The Best Way to do Employee Appreciation Day Is More Than Once a Year

Use the day as a springboard for ongoing kudos.

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By Gary Beckstrand Originally published

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Employee Appreciation Day was created in 1995 by Dr. Bob Nelson as a way for companies to encourage conversation about daily recognition, not just an annual occasion for HR to provide doughnuts for the team. Employee Appreciation Day falls on the first Friday of March. This year it will be on March 3.

Back in 2018, O.C. Tanner asked just under 1,000 workers across the country about their experiences with Employee Appreciation Day. While 44 percent thought it was "extremely or very important" to recognize Employee Appreciation Day, only 8 percent knew when it was observed. Only 10 percent said that their current place of employment does anything to celebrate the day.

Related: Putting Employees First Will Be Your Best Business Move for 2018

This indicates that most organizations have the opportunity to improve the impact of Employee Appreciation Day, an important occasion for showing people their value to a company. Here are a few suggestions on how to properly celebrate the day:

Create a purposeful and meaningful experience for all employees.

If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. Get out ahead with some advanced planning. Establish clear objectives and execution guidelines to ensure consistency and coverage for all employees. Two worthy objectives are to provide opportunities for leaders to personally express appreciation to their individual team members and to reinforce how employees' work is aligned with the organization's purpose.

This could be executed in any number of ways. One organization provided managers with a notecard from the executive team for each employee. The notecard stated the purpose of the organization and expressed gratitude for employees' great work to deliver on that purpose. Each manager then delivered the cards in person and added a personal note of thanks specific to each of their individual team members. The result was hundreds of meaningful and purposeful expressions of appreciation.

Related: 4 Innovative Ways a CEO Can Reward Employees

Personal communication and recognition help create the understanding that everyone in a company is pulling toward the same cause. This can be a paradigm shift for organizations and employees both, particularly those who are accustomed to competition among coworkers. Instead, the people in a company are all on the same journey together.

Authenticity is generated and communicated by time spent and effort given. Proper planning and effective execution eliminate the common mistakes of last-minute efforts that fall short and ironically communicate the opposite of appreciation.

Use Employee Appreciation Day as a springboard to ongoing employee recognition.

Expression of appreciation is not a one-time event. However, reoccurring events such as Employee Appreciation Day are great opportunities to emphasize the importance and encourage continual expressions of appreciation for day-to-day efforts and recognition for results throughout the year.

Another company found success by extending Employee Appreciation Day to Employee Appreciation Month. This allowed increased opportunities throughout the organization for smaller, but more frequent events. Departments and teams had fun creating numerous inexpensive and effective ways to celebrate and acknowledge employee contributions throughout the month. Another organization found it helpful to create employee appreciation events on a quarterly basis.

Employee Appreciation Day should reinforce the benefits of daily recognition. It can be a great springboard to implementing an ongoing recognition solution or making improvements to programs already in place.

Related: People Want to Help the World, But They Want to Be Recognized for It

Building and utilizing recognition programs is one of the most effective tools companies can use to attract, retain and engage employees. Given the impact of social media, company review websites, and word of mouth, organizations have to do more than simply provide a job, a desk, and a paycheck to find and keep top talent.

When done properly, employee recognition can have a tremendous benefit on culture, engagement, retention, efficiency, quality and bottom-line results. Whether Employee Appreciation Day is part of a program of recognition or an opportunity to start one, it should be an important event on every organization's calendar.

Gary Beckstrand

Vice President at O.C. Tanner

Gary Beckstrand is a vice president at O.C. Tanner, the world’s leading employee recognition company. There, he helps oversee the O.C. Tanner Institute, a global forum that researches and shares insights to help organizations inspire and appreciate great work. He has consulted with numerous Fortune 100 companies to assess recognition cultures, develop strategic solutions and measure results.

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