Today is Employee Appreciation Day–which comes around once a year. And while it’s great to have an official day to acknowledge and appreciate employees for all the hard work that they do, HR practices need to change from being annual to being real-time.

Many companies do a great job recognizing their employees on Employee Appreciation Day. They go all out, and the festivities may include:

  • Personalized thank you notes
  • An ice-cream sundae bar
  • On-site masseuses or manicurists  
  • Office award ceremony
  • Coffee shop gift cards
  • Better coffee
  • Free yoga
  • Fancy catered lunch
  • Half day of work

These are amazing appreciation initiatives; however, just like saying “I love you” to your significant other with flowers and a box of chocolate isn’t especially special when it’s Valentine’s Day, even so appreciating employees ONLY on Employee Appreciation Day isn’t particularly meaningful.

What’s more impactful is when you also appreciate an employee when it’s not Employee Appreciation Day. Some meaningful actions may include:

  • Remembering the particulars of what they’re working on and check in on them to offer help or guidance and to make sure everything’s okay.
  • Making it a point to thank them and give them an extra pat on the back.
  • When you make them and their well-being a priority, even when customer relations are going crazy and you’re up to your eyeballs in product development.
  • Appreciate them for who they are, not just for the work that they do.

In his excellent TED Talk on the Power of Appreciation, Mike Robbins makes an important differentiation between appreciation and recognition:

Recognition: Positive feedback based on results and performance

Appreciation: More about who they are rather than what they do

 

 

 

Getting Real With Appreciation

When we really learn to start appreciating people, it’s not so conditional. We’re no longer appreciating them because they did something well, or because it’s Employee Appreciation Day. We appreciate them because we really do appreciate them, and we want them to know we care.

Employee appreciation doesn’t have to be a huge deal, a big award, or an announcement in front of the entire company. Appreciation can be as simple as an “I’m proud of you”, or “I value your efforts”. In his TED Talk, Mike Robbins shares 3 simple and powerful tips for wielding the power of appreciation in order to make your employees feel valued and inspired:

 

 

How to Unleash the Power of Appreciation Every Day:

 

1. Look for it. 

It may be more difficult to appreciate certain individuals but remember, “appreciate” doesn’t mean “like”, “agree with”, or “be best friends with”. So, recognize the value of that person. You can recognize the value of any human being at any time for any reason.  And when you look for it, you’ll find it.

2. Create Routines & Commitments to Continue to Follow Through.

We often become inspired during events like this, and we’re often diligent in appreciating our staff and co-workers for a period of time, but then it wears off. It’s easy to forget. To drift back into the daily grind. Other priorities come up, and we stop doing it.

This is why it’s so important to put simple practices into place to make appreciation a lifestyle rather than a passing trend. We need to be intentional about making sure that we follow through, and keep following through, long after Employee Appreciation Day is over. Mike Robbins offers several practical methods to make appreciation part of our everyday lifestyle:

 

 

Practical Applications of Appreciation:

1. Just tell them.

Tell your employees, your spouse, your kids, that you appreciate them. Sweet and simple, just say it out loud.

2. Schedule it.

It may feel weird to put a reminder in your calendar to compliment your team, however, it’s a useful tactic to make it part of your everyday routine. And eventually, you won’t need to schedule it anymore. It will come naturally, and everyone will be happier for it. 

3.  Start receiving compliments more graciously.

This is a simple, yet radically transformative factor. Are we nurturing a culture in which it’s okay to compliment others? Sometimes we get a little funny about it. Do you know what you’re supposed to say when someone compliments you? “Thank you”. Usually almost always when you say something after, it’s weird and insincere. For example, if someone came up to Mike after his TED talk and told him: “Great talk!” and he replied with “Thanks–you too!” *oops*

Or even worse, sometimes we argue with the other person about how we’re really not worthy of their compliment. “No–it really wasn’t that good”. We’re telling them that we’re not worth their praise.

It’s interesting to note that when one human being expresses kindness and appreciation towards another human being, and the other receives it, it raises the serotonin in both brains. It literally gives both individuals a natural high, and it’s something that’s healthy and enjoyable. When we learn to accept compliments graciously and openly, this creates an environment which is much more conducive for appreciation to be expressed.

 

In Conclusion

So by all means, appreciate your employees on Employee Appreciation Day. Tell them how awesome they are. Bring in some ice cream. Let everyone go home early.

But don’t forget that at the end of the day, it’s not the fancy infrequent events that matter the most. It’s the small, caring sentiments when your employees aren’t necessarily expecting them. About developing relationships and showing them that you care about them as people, not just as workers. It’s about making them feel valued, no matter what day it is.

At WorkTango, we believe in nurturing a strong employee appreciation culture, which is why we work hard to help companies move from annual or infrequent employee engagement surveys to “actively listening to employee voice”. We want employees to feel appreciated. And in order to do that, we need to listen to them, and then we need to take action.

So let’s listen to our employees, actively. Let’s appreciate them, intentionally. And instead of just spending one day, let’s focus this entire year on celebrating, supporting and appreciating our strongest assets and most powerful points of impact: our employees.