Guide to Employee Appreciation Day 2021
Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day Friday, March 5th 2021
Employee Appreciation Day is an unofficial holiday observed on the first Friday of March, falling on March 5th this year. It was the brainchild of Bob Nelson, one of Recognition Professionals International’s founding board members. Nelson collaborated with his publishing company, Workman Publishing, to make the holiday appear prominently on workplace calendars starting in 1995.
The idea of reserving an entire day to celebrate the achievements of employees was not novel but putting a semi-official date on calendars sparked an employee recognition movement that persists today. Over the last 25 years Employee Appreciation Day has grown into a respected tradition in the US, with several publications like Inc. Magazine, Forbes, and Boston.com regularly writing about the holiday.
Employee Appreciation Day is one of the best annual opportunities for managers, company leadership, and HR to reinforce the importance of appreciating employees. Recognition and appreciation are top drivers of employee happiness and satisfaction and can have a positive influence on everything from recruitment to turnover.
It’s a simple moral calculus – every person who works for a living deserves to be recognized and appreciated for their contributions, and that includes management and leadership. This is especially relevant in the US, the birthplace of Employee Appreciation Day, where employees often have no guaranteed vacation time and typically work longer hours than most other developed economies.
Beyond that, only around 34% of the US workforce are consistently engaged with their work. A pervasive communications gap exists between organizations and modern workforces. Employee recognition has become an effective means of employer/employee communications, and an essential component of performance management.
Let’s face it, there is not enough appreciation in the world. The more you can spread around your organization, the better. The value of kindness in the workplace is immeasurable, and it can elevate the communities you serve while attracting high performers to your organization.
Employee Appreciation Day is a golden opportunity to set the tone of your culture and serve as a regular touchstone to reinforce that culture. It has wide mainstream support, and there are several resources available to make it a memorable and lasting experience for employees. The real question is why AREN’T you celebrating?
The first Friday of March may seem arbitrary, but there are pragmatic reasons for choosing this date to hold an employee appreciation holiday. Whether Nelson was thinking of these reasons when he came up with Employee Appreciation Day is debatable, but either way the date holds significance.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics regularly records December and March as the most popular months for employees to leave their jobs. December is understandable as a natural endpoint. March’s popularity is tied to bonus payment deadlines from the previous year in accordance with Section 409A in the tax code. At any rate, many employees who are thinking of leaving choose to do so in the month of March, so having the holiday within the first week makes a lot of sense.
Also figuring into the timing is February being the shortest month of the year, meaning it usually has the shortest deadlines and turnaround times. Many employees power through the first two months of the year knowing March will be a respite, and many others don’t have a respite to look forward to! In fact, Statista found that workload is the number one cause of on-the-job stress. Employee Appreciation Day is a helpful palate cleanser to reaffirm your connection with employees, rest their talents, and re-energize them as they head into Spring.
Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day formally and companywide sends a strong message of unity to employees and gives the organization a platform for communicating appreciation and goals. If you have an existing recognition system, it can be an effective supplement to HR’s overall engagement efforts.
As a bonus, Employee Appreciation Day celebrations give managers a great chance to make genuine connections with staff. The more managers can get involved directly engaging their teams on a personal level, the better. The manager/employee relationship is a top driver of employee satisfaction, accounting for as much as 70% of variance in employee engagement levels.
Overall people are happier and more cooperative in workplaces where inclusion and diversity are priorities. A joint research paper featured in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that employees who receive regular gratitude were more likely to put in discretionary effort, welcome new employees, and pick up slack for coworkers.
Furthermore, Gallup has known for a while that their Q12 Survey item “In the last seven days, I have received recognition and praise for good work” is correlated to a 10% to 20% difference in revenue and productivity.
It shouldn’t be a secret to anyone that employees who have a safe, respectful, and appreciative work environment and feel a strong connection to their direct managers are more productive, proactive, and prosocial. Employee Appreciation Day is a day to flex all your recognition muscles and make an indelible impression.
With 1 in 4 employees working remotely in 2021 along with ongoing social distancing restrictions, showing appreciation isn’t quite what it used to be. An event that is typically celebrated with companywide gatherings and in-person interactions needs to be re-engineered with respect to each organization’s new cultural dynamics.
Fortunately, there are already some creative strategies and established best practices that are growing into pandemic-proof channels to ensure everyone feels included and seen. Here are six fresh ideas for celebrating Employee Appreciation Day in 2021:
Employee Appreciation Day is an important holiday for us, and we have several resources available to help you make it an excellent experience for everyone. Follow the links below for an assortment of content to help you plan festivities, generate buzz, and create a memorable celebration!
Download our Guide to Employee Appreciation eBook for tips, tricks, and celebration suggestions.