Workplace Appreciation

Create an appreciation culture with insights from HR professionals, Top Workplaces experts, and research-backed best practices.

In a workplace where recognition and appreciation are elusive concepts, the daily routine can feel like an endless treadmill for employees. Maybe their ideas are lost in a void, or their contributions are met with silence. In these environments, motivation dwindles, and commitment wanes, leading employees to become increasingly uninvested in their tasks. Over time, the experience of having their contributions met with indifference makes it challenging for employees to stay motivated day in and day out. 

The continuous cycle of feeling undervalued eventually brings the employee to a crossroads. They must decide whether to stay, hoping for change that may never materialize, or seek a new organization where employees are recognized for their contributions. And guess what? The option to leave becomes increasingly appealing with each passing day. 

This article explores workplace appreciation and uncovers how to improve your organization’s approach to recognizing employees. We’ll inspire and equip you with lots of employee appreciation ideas you can use to ensure your employees feel valued and motivated to contribute their best day after day.

Learn more: Why Employees Leave & How to Prevent Turnover

Why workplace appreciation matters

Workplace appreciation isn’t about warm feelings and friendly pats on the back. Instead, it’s a catalyst for a healthy company culture and a driver of improved employee retention. It’s also among the most cost-effective methods for positively influencing morale, productivity, and retention rates. 

How and what gets celebrated sends a powerful statement about your organization’s culture and what gets prioritized. When authentic employee appreciation is woven into daily operations, starting from leadership and permeating the workforce, motivating employees to bring their best to work every day. 

Leaders at Top Workplaces recognize the significant impact of employee appreciation, and this recognition is backed by compelling research. Aspiring organizations seek to emulate the success of Top Workplaces, often characterized by stronger-than-average workplace cultures. 

When measuring employee responses to the Appreciation statement on the Energage Workplace Survey, aspiring organizations recorded a commendable 84% positive response rate. Award-winning Top Workplaces achieved even more remarkable results, with an impressive 90-97% of employees expressing positive sentiments, underscoring the power of prioritizing employee appreciation and the qualities of a great workplace.

Creating a successful workplace appreciation strategy

Recent findings from a Top Workplace Research Lab study show that only 35% of HR professionals and company leaders consider their workplace appreciation efforts as very or extremely effective. This underscores the pressing need for meaningful employee recognition. To craft a successful workplace appreciation strategy, it’s crucial to understand what matters most to employees based on their feedback. 

In developing an effective strategy, aim to balance informal gestures and formal recognition programs. The same research study reveals what HR professionals deem essential:

  • Personalized forms of appreciation
  • Recognition from senior leadership and direct managers
  • Financial incentives
  • Opportunities for training and growth
  • Consistency and fairness
  • Alignment with employee values
  • Celebrating professional milestones

Workplace appreciation ideas

Showing appreciation is all about being authentic, and everyone plays a role, including leaders, managers, and employees. Next, we’ll dive into how you can show appreciation in the workplace. These ideas will inspire a culture of gratitude where employees feel valued and seen. Let’s get started!

1. Saying thank you 

Don’t underestimate the power of saying “thank you.” You can also enhance this with a handwritten or digital note to convey gratitude. 

2. Employee-of-the-month award

Take the classic employee-of-the-month award to the next level by encouraging fellow employees to nominate their peers with personal comments, highlighting their alignment with company values. 

3. Work anniversaries

Work anniversaries are meaningful milestones for your team members. Make them feel valued by commemorating these each month. Celebrate at company-wide meetings, internal channels, and thoughtful gifts for milestone years.

4. Passion projects 

Allow employees to carve out time to explore their interests and passions alongside their regular work duties.

5. Company swag

Providing branded merchandise like T-shirts or mugs creates a sense of belonging and pride among your employees.

6. Customer service excellence recognition

The customer service award is a standout choice for companies with customer-facing teams. Acknowledging and appreciating these employees goes a long way in ensuring positive customer experiences and building a stronger brand reputation.

