Top Employee Appreciation Ideas for 2021

‍Table of Contents:

Why employee appreciation matters

Employee appreciation is a way to show your team that you value them and their contributions. When employees feel appreciated, they are more likely to continue going above and beyond for the company. Employee appreciation ideas give managers ways to support their teams by recognizing hard work, thanking employees for what they do, and making sure everyone knows how much they matter. To learn more about this topic, checkout our complete employee appreciation guide here.

Employee appreciation ideas for 2021 have to take into account the changing workforce, as well as incorporate some of the benefits of new technology. A recent study from OC Tanner found that 79 percent of those who quit their jobs left because they didn’t feel appreciated. Employees want to feel valued by their employers - something that is easier said than done in this day and age of ever-changing technologies.

Benefits of employee appreciation ideas 

Employee appreciation ideas show your employees that they are valued, and it helps you spend time with them. We all know that happy employees are more likely to do well in their roles, which leads to benefits like improved retention rates for employers or heightened productivity. Some small businesses want to keep turnover low because it saves money on hiring and training new employees. Meanwhile, other companies want to keep turnover low because they value their employees and don't want to lose them.

Employee appreciation not only benefits the employees that receive recognition, but also those who give it. When we feel appreciated by our peers, it makes us want to continue putting in our best effort. In a survey shared by The University of Pennsylvania, 67 percent of employees said that they would put in more effort at work if they felt appreciated and empowered.

If you want to ease the stress level of your employees, get into the habit of showing appreciation on a regular basis. Check out some employee recognition ideas below for inspiration, or simply take time every day to thank your team members for what they do.

Employee appreciation ideas for small and mid-sized businesses

As a small to mid-sized business, you might not have much of a budget for employee appreciation, but don't worry, many of the best ideas are free! Your staff doesn't need large bonuses or monetary rewards to feel appreciated. They need to be noticed for their achievements and recognized when they go the extra mile. Here are a few ideas to make your staff feel appreciated and valued: 

  • Host a potluck with your team members to get to know each other better outside of work.
  • Bring in snacks for the office on Mondays. 
  • Buy lunch for your employees on their birthdays.
  • Give everyone free pretzels on Friday, and bring some in yourself while you work.
  • Put up a whiteboard for employees to write thank-you notes to each other.
  • Surprise team members with small gifts like flowers, candy, or coffee when they accomplish something great like an assignment well done or meeting a milestone at work. 
  • Make an appreciation board where everyone can record what they are thankful for in their lives.
  • Make appreciation coupons to hand out where employees can promise to do small things, like emailing or calling someone back by a certain day or picking up lunch for everyone on Friday.
  • Finish the workday with fun icebreakers, like trivia questions about your company history, superhero traits, or words.
  • Use Matter to send weekly kudos to your teammates, and start a Feedback Ritual!

Employee appreciation ideas for large businesses 

Larger companies usually have more resources and a higher budget to show employees their appreciation. But even if you only have one or two days to spend on an employee recognition program per year, you'll want to make them count. You can give your employees a much-needed break and spend the day doing something fun together.

Here are some of our favorite employee appreciation ideas for large businesses:

1) Company outing to sporting event or concert

You might not have an entire day, but giving your employees time off work to attend a sports game or concert is a great way to say thank you. If you have enough employees attending the event, order some food and drinks to make it even more fun! Spending relaxed time together will help your organization form a company culture with an elevated employee experience.

2) Company picnic/BBQ

This is another way for employers to show their employees they appreciate them and ramp up the employee motivation - take an afternoon or evening off work and bring your team together with food, games, and fun. If you have a great office space, it can be an opportunity for them to enjoy food and drinks while hanging out with their colleagues.

3) Relaxation day at the spa or on the beach

Whether it's one day before the weekend or right after work on a Friday, giving your staff time away from work is never a bad idea! Send your employees off to the spa or plan a relaxing beach day for them - just make sure they're back in time for work Monday morning!

4) Holiday gift baskets

Holiday gift baskets make great employee appreciation ideas for large companies because there is something for everyone. From gift cards to snacks and candy, each person in the office can find something they appreciate in an employee appreciation gift basket. Oftentimes, these gift baskets can be customized with different messages too! This might be our favorite employee appreciation idea for large companies.

5) Cash rewards

Cash rewards are not only a great employee appreciation idea for large companies, but they can also be an excellent way to incentivize employees and meet goals throughout the year, maximizing employee engagement. Some companies even plan specific projects where they offer cash incentives or bonuses for meeting certain milestones throughout the year.

Employee appreciation ideas for virtual employees

More and more companies are hiring remote workers. But it can be difficult to show your appreciation when you aren't able to see the work being done in person. We've got a few great employee appreciation ideas for virtual employees that will help everyone feel appreciated even though you're not working side by side.

1) Sending handwritten notes

Sending handwritten notes is one of the best employee appreciation ideas for remote employees because it means that someone at your company took time to write down something personal and thoughtful just for them! You can even include an employee appreciation quote. Remote employee appreciation doesn't get more personalized than this.

2) Providing access to benefits

Providing remote employees with access to benefits is another favorite employee appreciation idea for virtual employees. This can be anything from adding them to your company's health insurance plan, life insurance, or gym membership. You'd be surprised how much simple health insurance can do to boost employee morale!

3) Daily shoutouts

Daily shoutouts are another excellent employee recognition idea for virtual employees because they motivate everyone to be their best selves each day. This is a great way to recognize the small accomplishments that often go unnoticed, but will have a huge impact on your business as a whole.

4) Skill-based contests

Everyone loves a little bit of friendly competition! Skill-based contests are an exciting way to help employees feel appreciated for their unique skills and talents while also recognizing small achievements throughout the year.

You can focus your contest on remote work, or just something fun. Although virtual contests may present some challenges, it’s an opportunity to be creative!

Ideas for employee appreciation day and employee appreciation week

There are so many ways to show your workforce that you care. You can even set aside time for Employee Appreciation Week or National Employee Appreciation Day! Employee Appreciation Day is typically celebrated on the first Monday in March. It is similar to National Boss Day, but with a focus on thanking everyone for all of their hard work. One Employee Appreciation Day idea: create a video presentation celebrating the work your staff has done throughout the year and giving recognition for their achievements, then post on social media!

Employee Appreciation Week is celebrated the third full week of April. You can celebrate this however you like, but some companies use the entire week to show appreciation, give recognition where recognition is due, and give employees opportunities where they can get together and bond. Think team outings, dinner with the team, or even potlucks. This week-long holiday is all about recognizing employees for the critical work they do within your organization and using team-building and staff appreciation ideas to boost employee retention and satisfaction. You could use the occasion to reward a staff member who has gone the extra mile or celebrate the good work of a remote team with some formal recognition.

More ways to recognize your valued workforce

Employee appreciation is a great way to show your employees that you appreciate them, but it isn't the only way! Employee recognition goes beyond a token gift idea or celebration. It's a system of showing your employees that they're recognized for their hard work from day to day. Work on creating a team culture in which every contribution is valued. Celebrate the work anniversary of staff members, and make employee wellness a priority. Another great idea: consider using web apps and software such as Matter to ensure that constructive feedback is part of every day. An engaged employee feels seen and heard, one who knows his or her achievements will be recognized and even celebrated.

The best employee appreciation ideas come from the heart. In this day and age, companies have to be creative just to stand out from their competition. So be spontaneous! And remember, employees that feel appreciated are those that stick around, work hard, and give you a reason to keep your company thriving for another year!

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‌Cover Photo by
Farhan Fauzan
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