Why Employee Appreciation Day is Only Just the Beginning


Written by Danni Rush, Chief Customer Officer at Virgin Experience Days & Virgin Incentives

The past year has been challenging to say the least, regardless of what sector or role you work in. The beginning of this month saw Employee Appreciation Day take place – a day which, in previous years, has been a lovely way to acknowledge the team’s efforts. However, if the past year has taught us anything, it’s that we thrive when we have connection, a solid team and support network around us, and employers who listen to our needs as the ‘workplace’ has drastically changed over the course of COVID. With that in mind, I feel that 2021 is the year where Employee Appreciation Day shouldn’t be confined to one day, but instead act as the ‘starting pistol’ for each organisation’s approach to employee wellbeing throughout 2021.

Since its creation in 1995, HR and business leaders globally have been using Employee Appreciation Day to recognise, reward and celebrate their employees’ contribution to the company and its culture. But, following such a tough year for so many, and with another year of challenges to come, we need to take the ethos of this day and instil it throughout the workplace culture as a regular part of working life. Now is the perfect time for businesses to thank their employees for their hard work in such difficult circumstances.

Why is employee appreciation important?

Employee appreciation is an incredibly important tool for boosting staff retention and productivity. In a recent survey conducted by Virgin Incentives, 66% of organisations reported a direct positive impact on retention as a result of employee recognition schemes. Additionally, a lack of recognition is a common reason for workers to leave their job. High staff turnover can prove costly for a business in terms of recruitment and training new hires.

With this in mind, appreciating employees through reward and recognition initiatives is vital for competitive businesses to function. This year in particular, acknowledging the part that each individual has had to play during the pandemic is crucial. Acknowledgements such as these can promote workplace morale, boost motivation, increase staff retention rates, and also ensure that employees feel more invested in contributing to the company and its culture.

How to appreciate employees throughout the year

In the midst of the turmoil, HR leaders have had to find new and creative ways to reward workers for their efforts. They have overcome social restrictions to ensure employees are rewarded and have played a crucial role in maintaining employee engagement and morale. As lockdown restrictions ease, options will increase for HR professionals, but for now the focus must remain on rewards that adhere to the government’s current COVID guidelines.

Often, businesses can fall into the trap of thinking financial rewards are the best and only way to show their appreciation for employees. But actually, a heartfelt and personal ‘thank you’ can go a long way.

A company portal for employees is a great place to share these messages and can contribute to a great people culture. For example, Virgin Incentives uses PeopleHR, where colleagues can give each other recognition badges which range from recognising work to thanking people for spreading positivity. Alternatively, distributing an employee recognition newsletter to the company, writing a LinkedIn recommendation or sharing a personalised message in-person or over email are other ways to show workers appreciation.

Finishing the working day early is another great and low-cost way to show appreciation. For example, allowing employees to leave work an hour early on Friday to spend time bonding with each other (albeit virtually at the moment) or to enjoy the time to themselves.

For those businesses with more budget, pampering employees is also always a good way to show gratitude and create positivity. An at-home DIY spa night kit can be enjoyed regardless of the COVID restrictions and can help to create a social buzz among colleagues. Alternatively, once restrictions allow it, offering staff a wellness retreat can give them an experience to look forward to, a new way to connect with colleagues and their employer, and an important chance to recharge their batteries. After all, a healthy body is a healthy mind!

Beyond wellness days, businesses can choose from a range of experiences – there are over 3,000 available with Virgin Incentives alone. Giving a personalised gift such as an experience or hamper that reflects the recipient’s interests and preferences demonstrates a deeper connection with an employer than cash-based rewards and can be a great way to tie in an employee’s own personal interest such as an online cooking class, arts and crafts session or tutored gin tasting. Or, if preferable, give the choice to the employee with gift cards – a popular alternative that offers a more flexibility. With lots of brands and purchases to choose from, employees can enjoy their reward in their own way and at their own time.

Employee Appreciation for 2021 and beyond

For those businesses who recently celebrated Employee Appreciation Day, and for those who are new to the concept, now is the time to think about how that enthusiasm for staff can be incorporated throughout the daily management setup and not just as a one-off event. For ambitious businesses who want to remain competitive and attract and retain the top talent, Employee Appreciation Day should be recognised all year round.