20 Ways to Show Employee Appreciation

  • Mar 11
20 Ways to Show Employee Appreciation

Working in a thankless environment is one surefire way to eventually reach burnout. After all, putting in major effort that helps an organization succeed deserves recognition at the very least. And when company leaders forget to show employee appreciation, they do so to their own detriment.

When individuals feel undervalued and unappreciated, there’s a good chance they’ll move on to another job that doesn’t make the same mistakes. So, knowing how to recognize your employees for a job well done is essential for strong motivation and a healthy work culture.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can let your workers know you value their contributions. Some are easy to implement while others take a bit more effort. But the beauty of it all is that you can find what works for your specific organization and employees. That way, you can create a more grateful atmosphere for your organization.

Great Ways to Show Employee Appreciation in Your Workplace

1. Ask Employees What They Like

Sometimes, company leaders feel like they have to be coy with employee appreciation. It’s almost as if they have to skirt around the issue to keep from coming across negatively. But one of the easiest ways to show workers you value their efforts is simply asking them what kinds of rewards they prefer. Moreover, this sort of conversation ensures that you offer forms of appreciation that actually make individuals feel understood.

Think about it for a moment. Imagine you had an employee who landed a major contract with a new customer, and you threw them a pizza party to celebrate. Then, they let you know that they’re lactose intolerant and can’t have the cheese, it could lead to a fairly awkward situation. In fact, what’s meant to be congratulatory instead turns potentially insulting, because you didn’t know that person well enough to reward them well.

Instead, sometimes asking employees what they’d like in terms of employee appreciation can be the best way forward. That, in itself, demonstrates care to “get it right” and really offer thins that hit home for your workers. So, even if it can be somewhat awkward broaching the topic, even if it can spoil a surprise, check with them. It can help make the event even more special and meaningful.

2. Decorate and Personalize Work Areas

On the surface, decorating a work area might not initially seem like much of a reward, much less a way to show employee appreciation. But some companies have fairly strict policies when it comes to personalization. Allowing those who go above and beyond to make their space feel like their own can be a great step forward.

In fact, it helps workers feel like they have a concrete space they belong inside the company. This form of reward goes past simple decorations and has psychological importance. If someone feels like they have a stake and a place they belong, their dedication also strengthens.

Perhaps your company already allows individuals to bring personal items to spruce up their work areas. If that’s the case, you could put a different spin on this idea. Set aside a specific budget and allow your employees to use that money to purchase new decorations to further personalize their space. That way, they can do so without having to pay for it all themselves.

3. Take Employees Out for Meals

Sharing a meal with someone is one of the most equalizing and meaningful ways to bring people together. In fact, scientifically speaking, food has a way of building trust. So, when you sit down at the table with someone, you show your humanness and care. If you take employees out for meals, you not only show them appreciation – you take care of their most basic need. In essence, you show them that you care about their wellbeing.

Beyond the psychological and scientifically researched benefits of eating together, sharing a meal provides the opportunity to bond. Workers and company leaders have the chance to get to know one another on a more personal level, outside of the hierarchy of the organization. It signals that both members of the team are vital and important.

Plus, getting out of the office for a little bit helps rejuvenate workers and prep them for the remainder of the workday.

Eating out might seem like a small form of employee appreciation, but its ramifications can be immense.

4. Celebrate Employees Publicly

Now, this method of employee appreciation comes with a caveat – know your employees. Not all individuals want public recognition. In fact, it could even make some of them feel uncomfortable. So, before employing this sort of reward, make sure you recognize whether it will embarrass or encourage an individual.

That said, public recognition is something that many people crave. They want others to know that they’ve helped make a contribution to the organization’s success. However, it seems vain and prideful to go around talking about it themselves. Leaders need to take the impetus here and acknowledge great work in front of others.

In terms of utility, this also helps other workers know who to turn to if they have questions or need help. Because public recognition points to people who have overcome certain obstacles and might be able to provide insight. So, not only does this help strengthen the individual, it helps bolster the entire organization.

5. Offer Extra Time Off

Maybe this is the form of employee appreciation you’ve been waiting for. After all, it seems like a common way of expression thanks. Allowing those who achieve great results to take extra time off during the year offers the chance for rest. It helps individuals recuperate after hard or dedicated work. That way, they can recuperate and come back ready to dive in again.

Alternatively, they can use that time to spend with family, vacation, or catch up on other things hanging over their heads. No matter, the result is the same. The company shows an interest in their wellbeing and allows them the opportunity to use their time as desired.

Naturally, depending on the nature of their work, this might be more or less possible for some employees. However, wherever possible, leaders can help take on some extra tasks to allow employees the chance to have more time away.

