employee happiness

How to Make Your Employees Feel Appreciated

As a manager, it's one of your important responsibilities to nurture and support self-confident coworkers who feel empowered in their daily roles. Employee appreciation can be the key unlocking that employee's inner drive — and their ability to thrive.

The Importance of Employee Appreciation

Employee recognition and reward programs allow your business to reach the upper echelons of performance. That's because there are direct correlations between happy employees and happy business outcomes, including the following:

  • Work ethic: One study found that committed employees put in up to 57% more work and effort into their projects than passive, non-committed ones.
  • Employee tenures: That same study determined that highly satisfied employees are 87% less likely to quit than colleagues who report being dissatisfied or disengaged.
  • Customer satisfaction and retention: Research from Gallup shows the top quarter of businesses ranked for their employee appreciation programs achieve up to 21% better customer retention and engagement rates than competitors in the bottom quarter.
  • Growth: Gallup also shows organizations with an institutionalized commitment to employee engagement and appreciation see earnings-per-share growth more than four times those of companies without such strategies.
  • Stable company future: In its State of the American Workplace findings, Gallup shows undervalued and disengaged employees cost U.S. companies between $483 billion to $605 billion each year. Dissatisfied workers are also more likely to skip work, negatively influence coworkers, turn off customers, reduce sales and even steal from your company.

Not Feeling Valued at Work?

Your employees' dissatisfaction is not always obvious. Different work cultures, roles and even personalities will affect how much an employee feels they can express their concerns.

Instead of playing a "who's happy" guessing game, you can preemptively watch out for the following signs employees are feeling off at work — then take care to reverse those sentiments.

1. Why Employees Don't Feel Appreciated

There are many reasons employees might be feeling underappreciated in the office:

  • They aren't personally commended: It's human nature — not neediness — for employees across ages and demographics to need positive reinforcement. Better yet, there are many natural ways for managers to provide it. Basic accreditation tactics do a tremendous amount to show you notice and you care, from direct thank-you emails acknowledging a well-written report to verbal gratitude for help on last week's slide deck.
  • Wider achievements aren't broadcasted: Consider the broader culture of recognition you instill. Do names go on presentations, projects, reports and department publications? Do you give employees credit for their innovative ideas amongst other managers and executives upstream? Do you send out newsletters preaching team accomplishments from the past month or quarter? Ignoring these seemingly simple employee appreciation strategies are a quick way to devalue the work anyone does.
  • Bosses are difficult to reach: Managers who rarely touch base with their employees are far more likely to be disconnected from their team's achievements, goals and sentiments. Worse are leaders who take days to respond to emails and memos — if they respond at all. If you're barely interfacing with your employees, those employees will feel like they're an afterthought to you. Their performance will reflect that apathy.
  • Feedback is unrealistic: Feedback needs to be sensible on both sides of the equation. Managers must ensure they're structuring the appropriate amount of time to review relevant work performance metrics with their teams. Likewise, employees must be honest about the impact of their contributions on the wider organization. When either of these sides negates these important feedback scopes, it's easy for work accomplishments to feel unnoticed or disregarded.

2. Signs Employees Aren't Satisfied

Better identify colleagues who feel undervalued and underappreciated by noting the following:

signs your employees are not satisfied with their jobs
  • Frequent sick days: Particularly if an employee had a squeaky-clean record of attendance only a few months ago.
  • Late or missing work: One or two extended deadlines shouldn't be an issue. Yet frequently late or poor-quality outcomes are a tell-tale sign an employee might be checked out, especially if they've performed better before.
  • Socially MIA: Has a colleague skipped multiple work social outings, like happy hour drinks or lunches at a nearby cafe? Maybe they've declined two office party invitations in a row. Or, perhaps, they're just generally less friendly, avoiding nearly all social interactions in the workplace.
  • Inter-employee drama: Toxic work colleagues and bosses are one of the main reasons employees quit. From small yet repeated personality scuffles to more pressing problems like someone taking credit for another's work, inter-office drama can beget serious stress and unhappiness when left unaddressed.
  • General apathy: Employees that seem quieter or moodier than usual tend to be for a reason. It could be due to an issue in their personal lives. Or it could be your first red flag they're disgruntled with something happening in your office but don't yet know how to communicate it.
  • Recent life change: Marriages, divorces, having kids, caretaking a sick family member and more are serious life events that can take a toll on work. Employees who've recently gone through any of these situations may require a little extra recognition and appreciation to help stabilize their place at your organization.

