Employee appreciation is an important aspect of maintaining a positive and productive work environment, and experienced business leaders understand the role it plays in long-term success for the company. When your employees feel valued and appreciated, they’re more likely to be engaged and motivated in their work, which not only leads to improved performance and greater satisfaction, but helps minimize turnover and quiet quitting.
The more traditional and typical forms of employee appreciation, however, such as simply handing out a small bonus or a voucher to an online store, are often seen as vague, empty gestures. Empty gestures can have a negative impact on your employees over time and produce exactly the opposite result of the one you’re hoping to achieve.
That’s why, in order to truly show your employees that you value and appreciate their hard work and commitment, you need to get a bit more creative and think outside the box to come up with more impactful ways to express your gratitude.
With that in mind, here are some creative ways to show appreciation for your employees, helping them and your business thrive in the process.
1. Host a company-wide recognition event
Let’s start with a grand idea that many business leaders shy away from, so that we can emphasize the importance of going the extra mile for your employees.
One of the best employee recognition ideas to show you appreciate their hard work and dedication is to host a company-wide employee appreciation event. This event can be something akin to a formal awards ceremony, where you can reward your employees with official, branded accolades for their achievements and contributions. This recognition elevates them to a higher status in an organization, even if you don’t actually have the capabilities to promote them.
You can make this event as official or casual as you like, and along with making feedback a habit in your company and inspiring participation from everyone, it can be an amazing event. Remember to weave fun, engaging activities into the mix and inspire other employees to join in on the celebration. After all, it’s not just about rewarding certain employees, it’s about bringing your people together.
2. Offer flexible work arrangements
One of the biggest reasons why the great resignation occurred and why it persists in the post-pandemic world is because people have shifted their perspective on life, on what’s important and how much space work takes up in the grand scheme of things. Spoiler: it’s no longer as much as it used to be, so people need more flexibility to justify their decision to stay with an employer.
To justify staying on long-term, they expect you to reward them with flexible work arrangements. These arrangements can include working from home, flexible work hours, or even compressed workweeks. You can handle employee attendance easily even with these flexible arrangements if you’re using the right HR software, so don’t skip on this option; it’s one of the rare powerful ways to truly recognize people’s hard work.
3. Provide opportunities for growth
Professional growth is one of the biggest motivators for high-performing, ambitious employees. These talented individuals thrive on acquiring new skills and knowledge, on pursuing new goals and on achieving better results each year. If you don’t nurture that mindset, you will lose them to a competitor that does.
That’s why one of the most valuable things you can offer your employees is the opportunity for growth and development. Therefore, make sure to include employee training and development programs in your 2023 strategy, mentoring or even tuition reimbursement for young hires.
Depending on the size of your workforce, you may need to leverage employee recognition software to keep track of these investments, identify the employees that would benefit most from these incentives and calculate the value that these rewards will bring to the company.
4. Create a "fun" committee
The modern workplace has changed dramatically to what it used to be in the 20th century. People nowadays need to feel happy about going to work, knowing that their day will be filled both with rewarding work and rewarding interactions with their peers and fun, engaging moments that will create fond memories.
If you want to build a high-performance culture, you must shift your focus from the performance and start focusing on the things that motivate people to even show up. In other words, the workplace is no longer just about work, it’s also about having fun while you’re achieving great, meaningful things.
The need for people to have fun at work is a good enough reason to, for example, create a “fun” committee. This committee can be one of those free employee recognition ideas that doesn’t require anything more than getting a bunch of creative people together to figure out what works, what you can improve, and what the collective actually needs.
The fun committee can help you come up with and organize engaging events to show appreciation for your employees, but because everything eventually costs money, you can easily assess their ideas and come up with a viable budget.
5. Celebrate important annual events together
Whether you’re running a small business with a close-knit team or a growing enterprise with numerous teams and departments, there are always annual events, holidays and important days in the year that you can celebrate together. The possibilities are endless, but this strategy does require you to know your employees and what matters to them to identify the most important events during the year.
Businesses can, for example, have a party to celebrate national pizza day by taking the team to a pizza making class or simply making the day all about everyone’s favorite savory dish. This approach goes beyond simply ordering pizza for the office; think outside the box and weave creative activities into the mix.
Other important events include employee birthdays and company milestones, which are great opportunities to recognize and reward your employees. It’s not just about recognizing the employee’s birthday, it’s about using that opportunity to reward them and acknowledge their contribution.
6. Give personalized, thoughtful gifts
Personalization is one of the best ways to build strong employee collectives, as recognizing the individual’s unique personality, traits and talents is a great way to uncover their needs and wants. This approach allows you to become better at gift giving and even help employees build a work-life balance. Personalization helps you reward employees in meaningful ways, which ties directly into our previous point.
Employees always appreciate gift cards and bonuses but sometimes it can be more meaningful to give an employee a book or a tool that is related to their interests, hobbies, or personal and professional aspirations. This strategy is the kind of employee recognition that will set you apart from other employers and show people that you see them as unique individuals rather than ants in an ant farm.
People have all kinds of niche hobbies and interests, so be sure to delve deep into people research at your company.
For the passionate gamer, get them a video game they’ve been meaning to try, while the nature lover in your company can get a beautiful potted plant for their home. Or how about the board game aficionado in the company? Well, you know what to do.
7. Recognize individual contributions every week
If there’s one thing modern employees love more than getting praised by the higher-ups, it’s getting praised by their peers in front of their managers and decision-makers. Giving praise and recognizing individual contribution shouldn’t be done haphazardly—make it a weekly routine to truly motivate and engage your employees.
This approach is a great way to create an inclusive, multi-generational employee experience for all age groups in your organization, and an opportunity to use peer-to-peer praise to build a bond between people. Each week, host an all-hands meeting where the floor is open for people to offer specific praise or shout-outs to their colleagues.
The managers stay silent and observe, and the employees continue to praise each other for their achievements during the week until everyone has had a chance to nominate someone. This approach is a powerful way to nurture positivity and build strong relationships in your teams, and one of the best ways to give praise without it coming from the higher-ups.
8. Put your employees in your company’s knowledge base
Last but not least, another creative way to show your employees how important they are to you is to include their contributions in your company’s knowledge base. Having a knowledge base is an amazing way to achieve numerous goals in your organization, from building a workplace culture for all age groups all the way to delving deep into specific challenges and how to overcome them quickly.
Using a knowledge base software allows you to organize your knowledge base according to the unique needs of different teams and where different employees are on their professional journey. This platform will contain everything new hires need to get started seamlessly, but can also serve as an amazing tool for experienced employees and those who want to advance their skills and enrich their knowledge.
Now imagine how an employee would feel if their work or any type of contribution was good enough to take the spotlight in your knowledge base. You can name the person credited for the specific entry and give praise for their contribution to the platform, making sure to post a picture and a quote from the contributor.
Your employees will feel appreciated for being recognized, and others will start working towards earning their own place in your company’s knowledge base.
Over to you
Focusing on truly meaningful and impactful employee appreciation tactics is a worthwhile investment for any business, as it helps minimize turnover and keep the best of the best at your side. After all, your long-term goal should be to retain the top talent that helped you build up your business in the first place.
Now that you have some creative ideas at your disposal, go ahead and show your employees how much you appreciate their hard work to take your business and your teams to new heights in 2023.