If you’re a manager, you know the importance of showing appreciation for employees. It boosts productivity, strengthens positive relationships, and keeps employees engaged so that they’re less likely to hunt for other jobs
With only 32% of employees in the U.S. feel engaged, showing appreciation for employees must be a top priority for leaders.
But here’s the thing.
Even if employers know they need to appreciate their staff, when it comes to actually expressing that appreciation, many managers get stuck. They tend to overcomplicate the process.
Fortunately, employee appreciation isn’t–and shouldn’t–be difficult.
In this blog, we’ll discuss several ways that managers can show their appreciation for employees–in ways that don’t cause you to stress or require a ton of money.
Table of Contents:
Overview of What Employee Appreciation Looks Like
Employee appreciation can look like many things. It can be as simple as saying “thank you” for a job well done or offering praise for a project completed successfully.
Verbal praise, in private and/or public, can make employees feel great. But it’s important to recognize your employees’ accomplishments and overall character in more tangible ways.
In general terms, tangible employee appreciation can include formal awards, cash bonuses, physical gifts, or job-related benefits.
Recognizing achievements helps motivate employees and boosts morale while increasing loyalty and retention rates within the organization.
Examples of Job-Related Benefits that Express Employee Appreciation
Flexible Schedule. Offering remote or hybrid working arrangements is a great way to show appreciation to employees.
Flexible work structures and hours enable staff to fulfill their responsibilities while allowing them more autonomy in their everyday lives.
Why is a flexible schedule a great way to express your appreciation? Because it shows your staff that you value their time, interests, and demands outside of work just as much as what they contribute at the office.
Offering flexible or fully remote work actually has two major benefits.
First, it’s a great way to make employees feel appreciated. Second, a study found that 73% of managers believe that flexible work has increased the productivity of their staff.
Professional Development. Providing opportunities for professional development is another way to recognize your team members’ hard work, dedication, and inner character.
Offering courses, programs, and conferences on topics related to their role or career advancement programs helps staff reach their goals both professionally and personally. In turn, employees feel valued by you.
Providing and paying for professional development opportunities demonstrates that you care about your team’s advancement.
It shows that you view them as more than people who just do your bidding. Rather, it shows that you’re interested in them as whole people–with personal and professional goals–and you want to help them reach their full potential.
Extra time off. Everybody loves an extra vacation day or two (or three). Plus, this coveted gift divests you of the task of figuring out what type of physical gift or gift card that your individual employees want.
In other words, everyone appreciates extra time off.
Examples of Truly Meaningful Rewards and Gifts for Employees
When it comes to rewarding and showing appreciation for employees, there are many options available.
But what type of gift or reward would your employees truly appreciate? Sure, job-related benefits offer great value.
But giving a physical gift goes a long way in making employees feel valued.
If you’re considering company-branded, personalized gifts such as fancy pens or plaques, stop right there.
Your employees will not feel truly appreciated by having to find space for an item that doesn’t offer them much use.
Instead, consider gift cards or cash. These gifts offer employees ultimate flexibility in how they choose to use them. They provide immediate gratification that simply cannot be matched by any other type of reward.
Considerations for Cash Gifts
Your staff wants more money. Not sure how to give cash appropriately in the form of a gift?
We wrote a whole blog for you on whether cash gifts are appropriate.
For now, just make sure that you follow your company’s policies on cash gifts. More importantly, consider the recipient.
Let’s say you’re worried one of your staff will feel awkward receiving money as a gift. In that case, figure out a discreet way to give them the money. Maybe that means direct deposit as a nice surprise in their bank account.
Alternatively, there may be times when you don’t want to give cash. In that case, think of another gift that your recipient will truly enjoy.
This requires you to know a bit about their likes, interests, lifestyle, etc. For example, let’s say you want to give an employee a weekend trip to the beach.
But what if your employee really doesn’t like the beach? What if they love exploring new cities and would much prefer a city trip?
Now, your well-intentioned and generous trip to the beach fails to have a lasting positive impact on the employee.
If you had just taken some time to research your employee’s likes and preferences, you would’ve put together a gift that makes them feel much more seen and appreciated.
Considerations for Gift Cards
Gift cards have the power to make your staff feel truly appreciated.
But here’s the thing. Gift cards are only meaningful if they mean something to the recipient.
For example, let’s say you want to give your administrative assistant a gift card. Maybe you don’t know much about them personally, so you buy a gift card for Starbucks.
In your mind, a Starbucks gift card might make sense. Most people drink coffee or tea and either visit Starbucks as a treat or as part of a regular routine.
But what if your administrative assistant doesn’t like coffee or tea? What if they love making it at home instead? Or what if they can’t get to Starbucks easily? What if they prefer local coffee shops?
