A Step by Step Guide to Employee Appreciation

Employee appreciation day is March 5, but we want to make sure your employees feel appreciated year-round. Here are our tips.

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Note: This story was last updated March 4, 2021

Officially, Employee Appreciation Day is celebrated each year on the first Friday in March. But we know that employee retention and job satisfaction improve when your workers feel the love all year long.

Employee attrition and retention are major problems in just about every industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 3 million people quit their jobs every month in this country. That’s about 2.4% of all workers. Does this mean that Americans are dissatisfied with their jobs? Maybe. A recent study from The Conference Board found that 51% of Americans feel satisfied with their jobs. This figure is actually the highest job satisfaction rate in recent years, and still, only a little more than half of the American workforce is satisfied with their jobs.

What causes employee dissatisfaction?

According to that same Conference Board study, the aspects of employees’ jobs that give them the most satisfaction are the people they work with, their commute, their own level of interest in their work, and their supervisors. But a number of HR-related issues received a much lower satisfaction rating.

Only 43.5% of workers are satisfied with their health plans, and 43% are satisfied with wages. There was also substantial dissatisfaction with opportunities for flexible time, family leave, communication, career growth, and performance reviews. Only 37% of employees reported satisfaction with recognition for a job well done, and 32.6% said they were satisfied with the educational and job training programs available to them.

In some cases, employees feel dissatisfied with their salaries or advancement opportunities, and that causes them to look for new jobs. A Gallup poll found that 44% of employees would leave their jobs for a salary bump of 20% or less. And a Glassdoor survey found that 35% of workers planned to start searching for new jobs if they didn’t receive a pay raise in the next year. Only 37% of employees reported satisfaction with recognition for a job well done.

But the biggest factor that drives employee satisfaction (or lack thereof)? Culture. A positive company culture makes employees feel appreciated, motivated, and engaged. Companies who do a great job recognizing employee contributions have higher employee satisfaction and lower turnover rates.

It even improves performance. Companies that encourage employees to help each other, work together, and recognize achievements, and promote employee appreciation are often the most successful. Whereas employers who try to “drive results” without regard to tact or morale often don’t perform as well.

How to show employee appreciation and create a positive company culture

So how do you show your employees appreciation? It’s not enough to purchase a gift or host a lunch once a year in March. If you want your employees to feel appreciated all year round, as well as drive performance and improve your overall company culture, here are 8 steps you can take.

Recognize and reward specific behaviors and results

Go beyond meaningless employee of the month awards and recognize your staff for specific achievements. People often feel the recognition means more if it’s tied to a specific behavior.

Implement peer-to-peer recognition

Many employees feel more satisfaction when they receive praise from a same-level colleague than they do when they hear it from the CEO. They know that their coworkers see their contributions every day, and it means more to hear those close observers say that they appreciate their work. Some companies have systems in place that allow employees to award points or “dollars” to each other for a job well-done. The points are displayed prominently, so everyone can see the appreciation for their hard work.

Make the recognition public

Don’t just give your employee a plaque or a letter for a job well done. Write it up and put it in the company newsletter. Share it in a company-wide email. Do something to let everyone know that someone on your staff had a major accomplishment.

Offer leadership opportunities

One of the number one reasons that people give for leaving their jobs is that they didn’t feel like they had opportunities to advance. They believed that in order to move their careers forward, they’d have to move on to another company.

On the other hand, employees who believe that their employers offer opportunities that will allow them to grow professionally are 10% less likely to quit. So make sure you are looking out for your employees’ career development goals. Discuss these goals at performance reviews, and make sure you are doing whatever you can to help your employees succeed.

Offer professional training and development

On a related note, you must provide opportunities to learn new skills if you want your staff to feel like their careers can advance in your company. If you can’t conduct the trainings at your place of business, consider offering small amounts of tuition reimbursement to allow your employees to register for outside trainings for a learning and development program. Companies that support remote work have a 25% higher retention rate than those that don’t.

Allow remote work opportunities

Companies that support remote work have a 25% higher retention rate than those that don’t. Since people often report that they choose to work remotely in order to support a better work-life balance, this isn’t surprising. If your workforce is currently working remotely due to COVID-19, consider keeping it the way long term.

Identify employees who are at high risk for leaving and offer them incentives to stay

Turnover is expensive. The price tag for replacing a highly trained employee can set you back over 200% of their annual salary. So be sure to talk to your staff, especially those in highly trained positions. Ask them if they are satisfied with their jobs, and what you can do improve upon that satisfaction.

Encourage employees to use paid time off

What’s that saying about “all work and no play”? While your company probably won’t turn into a Stephen King novel, it might be a pretty miserable place to work if the employees never take any time off. People need rest. It helps us recharge and distress. And employees who take their PTO are 13% less likely to resign.

Instead of waiting until March, why not make every day Employee Appreciation Day? If you show employee appreciation and value their career growth, they are much more likely to reward you with a long tenure at your company.

Note: this article was originally published in November of 2018.
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