Put yourself in their shoes. You’re tired. You’ve been in the office since 7am, and given your current workload, don’t see yourself leaving until at least 7pm. Your other half has a heavy cold, so you’ve been up in the night listening to them cough, and trying not to worry about the looming deadlines you’ve got coming up. Then your boss comes along, and passes you a “Thanks for all your hard work” cupcake. You look at it, and back at your well-meaning manager, and try to smile.

Maybe I’m just being cynical.

Employee Appreciation Day at first glance is a fantastic initiative. Everyone likes to be appreciated, and recognised for their hard work. Yet a singular day of appreciating your employees won’t cut it. With other companies out there already realising the importance of year-round engagement, it’s vital that you show your employees how important they are to you, before they jump ship.

So I’m going to go against the tide of cupcakes, team-bonding days and thank you cards, and suggest some ideas that are a little more sustainable… with better results.

Feedback Tools – Through the use of a feedback tool, an organisation can understand how their employees are feeling at much more frequent intervals. If you’re going through change, want to find out how effective your management is, or just want to gage how your employees are doing, it may be time to switch to a more continuous listening solution. Through viewing and acting on regular feedback, you can lead your business in the right direction, with your employees as active participants in the journey.

Regular 1:1s – The feeling that any employee gets when a manager genuinely respects and listens to their opinions is second to none. Whether that’s through feedback tools, or an “open door policy” for meetings, it’s always rewarding to be heard. Formal reviews shouldn’t be your one and only chance to sit down with your team. Try implementing regular 1:1s as a chance to catch up about where they’re doing well, and what they might need support on. These sessions are also a great chance for individuals to work towards shorter-term goals, which is significantly less daunting for employees and managers!

Team Meetings + Projects – Having a voice doesn’t have to be restricted to closed door meetings either. It’s always valuable for all members of a team to hear from each other, and share ideas. In some teams, it’s easy to set up- if everyone is doing the same role, there may be a generally agreed process of doing things. But for the teams whose roles differ,  getting the team to work together on a project and report back the findings can be incredibly valuable, and increases team morale.

Training + Knowledge – Sharing  Training is a huge part of showing that you appreciate your employees. Giving them the room to grow, and develop is key in making sure your employees feel valued in any business. And thankfully, with a variety of training courses and e-learning options available, it’s never been easier to support your employees’ growth. But don’t forget that training doesn’t have to be costly – weekly knowledge swap sessions are a great way for peers to share insights and skills too, especially with newer colleagues. Make sure to instil confidence in your employees to take the initiative of setting these up – if they have a skill worth sharing, or need a skill developing, it’s likely one of their colleagues can help.

AutonomyGive your employees the freedom to achieve goals in their own way. Some people like the pressure of a deadline, others meticulously plan in advance to avoid stressful situations. Whatever works best for your employees, support them. Use your 1:1 meetings as a chance to discuss the process of achieving those goals, instead of informing them of their next task. This sense of empowerment to do their work as they wish could lead to better time management, a greater sense of purpose and a considerably better overall result.

Flexible WorkingSometimes, life gets in the way. Instead of your employees worrying about juggling appointments and childcare, or feeling burned out, give them the chance to work flexibly. At Peakon, our team are encouraged to work from home if we need to- whether it’s a doctor’s appointment, our child’s school play or a heavy cold. And guess what? The level of productivity doesn’t change. If you’re hesitant to trial working from home at your organisation, try giving your employees more flexibility with their working hours instead. Showing that you trust your employees can be a huge step in showing them how valued they are within your organisation.

Peer recognitionSomething that’s really worked for us is peer to peer recognition, which can be just as valuable as material rewards. After a round of nominations, we present three awards every fortnight to the members of our team who have been recognised by their peers for living our three company values. The reasons vary but they all say the same thing: that person has made a difference.

Celebrating the little thingsYour employees are more than just their work, and it’s important to remember that each individual team member is different. Remember the little details, such as the anniversary of when they started the company (we give balloons and a card to celebrate!) or what they enjoy outside of work. Start every 1:1 asking how they are. Not their work, not their targets, or the state of their projects.  Take a genuine interest in what is going on in their lives, and they’ll appreciate you as a manager. It works both ways.

Employee Appreciation Day is a great occasion to highlight how valuable your people are. But so much more is needed for your employees to feel valued, every day. You don’t have to wait to show your appreciation- you can make it known to them through trusting them, supporting their growth and giving them a voice. And those steps will mean your employees feel valued, all year round.

Victoria runs Brand and Community for Peakon, the world’s leading platform for measuring and improving Employee Engagement.

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