Created by Dr. Bob Nelson, founding member of the Recognition Professionals International, Employee Appreciation Day has been celebrated the first Friday in March since 1995. It is a day for executives, managers and owners to acknowledge their staff and the contributions they have made to the companies’ success.

Food trucks, company-wide dinners and team building retreats certainly have their place in larger, more corporate appreciation programs, but small business owners with smaller budgets need to think of ways to say ‘thank you’ without breaking the bank.

Expressing gratitude to employees doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, but it should be sincere.

Hand written thank you notes, a favorite food, an extended paid lunch break, week-long use of a prime parking spot, chair massages, a donation to a cause or charity on their behalf, subscriptions to industry related publications or a one-on-one mentoring session are great ways to celebrate your staff.

National Employee Appreciation Day

Though the official day happens once per year, it’s important for employers to actively create an atmosphere where employees feel appreciated all the time.

“For the most powerful recognition, simple, day-to-day thanks is where it’s at for building a foundation of trust and goodwill.” ~ Dr. Bob Nelson

Creating a workplace culture where employees feel valued is good for the bottom line. From research conducted for the book, How Full Is Your Bucket, the Gallup organization concluded that there are more than 20 million “disengaged” employees in the American workforce who cost the economy roughly $350 billion dollars annually in lost productivity.

This does not have to be the case. In fact, Dr. Noelle Nelson has written a book that can help employers reverse this trend. In Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy, Dr. Nelson has well-researched case studies, statistics and health notes on stress and the brain that directly correlate employee happiness with increases in profits.

“Letting your employees know in concrete, practical ways that they matter, count and are important can generate amazing profits,” ~ Dr. Nelson

Working employee appreciation into the everyday routine doesn’t have to be complicated. Start small with acknowledgements in company memos and newsletters.

Should you decide to make employee recognition part of your company’s HR practices by creating a formal program, remember these tips from Globoforce VP of Client Strategy and Consulting, Derek Irvine. For an employee appreciation program to be truly impactful and not seem like an afterthought, HR and management need to be aware of three things before they offer praise:

  • What They Say
  • How They Say It
  • When They Say It

The recognition should be as specific as possible, delivered sincerely and in a timely fashion. When your staff feels their efforts are genuinely appreciated, your bottom line will reap the rewards.

What is the most unique thing you’ve done to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day? 

Post It note image courtesy of Stuart Miles at