Topic: Employee Recognition


20 Ways To Share Appreciation With Employees

From daily practices to special occasions, use these employee recognition ideas to show your employees how much you appreciate them.

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Updated on 

April 22, 2024






How do you show appreciation to employees? It’s not always easy to find the right way. In fact, nearly everyone who’s worked for a company has received a generic thank-you gift. (Here are some ideas to improve those.)

And while the thought always counts, it doesn’t count for much if there isn’t much thought. In fact, in a recent survey we conducted, 40% of employees we asked said the recognition they received at work felt like an empty gesture.

40% of employees say the recognition they receive at work feels like an empty gesture.

As the way that we work changes, building a strong work community is more important than ever. Whether it’s combatting burnout, helping reduce the stress caused by the difficult economy, or embracing a diverse and inclusive workforce, organizations that prioritize employee belonging and connection are likely to prosper. Those that don’t value their employees will likely fall behind.

Your team should never feel like an afterthought, especially in uncertain times. Even if you have a great employee reward and recognition program, there are always ways to improve. So if you need new ways to show appreciation, we have you covered. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your celebrations, too.

Here are 20 ideas to turn generic gifts into ones that employees will love, including ideas for staff appreciation days, gifts both small and large, and ideas for those who work in-office, remote, or hybrid.

A collage of employee recognition experiences to in-person celebrations, a virtual "thank you" message, and an online catalog to select a gift

Employee appreciation gifts to show you care

The most important thing about employee appreciation is to demonstrate that you value your team. They want to be heard and seen. Here are some ways you can show your appreciation.

1. Pass along a work perk

Got a first-class upgrade on a flight? Give it to an employee. Receive a basket of treats from a vendor? Share it with your team. Did you land hard-to-get reservations at a restaurant? Send your employee instead.

2. Surprise your employees with random treats

Ask people what their favorite snacks are. Then surprise them by mailing those treats home or bringing them to work. This is a good way to create appreciation moments all year round.

3. Give small, personalized gifts

Show your people you value their individuality by giving them gifts that represent their interests. They don’t need to be expensive; personalization is what’s important. For example, BlueScope, an Australian steel manufacturing company, worked with us to curate a catalog of gift cards for employees to choose the gift that meant most to them, including a charitable donation.

See how BlueScope thanked all of their employees in a meaningful way
Read more                                    

4. Go big for holidays like Employee Appreciation Day

Consider custom gifts that are branded and symbolize your company. Or give employees a choice of gifts where they can select something meaningful to them. If you have an existing recognition program, a large points deposit can have a substantial impact, especially if employees are saving up for a great award from your award store.

A selection of employee appreciation gifts from a branded speaker, a watch, cookware, and technology

Unconventional ideas to convey appreciation:

Gift ideas can be hard to come up with, especially ones that are a little more off the wall. But don’t be afraid to get creative. Sometimes the most unique employee appreciation gifts are the most memorable. Here are some examples to get you started.

5. Let employees choose special projects

It may seem strange to reward employees with more work, but our research shows that when an employee participates in a special project, they have a 26% increased sense of opportunity. Give your team the chance to create special projects that they love.

6. Have employees lead for a week

A great way to show you appreciate and trust your people is to let them lead. Give them the title of Boss for a Week. Have them lead meetings, make important decisions, and sit in on executive meetings.

7. Extend the invitation to an executive meeting

Most employees don’t get much face time with their senior leaders. Many may never attend a meeting with their CEO. So invite them to one. Better yet, recognize their accomplishments in front of the C-suite.

An image of a team leader appreciating coworkers in an office

Low-cost ways to show employee appreciation:

Employee appreciation doesn’t have to be too costly. In fact, there are ways to do it that will make your team feel valued without breaking your budget. Here are some ways to show them that you care without spending a fortune.

8. Start every meeting with appreciation

What better way to start a meeting than with fun, positive cheer? Begin each meeting by highlighting recent employee accomplishments. You can talk about your appreciation for extra effort, above-and-beyond work, career milestones, innovation, exhibiting company values, customer service, excellence, and much more.

9. Decorate work areas

A great way to build camaraderie is to decorate work areas with things like balloons, streamers, banners, and even confetti.

An employee creating decorations for their office space and a photo of Hindalco employees around their company "praise trees" for employee recognition and appreciation

10. Give regular rewards

Company celebrations don’t have to be flashy or expensive. In fact, our Global Culture Report found that spending as little as $50 per employee per year can impact employee engagement. Frequent recognition is important too — the best practice is to recognize employees 35 times per year, which is about three times per month. You may also want to look at how symbolic awards can provide another employee appreciation touchpoint.

11. Go out for lunch

Use the time to catch up. Don’t just talk about work — check in with them personally.

Ways to build connection between employees:

An employee appreciation gift is also a way to forge new connections between people and reinforce relationships that are already in place. When you want to do that, here are some ways to go about it.

12. Celebrate personal milestones

Even though most people spend a third of their lives at the office, many employees still don’t know much about their coworkers. Remedy this by celebrating their personal achievements as well as work ones. Did they recently run a marathon? Have a new baby? Master a new hobby? Send a note of congratulations along with a small gift.

13. Share accomplishments on an internal Wall of Fame

Showcase the great work your people are doing on a company social Wall of Fame. An even better idea is to add a way for peers to add their own comments and recognition, like with O.C. Tanner’s Culture Cloud.

A collage of employee appreciation experiences including a points deposit, an award certificate with a custom "thank you" message, and dashboards to track employee recognition activity

14. Advocate on their behalf

When you advocate for your people, it shows you value and believe in them. Actively help them get tools, resources, and career development.

15. Give a day off or flex time.

Let your team off work at noon on Friday or give them an extra day off around a holiday. The surprise time off shows you appreciate them.

16. Spend a day learning something new.

Send out a questionnaire asking your employees about subjects that interest them. Then, for your next team-building event, learn a new skill as a team.

Showing appreciation for remote/virtual employees:

Employees today may be working from home, hybrid, or at far-flung locations around the world. That can make certain employee appreciation strategies less effective — but it also means you have the chance to do something new and unexpected. Here are a few options.

17. Write a handwritten letter — and mail it

Surprise your employees with handwritten letters — actually sent to their homes! This shows that you are happy to go the extra mile to make your recognition meaningful.

18. Showcase employees on social media

Don’t stop with just internal fame — highlight your employees on your company’s external social media as well. This is particularly useful for large companies with people spread across the globe.

19. Send something to families

Many employees are spending more time with their families — so mail treats, games, or flowers — but send them to their families.

A collage of employee anniversary celebration experiences including a physical Yearbook with comments from coworkers, a gift selection, and a custom award

20. Call just to chat

Every once in a while, call your people and just chat with them. Not a one-on-one about work, but about them, their interests, family, and hobbies. Be genuine and get to know them as individuals. Because ultimately, appreciation is seeing and valuing someone for being them.

How to create an employee appreciation program

Recognition cannot be an afterthought. It must be deliberate and timely. Whether it’s a simple thank you or more formal recognition, people want to feel appreciated at work. They want to feel a sense of purpose, and that they are part of something bigger than themselves. The right employee appreciation program can help make those connections and much more.

If you’re interested in learning more about how O.C. Tanner can help you craft the right employee appreciation program, please reach out.        

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