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Why Employee Appreciation Day Matters – and How to Show It 

Elisabeth Duncan, Vice President of Human Resources May 3, 2023

Recognizing and rewarding employee contributions is part of a high-performing organization’s DNA. A culture that celebrates employee achievements leads to higher engagement, greater productivity, and helps attract and retain top talent.

For these organizations, and even those who aspire to join their ranks, Employee Appreciation Day may seem redundant. After all, if you prioritize employee recognition year-round, then why should this day be any different? Yet Employee Appreciation Day can be about far more than thanking employees for going above and beyond or a job well done. Now more than ever, it’s about showing employees that you appreciate who each one is as a person, and how they help shape your organization.

Celebrating employees’ whole selves

Any time we publicly recognize or thank employees for their contributions, we’re demonstrating our appreciation. But Employee Appreciation Day gives employers the perfect opportunity to let employees know that they are valued for who they are beyond the job they do. In other words, employees need to know that their employer appreciates them not just for their work efforts, but also the unique backgrounds, perspectives, and interests they bring–whether a favorite sports team or a passion for hiking.

Personalizing Employee Appreciation Day

This Employee Appreciation Day, consider doing something that connects with employees on a personal level. Traditional events such as a company outing, catered lunch, or happy hour bring employees together and show them gratitude and appreciation as a group. But if you’d like to take the opportunity to make each individual employee feel special, find ways to recognize their unique personalities and varied experiences, too. These more personal ideas may take a bit more effort, but they’re more authentic and can go a long way to improving the employee experience:

  • Meaningful gifts: Company swag is a go-to gift for many employers, but you may also want to consider a gift card for every employee based on their interests, hobbies, or likes. Have an employee who’s an avid gardener? Consider a gift card to a home improvement store. Is someone always sharing pics of their dogs? Perhaps a pet store gift card would make their day. Is there someone on the team who always has a latte in hand? A coffee shop gift card might be the perfect gift. The point is, a simple gift card can show employees that you’ve taken the time to get to know them, feels more personalized, and can give them what they would appreciate most. 
  • Personalized messages: It’s great to recognize your workforce as a whole, but it doesn’t necessarily give you the chance to make each employee feel special. Consider sending each employee a personalized note from their manager that not only calls out a specific contribution they make at work, but also something about their personal lives–such as showing admiration for their talents as an artist, volunteering in the community, or caring for a family member. It does take time, but that’s the point–you’ve taken the time to show your appreciation for them as a person and that you’re actively interested in their lives.
  • Celebrate Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): ERGs, also known as affinity groups or business network groups, are typically employee-led groups that share similar interests, ethnicities, sexual orientations, or gender identities. Employee Appreciation Day is a terrific time to shine a spotlight on these groups internally and social media, and thank them for their critical role they play in helping to shape company culture, giving every employee a voice within the organization.
  • Time Off: This may seem like a no-brainer, but giving people the gift of time is a great way to show that you value their health and happiness. Whether it’s a floating holiday to spending some time with loved ones, a mental health day, or even just a shortened workday, to spend on self-care, shows that you not only appreciate their efforts at work, but you also value and respect how precious their personal time is, too.

The important thing is to do something for your employees this Employee Appreciation Day, even if it’s a simple thanks, a fun game, or a special treat. But if you want to go the extra mile, you can tailor each individual’s experience and demonstrate to each employee they are valued not just for their work efforts, but for all the things that make them uniquely…them. 

Because being accepted, included, and appreciated is a gift we all like to receive.