the early shift to make life easier for colleagues with kids.” 

Follow up with thanks, by passing on this info to higher ups in the business and potentially with a token of your appreciation – lunch on the company, an early finish this weekend or a large box of baked goods can all work, depending on the situation. 

One-off actions: “That really made a difference”

For those times where an employee knocks it out the park, it’s always worth emphasizing the impact of their actions. Employees want their work to be meaningful, and this lets them know 

“That report gave senior management a real insight into some of the issues we’re facing, and really made a difference in how we’re going to approach them.”

“That big deal you landed made a huge difference in us meeting our quarterlies. You should be very proud.”

“The new processes you suggested save us so much time. They’ve really made a difference to employee wellbeing.”

Again, follow up with an appropriate reward for maximum impact, whether that’s an award, a bonus or something similar. 

Employee appreciation ideas: final thoughts

People like to feel appreciated, so a quick ‘thank you’ here and there works wonders for employee retention.

And, now that your employees can walk out of the job and be reasonably certain of finding another one pretty quickly, ‘thank you’ is a must. If your employees don’t feel appreciated, they will leave. 

It’s all about the basics here. A fair wage, regular appreciation and long-term support will go further than doling out a few Amazon Prime vouchers once every quarter. Employee recognition should be a constant process that’s built into the heart of your business. 

That’s not to say additional treats aren’t motivating. Rewards and bonuses of all kinds can be fantastic tactics as part of an employee engagement strategy, and they will make your staff feel appreciated. They are, essentially, the cherry on the top of your rewards program. Get the foundations right first for best results.  

Blink helps you show employees the appreciation they deserve. Get your free demo today.

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