Employee Appreciation: Creative Ways to Recognize Employees

6 min read
Dec 22, 2014
  • Post on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • Post on LinkedIn
  • Post on Reddit
  • Copy link to clipboard
    Link copied to clipboard
How to appreciate your employees

No matter the job we have or the industry we work in – we are all hungry for praise and starving for honest appreciation. When was the last time you were appreciated?
Or when did you show appreciation to your team?

Last year, U.S. Department of Labor revealed that the number one reason people quit their job is because they don’t feel appreciated. Not a poor paycheck or no benefits. It’s the lack of appreciation.

Keep on reading to find out how to appreciate your employees.

Hunger for appreciation

Marshall B. Rosenberg, the author of “Nonviolent Communication”, spent some time consulting with many social service agencies and industrial organizations. He was struck by how often people expressed a hunger for appreciation on the job. “No matter how hard you work,” they sighed, “you never hear a good word from anyone. But make one mistake and there’s always someone jumping all over you.”

In his book Marshall recalls a story about appreciation.
During a surprise party for him, someone suggested a party game to help introduce the guests to each other. They had to write down a question, drop it in a box and then everyone had to draw a question and respond to it out loud.

He wrote the following question: What appreciation might someone give you that would leave you jumping for joy?

A woman who drew that question out of the box, started to cry. It turned out that she worked at a women’s shelter and her job was to create a schedule for everyone. She put substantial energy each month into creating a schedule, trying to please as many people as possible. Yet, each time she presented the schedule, there was always someone who complained. She couldn’t ever remember being appreciated for her efforts to design a fair schedule.

All this had flashed through her mind as she read the question and it was the hunger for appreciation that brought tears to her eyes. Other people identified with her feelings and had the need to answer the same question out loud. While responding, a few of them wept.

Just to be clear, I didn’t bring up the story to teach you a quick way to make everyone cry at your party. I brought this up so that everyone can realize how often people feel the lack of appreciation at work and how much we all need it.

If appreciation is so important, why do we show it so rarely?

There’s an odd discrepancy between what people know they should do and what they are actually doing. On one side, employers are aware that people at work need recognition. But when you ask them how much do they invest in meeting this need, you're met with awkward silence.

Probably, some of them still believe that salary will do the job. Well, it used to. But today, money alone is not enough to make employees happy, keep them engaged or to keep them at all. Appreciation comes in many different forms. Paycheck is just one of them.

The Power of Appreciation

Harvard University has a recognition program for employees for “cultivating a culture of appreciation.” According to the program appreciation comes in many forms, such as knowing employees, letting them know that managers care and creating an environment where individuals feel recognized. Through recognition they build a culture that attracts and retains the best talent.

Here are some employee appreciation ideas inspired by Harvard Recognition Program.

1. Appreciate your employees for what they did good

We tend to notice what’s wrong rather than what’s right. We focus on finding issues that need some improvements.

As a manager, you should stop running around looking for what employees did wrong. Instead, find time to catch them in the act of doing something right.

2. Use specific praises

We usually use phrases like „Good job!” The thing is, generic praise is not enough. You should be more specific.

Tell employees how exactly they did a good job. They can learn from it and do more of it next time. You can say: “I really like the way you walked a customer through this problem. Your patience is exactly what he needed.”

3. Let the appreciation last

Praise now and let employees enjoy the moment. Save performance improvement and missed opportunities for later.

If you say: „You did a great job with this customer, I’m impressed! But what you can also say next time…” all that employees hear is what they could have done better.

All that matters is what you said after “but”. That’s what sticks with people, despite what you said before.
Do not leave an employee with any doubts about results of the job they have done.

4. Personalize it as much as you can

Every employee responds to recognition differently. Some of them appreciate public praise. Others don’t feel comfortable with being exposed.

Get to know your employees and make sure your appreciation has the greatest impact on each individual. The same goes for critique for that matter.

5. Think of everyone on the team

Remember how easy it was to recognize the best students in class? They were the ones that always got the best grades and handled everything well. But have you ever considered that maybe recognition and trust that teachers put in them was one of the reasons why they were the best students?

Don’t become one of those teachers, who only appreciate the best ones. Use the knowledge to recognize everyone on the team, especially the ones that are not the star performers. Find ways to appreciate your employees for something. It’s not always easy. But maybe a little praise and belief is what they need to grow. You might want to read Team Work Quotes that Make Your Team Really Work Together

6. Show your employees you care

Companies often assume that they know what’s best for employees, what makes them more productive and happier. This approach is generic and may work for most people, but not for each and everyone.

Ask employees one simple question: „What would make you happy here?”
Listen to their needs, make them feel important and valued. Consider small changes that increase your employees satisfaction. You probably won’t lose anything and your employees will gain a lot.


Give a green light for everyone to be truly themselves in a workplace and appreciate each individual. This approach has a good outcome on both sides - employees and companies.

Employees are engaged, they feel confident in what they do and they perform better. Companies, on the other hand, create a safe environment where everyone can evolve and generate better financial results.

It’s a win–win. Once managers accept that, great things can happen.

If you liked this read, check out the post about customer appreciation ideas and take appreciation to another level.

Photo courtesy of Nearsoft Inc via Creative Commons.

Get a glimpse into the future of business communication with digital natives.

Get the FREE report