7. Social media spotlight

Shine a light on your employees through social media shoutouts. It shows appreciation and gives your brand extra exposure. Even if your company isn’t a social media giant, it’s an excellent way to showcase your most valuable assets – your dedicated employees. Plus, it can attract top talent who value recognition.

8. Summer Fridays

Shorter workdays or early Fridays during the summer are a refreshing way to show appreciation and encourage employees to recharge.

9. Employee appreciation events

Boost team morale with employee recognition ideas like happy hours, office outings, and company-sponsored social events. These occasions praise employees for their hard work and provide an opportunity for connection that strengthens workplace relationships.

10. Appreciation wall

A tangible way to motivate and appreciate your employees, an appreciation wall can be a creative and inspiring centerpiece in your workplace. These walls often feature peer-to-peer recognition, leadership quotes, and guidance on how to express gratitude.

11. Driving success award

Reserve this idea for employees who have made a significant impact on your company through their creativity, hard work, innovation, and embodiment of essential company values. It’s a more formal recognition, often accompanied by an award ceremony and celebration.

12. Above and beyond accolades

This award is great for employees who consistently go the extra mile and actively promote a culture of gratitude. It’s even more impactful when the recipient regularly shares their appreciation, setting a powerful example for their colleagues.

13. Birthday celebrations

Recognizing employee birthdays is a simple yet meaningful way to show them you care about their special day.

14. Wellness stipend

A wellness stipend is an excellent investment in employee well-being and physical and mental health. It can also minimize employee burnout.

15. Dinner out

Treating your team to a meal is a delicious way to show workplace appreciation and connect with employees.

16. Recognize outside achievements

Acknowledging your employees’ personal milestones, such as weddings, graduations, or births, shows you care about people as individuals, not just employees.

17. Virtual lunches

Hosting virtual lunches is a fun way of engaging remote employees to ensure they feel connected and appreciated. 

18. Workplace flexibility

Offering employees additional workplace flexibility is a welcome way to balance work and life according to their needs. 

19. ‘No meetings’ day

Designate a day free from meetings, allowing employees to focus on tasks without interruptions.

20. Gift cards

Surprise employees with gift cards to their favorite stores or restaurants as a special treat to express gratitude and appreciation.

21. Monthly subscriptions

Surprise your team with monthly subscriptions to services like streaming, magazines, or meal kits.

22. Monetary bonuses

Let’s face it: everyone appreciates a little extra cash. While not as personal as other ideas, it’s an excellent complement to more individualized gestures.

23. Holiday Celebrations

Marking holidays with festive events and decorations can create a joyful atmosphere within the workplace.

24. Team retreat

Organize team-building retreats to strengthen bonds and express appreciation for your employees’ hard work.

25. Non-profit donations

Supporting causes that matter to your team members demonstrates a commitment to their values.

26. VIP parking spot

Reward exceptional performance with a coveted parking space.

27. Extra PTO

Providing additional paid time off gives employees a well-deserved break to recharge.

28. Appreciation round

Start team meetings by encouraging employees to share their gratitude for other team members and celebrate teamwork. 

29. Customer praise

Highlight positive reviews from customers and share how it makes a positive impact on the organization. 

30. Be a role model

Starting at the organization’s top and throughout, encourage and model a culture of appreciation. 

31. Measure employee appreciation

Employee engagement surveys such as the Workplace Survey measure employee sentiment around appreciation and provide the opportunity to provide context through anonymous comments. 

See the latest research and get more employee appreciation ideas

 In times when retention, morale, and motivation are critical, learning what matters most to your employees is a great place to start. After all, appreciation consistently ranks as one of the strongest drivers of employee engagement. 

For a deeper dive into the world of employee appreciation and to discover the innovative strategies and approaches of award-winning workplaces, download this Top Workplaces Research Lab report.


Top Workplaces for Appreciation 

Which of the nation’s companies excel at employee recognition? Check out award-winning Top Workplaces for Appreciation


If your company believes in the power of a people-first culture that prioritizes employee appreciation, get recognized for it! Top Workplaces is the nation’s leading employer recognition program, offering awards in 60+ regional markets plus national honors for culture and industry excellence. To participate, begin by nominating your organization here.       

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