Often in the race of acing business, we forget the most important thing – business is run by humans and humans crave appreciation. Employee appreciation is often overlooked or under-represented, which many times leads to a decline in efforts. You’ll just suddenly see one of your best-performing employees become the most unproductive. 

That’s why employee recognition should be an integral part of running a successful business.

Further Reading: Types of Employee Benefits That Your Team Will Love

What is Employee Recognition?

Employee recognition or employee appreciation refers to a formal or informal acknowledgment of the efforts one has put into doing their work in the company. The value of a business is directly proportional to the dedication of the employees, and a timely and clear employee appreciation helps in boosting the collective morale. 

An appreciated employee, in turn, ends up putting in more efforts, both physically and mentally, thereby pushing the business and brand forward. 

According to Harvard Business Review, 40% of employed would put energy into their work if they were recognized more often. 

Employee Appreciation = Productivity.

We’re not suggesting you go about giving a pat on the back to every employee every day. But not acknowledging any effort is counter-productive too. The trick here is to appreciate your employees in the right way – the right time and amongst the right people. 

The idea is not just to use employee appreciation as a way to motivate the one employee to do their best, but also use it as an opportunity to motivate the others in the team by acknowledging good behaviour or achievement. 

Did you know that there are different types of employee recognition?

Yes, there is an informal employee recognition and then there is formal employee recognition. Let’s peek briefly into both before we move ahead.

Informal Employee Recognition: This is one of the most common methods of employee appreciation. It usually happens when the company or the employee has achieved a milestone. This could be both personally or professionally. You’ve probably seen this in the form of team parties or lunches and dinners.

Formal Employee Recognition: This one is a more structured form of employee appreciation and fairly known too in bigger organizations. It comes in the form of periodic appraisals, bonuses, and incentives, which are directly linked to the performance of an employee. 

For obvious reasons, formal employee recognition is lesser in frequency, as compared to the informal one.

What works better? There is no one-size-fits-all approach here. Read this article by CR Worldwide on formal vs informal employee recognition to learn more.  

Making your employee recognition program a success  

While we do sometimes drop a message to a teammate, appreciating their work, most organizations lack a structured employee recognition program. But as you’re growing your business, it is important to keep the momentum going. By that, we don’t just mean how fast your sales are increasing or how big a product you’ve built. We mean how driven your employees remain towards achieving the overarching goal of the company. 

The age-old certificates and mementoes are not enough anymore. That’s why we pulled together a list of employee appreciation ideas that successful companies are using! 

1. Personalize your employee appreciation gift  

It might seem like too much effort, but a customized gift or handmade one goes a long way in winning hearts. Where you’ll see most mementoes stacked in a corner, these employee appreciation gifts find a special place in homes or memory collections. 

Experiment with bags and totes, drinkware and bottles with the employee’s name. Focus on something they can put to use. They’ll appreciate it more than anything else!  

The best part is that these don’t have to be material things. You can also appreciate your employees with experiential gifts. It’s one of the most unique employee appreciation ideas if you think about it. 

But to do this, you need to know your employees better too. So make sure your HR team is focusing on periodic catch-ups, team building activities or asking employees to fill simple questionnaires – those that ask them more than just about work. 

2. Write a thank-you note to your employees 

As we said, notes and personalized messages have a big impact too. You don’t need to bring in material gifts or spend too much to appreciate your employees. All you need to do is thank them openly and let them know what you’re thanking them for. 

You could turn this into a little surprise as well. For instance, leave the note on the employee’s table so that when they step in, it makes their day! 

Need help crafting a good thank you note? Read this article by the Balance on Employee Thank You Letter Examples

Or you could use this simple template for employee recognition:  

Dear < Employee Name >

I would like to thank you so much for your help in organizing the last meeting with our customers. You made everyone feel so relaxed. We have been receiving positive remarks from the customers about how dedicated you are.

You have no idea how much you’ve helped in creating a positive impression on them about our services. I’m so happy to see your hard work resulting in such success!

You have always been up in helping this company run smoothly. In fact, we’ve seen you go above and beyond to help your team achieve their goals too. And that passion makes you an incredible person to work with. 

We just wanted to thank you for all the hard work and tell you how lucky we are to have you on our side. 

Keep up the good work.

Yours sincerely,

<Senior’s name>

The idea here is to not really have to write essays. Simple peer recognition or employee appreciation for the hard work is all that is needed.

3. Take them out for a treat 

Sometimes all it takes is taking your team out as employee appreciation. Combine that with good food and you have one of the best employee recognition ideas.  

An occasional pizza party either at the office or at the closest pizza chain or even a simple icecream treat, little things go a long way. But do keep in mind that you state what the treat is for and openly appreciate the employee you’re celebrating. Maybe even raise a toast! 

A lot of organizations do this as a team bonding exercise. You can club two things to up the spirits of everyone on the team. It’s again one of the most common employee engagement ideas. 

Also read: How to run a good team off-site

4. Create a team recognition board 

Seen those little boards displaying the ‘employee of the month’ at McDonald’s? While the customers that walk in have nothing to do with it, it’s a recognition that is on display for everyone to see. The company is openly talking about the good work that someone is doing. Being featured there becomes the motivator for everyone on the team! 

