Most people enjoy feeling appreciated for their hard work, but does gratitude translate to tangible benefits in the workplace? And if so, how can you make it happen? Research on employee appreciation has shown that close to 80% of employees who quit their jobs cite not feeling valued as a principal motivation. Clearly, gratitude counts. However, while we know appreciation is critical for staff retention and productivity, fostering it authentically can be a challenge.

Close to 80% of employees who quit their jobs cite not feeling valued as a principal motivation, according to a study done by @octanner. Click To Tweet

Here are five easy, affordable, and effective employee appreciation ideas to express thanks for a job well done in a way that’s genuine to your company.

1. Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day

The first Friday of March every year is Employee Appreciation Day. The occasion provides a perfect opportunity to recognize the work of dedicated people at your company. Equally important, it’s a timely moment to have a broader conversation about gratitude, both why it matters, and how we can do it better.

Despite the occasion’s merits, a 2018 survey on employee appreciation found that only 10% of employers acknowledge it. A simple reason may be that managers struggle to find employee appreciation day ideas that don’t seem forced.

A group meal can be a good icebreaker to ease into a casual conversation. If your budget is a limiting factor, you can always opt for a staff-wide potluck, or even just organize a conversation over a box of your office’s favorite snacks during a coffee break. Even if it’s a quick sidebar moment, find a way to make the day count.

2. Build A Culture Of Recognition

Acknowledgment of high performance works best when it happens frequently and organically. Regular gratitude strengthens relationships and improves prosocial interaction—a mindset of working together to achieve a shared goal.

One simple management strategy is to call out noteworthy achievements during regular staff meetings. However, appreciation needn’t only be a top-down process. Opening employee recognition up to everyone can feel more organic and genuine than employee appreciation words delivered formally by management—using the communication equivalent of a one-way street. As an additional bonus, crowdsourced high fives celebrate achievements across every layer of your company. Capturing the full diversity of your company’s wins is a good way to make sure that gratitude is a vibrant, living part of company culture.

3. Give A Simple Word Of Thanks

There’s also something to be said for the simple, down-to-earth gesture of saying thank you. Quietly thanking someone for a job well done is frequently more impactful when delivered without the formal corporate feel of a group meeting.

Offering a word of gratitude the next time you bump into a high achiever in the elevator or corridor is a genuine way to show someone’s work has been noticed. There’s also the good, old-fashioned option (which is somehow easy to overlook in our age of quick-fire virtual communication) of the handwritten thank-you note.

Whatever personal gesture you favor, the key here is to make it authentic and specific. A generic “Hey, great job for all that work you’re doing!” lacks conviction. A more detailed explanation of what you appreciate and why counts for much more.

4. Offer Career Development Opportunities

Career development opportunities can be a win-win. They offer an ambitious employee a chance to improve their prospects and grow within the company. They also provide an important way to build your company’s pool of skills and expertise.

Leadership or technical training offerings are clear and obvious career development perks. However, you may also consider rewarding an employee with the option to represent your company at public events, or include them in high-profile activities that afford greater visibility with executive staff. At times, the best way to express gratitude is through tangible opportunities and desirable career outcomes.

5. Acknowledge An Employee’s Home Life

When an employee goes above and beyond for their company, they’re frequently dipping into their leisure and home time. Family-focused employee appreciation gift ideas can be a great way to demonstrate you understand and appreciate a person’s sacrifices.

On the more practical side, house or car cleaning services are a great way of making a personal impact. There are also any number of fun, personalized options you can explore. What about a handful of movie tickets or a bunch of flowers? Here’s an opportunity to get creative by finding a gesture which fits your employee’s interests and personality. Alternatively, there’s the gift of time itself. Offering additional time off or flexible working hours shows an employee that their investment of time has been noticed and appreciated.


When it comes to workplace gratitude, the greatest challenge is to find an approach which fits the person. The strategies in this article are a good place to begin injecting meaningful gratitude into your workplace.

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