6. Gloss Over Insignificant Mistakes

Perhaps this isn’t so much a form of employee appreciation as it is a formative part of a healthy company culture. After all, focusing on silly mistakes that make no real impact is a great way to discourage employees. However, if a boss can wave away a simple accident and say, “No big deal”, it builds trust.

Workers constantly walking on egg shells for fear of retribution have much less a chance of thinking outside the box. They don’t bring as valuable a contribution to the table, not for lack of insight but because of oppressive leadership. So, whether you employ this as a form of employee appreciation or an overall part of your corporate culture, recognize the impact. Glossing over insignificant mistakes can help create a much stronger team.

7. Allow Hybrid Work Opportunities

Again, this employee appreciation method comes with certain caveats – particularly that it only applies to individuals who can work from home. So, if you’re in an industry that has to be on-site, it isn’t quite as applicable, if at all. However, where requirements and tasks allow, giving the option for hybrid work is a great show of gratitude.

It allows individuals to skip out on the commute, work from the comfort of home, and establish routines that work best for them. Whether you allow this for a designated period of time or as a permanent option for valued employees is a matter of preference. However, keep in mind that hybrid work doesn’t exclude coming into the office for important meetings and events. So, in a sense, your employees can get the best of both worlds while still meeting their obligations.

8. Pay Commuter Fees

If your organization isn’t one that can support remote work, and alternative option to reduce employee fees is paying for commutes. That is, covering gas and potentially other necessary payments to help employees make it in to the office. In fact, this is another area where the line blurs between decent workplace practices and shows of employee appreciation.

However, if you’re not already doing it, you can absolutely employ it as a method for showing your gratitude. Particularly for those workers who have to travel longer distances and continually show loyalty and dedication.

In the long-run, making it easier for people to come to work shows that you want them there. But it also helps demonstrate your care for their personal lives, helping alleviate at least one aspect of financial burden.

9. Remember Anniversaries

One of the simplest yet meaningful acts you can take as a leader is pointing out and celebrating employee anniversaries. After all, the median worker tenure in one job is only around 4 years. So, celebrating each year an individual stays with a company is worthwhile.

As with many other forms of employee appreciation, it shows personal recognition rather than just gratitude for a team. It also acknowledges the amount of time they’ve given to the success of the organization.

In a sense, it’s like a birthday. Remembering someone’s “workiversary” is a way of publicly noting their importance to the company. And because it’s simple, every organization should take the opportunity to do it.

10. Let Employees Lead Short Sprints

Sometimes, one of the best ways to recognize a person’s hard work is by affording them more responsibility. Sometimes, this might mean a promotion but not always. Workers can also be given the opportunity to lead in various other ways. For example, heading up a project for their department or leading a team on a particular sprint.

This not only recognizes that these employees are capable and worthy of greater responsibility. It also grants them the opportunity to better hone their skills and prove their value to the organization. It carries the opportunity to further their career and gain new insights and skills they otherwise might have missed out on.

Of course, this doesn’t mean throwing employees into the deep end of a project and demanding they swim. That doesn’t seem very rewarding or appreciative. However, allowing them more freedom to direct tasks within the scope of their ability is a perfect way to recognize their capabilities in a public sphere.

11. Plan Family-Friendly Events

Growing up, my dad’s company took a yearly trip to a nearby river, and all the families would cook out before going on a float trip. This was something we all looked forward to – at least until the year we were stuck in the middle of the river during a huge storm. But that’s an entirely different story.

The point is, planning family-friendly events allows workers to get to know each other on a more personal basis. So, whether that’s a float trip, sporting event, or something entirely different, it can help bolster relationships.

12. Write Simple Thank-You Notes

Some methods of employee appreciation become quite extravagant. They can cost an organization heavily, and demand time input that seems exorbitant. But those aren’t always the best ways to encourage and motivate workers. Sometimes, the easiest way is to simply write a thank-you note.

Particularly when coming from leaders, these personalized expressions of gratitude can become very meaningful. While they require relatively little effort, they aren’t necessarily a “simple way out”. They don’t replace larger forms of appreciation. However, they provide a small reminder of the value workers bring to an organization and recognize their importance.

13. Pay Attention to Personal Wants and Needs

Of course, paying attention to personal wants and needs isn’t in itself a form of employee appreciation. However, it’s a vital aspect of personalizing your expressions and helping individuals feel valued. And to that extent, it can turn into a form of gratitude.

For example, listen closely when employees tell you about their lives. Recognize their pain points and interests. Know what things help make them tick. That way, when it comes time to recognize their efforts, you have information that can help you do something truly meaningful.

Offering your star employee a vacation of their choice is great. But if they have a sick loved-one at home who can’t travel, it might come across as insensitive. Instead, offering to help with medical bills or something of the sort cuts to the heart of what they need most.

