Employee appreciation: Ways to say thanks

Employee appreciation ways to say thanks

How you can show employee appreciation year-round

This post first appeared in Arrowhead’s corporate blogpost, and has been updated and reposted for our Native American readers.


A team member has successfully handled two difficult customers, back-to-back, without losing her cool. Your junior sales rep just closed his first big deal. Your assistant worked overtime to ensure your project was completed on time. How do you recognize each of them? How do you show employee appreciation to your team?

Does employee recognition even matter?

First, let’s get a clearer definition as to what employee appreciation is.

Employee appreciation: acknowledgment of a person’s or team’s efforts going beyond the call of duty in the course of their jobs, with results that uphold the company’s values and goals. The recognition can be formal or informal, but it is expressed in a timely manner – as soon as possible.

No doubt your team won’t jump ship next week just because you didn’t recognize them – but over time, the lack of appreciation will erode your relationship. Gallup Polls state, “The number one reason most Americans leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated.”

Note these statistics:

  • Companies with strategic recognition programs report at least a 71 percent engagement level among workers, versus companies without them (SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey, 2012)
  • Companies with happy employees outperform the competition by 20 percent (Gallup)
  • Employees not adequately recognized at work are three times more likely to leave in the following year (Gallup)

When it comes to increased productivity and performance, experts have found that

  • Highly engaged employees are 38 percent more likely to have above-average productivity. (Workplace Survey – Gensler)
  • Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by 202 percent. (Dale Carnegie)

Reviewing turnover statistics, experts find that employee appreciation reduces turnover: Companies who implement regular employee feedback have turnover rates that are 14.9 percent lower than for employees who receive no feedback. (Gallup)

Related: Tips for working with an aging workforce while growing your tribal business 

Finally, employee appreciation greatly impacts customer satisfaction. Studies show a direct link between satisfied employees and happy customers, so it makes good business sense to invest in discovering what your employees need to stay loyal and satisfied. It pays to create an environment of positive, helpful people ready to bend over backwards for the customer. The use of employee opinion surveys along with customer surveys gives a great overall picture of a company’s strengths and weaknesses and provides a blue print for developing a strong culture of loyal employees and customers.

Convinced? Now let’s review some top practices for launching and maintaining your employee appreciation program.

Best practices for employee appreciation at your tribal entity

  • Decide what you want to recognize and encourage: living your company values, saving the company money, creating a new innovation, hitting goals, referring new business or new employees? Then continually be on the lookout for these achievements.
  • Make your appreciation SPECIFIC (so that everyone knows exactly what it is you’re recognizing), MEANINGFUL (since everyone’s not motivated by the same things) and TIMELY (as soon as possible after they meet the goal, do the action, etc.; don’t wait a month before recognizing, because it will have lost its value by then)
  • Don’t make it an established-in stone policy, such as “employee of the month,” because that can be too vague and too much time can go by before the person is recognized. Instead, make it random: an immediate reaction to an action or behavior you see and want to reward.
  • Include peer-to-peer recognition. Colleagues are in the trenches with each other, and they’re better able to pinpoint a team member’s contribution.
  • You don’t always have to give money. Sometimes employees just want a handwritten note and direct praise in front of others for a job well done.
  • Consider the “trophy value.” Every time the employee uses, sees or interacts with the reward item, he or she associates it with the company and the positive behavior that earned the reward. The reward helps employees recognize that their employer truly values employees and acknowledges positive work habits.
  • Keep it going. Build rhythm around communicating the top employees recognized and those who are recognizing others most often. Recognize those who have provided value in your insurance team meetings.
  • Celebrate the team occasionally. Bring in breakfast or lunch for everyone, as a way of saying thanks to all. According to Gallup, 67 percent of full-time employees with access to free food at work are “extremely happy” or “very happy” in their job.


Related: How workplace trends may affect tribal businesses