This year, Employee Appreciation Day will fall on Friday, March 4th. With this date comes a significance unprecedented in recent memory, as the Great Resignation has taken the job market by storm. Since Spring 2021, nearly 33 million Americans have left their jobs, resulting in a decline of the labor force participation rate not seen in four decades. This trend is not occurring in isolation; employees have a myriad of personal, economic, and circumstantial reasons to justify their decision to quit, ranging from COVID-19-related exhaustion to a lack of agency in their roles.
Given the current atmosphere of the U.S. labor market, employee appreciation is now more imperative than ever. If employees do not feel appreciated, they are much more likely to leave their jobs. Regardless of title or age, an employee who feels recognized and supported is more likely to demonstrate increased engagement. Each employee brings value to their organization; it is crucial that their employer’s actions and words reflect this.
Generational preferences exist among employees when it comes to acknowledgement of the work they do. Some employees prefer more tangible rewards like compensation, while others value flexibility or verbal affirmation. Research indicates that Millennials and Generation Z typically favor both social recognition and annual awards while older generations have a stronger preference for social recognition. In terms of frequency, younger generations prefer to receive recognition multiple times a week to a few times a month, while Baby Boomers and Generation X prefer less frequent recognition. As Employee Appreciation Day approaches, we explored the differences that exist between CCI employees when it comes to appreciation and how to ensure that employees across all sectors are recognized for their contributions.
What CCI Employees Value by Generation
In probing the question of appreciation for your employees, it is best to go directly to the source. CCI employees represent a wide range of age groups. Below are some of their responses to the question “How can organizations best express gratitude for their employees?”
- “For me, it starts with individual acknowledgment—not public praise or affirmation. Am I doing what you want me to be doing, the way you want it done? Without that, what follows falls empty.”
- “I feel verbal confirmation and compensation are the icing while respect is the cake. Respect from management and colleagues is earned over time and appreciated. Knowing that everyone sees me as a dedicated employee who can be depended on is very important.”
- “I believe that my generation felt appreciated when we received verbal praise or affirmation around something that we did well. And that was it! I never expected anything more – not in compensation, flexibility in my work schedule or opportunities for advancement or growth. “
- “Perks are nice, but if they are transactional in nature, they fall hollow. What matters most is the intention and meaning behind those gifts, knowing that my employer genuinely cares about my wellbeing.”
- “I find it incredibly valuable when my employer trusts me enough to provide me with the support I need to grow within a company.”
- “[I value] transparency in current and future directions of the organization and how I align with it; flexibility in working hours and remote work settings; and benefits, including PTO and health insurance.”
While purely qualitative, this brief survey indicates that there is a wide range of ways to express gratitude towards employees. Conclusions cannot be made to the precise generational differences of employee appreciation; however, everyone enjoys and welcomes recognition. Regardless of the shape that employee appreciation takes, there are three essential recommendations for ensuring that your gratitude does not fall flat.
While Employee Appreciation Day occurs once a year on the first Friday in March, employees should receive recognition throughout the year. Acknowledgement will appear cursory and hollow unless it is sustained in a genuine manner. Frequent demonstrations of appreciation, whether public or private, will go a long way in affirming your employees for their contributions.
Personalize Expressions of Gratitude
Expressing appreciation for your employees is not uniform. Employees should feel that acknowledgement is personalized, just as the work they do for their organization is unique to their role and background. Center praise around a conversation with your employee that ties to how they benefitted the organization; this will lead to a genuine expression rather than one that is seen as transactional.
Invest in Your Employees by Providing Opportunities for Growth
Opportunities for growth provide a path forward for employees. Making an investment in an employee’s career growth indicates they are not only valued but seen as an integral part of the organization moving forward. Investment in networking, educational, and mentorship opportunities are all ways to provide a mechanism for development. Listen to your employees to understand their needs and goals for the future; it will benefit your organization in both the short and long term.
Given the current state of the U.S. job market, demonstrating appreciation for your employees is critical. Further, the benefits of doing so are two-fold: it not only supports your employees, but also increases employee engagement, retention, and commitment to their place of work. This is true across all generational demographics; engaged employees are more likely to put their “all” into what they do, holistically benefitting the organization. Let your employees know they are appreciated – they are the most vital component to your organization’s success.