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It’s time to dig deeper than your annual pizza party.

You’ve heard about employee appreciation, but what exactly is it? And more importantly, why is it worth the time and effort?

I have all the answers you need.

See Related: 6 Steps to Planning the Perfect Team Building Event

First, what is employee appreciation?

Employee appreciation is the practice of recognizing the contributions employees make to the workplace. It can involve rewards and can take place through formal and informal channels.

Here are a few examples of what formal employee appreciation can look like:

  • Employee appreciation programs and recognition programs
  • Assistance with career growth plans
  • Employee rewards programs

And here are some informal employee appreciation ideas:

  • Actively encourage employees with positive feedback
  • Initiate peer to peer appreciation practices
  • Set up a company chat app
  • Write handwritten notes

Now let’s dive into my top 5 reasons why employee appreciation is good for your business:

Outdoor employee engagement activity of six business leaders#1: Consistency in employee appreciation builds trust.

The way you run an employee appreciation program should be the way you run all business: with intention and consistency.

Remember what I said about the pizza party earlier?

I don’t have anything against pizza (quite the opposite, actually). But they have become a trope: companies will throw a pizza party once or twice a year instead of building consistent and meaningful appreciation programs.

Instead of vague, one-off events where you get to act as event host, build a bona fide employee recognition program that employees can count on. Consider the following:


Employee appreciation should never feel like an afterthought. When you set your annual calendar, intentionally plan employee appreciation efforts at regular intervals.


Okay, I know that most people like pizza (according to a 2019 Kelton Global study, 98% of Americans eat it). But you can do better!

Think about your particular staff. Who are they? What do they enjoy? What would be a meaningful expression of appreciation to them? Demonstrate that you actually know them and care about their well-being.

Building trust

I’m sure your business has company values. They are probably emblazoned on the wall of the CEO’s office somewhere and are featured prominently on your website.

But are you actually living your company values?

If you claim to value human compassion in any form, your employees must experience those values firsthand. Consistent and thoughtful employee recognition is a great way to walk the walk.

When staff can expect employee appreciation as a regular part of their work environment, they will believe in the company and its mission more deeply.

Not only is this excellent for employee satisfaction, but word will spread.

If your company is known to express consistent appreciation to employees, expect more applications.

Potato sack race indoor employee engagement activity with two people competing and colleagues cheering from sidelines#2: Effective employee appreciation proves you are listening.

Employee appreciation is not one-size-fits-all. As we touched on in #1, this is a chance demonstrate how well you know your staff.

Your staff has X-Ray vision

Did you know this? It’s true! Here’s what I mean:

Employees can see right through superficial attempts at employee appreciation. For example, handing out gift cards right before the local “Best Places to Work” competition? That’s quite transparent.

Only making time for employee appreciation the Friday of a holiday weekend? Not the reward you think it is. (Hint: they probably wanted to take a vacation day.)

Rewards should be actual rewards.

Employees are more likely to feel appreciated if you reward them with something they actually want. Here are a few ideas:

  • Raises (let’s get right down to it – the financial component involved to employee appreciation can’t be ignored)
  • Time off (demonstrate that you value employee health)
  • Public recognition (this can motivate employees)
  • Gas vouchers (recognizing employees’ timely needs)

Not sure what your staff wants? Chat with them or distribute a survey!

Group of colleagues smile and bond with each other at the office because bonding is directly tied to company's successHow to actively listen to your employees

Here are a few tips to help you turn on your active listening skills:

Read body language:

Employees may not always feel comfortable speaking up, so learn to read their physical cues.

Are they slumped over in their seats? Yawning? Eyes glazed over? Glancing toward the door? Perhaps they need more breaks, standing desks, and/or flexible hours.

Here’s the kicker: don’t ignore what you see.

Be with them:

If you have your own office, then you have the ability to close the door (and your ears) on your staff. It might be nice for privacy, but it makes it easier for you to be out of touch with their needs.

Make a conscious effort to:
  • Have lunch with your staff
  • Leave your door open whenever possible
  • Work in common areas instead of tucked away

If your staff works remotely, make yourself accessible. Everyone should have your direct line. Do not miss all-staff meetings.

You are part of the team!

Ask them questions:

Demonstrate vulnerability by asking your employees what they want. And then (here’s the important part) take action.

Sit with employees and ask:
  • What makes them feel appreciated?
  • What would make their lives easier?
  • What would make their work more fulfilling?

As a leader, remember that employees may not feel comfortable being fully transparent with you.

So, consider creating an in-depth survey to collect opinions.

Make sure to leave open-ended space for staff to write their thoughts.

And always make surveys fully anonymous (do not include “required” questions that will essentially reveal staff’s identities, such as years at the workplace and job level).

Five colleagues in bright room two sit on couch and two high five#3: Employee appreciation is infectious.

Employee appreciation fosters a work environment of appreciation and gratitude. And what can I say?

Positivity breeds positivity!

The more you highlight the positive impact your employees have on the workplace, the better morale will be. Staff will feel great about the work they are doing, and more inspired to do it well.

This is great for their happiness and mental health, and for your bottom line.

