HR Management & Compliance, Talent

Invest in Recognition: Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day and Enjoy Year-Round Gains

Many employers celebrate holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Halloween with office parties and offer workplace feasts and a chance to socialize with coworkers as a way to show they appreciate their employees. Ironically, there’s a holiday designed specifically for that, and it’s often completely ignored by employers.

Source: OoddySmile Studio / shutterstock

Employee Appreciation Day (EAD), landing this year on March 1, was founded in an effort to strengthen the bond between employer and employee. Of course, that can only happen if it is observed. According to a survey we conducted this time last year, 44% of nearly 1,000 respondents said they thought it was “extremely or very important” that their workplace recognize EAD, but just 10% said their current place of employment actually did anything to commemorate the day.

This discrepancy carries negative implications. Celebrating or ignoring EAD can have a real impact on a company’s bottom line and other things, like employee retention and engagement.

The Investment of Appreciation

When people feel acknowledged for their work and how they uniquely contribute to shared success, they choose to engage, stay longer, and deliver great work which improves business results and increases profitability. Communicating appreciation through meaningful and purposeful recognition is not only the right thing to do for the well-being of those around you, but is a smart investment in improving bottom-line outcomes and accomplishing business objectives.

In places that observe Employee Appreciation Day, for example, we see positive correlations in terms of employee and other workplace attitudes. Among respondents who work at companies that celebrate EAD, 84% said they had a strong desire to be working for their current employer a year from now, compared to 54% whose employers did not work at companies that celebrated the day.

But employee recognition doesn’t have to be centered on an annual—and, admittedly, unofficial—holiday, nor should it. According to survey respondents working for employers who celebrate EAD, those activities were just part of a larger culture of recognition. Eighty-four percent of those respondents said they regularly hear about the accomplishments of people within their organizations, while only 49% of people whose companies did not celebrate EAD reported the same thing. A culture of appreciation tends to blossom throughout a workplace, too: 83% of EAD celebrators said they often give recognition to fellow employees when they do great work, as opposed to 73% of those who didn’t observe EAD. And the benefits aren’t just top-down, either—77% of respondents at companies that celebrated EAD felt their leaders acknowledged the great work they do, compared to just 49% of those whose companies did not celebrate EAD.

Showing Appreciation

The benefits of recognition and appreciation are numerous but recognizing others doesn’t have to break the bank or take a lot of time. Creating a workplace culture where people feel appreciated can start with small actions that grow over time.

This can include something as brief as routinely taking a couple of minutes during team meetings to acknowledge how a particular team member’s efforts helped the company. Using office-wide emails can also extend the appreciation experience by broadly communicating contributions beyond the team setting.

Not every employee plays a visible role in a company’s accomplishments, but every employee is valuable, or the company would not need their services. For example, an office assistant might not work directly with clients, but their demeanor on calls can elevate the company’s profile as a whole and their efficiency can allow others to do their jobs more effectively. Thinking through each employee’s work and how it fits into the company’s overall success, and then recognizing that in a way that is apparent to all, can help elevate the morale of the entire organization.

For companies that do regularly recognize their employees, EAD is a great opportunity to reinforce that spirit of appreciation. The holiday is also a great place for companies to start or continue to reinforce their appreciation for their people. Here are a few suggestions on how to celebrate EAD:

  • Consider giving employees the afternoon off, or letting them pick a day in March to take a few hours off
  • Bring in baked goods and set aside time for an employee “happy hour” to socialize over food during the work day
  • Plan team-building activities that focus on having fun rather than solely on work
  • Announce the ways you plan on showing appreciation on a regular basis, such as thank-you cards, company events, or free lunches—and make sure to stick to your word

Taking advantage of EAD doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive to reap significant benefits. In addition, doing small acts throughout the year turns what could be a one-off celebration into continuous communication of appreciation. Just as Thanksgiving should not be the only day to express gratitude or Valentine’s Day the only occasion to show love, celebrating EAD should not be the only occasion to reflect on great work and to set the tone for a fantastic year ahead.

Gary Beckstrand is a vice president at O.C. Tanner, the world’s leading employee recognition company. There, he helps oversee the O.C. Tanner Institute, a global forum that researches and shares insights to help organizations inspire and appreciate great work. He has consulted with numerous Fortune 100 companies to assess recognition cultures, develop strategic solutions and measure results.