Creative Ways to Show Employee Appreciation (Beyond Gifts)

You’ve spent time and effort finding and training the right people for your company. But how can you ensure they’ll stick around instead of looking for the next best thing?  

The answer: employee care.  

It may sound simple, but showing your employees you care for their well-being and appreciate them really makes a difference. In fact, one of the top reasons employees leave their jobs is not feeling appreciated. No one wants to work hard and devote hours to their work only to feel that their effort goes unnoticed by their managers or supervisors.  

There are plenty of employee appreciation ideas you can use to recognize your employees for their dedication and commitment, no matter their role in your organization.  

Why Does Employee Appreciation Matter?  

Everyone likes to be appreciated for the work they do, and employees who feel appreciated are more likely to feel engaged and motivated in their jobs. On the flip side, when individuals feel unappreciated, they may start looking for new positions or spreading negative energy.  

Unfortunately, employee appreciation isn’t always a priority for companies. In fact, 75% of workers say they would feel more motivated in their jobs if their direct managers acknowledged their hard work and said ‘thank you’ more often. And only 15% of employees feel engaged in their current roles. This means up to 85% of your workforce could be performing better if you enact simple acts of appreciation.  

Clearly, the focus of many employers needs to change. Employee appreciation is vital to ensuring that your business thrives and continues to grow well into the future. By finding ways to show appreciation to employees, you can help your whole team feel more engaged and motivated. As an added bonus, you’ll likely see a productivity boost, too!  

Timely, meaningful appreciation can make all the difference in retaining top talent, which is especially critical as the Great Resignation continues to be an issue for employers. The more appreciated your team members feel, the more likely they are to stick around to help your company grow and meet its goals.  

How to Show Employee Appreciation 

There are a variety of reasons to recognize employees for their dedication and hard work, whether that’s ‘just because’ or for reaching specific milestones like anniversaries or completion of long-term projects. You can show appreciation to individuals who go the extra mile for customers or the organization, who offer innovative new ideas, and who reach sales or other measurable goals.  

Employee appreciation should be a company-wide priority. It can be as big as an awards ceremony or financial bonus, or as small as a handwritten note or a few words of gratitude.  

To help you out, we’ve put together a list of some fun employee recognition ideas. Here are our favorite ways to recognize employees and show how much you appreciate them, beyond the traditional ‘thank you’ gift.  

Ask for—and listen to—employee feedback 

If you’re not sure how your staff wants to be appreciated, just ask them! The best way to plan out recognition programs and events is to find out how your employees would prefer to be appreciated. Create a company or team-wide survey and ask every employee to fill it out. The results can direct your employee appreciation initiatives going forward and help ensure employees are rewarded in a way they’re comfortable with.  

And listening to feedback should go beyond the occasional survey. If an employee comes to you with a concern or complaint, be sure to listen and take action. Employees feel appreciated when they know their voices are heard, and your company culture will likely improve with their input. 

Celebrate milestones 

From employee birthdays to work anniversaries, there are plenty of excuses to party! Celebrations don’t have to be big; they can be as simple as a team meal or dessert for everyone to share. Just don’t let these special moments go unnoticed because they are great ways to show appreciation to employees.  

Choose creative rewards 

Gift cards and food are common office recognition items, but there are other creative ways to show appreciation. Think outside the box and select rewards that fit your company culture and mission. Offer high-performing team members a fun headshot portrait session or even the opportunity to choose how they will be rewarded.  

Make holidays memorable 

One of the best ways to boost employee engagement is to celebrate smaller holidays throughout the year, like St. Patrick’s Day or Valentine’s Day. Bring in themed snacks and treats, set time aside for holiday games, and encourage employees to dress up for the day.  

You don’t have to wait for holidays to celebrate though—you can also pick random days and bring in snacks or give your team a short break from their work or leave early one day a month for a team bonding event. Sometimes an unexpected celebration can be the most fun! 

Personalize your appreciation efforts 

Wondering how to make team members feel valued? Make your gifts more thoughtful and personal. Instead of giving out a generic gift card or certificate to recognize employees, consider personalizing your appreciation to each individual. Take note of your team members’ hobbies and interests, and when you want to recognize an employee, take those personal details into account. Asking new hires to fill out a survey with their interests is a great way to stay on top of personalized appreciation.  

For example, if you have a team member who loves movies, you may want to give them tickets to the local theater and money or a gift card for snacks so they can enjoy their favorite pastime with their friends or family.  

Start a wall of fame 

It’s an old-school idea but a fun one! Set aside space in your break room or office area for a wall or bulletin board where you can recognize employee achievements. Not only will this help high-performing team members feel appreciated, but it can also motivate other workers to step up their game. You can even offer a new take on the old tradition by creating fun items to commemorate achievements, like custom action figures or videos. 

Invest in their future 

One of the best ways to show employee appreciation is to demonstrate how much you care about your career path and growth. Pay for educational events or allow time off to attend industry-specific conferences. Encourage staff to expand their skills and hone their abilities. And be sure to promote employees when they bring new knowledge to your organization.  

Redo the breakroom 

Your breakroom can be so much more than a place for employees to eat lunch. It can be an educational library, a game room, and a chance for employees to get to know one another better. Update the décor, get some comfy furniture, and encourage your team members to make use of the space and take a much-needed rest from their hard work.  

Recognize non-work achievements 

Your employees are likely incredible people outside of their jobs. Whether they volunteer, create art, or share their expertise with the community, recognize your staff for the work they do in their free time. Many people would love to have others know more about them but don’t want to brag. You can do the bragging for your employees through a newsletter or special announcements that will help your team get to know each other and boost morale.  

Invite furry friends 

One of the most creative ways to show appreciation is to have a “bring your dog to work” day. This option isn’t for every workspace, but if you can, consider having a day where workers can bring along their dogs to the office. One of the hardest things for pet owners is leaving their beloved pets at home each day, so give them the chance to include their furry best friends in their workday. 

Call in the food trucks 

Food is always one of the top ways to show appreciation to employees! Give your team members more options for lunch by inviting local food trucks to hang out near your office. The food truck owners will appreciate the business, and your team will appreciate the chance to ditch the traditional brown bag lunch.  

Just say ‘thank you’ 

When you hire someone to do the tasks assigned to them, it can be easy to think that a simple ‘thank you’ isn’t necessary. But taking time to show and express gratitude to your employees can go a long way in making them feel engaged, appreciated, and motivated. Acknowledge how hard your team members are working. Doing so can easily brighten their entire day and keep them productive.  

Tips for Showing Appreciation 

While the ways you show appreciation can vary, there are a few things you should include in your employee recognition programs and in your everyday appreciation efforts: 

  • Be timely – Taking too long to recognize an employee can make them feel forgotten or even neglected. Make sure you’re aware of your team’s efforts and demonstrate that awareness by recognizing employees in the moment.  
  • Be specific – Include details in your recognition to let the individual know that you see exactly how their effort has contributed to the big picture success of the organization.  
  • Be personal – Don’t use the same stock email or letter for every employee. Instead, make each note or expression of appreciation personal and thoughtful.

No matter how you choose to recognize your employees, making the effort to show your appreciation can help every member of your team feel valued. And the more valued your employees feel, the more likely they are to be engaged, motivated, and eager to continue working with you and your organization.