employee appreciation
People clapping at conference table

By Natalie Hackbarth

Another “Employee Appreciation Day” has passed on by this year, and employees have long since forgotten the $5 coffee cards you dropped into their mailbox with a impersonal thank-you card. While it’s great to have a specific day dedicated to showing employees how much they matter to the organization, appreciation is something business leaders should focus on year-round, in genuine ways that encourage lasting engagement.

Most employers want to believe they already go out of their way to acknowledge employees’ hard work, however, the 2015 research for the State of Employee Feedback whitepaper by my company, Quantum Workplace, found that only 10.2 percent of the nearly 300 surveyed organizations listed employee appreciation as a top priority for the next year.

Given those unfortunate statistics, there is a lot of underappreciated talent out there. And odds are, you’re not doing enough to show your employees that they matter.

One might argue that there are more important things to focus on like employee engagement and talent acquisition. But unless employee appreciation is incorporated into these strategies, there will be little headway made.

Employers should put themselves in employees’ shoes for a moment: would you be loyal to an organization that only said “thank you” once a year? Would you work harder for an obligatory pat-on-the-back, every March 4?

It’s time to start celebrating employees on a daily basis. Here are three ways to make every day employee appreciation day:

1. Scheduling regular one-on-one meetings.

A big part of acknowledging employees is taking the time to check-in with them. Not only as a way of seeing how they’re doing, but also to recognize all their hard work. However, many organizations limit how often they conduct performance reviews with employees, as well as the topics that are discussed. Which makes sense considering traditional performance reviews are mostly meaningless.

But there are other options out there that can make a real difference for employees. In the Quantum Workplace State of Employee Feedback report, 54.6 percent of highly engaged companies scheduled quarterly or even monthly one-on-one conversations between employees and their managers. Only 22.2 percent of disengaged companies did.

In order to have more engaged employees, be a more engaged leader. Meet more frequently with team members. Allow managers and employees to discuss any issues that are impeding individual success and work together to overcome those obstacles.

And always remember to acknowledge their strengths and any improvements they’ve made since the last meeting. Afterall, we are talking about employee appreciation here. Timely acknowledgement will show employees that managers are paying attention to how they are positively impacting the company.

2. Respond to employee surveys with action.

Employee surveys are a great way to gauge employee satisfaction and the state of the workplace. Yet many employers only gather feedback and never take action. And let’s face it, what’s the point in taking a survey if nothing is going to be done with the information?

The funny thing is that employees don’t expect employers to really listen to what they have to say anyway. A 2015 IBM survey of more than 24,000 employees found that 22 percent of Millennials, 29 percent of Gen X, and just 38 percent of Baby Boomers believe employers will act after listening to employees’ feedback.

Prove employees wrong. Let them know their voices matter. And after every employee survey, be it an engagement or exit survey, create an actionable plan based on the information that was gathered. Commit those plans to action, where employees and management can encourage and hold each other accountable.

For example, if it becomes apparent that employees are regularly leaving because they feel there’s a lack of growth opportunities at the company, make a plan to inform employees of any promotions that become available, as well as how they can earn them.

Also, revisit the company training programs and look for ways to make them more applicable to employees’ ongoing career success. Reward hard work and dedication with growth and mobility in the company.

By responding to employee surveys with actions, employees will know that their opinions and happiness are a priority.

3. Let employees spread the love.

Hate to break it to you, but employees don’t work hard just to gain their employer’s approval. In fact, for many people, their coworkers are the number one motivator for going the extra mile. A 2015 Virgin Pulse survey found that for nearly 40 percent of employees, their co-workers are what they love most about their job.

Give them a chance to spread that love.

A peer-to-peer recognition program allows everyone in the office to share their appreciation for each other each and every day of the year. Whether it’s through weekly leader boards or a television in the office proudly displaying employees’ compliments, employees will have a chance recognize achievements and push each other to work harder.

Employee Appreciation Day is an important day. But what about the other 364 days a year? Does letting employees know that they matter even cross your mind? Acknowledging employees’ hard work should be a daily occurrence. Period. And if your organization isn’t making employee appreciation a priority, it’s time to do better.

What other ways can employers make every day Employee Appreciation Day? Share in the comments below!

Natalie Hackbarth is the content coordinator of Quantum Workplace, a company dedicated to providing every organization with quality engagement tools that guide their next step in making work better every day. You can connect with Natalie and the Quantum Workplace team on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.