A positive company culture is something every HR professional and CEO aims for. Yet one of the biggest challenges in recent years has been unlocking the equation to keeping employees and team members happy and engaged.
In the 2023 work reality, both professional and emotional needs have become equally important parts of the employee experience. Not only are these crucial for helping bring the best out of your current workforce, but also for making your company a desirable place for new talent.
A thriving workplace is within reach
When it comes to win-win strategies, employee recognition and appreciation are becoming key players in improving employee retention and happiness. They come with many benefits for both companies and employees alike, from helping team members feel more successful and accomplished to simply making employees happier and more engaged.
Thankfully, once prioritized, these strategies can easily be implemented into your company culture and lead the way to happier employees, managers, and CEOs.
Employee appreciation and recognition are very similar. In fact, they’re so similar that people will often use them interchangeably. But the reality is that there are some key differences between the two concepts that allow them to bring different things to the table. By using them both, you’ll be able to create a transformative effect on your company culture and employee happiness.
To help you out, this article will provide a complete guide to everything you need to know about employee recognition and appreciation, including:
- What employee recognition and employee appreciation are
- The difference between the two terms
- Why employee recognition and employee appreciation matter and the impact they can bring to your organization
- How to effectively integrate these practices into your work culture
Let’s dive in.
About employee recognition
Employee recognition at its core is about positive reinforcement for the things that employees do. When you recognize an employee, it is usually an expression of gratitude for specific achievements, contributions, and achievements.
Employee recognition comes in many different forms. A quick compliment during a morning meeting counts as recognition, but so does a promotion or a raise.
Statements that begin with “Thank you for doing ______” or “Good job on the _______” are likely to fall under employee recognition. Employee recognition examples include sayings like “Great job on the presentation you gave!” or “Thanks for going the extra mile to get those customer emails answered on time.”
Types of actions that you might give recognition for include:
- Finishing work in time for a tight deadline
- Meeting milestones or goals such as a sales target
- Doing an exceptional job at a task
- Stepping up to help others on the team
Employee recognition might also be given in honor of certain work-related milestones such as promotions and work anniversaries.
About employee appreciation
While employee recognition is centered around recognizing the things that people do, employee appreciation is about showing gratitude for who people are. Rather than being tied to a specific result or action, employee appreciation is shown for an employee’s inherent value to their team and organization and their unique traits.
This is why, when you are offering an employee appreciation, you won’t typically mention any particular achievement that they made or task that they completed. Instead, you might mention one of their abilities or positive attributes or simply express a general admiration, approval, or gratitude to them as a person.
Employee appreciation messages might sound like, “You’re such an important part of this team” or “Thank you for always being willing to help out.”
A common catalyst for employee appreciation is special occasions and personal life events.
Occasions to show employee appreciation
It’s fairly easy to know when to give an employee recognition. When an achievement or action is notable enough to deserve recognition, you’ll know it.
But because appreciation isn’t directly tied to specific actions, it can be trickier to know when the right time to offer it is. A great solution for this problem is giving appreciation on special occasions. These are a perfect opportunity for congratulating an employee and showing them how grateful you are for what they bring to the company.
Some occasions that are ideal for employee appreciation include:
- First day of work
Showing a new employee how excited you are to have them join the organization is a great way to start building a healthy relationship
A classic occasion for showing somebody some love, birthdays make for an obvious - and important - chance to give an employee a bit of special attention.
- Work anniversaries
With the average employee switching jobs every 4.2 years, work milestones are certainly occasions worth celebrating.
Another classic occasion for employee appreciation, traditionally gift-giving holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah are a great opportunity to give employees something special.
- Employee appreciation day
Did you know that employee appreciation day is celebrated every year on the first Friday in March? If you don’t already celebrate this occasion at your workplace, it’s never too late to start!
- Company kick-offs
One more occasion you can use as an opportunity for employee appreciation is the company kick-off. These company-wide meetings are always a great opportunity to connect with employees, get excited about the upcoming plans and get motivated for the role your team will have in them. With the reality of hybrid work, these meetings are now often held virtually. This presents a delightful opportunity for a simultaneous gift send that will connect all involved and get them feeling even more connected than before.
Marking these occasions with your workforce has the power to turn an employee resignation threat in your company into a great appreciation success.
How recognition and appreciation work together
One thing that’s important to understand is that recognition and appreciation are not an either/or type of thing. In fact, quite the opposite. To get the most out of these workplace practices, employee recognition and appreciation can and should be used together.
Together, recognition and appreciation give your talent the most robust feeling of being seen and valued, helping you get the most benefits to retention, productivity, engagement, and more.
Think about it: if your positive feedback to an employee was only ever tied to their performance, they might start to feel worried that if they had an off day, they would no longer be seen as valuable to the company. But if you add appreciation to the mix, such as a comment about how valued they are by the company and how grateful you are to have them on the team, they’ll understand that they are supported and noticed for who they are, not just what they do.
It also works in the other direction. If all of your positive feedback to your employees is general and doesn’t mention any specific accomplishments, they may feel appreciated by you but be lacking valuable information about what exactly they’re doing well. Including some recognition of what they’re doing successfully can give them the motivation to continue working hard.
This is why employee appreciation and recognition are both equally important pieces of the puzzle.
The business impact for your company
We all inherently understand that it feels nice to be complimented. But the value of employee recognition and appreciation to an organization goes so far beyond that. Whether given in the form of a quick email or a more robust reward, these practices can have major positive effects on a company, including the following.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the working world has seen a seismic shift in what employees expect from their jobs and employers. Employee experience is now more important than ever, with people taking factors such as flexibility, growth, and belonging into consideration as major influences on whether or not to continue working with a company.