Now we’re not asking you to set up a board like that. You could simply have a section on your website that puts up the employee of the month and a note on what they did well. Alternatively, you can make a quick post on social media with the employee’s picture and a nice caption that talks about their work. 

The employee motivation that you boost by doing something this small, is too big to be ignored!

5. Don’t skip anniversaries and birthdays

5, 50, 500, or 5000, this rule applies irrespective of the employee strength you have. In fact, the bigger the brand, the better this method of employee recognition works. Make sure that the employees receive special notes and token gifts on their special days. It’s the most effective way of making them feel like a part of a family. 

It’s your employees birthday? Great. Everyone brings along a cake and a customary email. 

You can instead create a handmade letter and present it along with the type of sweet that particular employee would savour. Every employee has a different taste, why bind it into one flavour or one kind of cake? 

Did an employee just become a parent? You can throw a surprise mini shower to welcome the new phase of their life when they come back to the office. 

You’d be amazed at how being a little aware of what’s special to them can do for your organization. It’s one of the employee engagement ideas that help you set up a positive team culture too.  

6. Address their commuting woes

Commuting from home to work and vice versa is a big headache, especially in bigger cities. However, if, as an employer, you take care of this, it earns a lot of brownie points in the eyes of the employee. This is a better way of staff recognition than providing allowances that cover commuting expenses.

You can arrange for ‘pick and drop’ facilities. These can either be for a specific shift, especially if it’s a late-night or graveyard one. If you have the resources, you can offer this for regular day shifts too. 

This will not only take a load of commuting and traffic off the shoulders of the employee but also show them that you value their time. That says a lot more than helping them save on commuting expenses. 

TL;DR: Employee appreciation is also about knowing how you can make their lives easier. You never know which little effort works towards boosting employee motivation – so keep looking into their needs!

7. Organize a ‘get pets to work’ day!

Get animals to work. They can be pets of the existing employees or a shelter-organized event. However, make sure that you don’t “let the dogs out” literally on the premises. It will create a pandemonium, especially for the employees who are either allergic to animals or are scared of them. 

The best way would be to announce a pet day and give a day off to the ones who do not wish to participate in it. It is said that fur therapy is the best therapy for those who love animals. 

Pet therapy is also a known way of relieving stress, especially for those who are already animal lovers. This will be the best form of employee appreciation, a day out with pets.

Thinking if this is even a good staff appreciation idea? Read this article on 8 reasons to make every day ‘bring your pet to work day.’ It’s one of the most effective employee engagement ideas too! 

8. Create a room for recreational purposes and relaxing

Office work often becomes challenging. Daily meetings and the hustle of deadlines can take a toll on the employees. To relieve the pressure, they need their own space in the bustling office. You can do that by making sure that there are certain rooms just for that; for some time alone, to reflect and be at peace. It’s an employee appreciation idea that startups take into account these days. 

These spaces can be in the form of recreational rooms or meditation rooms or even both. For the ones who believe an adrenaline rush can get them going, you can schedule a day out for activities at a sports centre. The idea is to achieve employee satisfaction. 

We know we’ve said it before, but employee appreciation is more than just gifts. Take some of their hobbies into account too! 

9. Gamify the environment 

What’s the one thing that kept taking us all back to Candy Crush time and again? Wanting to beat our friend’s score. No one was going head-on with the other. It was all healthy competition and you can bring that into your workspace too for some employee motivation.

As time goes by, a lot of your employees will settle into a monotonous routine. They’ll walk into the office, do their job, and leave. That zeal to do more or achieve something big might die down a little. They’ll stop caring about your employee recognition program. But there’s a way to bring them back and that’s gamification. 

Create healthy competition amongst employees. Tell them the perks of winning ‘employee of the month’ and then set up weekly emails to tell them who’s winning! 

10. The Secret Admirer ‘appreciation’ box

Suggestion boxes are old-school and effective. Install a ‘Secret Admirer’ or simply an ‘Appreciation’ box. Ask your employees to keep an eye out for any exemplary professional act that they see around in a peer, put it in a chit anonymously, and shoot a mail to the HR. Keep a reward system for both; the admirer and the subject of admiration. At the end of the week, let both meet. 

This will not only encourage various people to know each other, thereby elevating the level of team bonding, but also increase the level of employee recognition, at the hands of the colleagues.

To discourage any form of bias, you can keep changing the rules. For instance, one week you can ask the person to put in a chit for someone from another department, another week you can ask them to choose someone from their own team. Make this a part of your talent management process.

Peer recognition is also a great way to build comradery between team members.

Do you need an employee appreciation program? 

Did you know that the lack of recognition and engagement is driving 44% of employees to switch jobs

You could hire the best talent. But you could lose them too despite being an organization with a big brand name. That’s because people are ‘human’ even at work. Employee motivation is a big factor in how they perform. They have set goals they want to achieve professionally and walk in with zero expectations. 

But at the same time, they do want to be recognized for the efforts they’re putting in. It’s a way for them to know they’re on the right path to even achieving their own goals. That’s where the importance of employee appreciation comes in. And you don’t have to wait for the employee appreciation day to do this! 

“A great employee is like a four-leaf clover, hard to find and lucky to have.” 

What are some of the best employee recognition programs or employee engagement ideas you have seen?

Do you have an appreciation program to boost employee motivation? We’d love to know all about it!