Show employee appreciation, especially now

None of us expected this pandemic. It has forced businesses and organizations of all kinds to think and adapt quickly. It has spurred us to innovate, iterate, and create. And that includes imagining new ways to show appreciation for employees.

Show employee appreciation

While the human need for appreciation hasn’t changed since the start of the pandemic, the survey data we’ve collected shows appreciation scores are slipping. But it’s not too late. Let’s take a closer look at some best practices that will help you to improve appreciation as well as seven employee appreciation ideas you can share with managers and leaders starting today.

  1. Individuals and teams first. Focus on individual achievements and people supporting each other. If you’ve had to furlough employees, make sure you stay connected with them as individuals.
  2. Honoring those lost. Appreciate those individuals who’ve passed, as well as employees who may have lost a loved one during the pandemic.
  3. The power of story. Tell success stories you’ve collected throughout your organization. Find people who have been living your company values, especially now. What is it they are doing to survive this pandemic?
  4. Learn for the future. If history is right, a crisis will happen again at some point. Find out what has worked – and what hasn’t worked now so you can learn for the future. 
  5. Create channels for good. Find an outlet – such as an instant messaging channel – that makes it easy for employees to express gratitude.
  6. Give money for a purpose. Money isn’t our first recommendation for recognizing others. But giving money for a purpose such as exercise equipment or workspace improvements can work in this environment.
  7. Create a buddy system. Assign “buddies” to check-in with each other – both now and when your staff returns to office life. This can be done 1:1, or managers can buddy-up with 4-6 employees outside of their team.

Here are four, simple best practices for leaders:

Be seen. Use your webcam during remote meetings to show you’re present and interested in what’s happening. Lean into the camera and use your tone of voice to let people know you appreciate them.

Be kind. Try to meet people “where they are.” Ask about the human being first before jumping straight into getting them to do the task you want them to do.

Be a leader. Upgrade from the Golden Rule to the Platinum Rule. In other words, treat people the way they would want to be treated. If you don’t know how someone would like to be appreciated, ask them.

Be positive. Reinforce what people do well. Start from a strength perspective to help amplify what people do best.

Lisa Burke is a workplace improvement expert at Energage, a Philadelphia-based employee survey firm. Energage is The Washington Post’s partner for Top Workplaces. To nominate your company as a Top Workplace, go to

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