Forget About Employee Appreciation Day

employee appreciation day signEmployee Appreciation Day is upon us (March 6th, for those who are dying to know). While you all know that I am a firm believer in the power of employee recognition (whether it’s formal, peer to peer, or anything else in between), I am also a fan of making it part of your culture, not an annual event. The simple analogy is this: would you wait until a specific day of the year to tell your family, significant other, or children that you love and appreciate them? Probably not!

Thanks to my good friend Trish McFarlane sharing the top 3 things leaders shouldn’t do on March 6th, I wanted to kick in 3 more tips for managers that want to skip this whole Employee Appreciation Day nonsense. Enjoy!

  1. Don’t make it complicated. The process for thanking someone is simple. You approach them, thank them for something specific they have done, and go on with your day. This is appreciation at its most fundamental level, and despite the simplicity it has been shown to have an incredible effect on employee happiness and engagement.
  2. Don’t be lame. “Thanks for doing a good job” isn’t really that motivating, and it isn’t likely to reinforce behaviors you want to see repeated. How about “Thanks for providing clarity on that project meeting–it really helped me to understand what’s going on and be prepared for what’s coming in the next phase.” See the difference?
  3. Don’t be generic. If you want to include something monetary, be personal. A good example: I used to work with a young lady who had a goal to visit each baseball stadium around the US in her lifetime. When it came time for a project reward, her manager purchased a nice ticket stub scrapbook for her to track where she had been complete with photos of her and friends enjoying the games. That $20 purchase meant more to her than a $100 generic gift card because it was something deeply personal for her. Another fun example: a local HR Director buys a bag of dollar store goodies for birthday celebrations and each employee gets something. The other employees vote on what to give each other and why, and it gives everyone a chance to join in the fun and makes each “treasure” a personal experience.

What ideas do you have for avoiding Employee Appreciation Day in favor of a continuous culture of employee recognition? Do you have any managers that do this well?