by Meridith Levinson

Every Day Should Be Employee Appreciation Day!

Mar 05, 2010

Recognition Professionals International offers creative ways to thank your employees. How do you express your appreciation?

Recognition Professionals International offers creative ways to thank your employees. How do you express your appreciation? 

I found out this morning that today is “Employee Appreciation Day.” Recognition Professionals International, a professional association, created Employee Appreciation Day in 1995 to encourage employers to give thanks to their employees. Employee Appreciation Day is always the first Friday in March so mark your calendars for next year.

Scratch that. Forget about next year. Every day should be employee appreciation day. 

I’ve always been cynical about using appreciation to boost employee morale, especially when it’s flagging. Verbal expressions of gratitude, such as “thanks” or “I really appreciate your work,” can ring hollow, particularly when they’re used reactively rather than proactively.  

However, I recently observed how powerful appreciation can be in the workplace while watching Undercover Boss, CBS’s new reality TV show about top corporate executives who go undercover inside their companies to work with employees on the front lines and see how their management decisions get implemented. (See Leadership and Management Lessons from Undercover Boss.)

At the end of each show, the undercover bosses reveal their true identities to the employees with whom they worked. In what is usually an emotional exchange, the executives express their sincere appreciation for the employees’ dedication, and how the experience of working with the employees transformed them as managers. The executives also talk about what they learned while working on the front lines and how they’re subsequently going to change processes inside the company to improve employees’ working conditions. In some cases, they offer to the employees promotions, raises, bonuses or new career paths inside their companies. 

The reaction from the employees to the “unveiling” is always the same: First, they’re surprised to learn that the new recruit they had trained is actually the top dog. Then they’re deeply touched by the executives’ genuine praise and by the fact that the executive took the time to walk in their shoes. 

The CEOs’ words and actions make the employees feel special and valued. Their heartfelt appreciation stems from having experienced the employees’ work first-hand, and that’s what makes their appreciation so sincere and meaningful to employees. Verbal appreciation is only effective when it’s sincere. 

What are you going to do to show your employees that you appreciate them? (Do you have the guts to do what the undercover bosses did?) Recognition Professionals International offers some creative ways to say thanks. Remember: Actions speak louder than words.