Think about ways to incorporate employee appreciation into your everyday behavior. Not just once a year when you hire an emcee for a party. Here are a few ideas:

Get used to paying compliments!

Thoughtful compliments can have a deep impact. According to Harvard Business Review, almost 90% of people believe they ought to compliment each other more often.

And this makes sense. Think about the last time you were praised for a job well done. How did it make you feel?

Expressions of encouragement and gratitude make people feel worthy and recognized.

Put this into practice

Here are a few ways to express gratitude and pay compliments every day:

  • Finish every email by thanking your employees for their work
  • Recognize what makes your work life easier and thank the people who make it so
  • Start meetings by thanking those who spent time preparing materials for it

As a leader, your actions have ripple effects. If you honor great work, your employees will too.

The more encouraging your workforce is of each other, the better work environment you will create!

Group of people embrace and smile at each other in circle at workplaceBonus: Knowing Your Target Audience Will Boost Your Business – Here Are 4 Reasons Why

#4: Employee appreciation increases visibility and knowledge among employees.

If I asked you to write a detailed job description for the person at the desk next to yours, could you do it? The other team members in your department? The entire workforce?

Communication can be challenging in businesses, no matter their size. Depending on your methods, employee recognition can help staff better understand what each of them do.

Employee recognition can improve communication in the workplace

When you give someone public recognition, you give the rest of the staff insight into what that person does on a day to day basis.

Here’s an example:

  • Let’s say senior leaders dedicate time in a meeting to recognize team members for an outstanding marketing campaign.
    • The marketing team will feel recognized, yes. But the rest of the room will gain insight into the company’s marketing communications strategy.
    • That can help them conduct business in a style more conducive to the company brand.

Employees will better understand how to support functions of other departments.

In this case:

  • The sales team members can better align their strategy with the brand reputation set by marketing;
  • The folks in payroll management can better understand the reasons behind recent overtime requests.

How else does employee recognition support great communication?

Public recognition supports understanding among departments and levels.

For example:
  • Senior leaders recognize an incredible project by a first-year team member.
    • Now employees at all places in the hierarchy are aware of the work being done on the ground floor.
  • Senior leadership shout out a remote employee’s work at a virtual happy hour.
    • Not only does the employee feel valued, staff who work in person have heightened awareness of the work being done by their remote colleagues.

The importance of employee appreciation cannot be overstated.

Seven people in a line clap for eighth person#5: Employee appreciation = employee retention.

The key to a business’ longevity and success is employee retention. How long do employees stay at the company?

Appreciating employees can increase employee happiness. This makes it more likely for employees to stay at the company for longer durations.

There are infinite benefits to employee retention, including:

  • Increased institutional knowledge
  • High employee morale
  • The opportunity to train workplace leaders
  • Well-defined company culture
  • Strong interpersonal relationships
  • Tangible business results

Three people clap and smile while sitting at conference table with papers on itCriteria for appreciating employees

You can choose to build a recognition program around any number of criteria. Here are some to consider:

Employee engagement

Employee engagement can mean a few things. Perhaps you want to make employees feel appreciated when they put together team building activities. Maybe you want to celebrate employees’ efforts to initiate a lunch potluck or team field day.

These accomplishments may not be quantitative, but showing appreciation for them helps employees feel valued.

Employee performance

Keep employees motivated by showing recognition and appreciation for workplace performance.

For example, an employee who leads the successful launch of a new product deserves appreciation.

Employees’ hard work

Maybe employees felt dejected after a project didn’t pan out the way they wanted. Hey, we’re all human beings, right? Show that the company cares about hard work, not merely results.

Most employees’ accomplishments aren’t going to be flashy. Make it a vital part of your workplace to show appreciation to those who put in hard work.

The pros and cons of Employee Appreciation Day

Small businesses and gigantic corporations across the United States celebrate Employee Appreciation Day on the first Friday of March.

Some host (typically mandated) award ceremonies or similar formal events. Others observe in subtler ways, like barbecues or (dare I say) pizza parties. These events can be fun especially when you get to act as event emcee, but businesses can fall into a lazy lull.

What’s the trap?

In my opinion, the importance of appreciating workplace staff is too important to reserve for one day a year.

Ultimately, truly appreciated employees don’t need one-off events to feel valued.

They can be fun, but if Employee Appreciation Day is the only time you go out of your way to express gratitude to your employees, you have a problem on your hands.

Four people stand in circle with arms around each other smiling and expressing appreciation for each otherMake sense? Let’s recap.

Here are my top 5 reasons why strong employee appreciation means strong business:

#1: Consistency in employee appreciation builds trust.

#2: Employee appreciation proves you are listening.

#3: Employee appreciation is infectious.

#4: Employee appreciation increases visibility and knowledge among employees.

#5: Employee appreciation = employee retention.

Get creative, get excited, and get listening!

Keep Reading: 5 Ways to Nail Your Keynote Speaker Introduction

Adam Christing has been called “The Tom Brady of emcees.” He has hosted more than 1,000 company meetingsspecial eventsgala celebrations, and more. He is the author of several books and founder of For more event tips, follow Adam Christing on InstagramFacebookPinterestLinkedIn, and YouTube.