This is How Brilliant Managers Show Employee Appreciation at the Office

March 2, 2018 is National Employee Appreciation Day (always the first Friday in March) and while an all-expenses paid trip to the Caribbean is always nice, not many department budgets can handle that. Bonus checks for exceeding goals are good too, but research and countless interviews reveal that money is far down the list for motivating employees. So how do you show employee appreciation without spending much money?

(By the way, March 2 is also National Banana Cream Pie Day which is only important if you’re my boss and are reading this and really, really really want to show THIS employee appreciation! I’m just sayin’ ….)

This year, it’s time to dig down deeper and find things that employees will value greatly that are low-cost or even free. And trust us, free is valued more by the employee over almost anything if it is personal and sincere.

General guidelines for showing thanks to your team … and not just on Employee Appreciation Day: 

Be immediate with praise—Don’t wait weeks or months to show your appreciation for going above and beyond. Do it right away! There’s nothing worse than doing an incredible job on a project in February, but not being thanked for it until your annual review in August. That’s why the majority of the tips in this post are things you can have handy and can give right away.

A Thank You note—Speaking of which … tons of studies and surveys show that a simple note of thanks from a manager or executive nearly universally tops the list when employee appreciation comes up. Just three or four lines specifically mentioning what they did and why you appreciate it is a powerful energizing thing for employees.

Team effort celebration—If the team pulled together and made it happen, reward them with an office pizza party, casual dress day or even close the office early so they can spend some well-earned time with family. In addition, celebrate the whole team … don’t just pick one or two members of the team to single out. If one or two people did something extraordinary, thank them later.

Get “caught”—Make sure the employee hears you telling someone else you thought they did a great job. Yes, it is sneaky and a little cheesy, but the effect is wonderful.

Create a culture of encouragement—Employees who expand their horizons bring new skills to your workforce and will encourage others to do so too. Praise their achievements and encourage others to pursue their goals too.

Here are some ideas for employee appreciation that show you value all their effort and hard work:

  1. Preferred parking for a week or month
  2. 15-minute chair massages … done by a professional masseuse and not you, obviously, because that would be bad
  3. Car wash by the boss
  4. Lunch with the boss
  5. Sponsor team sports
  6. Clean office surroundings
  7. Rotating “trophy” for achieving goals
  8. Training
  9. Birthday cakes
  10. Let them bring pets to work … unless their pet is like a gila monster or komodo dragon
  11. “CEO for the Day” where an employee gets to proclaim a jeans day, potluck lunch, or make a speech at a team meeting
  12. Send birthday and/or thank-you cards to employees at their home address
  13. Discount club memberships
  14. Their favorite music download (or even on vinyl if they are really old school)
  15. Sponsor a “Nerd Day” when they dress up like their favorite movie or Comic-Con character … as long as they’re appropriately covered, of course. So, no Princess Leia brass bikini or Tarzan outfits
  16. If an employee has a favorite charity, make a small donation in their name
  17. Create an Employee Wall of Fame some place everyone would see it
  18. Book club membership
  19. More of what somebody loves doing
  20. Company-wide pop culture bracket contests, similar to March Madness, where employees pick winners of Grammys, Emmys, Oscars, etc. with an appropriate gift card for winner (free music downloads for Grammy’s, movie theater coupons for Oscars ….)
  21. Plants for the office
  22. Paint their office the color of their choice
  23. Less of what somebody hates doing
  24. Send a letter of praise to the employee’s spouse/family/significant other
  25. Telecommuting option
  26. Free toiletries
  27. Free lunch, snacks or soda
  28. Spontaneous afternoons off during a slow time
  29. Press releases on accomplishments or promotions
  30. Company store
  31. Discount on home computer equipment
  32. Afternoon trip to the movies for the entire department
  33. Company picnic
  34. T-shirts to celebrate product releases
  35. Executives serve snacks during busy times
  36. Provide fun sticky notes
  37. New desk chairs
  38. Company product or service for free
  39. Time with top executives to air ideas
  40. Designate an employee of the month
  41. Employees pick artwork for their office
  42. Give out scratch lottery tickets
  43. But most of all … just say, “Thank You” and mean it!

Creativity and thoughtfulness are keys when you really want to let an employee know you appreciate their work. You don’t need to spend a lot of extra money. But don’t wait … Employee Appreciation Day is coming soon and you don’t want to get caught empty-handed.


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