When It Comes to Employee Appreciation, Surprises Rule

SHRM recently sent out an e-mail reminding members about upcoming employee celebration dates:

  • Employee Appreciation Day (March 4)
  • National Employee Benefits Day (April 4)
  • Administrative Professionals’ Week (April 24-30)
  • Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work (April 28)
  • April Fools’ Day/Humor at Work (April 1)

I remember when we used to call Administrative Professionals Week – “Secretary’s Day,” and of course, “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” evolved from “Take Our Daughters to Work day.” We’ve come a long way, baby.

So I’m wondering how many companies are actually planning events around these dates? How do these celebrations look in your organization? A few signs around the office, a few balloons, maybe a pot luck meal (or catered lunch if there is a budget). Yes? OK, at least you’re doing something.

Showing appreciation when it is least expected

It’s the little things that count.

When I was 6 years-old, my stepfather picked me up from school and started talking about some holiday that he had a feeling he “forgot about.” He kept saying “gee I juuuust KNOW it’s a special day today, but I can’t remember what it is!” I distinctly remember thinking that if it were, surely I would have remembered it, and I decided not to pay much attention to him (I was wise beyond my years).

As we approached the house, lo and behold, there was a big sign on the door with paper streamers all around and it said “Happy Debbie Day.” Yep. That sign (along with two or three small gifts hidden around the outside of the house) made it feel like the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, AND Santa had showed up all in one day – just for me. My mother wanted to be sure I didn’t feel left out because of my new baby sister. I didn’’t – but I appreciated that cool dinosaur book and crayons just the same and felt like a million bucks.

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The point is, no matter what your age, I think showing people your appreciation when people least expect it is much more meaningful — and it makes a bigger impact.

So what can we do to bring the element of surprise to our employees? Maybe a Happy Tom, Mary (or Debbie) Day is a bit much to take on – but can we get a bit creative? Is it worth the time?

When you consider how many people are actively looking for a job right now, I hope the answer is “YES.”

This was originally published on Deborah Herman’s HR Optimist blog.

Deborah Herman is "Your Recruitment Business Partner" at DH Talent Strategies, LLC in Pompano Beach, FL. She's also a blogger at HROptimist.com, and a HR professional with 20 plus plus years of director-level experience in staffing, marketing and employment communications. Deborah also serves as a District Director for HR Florida State Council. Contact her at dherman@dhtalentstrategies.com.


3 Comments on “When It Comes to Employee Appreciation, Surprises Rule

  1. Thumbs Up Deborah. I’ve found over the years that expressing appreciation (including simple “thank you’s”) are probably the most underutlized motivators in the world of work. It’s not only a lost opportunity, it’s also just plain bad manners.

    Here’s a story about an organization–Nebraska Methodist College–who is doing great things with this:

    David Lee

  2. Great post. I argue that days like “Employee Appreciation Day” should be a reminder that we should be appreciating employees EVERY day. Let’s never use it as an excuse to only recognize employees on that day. And for those who think it’d never happen, look at the prevailing culture around performance reviews as the “day the employee gets recognized” each year.

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