A good leader should always know how to make employees feel valued and inspire a positive atmosphere at the workplace and make the workplace a stress-free zone. Sometimes, it’s not even about spending money on lavish gifts. In fact, in such cases, employee satisfaction is only bought, and you can bet that it’ll be short-lived.
When discussing how to make employees feel valued, money plays an important role, but it’s the feelings that are crucial. Hence you have to use your emotional intelligence.
Luckily, we have made an extensive list of all the creative ways to show employee appreciation and it is all in one place – below. So now lousy bosses have no excuse for making their staff feeling undervalued, not reading this article and not trying to be better bosses.
Jump directly to:
1. Go the extra mile
2. Let them keep the products they review
3. Employee appreciation cards always work
4. Create a Gratitude Wall
5. Give them space to breathe
6. Praise their good work with notes
7. Treat them family dinners
8. Buy them food
9. Get to know them
10. Give them responsibility
11. Strategic employee appreciation
12. Take them out for a lunch
13. Celebrate your employee’s work anniversaries
14. Offer them career growth opportunities
15. Half-day KICK meetings
16. Personalized rewards
17. Internal awards ceremony
18. Announce an employee of the demi-month
19. Surprise them with unexpected presents
20. Organize team days out
21. Set up a reward system
22. Don’t forget the remote workers
23. Shopping spree raffle
24. Help them with their financial pinches
25. Virtual get-togethers for the best employees
26. Annual office party with posh giveaways
27. Create a #you-are-awesome Slack channel
28. Maintain a corporate greenhouse
29. Give them cash for home office equipment
30. A special appreciation letter
31. Appoint a Fun Ambassador at the office
32. Set a table with essentials
33. Gift them time
33 ideas to show employee appreciation and inspire satisfaction
When focusing on how to make employees feel valued, it is vital to make sure your employees feel recognized and heard. Employees want to have a voice within the company, they don’t want to be taskmasters. They want to feel valued and needed. Understanding their needs and developing systems that showcase that appreciation is key to employee appreciation.
Go the extra mile
As a business owner, I have built a company based on my employees, they are part of the team, so their health, welfare, and happiness are important to me. My management advice is to go the extra mile to keep finding new ways how to make employees feel valued.
Make your company environment safe and inclusive for all. Make sure your employees feel comfortable in expressing their concerns to you. Always be open to feedback. Work hard at building strong relationships by checking in regularly. Create a safe environment for employees to connect. Team building activities are a good way to get employees together. Lastly, provide support and understanding through offering solutions or just being available to listen.
Jonathan Bass, the Chief Executive Officer and Owner of Whom Home
Let them keep the products they review
In our various online businesses, we use a lot of freelancers through platforms like UpWork, TextBroker, and Freelancer, particularly for content creation. Sometimes these great people complete a lot of work for us over time and become full-time employees.
We can show our appreciation by sending them the best products to review. As one example, they can photograph and write a review about a 10-gallon fish tank, and then they can keep it and use it themselves. Often they can also then come back and update the review with further thoughts on the product’s durability and long-term use. In our experience, they consider being able to keep awesome products as an exciting benefit and reward for good work.
Daniel Morris, Owner of PetNPat
Employee appreciation cards always work
Cousins Subs has a robust employee recognition strategy. In meetings with restaurant general managers, Alan Lundeen, Senior Director of Talent Management, calls on them to be recognition detectives. Then on Tuesdays, Lundeen brings in a stack of congratulations cards and each store manager is asked to take some back with them and give a card to someone they want to thank. Cousins Subs also hands out employee birthday cards as well as wow cards, given for high performance or going above and beyond.
Kathryn Kazan, PR Manager at Cousins Subs
Create a Gratitude Wall
Ask the team to fill out a quick survey, naming colleagues they are grateful for and writing a sentence on why. You can submit multiple responses. Just make sure everyone has a couple of gratitude cards each. Then have someone compiled these in a PowerPoint deck to showcase. If you are onsite, even better, print them out and put them up in a high traffic area like above the printer.
It is important to appreciate your employees, but it also feels great to be the one giving thanks and bringing a smile to a colleague’s face.
