20 Memorable Employee Appreciation Day Ideas for 2020


Did you know that the lack of appreciation could be holding back your workforce from being productive? Employee Appreciation Day 2020 is a great time to address this issue, with memorable ideas that leave an impact. Read this article for inspiration from the worlds leading employers like Microsoft, Apple, Costco, Disney, and more.

It’s 2020, and the value of employee appreciation has never been higher. Unemployment rates, especially for high-demand skills, are now at an all-time low. By regularly appreciating your employees, you can create a culture of engagement and foster a sense of loyalty to the company.

And this goes beyond the usual employee of the month and occasional gift cards. You need employee appreciation ideas that truly stand out and leave an impression.

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Why You Should Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day

Employee Appreciation Day is becoming increasingly important for companies for several reasons. Celebrating such events can help you retain top talent by recognizing employee contributions, and it also improves company culture.

Yet, the current state of employee appreciation in the workplace doesn’t look promising: as illustrated by:

  • In a TINYpulse surveyOpens a new window with 200,000+ responses, only a quarter feel like they are highly valued at work. That means approximately 75% of employees regularly feel underappreciated.
  • In the same survey, only a third of the respondents said that they were appreciated the last time they went the extra mile for their job.

Does this mean you need massive investments to appreciate, engage and retain your employees? Not necessarily.

  • A Deloitte surveyOpens a new window of 16,000 professionals found that 54% would be happy with a verbal thank you.
  • Another 31% would like a written thank you in order to feel appreciated!

As these trends highlight, companies need to do little to appreciate their employees, but getting creative with Employee Appreciation Day ideas can do so much more for employee engagement in 2020.

Celebrated on the first Friday in March, theres plenty of time for you to plan, select the necessary tools, and make Employee Appreciation Day a huge success. Here are 20 ideas to make it happen.

20 Ways to Appreciate Your Employees on Employee Appreciation Day

The idea of Employee Appreciation Day isn’t new. It was first conceptualized in 1995, by one of the founding board members of Recognitions Professionals International, together with his publishing company.

Since then, it has steadily gained momentum, taking on a new dimension in the 21st century. Today, with companies across the globe vying to become an Employer of Choice, the right Employee Appreciation Day idea can make a big difference to your employer brand. Here are 20 strategies to consider, with examples from the worlds leading companies.

1. Have your CEO personally appreciate good work, like Apple

Employee appreciation shouldn’t be a formal process, with events held once or twice a year. Your employees want to hear from senior leadership and know that they are making a genuine difference to the company’s business growth.

A great idea to explore for Employee Appreciation Day is a direct Thank You from the CEO. This is even more important for large companies where a sense of ownership and belonging can be difficult to achieve. Thats why Apples CEO, Tim Cook, regularly calls out exemplary work done by the companys global team. He even turns into a social post, enabling public recognition.

Thank you to our outstanding retail teams around the world. Your contagious energy and passion represent the best of Apple. Its a privilege to work with all of you. pic.twitter.com/zTo89YMsvKOpens a new window

Tim Cook (@tim_cook) December 27, 2018Opens a new window

2. Conduct a treasure hunt, like Confidence Center

Sometimes, a creative and slightly uncommon Employee Appreciation Day idea can be the secret to having your workforce remember their recognition. A treasure hunt is useful in this context, as it combines all the psychological drivers of gameplay with real-world, in-office activity.

If you’re in the retail sector or work in a manufacturing plant essentially, anywhere with a large office premise this could be an excellent idea for you. Confidence Center held a workplace treasure hunt that ended in one employee winning a $100 certificate with a clue released at 7 A.M. each morning. This increased employee morale significantly, all while being a fun effort.

3. Give employees a day off when they least expect it, like Costco

The retail sector can be a hard nut to crack when it comes to employee appreciation and recognition. Your workforce is putting in long hours, job duties can be mundane, and demand peaks several times across the year.

Costco sets an excellent example in appreciating employees despite being a retail giant, the company shuts shop on Thanksgiving, allowing the workforce to spend time with family right in the middle of the holiday shopping season. Ideas like this tell employees that you appreciate their efforts and prioritize their well-being over and above the business bottom line.

4. Create a business-specific learning track, like DHL

It’s no secret that career development can sometimes be even better than employee benefits. Modern professionals value the opportunity to upskill while on the job. Thats why Employee Appreciation Day 2020 is a great time to announce a new learning program, designed to improve your company’s profitability while also enhancing employability for the learner.

Take inspiration from DHL Expresss structured certification programOpens a new window (paywall) that invites participation from 360,000 employees across 220 countries/territories. Every employee gets a DHL Express passport, earning an additional stamp for every course undertaken.

