Employees who don’t feel recognized for doing great work are twice as likely to be job hunting and 34% more likely to leave their current company within a year. And it’s easy to understand why — even if you enjoy your job, feeling like no one values your work can be discouraging, to say the least.
Luckily, recognizing employees doesn’t need to require a big budget or fancy perks. There are plenty of simple ways that you can let employees know how valued they are.
For inspiration, we’ve listed what six companies are doing to recognize their employees — and boosting engagement, increasing retention, and building loyalty in the process.
1. Red Velvet Events used a troll doll named Pockets as a trophy and now drape a special jacket over the chair for a week
For several years, creative planning agency Red Velvet Events had a particularly quirky way of recognizing employees. Every Monday in the weekly staff meeting, one team member would be given Pockets, a 90s-era troll doll with bright red hair, to display proudly on their desk. The previous week’s recipient would nominate the next, publicly acknowledging that employee for going above and beyond in their work.
Team members would often add their own flair to Pockets, adorning it with accessories and jewelry, drawing tattoos on the bottom of its feet, and even creating a castle for it to live in. When the doll was fully decorated, the team got a new one.
By 2017, they’d gone through five totems and decided it was time for a change.
Today, Red Velvet Events recognizes employees by presenting them with Pockets 3:0. The brainchild of the business development team, Pockets 3:0 is a hand-painted denim jacket that recipients can drape over the back of their desk chair for a week. First, though, they get to model it in the weekly meeting. They also receive a little note from the previous recipient explaining why they were chosen.
Peer recognition initiatives help strengthen team bonds and allow coworkers to thank each other for their hard work. And by letting employees put their own spin on the recognition, it can become a tradition that makes your culture stand out.
2. Groupon employees wear their tenure on their sleeves with customized jackets
E-commerce platform Groupon celebrates employee anniversaries in style. When employees hit their one-year “Grouponiversary,” they’re rewarded with a Groupon-green Adidas track jacket personalized with their name or nickname and the company’s logo.
After earning their jacket, employees receive a star patch for every subsequent anniversary. This is a great way to let employees wear their tenure as a badge of honor all year round.
Of course, those jackets would get pretty crowded with stars after a few years. So to mark an employee’s fifth Grouponiversary, they receive a coveted black version of the jacket.
“At Groupon, employee satisfaction is a priority,” explains Nadia Rawlinson, Groupon’s former vice president of global HR, in a blog post for Spreadshirt, the company that prints Groupon’s jackets. “Our track jacket program fosters a sense of pride and inclusion among staff and is just one of the ways we demonstrate our appreciation for loyal employees.”
Celebrating anniversaries in a meaningful way like this makes employees feel valued and gives them something to aspire to. Using branded swag as part of the celebration also encourages them to become brand ambassadors, letting them show the world how proud they are to work at your company.
3. Three Girls Media hosts themed virtual parties for its 100% remote workforce
Marketing agency Three Girls Media has a 100% remote workforce, so it has to get a little creative when it comes to celebrating its employees. That’s why every quarter, the team meets up for a themed virtual party.
Past hangouts have included coffee chats, pizza parties, and even an arts and crafts event. In advance of the party, the company sends everyone a gift card to get food, drinks, or other supplies according to the theme. This costs about $250 per party, but the small gesture of thanks really resonates with employees.
“We really try to show our employees we appreciate them and their hard work,” says Emily Sidley, senior director of publicity at Three Girls Media. “We’ve found recognizing them as individuals goes a long way in driving motivation. Our current team is the strongest it’s ever been.”
Virtual hangouts and parties are ideal for farflung workforces, ensuring no remote employee is left out. While there are plenty of free video tools you can use, spending a little money on rewards like gift cards is a nice touch, making the celebration feel even more special.
4. Eppstein Uhen Architects created life-size cardboard cutouts to celebrate an employee’s career
A few years ago, Eppstein Uhen Architects decided to throw a party to celebrate the career and accomplishments of one of its employees, John Miceli. And to add a fun twist to the decorations, they commissioned a local printer to create four life-size cutouts of John.
While one of the cutouts featured John hard at work in a hard hat, the other three showcased some of his other interests. One showed him lounging on the floor with a bottle of wine. Another saw him impersonating Elvis.
“The combination of a little client imagination [and] a sense of humor…resulted in great decorations for the celebration,” BPI Labs, the creator of the cutouts, wrote on their website.
Not all recognition has to revolve around work. Finding ways to celebrate other aspects of an employee’s personality or recognize their extracurricular activities can make them feel like part of the family — and bring a little levity to the workplace.
5. Typeform uses spontaneous rounds of applause to ensure no achievement goes unnoticed
Typeform, an online surveys and form building service, has developed a fast, free ways to show its employees a little love. Whenever someone does something noteworthy, the people around them are encouraged to start applauding. It doesn’t have to be a big achievement either — even small, everyday accomplishments can be applause-worthy.
“It sounds a little cheesy and sales-y,” writes Sançar Sahin, former VP of Marketing at Typeform, “but it’s actually a nice Typeform tradition.”
What makes this tradition even more meaningful for employees is that when one person starts applauding, the whole office will join in.
“The beauty is that most people have no idea why they’re applauding, but the person receiving the applause does,” Sançar says. “It’s a nice, momentary break for celebration.”
Taking a second to stop and say thank you, whether it’s through applause or just a few kind words, can mean the world to employees. Getting the whole team in on the appreciation is also an easy way to show everyone how much you value the work they’re doing.
Appreciated employees are happy employees
Whether you’re giving gifts, hosting events, or just saying “thank you,” even the smallest gestures can leave employees beaming from ear to ear. This not only helps them feel more connected to their work, but to the company as a whole.
What’s more, many employees will want to talk about the fact that they were recognized — telling their family and friends and sharing the story on social media. This can have a big effect on your employer brand, showing prospective candidates you’re a company that really cares about its employees and isn’t afraid to show it.
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*Image from Red Velvet