Samantha Roberts, Talent Associate at Global Health Strategies (NYC Office)
Give them space to breathe
Giving employees a shout out, gift card, or free food/drinks is easy, but what employees really crave is flexibility. During the pandemic, employers have gone in the opposite direction by investing in employee monitoring software to spy on their remote teams. This is also known as the perfect recipe for distrust and dissatisfaction.
Your employees will feel appreciated when they finally have breathing room to get their job done when it works best for them. Employees should be given the ability to work when they want and where they want, especially given virtual work platforms that can help teams stay connected regardless of time or location. Trust your employees enough to let them manage their own lives and schedules. You’ll be amazed at how appreciated they feel.
Peter Jackson, CEO of Bluescape
Praise their good work with notes
Employees want two things to be of value to their mission and to be heard. A manager’s job is to acknowledge these things. I find writing small notes that I leave for my staff recognizing their good work or their ideas can be helpful. But even better is when I stop by and have a conversation with them about the impact that they’re having or an idea that they brought to me and how I’d like to implement it.
That type of engagement may not feel like traditional appreciation but helps motivate and tell the employee that you are engaged with them, which is a form of acknowledgement and appreciation.
Priya Jindal, Founder of Nextpat
Treat them family dinners
It’s their family whom they will most likely want to celebrate small and big victories. Whether it’s their kids, husbands, and wives, or friends whom they consider as family, or support system, we make sure they get to feel appreciated and vital too in one’s excellent performance.
When celebrated alone, victories are no fun, which is why we find this appreciation token effective to relieve them from stress and allow them to bond with their loved ones even for a night. It’s these people who continue to support and push them, especially during their rough times. After all, they are their rock, and what makes someone love someone or something else more is when they learn to value and appreciate the people who are close to their hearts.
Willie Greer, Founder of The Product Analyst
Buy them food
People love food, so why not buy everyone doughnuts or pizza so they can enjoy their day with a happy tummy. Not only are you buying them food but you are also strengthening and building relationships within your employees while giving them the feeling of being appreciated.
Daniel Snow, CEO and Founder of The Snow Agency
The concept of employee appreciation has been around for a while, but the pandemic has put a spotlight on the ideas that businesses have chosen to execute.
One such idea has been mobile food delivery.
Our business has many young families who’ve needed to adapt to being teachers overnight on top of delivering a fully productive workday. One way we’ve enjoyed showing our appreciation to employees is by treating individuals or teams to mobile lunch deliveries to their homes. We’ve also opted to send fresh fruit and veg boxes.
Dane Amyot, Managing Director of bountiXP
Get to know them
Get interested in their current reality. It’s not about creating a happy hour activity for the group but facilitated in some cool virtual way. It’s about knowing how your employees’ personal life is ACTUALLY going, make it safe for them to open up. Ask about their family’s fears and concerns. Figure out how this job connects to their personal life and how that personal life has changed. See if you can have more impact on things that really matter.
William Schumacher, CEO and Founder of Uprising Food
Employees feel appreciated if you engage with them in some way. Know something about them, their kids, dogs, partner’s names. Hobbies, passions, and dreams if you can.
When your greatest asset, your employee, has done good work, look them in the eye and tell them. No email, text, or call is ever as valuable as a face to face acknowledgment.
Letting them know you value them enough to make the time for them, as well as knowing their dog has been unwell, leaves your employees feeling a million dollars. And, you feel good too.
Laura Horton, Founder of Hound101
Give them responsibility
Our number one way of making employees feel valued is not money, perks, time off or other extras. It is just giving people responsibility. Providing employees with as much responsibility as possible boosts engagement, helps them grow, and also speeds up the process of determining if they will be a good fit in the longer term. Obviously, you need to recognize their innate capacity and level of experience, but err on the side of providing more responsibility rather than less and you’ll be surprised with the results.
Rick Wallace, Founder of Tackle Village
From experience, I have found that the best way to make employees feel appreciated is to involve them in company decisions. It can be something as simple as choosing a new uniform or what brand of coffee to use in the office. When they feel they have a voice they feel appreciated.
