Is Employee Appreciation Day Fake News?


Today is Employee Appreciation Day, the one day each year when you’re supposed to throw a party and thank your employees for all the hard work and dedication they’ve shown your company the other 364 days a year.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to draw attention to employee appreciation, Employee Appreciation Day perpetuates the idea that you can compartmentalize gratitude – that it doesn’t matter so much how you treat your employees the rest of the year, so long as you commemorate this holiday. We talk about this in our latest WorkHuman Radio podcast, embedded at the top of this post, where we chat with the lovely Sarah Hamilton, Globoforce’s HR director.

But to further discredit the idea that employee appreciation should happen only once a year, below are some facts about appreciating employees and creating a positive employee experience throughout the year.

From the ROI of Recognition in Building a More Human Workplace

Workers recognized in the last month are:

  • more than 2x as likely to be highly engaged, compared to those who have never been recognized (66% v. 30%).
  • 2x as likely to be excited or happy about change, compared to those who have never been recognized (14% v. 7%).
  • much more likely to trust senior leaders, compared to those who have never been recognized (82% v. 48%).

From the IBM and Globoforce Employee Experience Index

  • When employees agree they receive recognition when doing good work, they are more than 2x as likely to report a more positive employee experience (83% v. 38%).
  • When employees agree they receive feedback on work performance, they are nearly 2x as likely to report a more positive employee experience (80% v. 41%).

So there’s no shortage of research on why ongoing recognition and appreciation is more impactful than a once-a-year celebration (check out this video to watch Globoforce employees talk about this, too).

You’ll also find tons of articles this week like this one – 5 Ways to Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day – that advise you to give your employees free food or hand out Starbucks gift cards. Personally, I love free food and Starbucks (I’m a caffeine addict), but it’s important to remember that not everyone likes to be appreciated in the same way. Appreciation is not one-size-fits-all.

For example, we interviewed WorkHuman speaker Susan Cain and asked her whether introverts like to be recognized differently than extroverts. Here’s what she said:

I think they do like to be praised publicly but not in a way that puts them on the spot in an uncomfortable way … You also want to pay attention to how are you rewarding them for their contributions. I remember conducting interviews in Silicon Valley and one manager told me he’d been part of a team of introverted engineers that had done exceptional work. Management rewarded them by sending them on a cruise. This is the last thing we want to do. Reward me by letting me go home to my own space, that’s what I want.

So it’s about choice?

Yes, it’s about choice and I think people do want recognition. That’s human. Everybody wants it, but they tend to want it in quieter ways.

One of the best ways to show your employees you appreciate them is to give them true choice in how they are rewarded (for more on that, check out my blog post about my trip to Iceland last summer).

So back to the question posed in the title of this post – is Employee Appreciation Day fake news? At its worst, it’s misleading news. At its best, it’s a reminder that we’re all human – that we’re all emotional beings looking for meaning, autonomy, camaraderie, and happiness every day – not just today.

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Sarah Payne Sarah Payne (124 Posts)

As Managing Editor, Sarah manages Globoforce's blog and writes content about making work more human for people and organizations worldwide. She has a BA in English and Writing from University of Rhode Island.