Authored by: Jennifer Barnett

Did you know that National Employee Appreciation Day is in March? If you’re anything like me, your eyes were rolling before you finished that sentence. “Another made-up Hallmark Day?” Maybe I’m too cynical, but my attitude about such days comes from one of the smartest people I know – my mom!

Growing up, there were many years when my family didn’t have a lot. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t anywhere near homeless… but I remember those white packages of government powdered milk and cheese from time to time. My dad was a welder and pipefitter in the Ohio Valley in the early 80’s, at a time when the steel mills were shuttered, and no one was building anything. They were hard years, and a lot of people went without. One Valentine’s Day rolled around, and I must have been finally old enough to really pay attention, and what I paid attention to was that my dad didn’t get my mom a Valentine’s Day gift! So, I asked her about it, and her answer has stuck with me for the last 30-ish years (don’t do the math or you’ll catch me lying about my age). My mom told me “I don’t need him to do something special for me on Valentine’s Day if he loves me the other 364 days of the year.”

Now think about that for a minute and think about your colleagues and team members and what that kind of mindset could look like at work. What good does it do to go out of your way to ‘appreciate’ people on Employee Appreciation Day – you know, the day you’re kind of forced to appreciate them – if you aren’t appreciative the rest of the year? Do you think they don’t notice?

So, let’s look at some ways you can show appreciation to your employees and co-workers on a regular day… you don’t have to wait until the first Friday in March (the ‘Hallmark’ Employee Appreciation Day).

  1. Say ‘Good Morning!’ – You would be shocked at how often we talk to employees at our client sites who feel unappreciated or disconnected from their colleagues. When we get to the bottom of it, it’s often a feeling of being ‘ignored’. For that person, someone simply saying a genuine ‘Good Morning’ as they walk by can mean the difference between feeling appreciated or ignored. If you work remotely, take the time and call a co worker and see how he/she is doing. Ask about their family, etc.
  2. Extra Coffee – Got some coffee lovers in the office? Pick up an extra cup of coffee or two when you’re getting your morning brew on the way to work – and share! Nothing says ‘I was thinking of you on my way in’ like a cup of coffee! For extra bonus points, know their favorite order – or grab a hot chocolate for that person who doesn’t do coffee. (yep… that’s me!)
  3. Leave a Thank You Note – Not an e-mail, not a text, a real thank you note written and mailed or even better, hand delivered. Put the time and effort into writing a quick note of thanks and appreciation to someone in the office once a week. Make sure your praise is specific.
    • Not: “You did a great job!”
    • Something more like: “You handled yourself well in the client meeting last week. You were professional and diplomatic, yet firm when you answered their complaints. I appreciate your skill in handling these situations!”
    • Remember, sincerity without specificity is just flattery. If you’re working remotely, you can do something really old-fashioned and actually MAIL your Thank You note!
  4. Take 5 – At the end of each work day, take five minutes to think about your day and the people you interacted with. Write down at least three occasions each day when you appreciated something that someone did or said. This will be hard at first – but as you practice, you will find yourself looking for good things! And then, when you see those good things – say something. Right then! Don’t ration your praise and acknowledgement of others’ hard work! It doesn’t cost you a thing to speak up!
  5. Highlight A Team Member on Social Media – You don’t have to be the boss to recognize and appreciate a co-worker on your LinkedIn page! Tag them in a post and tell the world how fantastic they are. (Don’t forget – be specific.)
  6. Treat Someone to Breakfast or Lunch – Especially if you are a leader – take the time to take a member of your team out to breakfast or lunch monthly. Use this time to get to know them and connect with them as a person! Try to take a different person each month.
  7. Remember Their Important Days – Everyone on your team has a birthday and a ‘workiversary’. Make it your business to know when those days are, and try to make those days special! But, and this is important – do it for everyone, not just when you feel like it or remember, or you will make those who are skipped feel unappreciated! Create a plan and stick to it!
  8. Do Your Homework – I totally stole this idea from one of our top clients (Burns & Scalo Real Estate, I’m looking at you!). They have collected information about their employees likes and dislikes so they can do nice things from time to time… I stole (err… ‘benchmarked’) the idea a few years ago! Now, every member of our staff fills out a short Google form. It contains things like – favorite Starbucks order, favorite place to shop, favorite charity, etc. By now, they’ve all forgotten that they ever filled out that form – so they are surprised when I send them something that’s ‘right’ for them!
  9. Talk to Your Staff about Why Their Work is Important – People want to feel that the work they do makes a difference in the world. A roofer isn’t just laying shingles. He’s providing shelter for a family so that they can go to bed each night confident that they will be warm and dry in the morning. A property management company isn’t just leasing space. They are creating vibrant communities where people can be safe and thrive! What does your company do, and how can you relate it to your employees to help them understand how vital their work is?
  10. Send some Gift Cards – If you have the budget for it, give out occasional gift cards to show appreciation. But there’s a catch! Make an effort to learn about others (see #8) – what they like and do not like, where they shop, what they do for entertainment. Don’t give a Starbucks Gift Card to someone who doesn’t drink coffee – maybe they’d prefer ice cream! Putting in this little extra research and effort pays off in the long run!

Don’t wait until Employee Appreciation Day to appreciate your employees and co-workers, and don’t wait until Valentine’s Day to show your loved ones that you care. Taking time throughout the year to do these things will ensure stronger connections and more consistent feelings of inclusion and appreciation.

And now… as Paul Harvey would say… ‘the rest of the story…’ I suspect that the year my dad didn’t even get my mom a card, it was a matter of no money rather than my mom not ‘needing’ a gift. But she never allowed us to think that. And to this day she maintains that what matters is what you do every day, not what you do one day. Of course, my parents argue, like any couple married for over 50 years will – but to this day, she still doesn’t need a grand gesture on Valentine’s Day to know he loves her. Because he tells her and shows her every day of their lives. And like my dad, you can show your co-workers and employees every day, and not just one day.

What other ideas can you think of to acknowledge and appreciate your staff? We’d love to hear them!

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