In this case, your well-meaning Starbucks gift card is not meaningful to your employee. Therefore, your intended impact of making your employee feel appreciated doesn’t occur.
Even worse, your employee could feel slightly annoyed or misunderstood that you didn’t think to ask them about or haven’t noticed their interests, likes, etc.
If you don’t know those things about your employees, try to find out. Pay attention to what your recipients chat about with one another or with you during non-work conversations.
Observe what your employees wear or carry with them. Do they like a particular sports team? Do they carry a specific brand of a water bottle?
Questions like these will guide you in purchasing a gift card that makes a lasting, positive impact on your team.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to learn more about your employees, that’s okay. A great gift card option is a prepaid Visa card.
Most physical and online retailers accept Visa cards, giving your staff much more freedom than an ill-researched Starbucks card.
Expressing appreciation to staff through tailored rewards and presents is an excellent way of conveying gratitude.
To ensure that your gratitude has a lasting impact on your employees, think of whether your gift will truly bring them joy. If you’re not sure a certain gift can do that, choose something else that will have a greater impact.
The Importance of Personal Notes to Employees
One of the easiest, cheapest, yet oft-overlooked ways to show appreciation for employees is to write them personal notes.
Personal notes don’t have to be long. As long as they’re specific to the recipient, length doesn’t matter.
Additionally, personal notes can come in many forms:
- Written note on stationery
- A store-bought card with a handwritten message
- Typed letter
- And more.
Regardless of format, a personal note from a boss or leadership team to individual employees can make your employees surge with feelings of appreciation.
Personal notes are important because they require you to state what you appreciate about a specific person, making your team feel seen and, therefore, special.
Again, when writing a note, keep your recipient(s) at top of mind.
Meaningful notes and cards require more than generic phrases like “thank you.” It takes thoughtfulness and specificity in order to make the message truly resonate with the recipient.
Tips for Writing Personal Notes to Employees
Express Gratitude for Their Contributions. Start by expressing sincere thanks and appreciation for their contributions.
Acknowledge any specific tasks or projects they have completed and any extra effort they put in regularly.
Let them know how their hard work has been beneficial not only to you but also to the company at large.
Acknowledge Their Achievements. Recognize their successes and milestones, no matter how small or big.
Include details about what made this achievement noteworthy so that the employee knows exactly why it was special enough for your recognition.
Describe The Impact They Have Made. Make sure your message is tailored towards each individual employee. This will help them feel appreciated personally rather than being thanked as part of a team who did something collectively.
Describe how their efforts have impacted other people within the organization or outside of it, such as customers, partners, etc. This will help illustrate just how important their role is within the entire company.
Give concrete examples of situations where an employee’s work really stood out among others. Maybe they met tight deadlines while still producing high-quality results. Maybe they persevered on a project or goal in difficult circumstances. Or maybe they consistently exceed expectations when dealing with customer service issues.
Focus on Their Character. Here’s the kicker. Focusing on character is a big difference between employee recognition and employee appreciation. A blog post on that topic is coming soon.
In your note, talk about what you notice and appreciate about who your employees are as people, not what they accomplish.
Doing this will make your employees feel so seen and special.
When writing your note, think about the recipient’s personality, how they fit into and enhance your company culture, and the kinds of things they do when you’re not looking.
For example, maybe this employee goes out of their way to check on coworkers going through a difficult time. Maybe they’re the one who always changes out the water bottle when it gets low. Perhaps they wear themed outfits to the office or during calls on holidays.
What about their character do you appreciate as their boss? Include that in your note to maximize the impact of your gift to them.
Recap of How to Show Appreciation for Employees
As a manager or member of a leadership team, it is essential to show appreciation for employees.
Appreciation can come in many forms:
- Formal awards
- Work bonuses
- Physical gifts
- Job-related benefits, such as flexible work schedules, educational opportunities, and extra time off
- Cash gifts
Cash and gift cards are ideal gifts for expressing appreciation for employees. They allow your employees much more freedom over how they use their gift than a physical gift.
If you want to give a physical gift, ensure that it’s something your employees will use. This requires you to know about your employees’ interests, hobbies, lifestyles, and dislikes.
Above all else, when choosing a gift, prioritize your employees, i.e., your gift recipients. Think about gifts that will actually add joy and/or ease to their lives.
When you give your staff gifts that suit them specifically, they will feel a profound sense of appreciation, which has a lasting impact.
Tips for Making Employee Gifts Easier to Organize in 2023
We get how hard, frustrating, and annoying choosing employee gifts can be. That’s why we created a free guide, which you can download below.
This guide will walk you through the process of how to organize a gift for a group of people, which gifts we recommend, and a timeline to help you stay on task while you attend to the regular demands of your job and life.