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Sharing My Journey on Employee Appreciation Day

Sharing My Journey on Employee Appreciation Day By Ben Irwin (2)

I didn’t always realize how much showing appreciation can and will change someone’s day, maybe even their life or career. Since March 1 is Employee Appreciation Day, this seems a perfect opportunity to share how important employee recognition has become to me as a human being, a professional, and team member.  

On this first Friday of March, companies everywhere are rolling out Employee Appreciation Day events and rewards, from recognition programs to happy hours, gift cards, company swag, team-building activities, surprises in the break room, and other employee engagement efforts to boost morale and thank employees for their hard work. There is no shortage of Employee Appreciation Day ideas to show positivity with a personal touch. 

My perspective on this special day to express gratitude is more about creating an ongoing culture of appreciation – starting with me as an individual. When I started looking into the topic of appreciation, everything I read confirmed and made me more conscious of what I have learned through my own experiences. Whether we’re talking about exchanges with friends, co-workers, employees, or bosses, everyone likes to be shown a little appreciation from time to time.  

Here are a few things I’ve learned about how and when to do it.  

There’s a catch – it must be genuine  

In researching appreciation in the workplace, I have found a lot of great articles. This one stood out to me because I have experienced it in all the right ways. A recent survey of more than 10,000 working adults found five reasons employers need to take authenticity seriously when showing employees appreciation:  

  1. It is a matter of respect. 
  2. It reflects company culture. 
  3. It affirms employees’ value. 
  4. It clarifies progress and performance. 
  5. It inspires confidence in future opportunities.  

Being genuine in showing appreciation is important between co-workers, too. As a talent recruiter, I’m fortunate to partner with a recruiting firm that has an amazing company culture. People care about their colleagues’ success and professional development and show it by supporting and rallying around each other. Over the past 10 years, the team-oriented environment at Goodwin Recruiting has taught me just about everything I know about gratitude in the workplace, including the following.  

Make an ongoing investment in others  

Through my years of climbing the corporate ladder and now working for myself, I’ve found that the most impactful form of expressing appreciation is a combination of time and focus, rather than gifts. Don’t get me wrong, the benefits of showing employees appreciation through gifts and awards are extremely valuable in the workplace.  

But appreciation is something to practice all year long, not just at set times or on a particular day of recognition. To me, seen through this macro lens, gifts and awards pale in comparison to the lasting effects of giving someone our time and focus. The time and focus others have invested in me have had a positive impact on my life and career in long-term ways. I often recall those experiences and remain grateful for the time others spent acknowledging my efforts. They made a difference.  

Step off the treadmill and acknowledge people  

As I think about the people who have impacted my journey, I’m not sure I always reciprocated by showing each of them the appreciation they deserved. Only with some hindsight can I see that now. Back then (and sometimes even now), when in the moment, I was busy doing the job, focused on completing a task and moving on to the next one. I wanted to make an impression. Others depended on me, so my hard work and performance mattered – to them and to me. And sure, after a long series of tasks and completions, maybe there was a pat on the back, a handwritten note, a year-end bonus, or some other form of employee recognition.  

But being on that treadmill of ‘task, completion, and (sometimes) thank-you’ can become a marathon, all about dashing toward the finish line without stopping to interact with those who support us, or cheering them on, too. I recognize how important it is to acknowledge and show appreciation to others during our workdays, because without them, our strides are more difficult. And they need a boost as much as we do.  

Make gratitude a staple of daily life  

Over time, I’ve come to better understand gratitude as the valuable tool it can be in my day – so much so that I now create a five-item gratitude list every day. This was difficult in the beginning, but like any good habit, it became easier – and even fun. Some days, oddly random things end up on my list. Other days, my list is rather dull. It doesn’t matter. It’s the intentional act that means something.  

For example, this was my list on the day I wrote this blog. I was grateful for…  

  1. Baby Girl (kitten) channeling her feral side to randomly attack me this morning  
  2. The picture scroll on the Alexy thingy  
  3. Busy schedule at work  
  4. Lunch with a friend  
  5. Sunshine   

Making it a practice to be consciously grateful and express gratitude takes effort (time and focus) but the reward is so much greater. To be sure, I like some extra cash or an award every now and then, but I much prefer being pulled aside and valued by another person. I imagine I’m not alone in this.  

It’s good to know we matter to other people, whether appreciation is inferred, verbal, written, or acknowledged with an award.  

Join me on the journey!  

On this Employee Appreciation Day and all year long, I invite you to join me in giving colleagues, co-workers, or your employees some well-deserved (and authentic) recognition for their good works. A little goes a long way in making someone’s day and creating a more positive, companywide work environment.  

I also welcome you to connect with me if you’re looking for a new job opportunity or need to hire some exceptional talent for your team. I am a DEI-certified senior recruiting partner with Goodwin Recruiting and would value the opportunity to support your success.