Ahmed Mir, Founder of Sip Coffee House
Strategic employee appreciation
This is a two-step process.
Step #1: Catch someone doing something good (effort also counts). Be specific in describing the behavior. For example: “Yesterday, when speaking with the customer, you really let him talk about what was important to him. That was incredible”.
Step #2: Name 3 specific reasons why this behavior is important. For example: “This makes a big difference because the customer really felt that you care about him, this will make him more connected to our company (1). Also, he will like us so much that he may recommend us to customers (2). And lastly, knowing that this is how you take care of our customers makes a huge difference for me personally, because I know I can fully trust you, and focus on other areas of the business (3)”.
Many people find it easy to come up with 2 reasons, but the 3rd one is the one that makes the real difference. It forces you to spend more time and energy on what the employee did well, and makes them feel truly appreciated.
Dr.Eyal Ronen, Co-Founder and Director of Sensemakers
Take them out for a lunch
In today’s world of constantly expecting something of monetary value to reward a job well-done, it might be nice to go a little old-school. If you are currently working in the office, as a way of thanks, take an employee out for lunch. This also offers you time to explain just how helpful they have been, and to inspire them to keep doing so in the future.
If everyone is still working from home, have a quick meeting and explain the same points. However, you’ll have to send over a gift card to cover lunch. Or, if you’re still working in the same city, some creative people I know have sent over a delivery service so that they can still have lunch (virtually) with an employee. Really… how cool is that?
Alice Ray, Founder of Know Your Chickens
Celebrate your employee’s work anniversaries
It’s uncommon for companies to do this, mostly it’s just the employee who remembers. As such, celebrating work anniversaries (especially milestone ones) is a great way for the employer to show genuine appreciation for the work that the employee has put in.
It doesn’t have to be lavish as well. A simple cupcake or a team effort of appreciative notes is great, as long as the day is remembered and the employee is recognized as a valuable part of the group.
Anna Nielsen, Marketing Director at Our Good Living Formula
Offer them career growth opportunities
My best idea for employee appreciation is career growth opportunity offers. From experience, I think most driven employees prefer rewards in the form of additional knowledge. When you give employees new resources to expand their horizons, this will provide them with opportunities to take on projects even outside the scope of their usual duties.
Doing this has brought about positive and noticeable work results in my organization, employee interaction also got better thereby creating an improved workplace culture.
Employee appreciation at its best means giving employees a sense of purpose at work. At the end of the day, appreciation comes in many forms, and organizations shouldn’t expect perks or bonuses alone to convey the meaning. However, companies that strive to practice appreciation consistently will stand out.
Manny Hernandez, Founder and CEO at OMNI, INC
Half-day KICK meetings
Every six weeks, we run half-day ‘Kick’ meetings; standing for Knowledge, Innovation, Collaboration and Kudos, to celebrate and recognise those who have gone the extra mile.
Encouraging public recognition is not only an important part of keeping team members motivated, but also boosts feelings of being emotionally and socially valued.
It’s very important for staff to feel visible, acknowledged and also confident of their place in the business. I’d recommend this approach to any business leader who wants to give their team a boost, while also improving communication and mental wellbeing.
Carlene Jackson, CEO of Cloud9 Insight
We all appreciate it when others take the time and effort to get to know us. When your company wants to show appreciation for a specific employee, engage team members to find out more about that person.
One of our employees was celebrating her 5th work anniversary. Our HR department talked to her colleagues and learned that she loves doing different art projects with her seven-year-old daughter. Our gift was a pottery class for the two of them. She was touched and later showed us pictures of mugs and bowls they created together.
Personalized recognition is an excellent way to make your employees feel truly valued and unique. This kind of appreciation has a tremendous impact on the motivation and loyalty of your staff.
Dorota Lysienia, Community Manager at LiveCareer
Apart from being a professional, each of your employees is a unique personality with passions, hobbies, interests, etc. The message is simple — to keep your employees growing professionally, make sure they are fulfilled as personalities.
For this, pay attention to employees’ preferences. As an example, you can customize your birthday/seasonal corporate presents. Your accountant is crazy about Italian cuisine? Present them a cooking class certificate!
