Employee Appreciation Day is an unofficial holiday celebrated on the first Friday in March.

It was created to recognize and reward employees for their hard work and dedication. Thanks to social media, more and more companies are leveraging this day to show off just how far they’re willing to go to make their employees smile.

How Employee Appreciation Day Came to Be

In 1995, Bob Nelson, a founding board member of Recognition Professionals International, called for a holiday that acknowledges all employees, not just administrative professionals.

Inspired by his research that revealed the positive effects of employee recognition on company success, Nelson considered Employee Appreciation Day a way for employers to strengthen and improve their relationships with their staff.

Young barista

Why Employee Appreciation Day Matters

Whether or not you decide to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day, its philosophy is integral to your company culture and employee retention every day of the year.

Author and President of Quality Service Marketing Sybil F. Stershic define an employer’s relationship with employees in a way that’s difficult to ignore: "The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don't feel valued, neither will your customers.”

As human resources professionals find themselves dedicating more time to employee satisfaction than ever before, it’s important to evaluate where your company stands in terms of culture, benefits, and rewards.

Group of happy Employees

70% of employees claim that if managers said thank you more often, morale would greatly improve.

Studies show that employees who don’t feel that their employer cares about their work and well being will leave their company for one that does. Consider these recent statistics about employee appreciation and engagement.

On Empathy
98% of human resources professionals and 92% of employees believe that empathy from employers is directly connected to employee retention.

On Flexibility
79% of employees who cited poor company culture as their reason for quitting say that paid time off is a determining factor for their next job.

On Gratitude
70% of employees claim that if managers said thank you more often, morale would greatly improve.

On Recognition
42% of employees feel that upper management fails to notice their contributions and accomplishments.
 

4 Ways to Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day

Observing Employee Appreciation Day doesn’t have to require a lot of work on your part. Check out these 4 ideas that will give everyone in the office a reason to feel good.

Two employees shaking hands

Host a Company Luncheon

Who doesn’t love a free lunch? Call in catering from a favorite local restaurant and treat your staff to a delicious midday meal. To increase participation, send an email out on Monday with a poll allowing employees to vote for their preferred cuisine.

Employees enjoying a company lunch

Make It Their Day for Real

As the Employee Appreciation Day luncheon winds down, announce that you’re closing up shop to give staff members the rest of the day off to enjoy. Employees will love the extra time to spend with family and friends, treat themselves to an afternoon of shopping and leisure, or take care of an errand they were saving for after work.

Treat Them to Something They'll (Actually) Love

Give your employees the power to choose the rewards that feel, well, rewarding. With an office full of so many different personalities and preferences, it’s hard to imagine one gift that could possibly win over everyone. Make everyone happy with a unique gift that allows them to select a gift card from a retailer of his or her choice.

Branded gift card

Ask Employees What Appreciation Looks Like to Them

Many companies send out surveys to customers so their product and marketing strategy accurately reflects the needs and desires or their target demographic.

When it comes to employee appreciation, sending out an anonymous survey can result in information that’s just as valuable. Ask employees how they feel about their job, their company, and their work environment. Once you review their answers, maintain their participation in creating a positive work environment by including employees in your efforts to innovate and improve your initiatives designed to recognize and motivate them.

Don't Wait for a Holiday

Companies with truly engaged employees make appreciation a habit, not a single day in a year. Check out 5 ways you can easily and affordably show employees you see their great work and value their contributions year-round.