Reasons to Acknowledge Employees

Beyond the feel-good culture it creates, there are plenty of reasons great leaders choose to exercise formal employee appreciation and recognition programs.

1. Boost Workplace Happiness

A little recognition can go a long way. Many employees say their jobs weigh significantly on their overall happiness. Yet of all the variables at work that contribute to happiness, employers are often the least successful at offering rewards and recognition that make their employees feel happy.

Satisfied, self-confident employees are the ones who also rate their job engagement levels higher, particularly compared to team members who feel stressed or forgotten. Instilling even small recognition tokens, such as a personalized thank-you email from their manager, rank as some of the highest boosters of worker and team happiness.

2. Honors Years of Service

Employees are most at risk of quitting around their first work anniversary. And while the rates of employees leaving goes down with each subsequent year they spend at your organization, statistics prove those yearly anniversary marks still remain the most likely time they'll seek change — from asking for a raise to all-out leaving.

awards for years of service

Awarding years of service awards are a prime way to curtail employee dissatisfaction and departures around their work anniversaries. Just make sure there are other, more organic ways you show appreciation sprinkled throughout the year, too, so you don't get stuck recognizing your employees only at this point in the calendar. Otherwise, it'll come across as perfunctory and insincere.

3. Recognizes Fresh, Upcoming Talent Too

Over 40% of millennials expect to leave their job in the next two years. Some studies put those figures even higher, with up to 67% of millennial women saying an organizational departure is inevitable for them within the next few years.

One of the primary reasons for these exits? Lack of career or leadership progression, plus a wider dissatisfaction with how work is recognized in the office.

Employee appreciation is a crucial way to nurture young talent in your teams. Millennial and Gen Z employees are far more likely to respond to financial, wellness and work-life bonuses than other generations as tokens of gratitude for work well done.

4. Reduces Turnover

According to one study, it costs the average business roughly 33% of an employee's salary to find their replacement once that employee leaves. What's more, the study surveyed over 34,000 employees who had recently left their jobs and determined that over three-quarters of the reasons employees said they quit are due to preventable causes.

Employee appreciation programs and rewards can increase job satisfaction. This, in turn, nurtures and retains stronger relationships with your current employee pool, which decreases turnover rates and saves you serious money on the direct and indirect costs of re-hiring.

5. Strengthens Team Bonds

Employees feel more connected and supported when working in a team that shares successes and praise publically. In fact, a team-wide email from managers or organizational leaders is consistently rated as a top-three form of recognition that makes employees feel happiest, followed by company-wide announcements on internal forums and intranets.

6. Increases Productivity and Profits

Happy or fulfilled employees are 12 to 20% more productive than their unhappy colleagues. They're more likely to take on projects, participate in team functions, display a positive attitude, communicate more successfully and in some cases even work longer hours without feeling fatigued or stressed.

The result? Research shows companies that invest in employee satisfaction — including appreciation and performance rewards — can see sales increase by 37% and accuracy by nearly 20%. Your organization increases revenue while increasing overall employee performance and outlook. It's a win-win for everyone.

Creative Ways to Show Employee Appreciation

Boost employee morale and create a happier, healthier office with any of these employee appreciation ideas.

how to make your employees feel appreciated

1. Set Up Peer Nominations

Peer nominations are one of the keenest ways to identify hardworking employees. Often, your fellow colleagues have insights into coworker patterns and behaviors you as a manager might never see. Allow them to express their respect and admiration through peer award nominations. This helps create a 360-degree positive and team-oriented work environment.

