How to show your employees you appreciate them

Many people show appreciation around the holidays, but here’s how to do it year round.

How to show your employees you appreciate them

All employees want to feel appreciated—but not all managers know what really makes them happy. Hint: It’s more than bringing in donuts on Fridays.

According to a report from O.C. Tanner, when employees feel appreciated, they experience greater levels of well-being, both inside and outside of work.

And 89% of workers with high levels of well-being say they’re satisfied with their jobs, versus only 44% of those with lower well-being. They also plan to stay at their jobs longer. 

Bottom line: appreciated workers are happy workers. And happy workers produce more and stay longer.

It doesn’t take a lot to show them you truly value what they bring to the office each day. But it’s got to be a priority if you want a happy, productive team. 

Notice the everyday contributions

Don’t wait until annual review time to talk to employees about what a great job they’re doing. Make sure they feel that you’re noticing their work on a daily or weekly basis.

“I say ‘Thank you’ as often as possible to each member of the team and highlight standout work in companywide emails,” says Deborah Sweeney, CEO of

At PostcardMania, a weekly staff meeting gives people a chance to acknowledge good work that’s been done on the team. “At the end of the meeting, people can raise their hand to give a shout-out to a co-worker who really helped them out and went above and beyond the week before,” says Joy Gendusa, the company’s founder and CEO.

“Everyone from entry-level and temporary hires to myself and senior executives gets in on it. Sometimes the love is so contagious that we're acknowledging each other for five to 10 minutes.”

Be specific

It’s important to provide recognition in a way that’s both meaningful and clear about the reason it matters to the organization.

“’You were awesome in that meeting’ is very different than ‘Your ability to alleviate the client’s concerns in the meeting lead not only to them signing on with us but adding on more services sooner than we had hoped,’” says Kelly Poulson, a human resources pro and coach. “Talk to them about why what they did was so special and integral to the business.”

Invest in them

“A raise or a bonus is a great way to acknowledge sustained good work, but if you want to give kudos or give some spot appreciation, you can also reward people with development opportunities,” says Megan Hughes, a human resources consultant at human resources firm Gray Scalable.

That could mean opportunities to learn new skills, take the lead on an exciting project, or present their work to leadership or at a large team meeting. “Make sure you let them know why you chose them,” Hughes says. “It’ll help reinforce whatever they’re doing that’s going well.”

Offer them flexibility

Demonstrate that you want to keep your best talent by offering the best work arrangement. At e-commerce firm Spreadshirt, for instance, the company’s “Feel Good Manager” helps staffers with young children find the right daycare, after-school program, or flex-work schedule that works best for them.

At another firm, it may be about letting an employee work remotely or four days a week. “When we speak with employers, what we typically find is that highly motivated employees often decided to stay with an employer because their team and their manager trusts and empowers them,” says Jesse Gross, head of partnerships at Remote Year, a company that helps firms facilitate remote work arrangements.

Ask them what they prefer

Many managers make the mistake of showing their employees appreciation the way they—the managers—would want to be appreciated. “Or maybe they read a few tips in a business book about motivation,” says Robin Cangie, a leadership and career coach and former startup marketing executive. “This is a recipe for disaster and one I learned the hard way myself.”

Best practice: Ask employees how they’d like to be recognized. A shout-out at a companywide meeting might be perfect for one person and embarrassing for someone else. Your worker might prefer an email to a verbal thank you, or an extra vacation day or two instead of a small bonus. Have a conversation about what would be most meaningful and memorable. 

Says Cangie: “The most effective recognition is honest, authentic, and individualized to how each employee wants to be recognized.”

Not feeling appreciated? Might be time to search for a new job