Learn More: 20 Fresh Employee Engagement Ideas for 2020

5. Ask your customers to appreciate employee efforts, like Disney

For customer-facing roles, positive feedback or a note of appreciation right from the customer can make employees feel truly valued. In customer feedback forms, you can make room to mention specific employees these instances can be broadcast across your company later on.

For example, at Disney Parks & Resorts, guests were often looking to appreciate the on-premise workers. Realizing this, Disney launched a formalized #CastCompliment programOpens a new window , where guests used this hashtag to tweet their appreciation. This was retweeted by the manager, enabling social recognition across the Disney employee community.

6. Align appreciation with your company values, like Dropbox

By aligning your ideas for Employee Appreciation Day with company values, you can reinforce positive workplace behavior and ensure that your cultural stance is maintained. You can create appreciation messages for each value and deliver it to any employee who does a great job at exemplifying it. This can take either a digital or a physical format.

Dropbox pioneered this idea with a dedicated Gratitude Post teamOpens a new window , who hand-delivered positive messages to employees who demonstrated Dropbox’s value at work. The most commonly used value messages also revealed key data into the company’s culture and identified problem areas.

7. Keep employees in mind when making major workplace decisions, like ExxonMobil

One of the best ways to show employee appreciation is to value every worker equally. This is harder than it sounds, especially for large, older companies that have strict hierarchies in place. An office setup that reaffirms these hierarchies can make entry and mid-level employees feel less valued and, thereby, less motivated.

You can correct this by making employee-centric workplace decisions. For instance, when ExxonMobil opened its Houston campus in 2015, it followed an open layout, where all workspaces, including board rooms and corner offices, were open to every employee to create a collaborative workplace and eliminate hierarchies. ExxonMobil also leveraged soft furniture and chairs scattered around the workplace, creating an atmosphere of hygge at work.

8. Make a big deal of work anniversaries, like Facebook

Work anniversaries celebrate the loyalty your employee has shown to the company over the years. It’s advisable to go the extra mile when appreciating this, with more than just a casual email or a gift card.

Facebook makes a big deal of employee work anniversaries (called Faceversaries), turning them into birthday-like celebrations. Employees are showered with balloons and a steady flow of social media posts, along with an internal ticker that tracks how much time an employee has spent at the company compared to their peers. For Facebook veterans, this is an essential point of pride.

9. Make unlimited PTO a real thing, like GE

Unlimited paid time off (PTO) doesn’t have to be limited to small companies and disruptive startups. You can appreciate employees who have shown exceptional behavior/contribution with unlimited PTO for a year – announcing this on Employee Appreciation Day is a good idea.

GE has already implemented this across 30,000 of its U.S. employees, signifying a broader cultural shift. Employees only need to take approval from their manager and ensure all the work is done to avail themselves of this benefit.

10. Keep up with changing employee sentiment, like Goldman Sachs

Changing employee sentiment is often a challenge for legacy companies. They hold onto existing ways of doing things, unwilling to disturb whats been the accepted practice for years or even decades. As a result, younger/newer employees are left feeling alienated. You can use Employee Appreciation Day to announce progressive changes to company policy, reassuring your workforce that their voice is heard.

Goldman Sachs recently did this by taking a leaf from Amazons playbook, replacing complex presentations with narrative memos. It was a small move, but one that indicates that Goldman Sachs is keeping up with the needs of modern employees.

11. Launch a peer-to-peer learning program, like Google

There are several advantages to implementing a peer-to-peer L&D program. It reduces your dependency on third-party providers. Access to learning materials is also easier, as employees can simply reach out to their peers. Finally, you tell employees that you appreciate their expertise in a subject.

Interestingly, 80% of all formal training at Google happens through their G2G or Googler-to-Googler network, reaching 6,000+ employees across the country. Employees with expertise in both hard skills as well as soft skills mentor or train or design learning programs for other employees. This allows Google to leverage in-house expertise and train employees through those closest to the business.

12. Let employees decide how they are assessed, like IBM

Empowering your workforce is an excellent way to show that you appreciate their vantage point. You can conduct company-wide surveys before making a change to workforce management policies. IBM followed this approach when selecting how to best review employee performance.

When IBM was replacing its ten-year-old performance review system, it asked its 380,000 employees precisely what they wanted. Using text analysis on the comments, IBM discovered that a majority of the workforce wasnt interested in self-assessments, among other things. They also found that employees didn’t like the idea of comparative rankings. All of this was factored in when designing the new review system, IBMs Checkpoint.

13. Offer perks employees cant find anywhere else, like LinkedIn

When it comes to ideas for Employee Appreciation Day, you cant go wrong with out-of-the-box perks. In addition to staples such as health insurance, 401K, and stock options, LinkedIn gives its employees massage chairs, a 24/7 gym, lectures from reputed guest speakers, and yoga in the afternoons.