Be ready to meet your employees halfway and they’ll exceed your expectations. For example, if your employee aspires to learn French but doesn’t manage to fit it into the work schedule, allow them to shift hours when they need it. Corporate parties and team buildings are important, but your attention to employees’ personalities is priceless.
Olena Herasymchuk, Content Manager at cloudprinter
Internal awards ceremony
At the end of the year, we hold an impromptu internal awards ceremony for the team and award each team member a small gift in recognition of something amazing they did. This could be from closing a deal to showing kindness to a fellow teammate when needed, or putting a smile on everyone’s face by telling the best jokes!
It’s our way to show our employees that no matter their position and missions, we acknowledge them, support them and are proud of them. One’s success is everybody’s success as we work as a team. It’s important for us to shine a light on each and every one of our employees!
Sukhi Jutla, Co-Founder & COO at MarketOrders
Announce an employee of the demi-month
One week is too short, one month is too long, but a recognition every two weeks is just right. The key is to have some kind of a symbolic mascot, toy, or an item that encapsulates the team’s spirit and what it stands for. You want it to be an inside joke of sorts and thus making the object all the more prestigious and valuable. Complement this with a gift card ($50 will do) to the person’s favorite store and restaurant and voila, you have a recipe for a marvelous team bonding and appreciation experience.
Bonus: The current winner gets to nominate the next one, thus making the process all the more grassroots and organic.
Peter Bryla, Community Manager at ResumeLab
Surprise them with unexpected presents
The way I show appreciation to my employees is not always by giving monetary incentives. I noticed they feel incredibly ecstatic when they receive unexpected presents. I know it feels great to think that someone put some effort into getting you a gift. I keep a list of what they like. I don’t announce when to distribute what I prepared – it just happens, like a big surprise on a regular day.
Steve Johnso, Owner of www.bootmoodfoot.com
One of my favorites is what I call “Suprise Appreciation.” Once or twice a month, I will pick someone who has done an exceptional job with some aspect of their work. I do this irregularly, so employees never know when it is coming. Then I task the rest of the staff to create positive notes for the recipient and decorate their desk or their tech truck while they are at lunch or leave for the day. I purchase a surprise like flowers, balloons, or a stack of their favorite candy, etc.
It’s a small, relatively inexpensive way to show appreciation, but it always makes the individual feel good, and it builds team camaraderie and even usually feels great on those days.
Laura Fuentes, Operator of Infinity
Organize team days out
At Wicklewood, we always have team days out. Recently, we hired a boat on the Thames and everyone took the day off work to relax and socialize with one another. Between driving the boat, jumping into the water, and tying the boat up at the docks, it was a really unique and fun team-building exercise. It was a great opportunity for everyone to get to know one another on a personal level and unwind outside of the office.
Another unique angle we take at Wicklewood to show how much we appreciate our team is our “Quilt Days”. Every team member gets a quilt day once a quarter when they can call in at the last minute and take the day off to relax at home with one of our cozy quilts from our latest range. It’s a small gesture but sometimes people just need a day off to recharge.
Rosie Axford, Co-Founder and Marketing Director of Wicklewood
Set up a reward system
We use a reward system in our company to show our appreciation for each accomplishment being made by our employees. In this system, each employee would be given points for each task that would be completed. The points differ depending on how big the task or the project is. Upon collecting these points, employees can use it to redeem rewards like free products from the company, gift certificates, a day off, a paid vacation trip, or paid leave.
Oliver Baker, Co-Founder of Intelivita
Every staff member may assert tasks of their preference and, upon completion, would collect the point values correlated with the tasks. For something ranging from an extended holiday and work-from – home days to company-paid continuing education, these points could be redeemed by team employees at a workplace bonus site. One thing is to value workers in a way that makes sense to you, but the gamification tool we used allowed individuals to be valued in a way that was most important to each worker.
David Meltzer, CEO of East Insurance Group
Due to the new WFH scheme being implemented, the company is saving quite a lot and we are planning to give back to our employees by giving a raise to those employees who deserve it. We plan to have it by conducting a performance assessment to each employee by the end of the year and those who would be selected would be compensated using the funds that are allotted for this plan.
