The Modern Workplace: Rethinking Employee Appreciation

Use these 5 tips on modern employee appreciation to engage your workforce and make them feel valued.

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We’ve all been there, working hard at our jobs, punching that time clock, accruing over time, responding to emails on the weekends, and BAM! Five years have passed by. While we’ve barely had time to process this milestone, HR didn’t forget — presenting us with a 5-years of excellence award and some overly sweet store bought cake. As you shuffle back to your cubicle, you wonder if this is the epitome of workplace appreciation or if other companies do things differently.

The story above isn’t unusual these days. Many employers celebrate their employees’ work anniversaries and show recognition in cookie-cutter ways that don’t leave them feeling appreciated or valued. Sure, a cake is great, but appreciation isn’t that simple. So what do modern employees really want beyond a simple pat on the back? The answers lie in these 5 tips.

Rethinking employee appreciation

The modern workplace looks drastically different from the workplaces of yesteryear; pension plans are non-existent, retirement packages are standard, and employees no longer spend decades working at companies. The median tenure for workers ages 25 to 34 is just 2.8 years. While experts agree that recognition is essential for employee happiness, most companies are still missing the mark.

Just 1 in 3 workers in the United States strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past 7 days. The most effective employee recognition efforts address employee wants and needs and align them with company culture. In turn, they positively impact an organization’s bottom line in the form of more engaged workers that feel committed to the organization. Here’s how to get started.

Make it frequent

One of the best ways to ensure that employees feel valued is by celebrating even the most minor wins on a regular basis. By making recognition an integral part of team meetings, companies can seamlessly infuse it into their culture. Keep a 15-minute slot open at team meetings for celebrations where employees are applauded for their efforts.

Perhaps an employee closed a challenging sale or took a professional development course; encourage them to share the news and give them a group shout-out.

Make it timely

After an employee reaches a milestone or goal, recognition should immediately follow. Suppose you wait too long in between the action and the employee recognition. In that case, it loses meaning, and the employee won’t feel the dopamine rush of instant gratification — which, let’s face it, is something many of us are after these days.

When a worker meets a goal, does something that aligns with company values, or goes above and beyond in any way, companies should implement a “spot bonus.” A spot bonus is a reward that you can give on the spot. Examples include “Thank you” cards, small gift cards, company swag, or even a bonus vacation day.

A spot bonus is a reward that you can give on the spot. Examples include “Thank you” cards, small gift cards, company swag, or even a bonus vacation day.

Make it noticeable

Another excellent way to incorporate employee appreciation into company culture is with a visual representation. A simple “wall of fame” can be an easy way to highlight the accomplishments of individuals and teams.

Snap photos of your employees and hang them in a common area, like a break room or a high-traffic hallway. That way, everyone can see the featured employees. Managers can feature their top salespeople or their website design team for launching an updated website.

Make it social

While managers showing their direct reports appreciation is great, sometimes appreciation from peers means even more. Organizations should consider implementing peer-to-peer recognition programs where workers can send each other kudos.

Kudos can be a simple “thank you” or monetary, like cash or a gift card. Many online platforms offer peer-to-peer recognition programs, many of which can be integrated into company intranets.

Make it personal

Employees just want to feel like they are noticed and cared about at their workplace.

At the end of the day, employees just want to feel like they are noticed and cared about at their workplace. One way to accomplish this is to celebrate employees on their birthdays. Beyond offering workers the day off, companies can also host in-office birthday celebrations with food, drinks, games, and a card that is signed by their team. Managers should try to remember little details about their workers and incorporate them into the celebrations as well. For example, an employee may love the Steelers, so having a Steelers cake could mean the world to them.

Employee appreciation matters

Even if a company doesn’t have the budget to support large-scale recognition programs, you can’t go wrong with a good old-fashioned “thank you.” Whether it’s acknowledging an employee went the extra mile or was just plain reliable, it’s worthwhile. Recognition can be simple and a significant component of employee retention in a tight labor market. In fact, companies with recognition programs that are highly effective at improving employee engagement have a whopping 31% lower turnover rate.

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