You can tailor these ideas as per the size and nature of your business. For example, if public transport is difficult to come by in your region, commuting/carpool benefits show that you appreciate the myriad facets of an employees work life.

14. Inspire a sense of pride in work, like McDonalds

It isn’t always easy to find meaning in what we do, especially for employees working in process-based industries. This has been a long-standing challenge for McDonalds, as jobs in the fast-food sector came with a negative connotation.

To combat this and add value to its employees efforts, McDonalds gave its workforce the chance to work at prestigious events. For example, for the 2012 Olympics in London, McDonalds handpicked 2,000 top-performing employees to serve customers.

Keep an eye on opportunities like this in your industry, helping employees to appreciate better their own efforts in addition to receiving recognition from the company.

15. Prioritize work-life balance as much as you can, like Microsoft

Work-life balance is a critical factor that adds value to ones work 37% of employees say that good work-life balance is most essential. You can achieve this by designating mandatory work-from-home days, shorter work hours on specific days of the week/month, and flexible timings.

Wed recommend using Employee Appreciation Day to flag-off experiments on work-life balance, like the one Microsoft recently tried.

For one month, Microsofts Japan offices were closed every Friday, testing the impact of a four-day workweek on employees. This improved productivity by 39.9% while also reducing resource consumption.

16. Highlight the contributions of your admin team, like PepsiCo

Typically, achievements in areas like sales, marketing, and product design are easy to recognize and appreciate. Its the backend executives working on IT, payroll, procurement, and a host of other process-based tasks that are left out. Take out time on Employee Appreciation Day 2020 to appreciate these employees via public praise.

PepsiCo has made great strides in this sphere, expanding its Ring of Honor program beyond the ambit of sales. Now, exceptional performance in operational areas like job safety, customer services, and people skills are rewarded by elevating employees to the Chairmans Circle of Champions.

17. Distribute recognition badges, like Salesforce

Badges are a tangible indicator of achievement, letting employees remember and share the fact that they were appreciated. You can hand out physical badges or go the digital route like Salesforce.

Salesforce has designed its very own social collaboration platform called Chatter, which it uses to share employee appreciation badges in real-time. The company’s Situation Behavior Impact Model contextualizes the appreciation so that it is widely understood.

18. Highlight the role played by minorities, like Starbucks

It can be difficult for older workers, veterans, and people with disabilities to assimilate into the workforce. Employee Appreciation Day becomes even harder as they may not always relate to the recognized employee/teams.

Starbucks recently corrected this by opening an entire store operated by employees between the ages of 52 and 66. It has partnered with the National Institute for Elderly People to ensure that this demographic has every opportunity to maintain their quality of life. On Employee Appreciation Day 2020, you can highlight the role played by those demographics who have a tougher time in the workplace than others.

Learn More: What Is Employee Experience? Definition, Examples, Management, Strategy, and Platforms

19. Celebrate for one entire week, like The Cheesecake Factory

To be very honest, one day isn’t nearly enough to showcase the great work done by employees across the year. This is precisely why The Cheesecake Factory put aside a Great Place to Work appreciation week when it formally recognized how its employees made the business so successful.

After all, The Cheesecake Factory has regularly been recognized for its workplace initiatives a feat that wouldn’t be possible without its employees. Similarly, its a good idea to stretch Employee Appreciation Day 2020 to an entire employee appreciation week or even month, now that you have the time to plan ahead!

20. Find creative ways to ask for feedback, like Typeform

Asking for feedback from your employees makes them feel appreciated, but how do you do it in a memorable manner?

Take inspiration from Typeform, a company that plugged a physical typewriter into an iPad in different areas of their office. This would leave employees with emotional satisfaction of having written out a suggestion and submitting it while ensuring the company could digitally extract and process the data.

Image source: Typeform.com

Wrapping Up: Making Every Day Employee Appreciation Day

Its great to have one entire day dedicated to making your employees feel good about what they do. Its even better if they can feel this way all year long. To make appreciation a part of your company’s DNA, you can:

  • Build (or buy) an employee recognition app to simplify the process of appreciation
  • Have top management embrace a culture of gratitude
  • Plan employee appreciation keeping in mind the diverse generations that make up your workforce
  • Review and retire legacy approaches to appreciation

With these ideas, you’re now equipped to take Employee Appreciation Day 2020 head-on. Start planning soon, get feedback from employees, and of course, have fun with the numerous ways in which you express your appreciation to your employees!

Which of these 20 Employee Appreciation Day ideas, caught your eye? Or do you have an idea we missed? Let us know on FacebookOpens a new window , LinkedInOpens a new window , or TwitterOpens a new window !