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Employee appreciation day is coming up on Friday, March 1st, which means that many companies and team leads are looking for ways to reward their employees.

I’ve read lists with suggestions that include team building activities, sugary treats, and on-site massage therapists. (Don’t get me wrong… who wouldn’t want to eat a big cake or get a massage at work?).

However, I think there are many ways in which managers can show appreciation for their employees without having to wait for a specific day that tells them to do so.

After all, great managers show appreciation as work hapens, and not only during stated cycles — like employee appreciation day or quarterly performance reviews.

Here are some ways in which you can make every day employee appreciation day 🎉

Celebrate small wins

When your days are full of meetings and things to do, it’s easy to forget to reward employees for small things like a great sales call, a new marketing idea, or a fixed bug.

Sometimes it’s easier to focus on big goals like completing a new product feature or reaching an annual sales goal. However, great leaders show appreciation for their employees by celebrating small victories along the way.

As Skip Richard, author of The Book of Mistakes argues, celebrating your employees’ small wins increases job satisfaction and productivity:

“If you aren’t celebrating small wins, you might be missing some great opportunities to become an even better leader and motivate your team,” says Richard. “In fact, the most successful and popular bosses tend to celebrate every victory, no matter the size.”

Here are some ways in which you can celebrate your direct-reports’ small wins:

  • Congratulate employees in person when they do something great. Hearing their boss say “well done on X” will encourage them to keep up the good work 💪.
  • Include a shoutout section in your weekly team email or meeting 💌📢.
  • Use a tool like Fellow.app to give and get positive feedback (and if you’re using Slack, you can use Fellow to send feedback and shoutouts without leaving the messaging app) 📲.

Ask employees for feedback

When you ask employees for their opinion before making important decisions, you show them that you appreciate their ideas and want everyone on the team to contribute.

For instance, you can ask your direct reports what they think of new initiatives and recent events, or if you could make team meetings more efficient in any way.

Showing employees that you appreciate their time and ideas on a daily basis is better than just writing a thank you card on employee appreciation day.

On the other hand, you can always show appreciation for your employees by asking them for constructive feedback about your leadership style. It says a lot about your willingness to improve as a leader and shows that you want to make work better for everyone.

As Leila Bulling Towne, an executive leadership coach and member of the Forbes Coaches Council argues in this post, leaders who want to show appreciation for their teams should open up about their weaknesses and be humble enough to ask employees if there’s anything they should be working on:

“Sometimes employees are afraid to criticize their manager or the company for fear of repercussions. Changing this perception — or better yet, preventing it from forming in the first place — requires building a culture of trust and transparency where all types of constructive feedback are encouraged, no matter the source.”

Some ways in which you can show employees that you appreciate their ideas and feedback include:

  • Scheduling weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one meetings, and using this face-to-face time to ask if there’s anything you should start or stop doing 👥.
  • Asking for suggestions, comments, and feedback on new projects and initiatives 💬.
  • Rewarding employees when they give you constructive criticism (by applying their feedback and letting them know that you appreciate it) 🎁.
  • Using a feedback tool like Fellow.app to get a 360° review from all your direct reports, or to ask for feedback about your meetings 👌.

Help employees achieve their career goals

Here’s another way in which managers can show appreciation for their employees: By coaching them to achieve their career goals and dreams.

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article titled “Want to be a great manager? Have career conversations with your team.” While doing some research, I came across a video from the First Round CEO Summit where Russ Laraway talks about the concept of servant leadership:

“One way to know if you’re exhibiting service leadership is if the people under you are growing and developing,” said Laraway.

In a survey conducted by Right Management, 82 per cent of respondents said they would be more engaged in their work if they had regular career conversations with their boss. Similarly, 75 per cent said they would be more likely to stay at their current company.

I don’t know about you, but feeling that my manager cares about my career progression makes me feel more appreciated than a pizza party or a pair of company socks.

Here are some ways in which you can help employees achieve their career goals:

  • Have career conversations where you get to know each of your direct reports and learn what their aspirations are 🗣.
  • Give employees tasks and responsibilities that align with their goals. E.g. If Sarah wants to become a manager, find more leadership opportunities for her. If Tom wants to become a great public speaker, ask him to take the lead in your next team meeting 🎯.
  • Help employees find mentors and resources that help them develop new skills 📚.
  • Use Fellow.app to track your one-on-one conversations, set priorities and assign action items based on what your direct-reports want to achieve 🙌.

Celebrate work anniversaries

One last thing you can do to show appreciation for employees is celebrating important milestones, like their work anniversaries.

Even though these are stated dates, they are specific to each employee, which makes them more special than a holiday like employee appreciation day.

Celebrating an employee’s work anniversary shows them that they’re valuable for your team and that their presence in the company deserves a celebration.

While there is no need to throw a party or disrupt the entire workday, a message on your team group chat or a quick note on their desk will go a long way.

Anthony C. Johnson, CEO of Attorney Group argues that celebrating work anniversaries is a great way to show appreciation for your employees:

“By celebrating the anniversary of their hiring, we can tell each employee that it’s significant that they gave a year of their life to help build our dream. And that definitely deserves cake,” says Johnson.

Some ways in which you can celebrate work anniversaries include:

  • Circulating an anniversary card where everyone on your team writes a special message 📝.
  • Buying a gift that fits your direct report’s personality and interests. Some ideas include a gift card or a book that talks about a skill they want to develop 📙.
  • Posting a message on your team group chat thanking that employee for their work 🎉.
  • Using a tool like Fellow.app to get notified about your colleague’s birthdays and work anniversaries, and never forget about important dates again 👍.

Employee Appreciation Day was created in 1995 by Bob Nelson — an expert on employee motivation and performance — to remind businesses and organizations to recognize the achievements and contributions of their employees.

While the specific holiday is a great way for managers to celebrate their direct reports, employee appreciation doesn’t have to be limited to one day of the year:

The best managers showcase it every day.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +429,678 people.

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