In short, pay attention and truly listen to what your workers have to say. Because doing so might help inspire creative and impactful ideas for employee recognition.

14. Establish Mentorship Opportunities

Whether within the company or outside, mentoring can help boost an employee’s career prospects immensely. Sometimes, it’s clear that a specific individual would make a great addition to a leadership team, but they still need more training beforehand. Helping connect them with a mentor and then paying for those services as needed can be a major help.

That way, they have the opportunity to work closely with someone else who can direct them toward appropriate growth goals. Again, this could be an existing leader within the company, a retired thought leader, anyone. So long as they have the expertise, willingness to help and time to spend.

It showcases the organization’s belief in their employee, recognizing the value they already contribute. But it also looks forward to the type of changes they can bring to the company in the future.

15. Hold an Awards Ceremony

Another interesting and fun method for employee appreciation is holding an annual awards ceremony. Some companies that already do this keep it serious while others make it more of a comedic affair. However you choose to do it, make sure it fits the culture and needs of your company.

Regardless, publicly recognizing the input of individuals in a formal way such as this can make for a great event. In larger organizations, it helps members understand the contributions others make. In fact, some people might never have met before, and suddenly have new awareness of key individuals.

In smaller companies, such a ceremony might function differently. Regardless, whether silly or serious, coming up with awards and ways of recognizing key efforts can be both fun and inspiring for all involved.

16. Cover Health Expenses

Of course, covering health care costs for employees is an expensive contribution. Particularly if a show of appreciation means going above and beyond the normal fees. However, as in the previous example, where someone has a sick family member, it can be incredibly moving.

Knowing they don’t have to worry about costs means employees can walk through some of the most difficult times with at least a bit more hope. And taking this anxiety off their plate helps relieve them of stress and other inhibitors that would impact both home and work.

So, while it can be extremely costly, sometimes the price is worth it to help show an employee that the company truly cares.

17. Let Employees Set Their Schedule

Some people work best at night – others first thing in the morning. Not all people are alike in that regard. And while running a tight ship means better alignment for meetings and other tasks, some give can also be helpful. So, for employees who don’t already have much of a say in when they work, a form of appreciation could be allowing them to dictate their schedule.

Of course, this only works for companies which have the option of wavering from a set timeframe. Office workers might benefit most from this sort of reward. However, the needs and function of the organization will help determine the possibility of this sort of scheme.

If there’s little inherent risk or fallout from doing so, it makes sense to allow employees the opportunity to work when it makes the most sense for them. So, whether that’s because of family constraints, optimal working times, or some other factor, they can benefit from it.

18. Implement Employee Point-Spend Systems

Gamification of is a relatively recent phenomenon that’s gained a bit of traction with companies in completely different sectors. For example, some companies implement point systems, where employees can spend awarded points for different real-world items. For example, completing a project might provide you with fifty points, which could be spent for a gift card to a restaurant.

Obviously, the financial health of the company will largely determine the viability of this sort of employee appreciation. However, for those which have the freedom to do so, creating this sort of system can be both fun and meaningful for workers. And moreover, it can inspire them to achieve better results and strive for success.

19. Let Employees Decide Catered Meals

We already discussed the importance of sitting down to a meal with other people. But there are more than one ways to do that. Going out to eat represents one path, but allowing employees to choose catered meals represents another avenue. That way, the team can relax in the office rather than going offsite.

While not in itself and entirely different method of employee appreciation, this showcases the variety of ways to apply the same idea differently.

20. Providing Continuing Education Opportunities

Finally, we come to the final entry on our list – continuing education. Naturally, as a provider of online courses, it makes sense that we’d try to put in a plug for this sort of reward. But it isn’t entirely selfish. After all, continuing education is something many employees crave, because it paves the way toward better positions and opportunities.

So, for a company to provide their workers with learning points toward recognition of personal worth. It notes that workers are worth pouring into. It shows that a company wants its employees to advance and become better, even if not for the organization’s sake.

So, if you’re looking for a way to simultaneously help employees grow while providing them with an avenue forward, consider providing continuing education reimbursement.

Check Out Other Methods of Employee Appreciation

Of course, there are plenty of other ways out there to show employee appreciation and create a positive work environment that we haven’t described here. In fact, the first Friday in March is even dedicated to employee appreciation. These only cover a handful of the methods we think could be helpful. But your organization might benefit from something else entirely.

If you’re still trying to figure out what might help most, consider taking our Management course. It shows different aspects of running a business, including methods of rewarding employees. That way, you can start formulating your own ideas about how to recognize your workers in meaningful ways.

Article written by Braden Norwood

Last updated March 11, 2024