Celebrating Wins and Making everyday an Employee Appreciation Day

Taking time to celebrate achievements, however big or small, is more often than not a missed opportunity. We are so focused on meeting our goals, staying on budget, fulfilling obligations to stakeholders, and juggling the myriad of other priorities that are more crushing in urgency. But the truth is, in order to continue motivating employees (not to mention ourselves!) to come to work with an “all in” attitude, celebration is a key ingredient.  

We consistently find in our Employee Engagement Surveys that employees report feeling underappreciated and undervalued.  Complaints of low morale frequently stem from this very feeling. Not only does taking the time to recognize accomplishments and demonstrate gratitude for everyone’s hard work help boost morale, it rallies and engages the troops for the work ahead. It inspires a desire, drive, spirit, and commitment among employees to march on at full steam, feeling ready to tackle the challenges that await next.

At this point you’re probably thinking yeah yeah, that’s a great speech but I’m SO BUSY! Well, maybe so, but one thing that’s hard to argue with is some good old-fashioned science. Consider this fact: as humans, endorphins are released in your body when you celebrate, and they make you feel awesome.  This feeling of awesome transcends the event and pays off for quite a while. Celebrating wins positively affect our psychologically and reinforces the behaviors that helped land them. That makes it absolutely critical for leaders to make celebration a priority. What’s more, according to findings from a SHRM/Globoforce report suggest that organizations that spend as little as 1 percent of payroll on recognition are 79 percent more likely to experience better financial results. Wins all around.

So, are you wondering where to begin? We’ve got you covered. For some fantastic ideas guaranteed to boost some serious endorphins, read on.


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Ready for the ideas? Here they are:

#1 Company birthday parties

Use your company’s anniversary as an opportunity to appreciate your employees and drive engagement. Research conducted by Price Waterhouse and Cooper’s Saratoga Institute suggests that over promotions and raises, employees prefer appreciation, purpose, and autonomy to feel engaged. The festive nature and high energy around birthday celebrations can be uplifting to employees’ spirits, and this boost in morale is central to driving engagement. As a bonus, you also have a chance to celebrate your organization’s heritage and generate among employees a sense of connectedness to its identity, overall mission, and goals. For more on that, check out our post on the importance of celebrating your heritage here.

#2 Holiday Parties

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s all present the opportunity for companies to keep the momentum of the holiday spirit–the spirit of giving–up at the office by celebrating with a party. As a sign of thanks, throwing employees these parties can show them just how much their contributions are valued and critical to the success of the company. They don’t need to be lavish, just meaningful. Commemorate the year through photos on a slideshow, and be sure to mention or congratulate any teams or individuals that stood out. Make the conversation participatory by inviting employees to chime in with anything else they feel deserves a mention. The point is to create and build on a shared narrative, one that everyone can look back and reflect on together as they enter another exciting year, another chapter in the story of worklife.

#3 Awards, Award Ceremonies, and Employee Appreciation Days

According to a study conducted by renowned research firm Cicero Group, findings show a majority of employees choose physical awards over cash because the effects of feeling appreciated last longer when receiving something tangible. That makes sense since it’s a welcome reminder that they are valuable to the organization or their team. As you might have guessed, the returns on spending money from cash awards on the other hand can be much more fleeting.

Receiving such awards at a ceremony or event can also be extremely fulfilling, as the employee is celebrated by his or her peers and leaders and experiences for just a few very significant moments, everyone’s applause and recognition, and then enjoys that memory for months after.  Employee Appreciation Day (officially the first Friday of March every year, in case you were wondering!) is the perfect opportunity to incorporate an award ceremony.


  • Don’t bother expanding award menus too much as research shows the returns
    are diminishing. Instead, come up with 50 or fewer unique items that can
    specifically reward employees to demonstrate the value of what they do for the organization.
  • Consider a year-round point system for incentives that employees can cash out for real gifts.
  • Institute a high fives platform where employees can indicate appreciate for their colleagues year round, then give out quarterly awards to those that have been most recognized.


#4 Other Company Employee Appreciation Events

You don’t always need to rely on quarterly or annual occasions to throw a party or go the extra mile to celebrate the people who keep your company running. Employees can feel especially appreciated at ad hoc events that are designed for them, and only them. Events that are unexpected, and planned simply because the organization had a good quarter, for example, allows employers to show their people just how invested they are in them, and just how committed they are to including them to share in the organization’s success.

No matter how you choose to celebrate your employees, a key takeaway is to treat celebration as a regular and integral part of organizational culture. Organizations known as great places to work are known for how they appreciate their employees – wouldn’t you love for your organization to be known as a great place to work?