2. Hold an Awards Ceremony

Formal awards ceremonies provide a chance to recognize valued employees publically. Host an award ceremony every month or every quarter amongst your department — or better yet, with your entire company. Get feedback from other managers on employees who have excelled recently in their projects, workloads or through other professional contributions. Then award them with an appropriate physical token such as an employee award or plaque.

3. Feed Them

Two-thirds of U.S. employees spend their lunch eating at their desk. For millennials, the stats are even bleaker — one out of every three say they skip lunch entirely to stay ahead of their work and avoid the "stigma" of leaving their workstation.

Break from this alarming anti-lunch atmosphere by offering free snacks, beverages and even catered meals away from the desk to valued team members and groups. Nearly 25% of workers in a Center for Disease Control survey cited free food as a top workplace amenity.

4. Sponsor Professional Development Opportunities

Consider sponsoring an online class, leadership course or certificate program a top employee has their sights on. Go one step further and temperature check all career progression and skills development desires with your employees at least once a year, brainstorming ways you can support their achievement, financially or otherwise.

support ongoing learning in leadership

5. Award Trophies

Personalized employee accomplishment trophies put your recognition in writing. They're a token that continues to commemorate professional achievements and landmarks long after they've passed. Consider employee award trophies for a range of milestones, including:

6. Cut Down on Commute Costs

The average American's commute takes 27 minutes one way. That totals to be roughly 19 days a year an employee will spend heading to and from work — and is far worse in some metropolitan areas.

Lighten the burden of commuting by awarding top employees parking passes, gas reimbursement, public transportation stipends and even setting up rideshare programs. You may not be able to clear up that rush hour traffic jam or guarantee them a seat on the subway, but you can make it more affordable.

7. Foster Work-Life Balance

Employees of all ages continue to laud a healthy work-life balance as the leading criteria they seek in an employer. It's also a workplace characteristic that will keep them working for you year after year, improving your retention rates.

Give high-performing and valued team members the gift of a better-balanced lifestyle by paying for any of the following:

  • Gym memberships
  • Meals at upscale, new or trendy restaurants
  • Creative or fun class passes
  • Concerts or movie tickets
  • All-expenses paid outings with their family

Doing so proves you're invested in the entire employee, not just the functions they perform from nine to five.

8. Support Volunteerism

Over 70% of employees surveyed by America's Charities Snapshot say it's imperative or of high importance for their employer to support corporate giving and volunteer opportunities. Ensure you're keeping pace with this highly popular motivator by offering days of giving or gift-matching rewards to your top-tier talent. They'll appreciate the effortless philanthropic outlet, and you'll appreciate the increased company buy-in.

9. Celebrate Non-Work-Related Achievements

People are multidimensional, after all. Our jobs are a huge part of our lives — but not the only part.

Take care to remember the hobbies, goals, likes and interests of your employees. No detail is too small. Then check in both formally during employee reviews and informally on their status. Did Jim just put a down payment on that cabin? Did Sarah just publish her first short story? Celebrate these life moments, and more, right up there with the professional.

10. Don't Forget Anniversaries

Companies lose their most employees within the first year of their hiring. Ensure your team members know how valuable their presence is — and that you actually know the impact of that presence — through employee anniversary or years of service awards.

Anniversary gifts reward your team members for sticking with you and give you the perfect reason to lavish them with praise and other tokens of team appreciation, making each anniversary a memorable one.

contact diy awards for employee appreciation awards

The Bottom Line? Appreciated Employees Help Your Business Succeed

Prove how much your team members and colleagues mean with personalized employee recognition awards delivered right to your office.

Check out DIY Awards' leading online inventory of employee recognition awards and plaques, then get started showing your thanks today.