This Friday, March 3, is Employee Appreciation Day in the United States. We hope all you leaders and managers have something special planned for your employees, who spend much of their weeks working hard to help your company achieve its goals!

We also hope you don’t think Employe Appreciation Day is the only time of year when you should stop to thank your employees for the awesome jobs they do! Employee appreciation should be a year-round activity – something you do every single day, if possible.

Unfortunately, that isn’t often the case: According to Gallup, only about a third of workers say they have “received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days.”

That is a troubling statistic. Recognizing and rewarding your workers isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s also the smart thing to do. Employee appreciation gives you a competitive advantage in your industry, regardless of what industry that is.

Employee Appreciation by the Numbers

- According to Bersin by Deloitte, companies that regularly appreciate employees have 31 percent lower voluntary turnover. That means employee recognition can help you retain your best workers and avoid paying the astronomical costs of replacing departed talent.

- Seventy-seven percent of employees say they would work harder if they felt more recognized at work. Perhaps that’s why the Bersin study referenced above found that organizations with sophisticated recognition practices are 12 times more likely to have strong business outcomes.

- Effective recognition can increase employee engagement by up to 60 percent, and companies with more engaged employees earn 44 percent higher profits and 50 percent higher customer satisfaction rates than companies in the bottom 25 percent of engagement of levels.

- Only 11 percent of organizations regularly tout their employee appreciation efforts when recruiting, but that means the other 89 percent are missing out on serious benefits. According to bestselling author Rhett Power, employee recognition is one of the best ways to attract and retain top talent. When you demonstrate to potential employees how much you value your workers, your candidates will be more likely to want to work for you over your competitors.

Who Should Do the Appreciating?

Most of us would answer that question by saying, “Leaders and managers, of course!” That’s not totally wrong: Gallup found that 28 percent of employees feel the most memorable recognition comes from their managers, while a further 24 percent said it comes from high-level leaders.

AwardHowever, 10 percent of employees said the most memorable recognition comes from customers and 9 percent said it comes from peers. While you obviously can’t control whether or not customers recognize your staff members, you can encourage employees to engage in peer-to-peer recognition whenever possible.

The lesson here is that “the best managers promote a recognition-rich environment, with praise coming from every direction and everyone aware of how others like to receive appreciation,” Gallup says. Feedback should be frequent and timely, and employees should receive feedback at least once every seven days.

On a related note, a recent O.C. Tanner report found that employee recognition isn’t just beneficial for the employees who get recognized – it also positively impacts those who do the recognizing. Employees who frequently recognize the accomplishments of coworkers and subordinates feel more confident and are more dedicated to organizational success than those who do not.

What Should Recognition Look Like?

There are a lot of ways to go about recognizing your employees. As Nicholas Brown of LD Products pointed out in Recruiter Today this past December, small tokens of appreciation like candy, coupons, and certificates, can go a long way. You can also go big by offering experiential rewards via a company like Blueboard. When an employee really knocks it out of the park, you can treat them to bartending lessons or an aerobatics session – that is, airplane acrobatics. (Obviously not the right reward for everyone.)

But recognition doesn’t even have to involve physical or experiential rewards to be effective. According to a BambooHR survey, the most preferred method of recognition is a simple in-person expression of gratitude from a boss. Rounding out the top four most preferred methods of recognition are, in order, a personal email from a boss, in-person peer recognition, and a company-wide email from the boss.

“The key takeaway here is that it doesn’t really have to be disruptive,” BambooHR Vice President Rusty Lindquist said about the survey results. “Simply pulling someone aside and saying ‘Thank you’ seems to be what matters most.”

Oh, and one more thing: The O.C. Tanner survey cited earlier found that mixing up the ways in which you give feedback is a good idea. Employees who received recognition both verbally and electronically tended to be more engaged than their counterparts who only received electronic or verbal recognition.

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