And employees aren’t hesitating to leave companies that don’t measure up, with the employee annual voluntary turnover rate estimated to jump nearly 20% in 2022. For employers, all of this turnover adds up, with the estimated cost of losing a single employee being 1.5 to two times their salary.
This is why employee retention has emerged as the top priority for HR leaders in 2023, with companies seeking to find the answer to the all-important question, “How can we encourage employees to stay?”
The data shows that employee appreciation and recognition emerge as incredibly powerful ways to retain employees. When people are asked what would motivate them to remain with their current employer, 69% cite recognition and rewards as a top factor.
And it appears to be even more relevant for younger generations, as 79% of millennials surveyed said an increase in rewards would make them more loyal to their employer.
Appreciation has an impact, too. Praising employees for their inherent value to a team can boost their confidence, and 98% of people say they perform better when they feel confident.
- Employee engagement and happiness
Perhaps the most heart-warming benefit of them all, employee recognition and appreciation are also proven effective ways to make your employees happier and more engaged. In a recent study, 82% of employees considered recognition an important part of their happiness at work.
Not only is this great for your employees, but it’s also great for your organization’s success. In his bestselling book “the Happiness Advantage”, author Shawn Anchor found that happiness raised sales by 37% and employee productivity by 31%.
- Reinforcing company values
Finally, employee recognition and appreciation are a great way to build a positive company culture and reinforce your company’s values. When employee recognition is used effectively, employees are more likely to feel connected to their workplace culture. And it turns out this is a pretty important factor in your ability to attract and retain top talent, with 73% of people saying they would not apply to a company whose values did not align with their own personal values.
Best practices for getting started
Can’t wait to start changing your relationship with the team? We get that! But before you get started, here are a few tips and best practices that you should know about that will help make your efforts as effective as possible.
If the rewards you give are generic, impersonal, and boring, they might actually have the opposite of the intended effect. Giving every single employee at your company the exact same greeting card and gift card combination won’t create nearly the same heartwarming feeling as taking the time to really think about what a person wants.
It’s also important to remain authentic in your delivery and the words you use to express your recognition or appreciation. Whether you’re recognizing an achievement or simply appreciating a person’s value, do your best to be as sincere as possible so they can really feel your authentic gratitude.
If the reward you’re giving is tied to a particular accomplishment or occasion, timeliness is key. The effectiveness of a gift given for great performance in Q2 is diminished if that gift is only delivered sometime in the middle of Q3. Similarly, employee appreciation for somebody’s first day of work won’t pack nearly the same punch if it doesn’t make it to them until their second month on the job.
Employee recognition and appreciation are not a one-and-done kind of deal. The positive feelings that any particular gesture or reward can give will only last for so long. Consistency is an important way to continue seeing the benefits of employee recognition and appreciation perpetually.
A great way to remain consistent in your appreciation and recognition efforts is to remember to give rewards both big and small. A trip to the coast may be a great gesture for an employee’s five-year work anniversary, but what about the five years prior? Even if it’s just a small shout-out here and there, smaller rewards still go a long way to showing you care.
4 employee recognition and appreciation ideas
So it’s clear that employee recognition and appreciation are worth investing in, but how do you do it? Below, we outline some ideas that work for both employee recognition and appreciation that you can begin using as quickly as this quarter, this week, or even today.
1) Make sending meaningful employee gifts part of your culture
80% of C-suite executives believe business gifts generate measurable positive ROI, and not without good reason. Studies have shown that receiving gifts shows an increase in dopamine levels and strengthens connections. Whether you're welcoming a new hire to the team, thanking someone for their involvement in a project or celebrating a work anniversary - sending a personal gift that instantly shows up in someone's inbox just at the right moment can go a long way. And with gift cards being highly impersonal and also easily forgotten, personal and thoughtful gifts are bound to have a greater impact.
The best part about sending employee appreciation gifts is that it doesn’t always have to be for a big budget or major events. By using a platform like Snappy you can reward employees on a regular basis starting from $25 gifts for a job well done up to $1000 for a 10 year workiversary - easily automating key milestones in their journey at your company.
2) Don't skip company off-sites and gatherings
While it can be pricey and therefore can’t always be given as often, travel is certainly a memorable form of recognition. A team or company trip can create lasting memories that bond employees together and create better cooperation, teamwork, and camaraderie in the future.
This is especially important as remote work becomes more and more common, as traveling to company gatherings may be the only opportunity some of your employees have to meet one another in person.
3) Remember the small gestures
Not every form of gratitude and recognition has to require big spending. Small gestures can be just as powerful, especially because they can be given so easily. Small things you can do to recognize and appreciate your employees include:
- Written praise
Think of a sweet email or instant message
- Verbal praise
This simple form of appreciation is incredibly powerful as it is face-to-face, allowing for genuine connection
- Thank you notes
A nice thank you note or greeting card can be kept as a memento as a gift that keeps on giving
Giving an employee recognition in a public setting by shouting them out in a company-wide chat room or at a team meeting can create an extra special sense of accomplishment and recognition. This is especially useful for recognizing specific achievements such as a person successfully meeting a goal.
3) Give managers the leeway for larger gestures
If you want to take it up a notch, you can also try out a larger gesture such as:
- Taking an employee out to lunch
- Treating an entire team to a special event together
- Giving a person an “employee of the month” designation, which can be tied to a more concrete reward such as a special parking spot, a photo on a wall, a shout-out in a company-wide email, and more
Paving the way to a positive employee experience
As employers, we strive to be able to offer a positive employee experience in which the people we work with are happy in their jobs and excited about working with us. One of the most meaningful steps you can take to meet this goal is to practice employee recognition and appreciation.
On their own, both practices can go a long way in making employees happier, boosting their performance, and ensuring their loyalty to your organization. But together, they’re all the more powerful, creating the sense of belonging and confidence that make an employee love their employer.