Aaron, Founder of TestPrepGenie.com
Don’t forget the remote workers
About 25% of the staff worked in the NYC home office and the other 75% worked remotely, causing them to feel left out of company events. Whenever the firm took onsite employees out (happy hour, dinner, cruise) they compensated the remote employees with a gift from Snappy. Snappy costs about $7/month per employee, and allows the employee to choose from dozens of theme-related items – Cinco de Mayo, LGBTG, Birthday.
Remote staff looked forward to the email from Snappy notifying them they could choose their gift. All employees received that same email for other milestones — project success, birthdays, anniversaries.
I’ve talked to several employees who’ve moved on to other firms and they tell me that what they miss most was the Snappy gifts that made them feel like they were an important part of the team. In addition, those gifts — thermal coffee mugs, weighted blankets, essential oil diffusers — still remind them of good times at that firm. By the way, this firm earns five out of five stars on Glassdoors reviews, so it must be working.
Laura Handrick, Contributing HR Professional for Choosing Therapy
Shopping spree raffle
My favourite method for this was to set up a sort of ‘shopping spree raffle’ where staff could earn entries for completing their tasks to be entered into a draw. Each month a few people would win a ‘shopping spree’ and be given an amount of money to spend, then we would take them to the local mall and let them spend the money within a short time frame.
The rules were loose but they had to purchase 1 item for themselves, 1 small item for their team, and the rest was up to them. After it was done, we would take them back to the office to share their small item with their office and that way everyone felt like they received ‘something’.
Andrew Cunningham, Founder of DailyPest
Help them with their financial pinches
Most of the guys that work for me are loyal, hardworking, blue-collared type of folks. They are the definition of what you look for when hiring. However, when it comes to money, they don’t always make the right financial decisions.
We came up with the ‘We Care Program’ as a way to show that we support and appreciate what they do for our business. We emailed all of our guys and said when they find themselves in a financial pinch to reach out to us and let us know what’s going on. It not only gives us an opportunity to coach them up and assist them but an opportunity to show them that we care.
Myles Daniel, Owner of Sell My House Fast
Virtual get-togethers for the best employees
Showing appreciation to employees is such an important part of a company’s culture. The best thing you can do to show your appreciation, especially given what a crazy year we’ve had, is without-a-doubt a warm virtual get-together for your best employee and their remote family and friends, filled with love and laughter.
What we’ve done at Offsyte ourselves includes sending a private virtual ramen and sake tasting class for the people we are really thankful for, with the ramen and sake kit delivered to them and their remote family before the live class. We’ve also helped many other companies plan such events, including Google, Apple, Dropbox, Netflix, etc. There are many virtual events with delivery on Offsyte that are perfect for this occasion, including blind wine tastings, mixology classes, boba tea workshops, and more.
Emma Guo, Co-Founder and CEO of Offsyte
Annual office party with posh giveaways
This year, the company I am working for is planning to have a virtual annual office party. The company announced that it is going to give away luxurious gift cards, gadgets, and other prizes as a way to thank employees who stayed with it despite the crisis. We are also about to invite a celebrity to our virtual party and our employer announced giving 2022 all-paid trips to Europe. With this, I think this is a kind gesture from our company to appreciate us.
James Bullard, Founder of Sound Fro
Create a #you-are-awesome Slack channel
One of my favorite ways to show employee appreciation is with a #you-are-awesome channel in Slack. In this channel, any team member can give praise or shout outs to any other team member.
For example, recently our sales manager posted a note about a successful sale by one of our sales reps, and a marketing team member gave a shout out to an operations team member. The reason this channel is so effective for employee appreciation is that it is peer-to-peer, which means it tends to provide recognition and appreciation for the kinds of contributions that may not be on a managers radar. After the praise goes up, everyone else piles on with emojis to cheer the team member on.
Michael Alexis, CEO of TeamBuilding
Maintain a corporate greenhouse
Showing appreciation to employees would be through a theme of health and wellness, by maintaining a corporate greenhouse. Employees would choose a vegetable, herb or fruit they love, and they would plant it in the greenhouse with their associated name. The greenhouse contents would be nurtured by employees supported by trained horticulturist volunteers. Webinars would educate on how each plant type grows and is cared for.
