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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

4 Ways to Make Every Day Employee Appreciation Day

Since 1995, organizations across the nation have marked the first Friday—and even the first week or entire month—of March as a day to show appreciation for employees.

And that’s no surprise—the benefits of recognizing team members are many. Research from the Harvard Business Review revealed that companies with a strong recognition program, on average, saw productivity improve up to 30%, sales success increase 37%, and employee creativity triple. Further, research from Bersin & Associates shows that organizations that recognize their employees significantly outperform those that don’t.

Pretty impressive, right?

But while recognition is great whenever it happens, it really shouldn’t just be a day or week of the year. It should be a way of doing business.

At my company, Achievers, we’ve seen the power of recognition firsthand, and we’ve found ways to engrain it in our culture. But that doesn’t mean extra effort and planning aren’t vital to pull it off. The good news is there are things you can do right now to start showing your employees and colleagues how much you value them.

Here are four ways to build employee appreciation into your everyday routine.

1. Don’t Delay

A lot of times, we tend to postpone recognizing someone until “the right time” rolls around. Maybe we wait for a weekly team meeting, a monthly one-on-one, an annual review, or, well, Employee Appreciation Day. But chances are, that recognition will have lost most of its impact so long after the fact.

Instead, don’t be afraid to speak up immediately when you see great work. Tell a team member her presentation was impressive on the way out of a meeting, or draft up a quick email (or old-fashioned thank you note—remember those?) the day after he turned in an above-and-beyond assignment. Better yet, find an immediate way to…

2. Make it Public

If your organization uses an employee recognition platform, a newsletter, or an internal company blog, you can take that “thank you” a step further by posting your recognition publicly. Here at Achievers, for instance, our Employee Success Platform™ newsfeed is continuously updated with recognitions from around the world. But one of my favorite ways we really make it public is during our daily all-company meeting. Each day, the meeting host picks out his or her favorite recognition of the day and shares it with the entire organization. It’s a powerful way to show employees that you don’t just appreciate their work—you think it’s valuable enough to use as an example for the whole team.

Oh, and recognizing people publicly isn’t just good for their egos; it’s good for the bottom line. According to a recent survey by Brandon Hall Group, 82% of organizations with social recognition platforms enjoyed higher revenues, and 70% saw improved retention rates.

3. Focus on Your Values

While you can thank people for just about anything, the most valuable recognition is aligned with your organization’s objectives and values.

Employee engagement expert Josh Bersin suggests recognizing specific behaviors you value. For example, if outstanding customer service is a pillar of your company’s mission, be sure to recognize it whenever you see it happen. Here’s a sample recognition to reinforce that value: “Jim, you’re a shining example of the excellent customer service our organization prides itself on. We talk about putting our customers first every day, and you live that value in everything you do. Today you went above and beyond to help a frustrated customer, and your professionalism and patience turned a potentially sticky situation into yet another satisfied customer. We can all learn a lot from your example! Thanks Jim!”

This type of reinforcement not only is a great way to show employees how their everyday work fits in to the bigger picture, it helps align employees to a shared culture of, as Bersin puts it, “doing the right thing.”

4. Put it on Your Calendar

Finally, make it a personal goal to recognize someone every day. I’m always on the lookout for A-players doing great work and make a note to check in with myself a few times per day. If I haven’t recognized someone by lunchtime, I’m probably missing something. And if I haven’t recognized someone by late afternoon, I know I’ve missed something. If that ever happens, I retrace my day and make sure I’ve recognized at least one person for doing an exceptional job.

That may seem like a lot of work, but remember: Recognition doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Plus, once you make it a point to be on the lookout for outstanding performance and contributions, you’ll see them everywhere.

Employee Appreciation Day was a great step toward employee recognition 20 years ago. But nowadays, if you want to really cultivate a culture of recognition that thrives, it’s crucial to start building it into your daily routine. Try these tips, then watch your employees—and your business—succeed.

Photo of stars courtesy of Shutterstock.