Employee Appreciation Day is always observed on the first Friday in March
You should not miss out on this key recognition opportunity! It is a day for companies to recognize and celebrate their employees for their hard work and effort throughout the year. Some companies go all out, with lunches, gifts and more. Others use this day as an opportunity to launch employee recognition and engagement programs that will last throughout the year. However, you choose to celebrate it, be sure you do, because it’s a great opportunity to strengthen the bond between employer and employee.
Studies show that recognition and appreciation are important drivers of employee happiness and engagement. This has resulted in more and more organizations taking part in the day, and more employees looking forward to what their company will do for them. The competition can be stiff, but you can keep it simple. Bear in mind, your employees are your best PR, so plan on group activities and encourage employees to get involved in the planning of how you celebrate the day. The result of a successful day, no matter the spend, is when you break down the walls between “you” and “them”, generate squad pride, and build a stronger corporate culture through appreciation.
You may choose to kick start “High Five Fridays”, whereby anyone can nominate anyone else for going above and beyond. Come up with an easy rubric, and an email address these nominations can be sent to. Put together a committee of employees at varying levels to review and shout out three key employees each Friday. Plan to have three underappreciated hero employees to showcase in the rollout and share how the program works. Start-ups? Do this in person whenever possible, so if you are a small but scaling company, rock the mic. Larger companies can send an email with a fun video link from the CEO to kick-start the program.
Employee Appreciation Day is always on a Friday, and it’s a great day to have a group lunch, offer happy hour being sure to include non-alcoholic fun drinks like fauxgaritas, virgin Mojitos, and other fun mock-tail ideas. Sundae bars can also be fun. Offer fun cookies for a break, I know in New York we love Insomnia Cookies. Eating and drinking with the team go a long way to building employer confidence.
Outings are always fantastic ways to celebrate the day. Group bowling or tickets to a sporting event are always great ideas. If you want to get creative try Escape the Room or group cooking class like Cooking by the Book If you think the thumbprint of your culture is to do a group volunteer activity that could work too. This serves to equalize everyone and give folks an opportunity to enjoy each other as a team.
Gifts ideas like gift cards or movie tickets are good too, however, you may want to add some magic to the delivery by creating team scavenger hunts to find clues and then each team gets the same team gift. The ultimate gift, of course, is time off. If you can afford to give each employee an “Employee Appreciation Day” be sure it still follows your vacation policy.
Finally, what Employee Appreciation Day is not. It is not a day to have performance discussions, it is not a day to hold training sessions, or a day to ask employees to do a survey. While work needs to be done, keep these things in mind:
- Employee Appreciation Day is celebrating all employees. If you are a manager, don’t hole up in your office, get out there because you are an employee too
- Be your most natural self with employees whether an outing or just Happy Hour (although do not overindulge). Break the barrier between manager and employee and simply be colleagues.
- Share great stories of employees who saved the day, do not use the casual time you have with the team to air grievances about workload or a challenging client. While there is value in the vent, this is not the time
- Align with your employees and get to know them. Try not to hang out with your usual suspects
- THANK YOUR EMPLOYEES, the gesture of saying thank you goes such a long way, especially when it is genuine. Try and build on this day and make it a habit.
Cathleen Graham, Managing Partner of Cheer Partners, has more than 20 years’ experience as an HR and Talent leader across the communications, management consulting and software industries. Her extensive knowledge spans change management, employee communications, performance modeling, professional development, talent strategies, culture and employee engagement.
She has held C-suite level global roles for the last 10 years and has a track record of helping companies define their talent strategies to meet their corporate goals. She frequently guest lectures at Georgetown and NYU and is an active participant at TED conferences.