That information would align to a corporate message of overall wellness, and programs reinforcing the importance of making good health choices. Employees would share in the harvest from the greenhouse, by getting a care basket with a card and recipe suggestions for its contents. The card would say ‘From our greenhouse to your table’. We care for our people, our environment, and our health!
Jenn Drakes, Founder of ICANNWORLD INC.
Give them cash to buy home office equipment
The Covid-19 lockdown happened and suddenly everyone in our performance marketing company had to work from home. This was a situation that no-one had really prepared for and raised all kinds of issues over suitable working spaces and equipment.
Our staff gets a benefit to spending on travel and wellness, but we quickly changed that to allow them to spend the cash on home office equipment instead. So they used company funds for all manner of chairs and tables and laptop stands, to set themselves up for comfortable home working.
We also sent them boxes of healthy snacks, fresh fruits from a local farm, and a tasty takeaway, just to keep their spirits up as the pandemic wore on, and to help the local food economy.
Mario Cacciottolo, Branding Manager at Blexr
A special appreciation letter to employee for outstanding performance
Send a letter of appreciation to the employee’s house, but don’t address it to them. Address it To the family of [NAME]. Detail the employee’s contributions. Describe the difference their work has made in your life, the lives of your clients, and the lives of their co-workers. Speak directly to the family, like this: “I’m sending this letter to tell you about the incredible work your Mom’s been doing and to thank you for sharing her with us….”
Be detailed and celebrate that employee. This gesture costs nothing and will feel truly special. Remember, effective appreciation is not about a gift, it’s about people feeling noticed and valued.
Joe Mull, M.Ed, CSP, Speaker, Author and Commitment Consultant
Appoint a Fun Ambassador at the office
One of the best ways to truly show employee appreciation is to provide them with a fun work environment. By providing a fun work environment, employees are excited to go to work rather than just clocking in and can’t wait to clock out.
There are actions you can start taking TODAY to encourage fun and employee appreciation in your workplace and create an open, creative, and collaborative environment.
One great way to implement more fun and appreciation is to appoint someone in the company (or on your team) as the official Fun Ambassador.
This person would be responsible for championing your “fun roadmap” or establishing a “fun culture blueprint” on an ongoing basis. This position should be someone who is positive, upbeat, and who others look up to.
If you want to implement things like monthly work parties, an employee recognition system, or a team-based hiring process, your Fun Ambassador would make all that happen in your company.
Rebecca Binnendyk, CFO (Chief Fun Officer) and Founder of Fun Outta Life Mentoring & Coaching
Set a table with essentials
I show appreciation to my 9 employees by *setting up a table once in a while with a “Take What You Need” sign.
The table has Advils for when they get headaches, Kit Kat bars if they need a break, printed Starbucks barcodes for free coffee, a calendar to schedule a day where they can bring their pets to the office, and earplugs for when they need some do not disturb time. This is my simple way of showing that I listen to their needs and their hard work is always appreciated.
Valentina Lopez, Co-Founder of Happiness Without
Gift them time
When I found out that one of our employees is working overtime to achieve the goals, I was surprised. First of all, I investigated why is this person taking so much time to do some tasks? I found out that his work efficiency is quite good but the task itself was unpredictable. Finally, he achieved the goal and it was huge for us. To appreciate his efforts, we gave him a paid one week off from work.
We do gift bonuses or gifts, but sometimes just gifting Time to someone matters more than anything else! That time was well spent with friends and family. He was very happy.
Adam Rowles, CEO at Inbound Marketing Agency
Managers need to stay on track with each employees’ development. It is up to the manager to challenge each employee with a steady pace of growth that is pushing them to learn but not at the speed of being overwhelmed.
Besides, executives need to make sure there is a visible opportunity to grow within the company. An employee should always have a viable position to be striving towards. It will motivate them to work harder as well as provide a visible success path within the company.
Lastly, integrating core values into the company culture that support the team members and place value on their best interest as well as encouraging open communication and feedback.
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