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Your employees are the driving force behind your operations. To thank your employees for their hard work, your company needs to set up an employee appreciation program. Employee appreciation is the practice of regularly recognizing, spotlighting, and expressing gratitude to your team of dedicated employees. 

Showing employee appreciation can make a huge difference in your company’s overall success. In fact, one study found that employees who feel their team genuinely cares about their personal and professional development are 43% more productive. With a more energized and motivated workforce, your company can power through its goals and increase revenue—all while sustaining a loyal employee base. 

In this guide, we’ll provide your business with everything you need to know to build a rewarding employee appreciation program. Specifically, we’ll cover:

By prioritizing employee appreciation, your business can create a thriving community of high performers who are constantly exceeding expectations. Let’s begin. 

Explore how eCardWidget can help your business adopt a strong employee appreciation program.
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A robust employee appreciation program can bring a variety of benefits to your business.
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Employee Appreciation: Understanding the Basics

Your organization may already have an informal approach to employee appreciation, such as verbally thanking employees when you walk by them in the office or sending a quick email congratulating them on a job well done. While these strategies are a good starting point, fleshing out your employee recognition efforts can help employees feel truly satisfied.

Your employee appreciation program should show team members that you are genuinely invested in their well-being, both personally and professionally, and want to create a positive environment where they can thrive. Strong employee appreciation programs have the following characteristics: 

  • A rewards system that is tailored to your employee’s interests 
  • Support from leadership to consistently recognize and uplift employees
  • Peer-to-peer recognition to foster strong interpersonal relationships

Employee appreciation can take many forms, but it’s important that you create a program that makes the most sense for your business and its team. To gather inspiration, take a look at these winning employee appreciation programs: 


Modivcare empowers business leaders to send their employees eCards to express employee appreciation.
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Modivcare, a social services organization, uses branded eCards to celebrate employee wins, both big and small. Whether an employee is celebrating a birthday, work milestone, or the completion of a major project, there’s an eCard for the occasion. 

Modivcare also embeds values, like trust and respect, directly into the eCards, so employees are rewarded when they take action to meet and exceed company standards. 

This powerful digital retention tool is sent directly to recipients within the business’ internal company portal, making it highly accessible and convenient for both the sender and the recipient. Peers, managers, and leaders can all feel empowered to send eCards and recognize employees for raising the bar. 


Zappos offers its employees a robust peer-to-peer recognition program. Each quarter, employees can gift Zappos currency to their peers, colloquially known as “Zollars.” This reward can be used to buy company swag like water bottles and fidget cubes, or even cashed in as a charitable donation towards their favorite nonprofit. 

Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World recognizes high performers with awards. The highest honor, known as The Walt Disney Legacy Award, is given to employees who far surpass expectations laid out in the Dream, Create, and Inspire criteria. Winners are nominated by other employees and officially selected by leadership, strengthening peer-to-peer relationships and helping employees feel seen and valued by management. 

Employee appreciation can help your business improve its retention rate and create a positive work culture.
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Benefits of Employee Appreciation

A strong employee appreciation program can provide multiple benefits to both your employees and your company as a whole. These key benefits include: 

  • Improved employee retention. One study found that 66% of employees would quit if they felt underappreciated by their peers and leadership. When you show employees that you are invested in their growth and want them to succeed, they’re more likely to continue working in their roles. 
  • Increased employee engagement. If an employee knocks something out of the park but receives no form of appreciation, they’ll likely feel undervalued. As a result, they may not work as hard on the next project or task, leading to gradual disengagement and a drop in productivity. Instead, consistently providing feedback and recognizing employees for exceeding expectations can help energize your workers to go above and beyond. 
  • Enhanced company culture. Recognizing and rewarding high performers is an important part of creating a positive, welcoming company culture. This will help you attract and retain talented employees. 
  • Improved customer satisfaction. More than ever, customers care about how companies treat their employees and often determine whether they will support a business based on their reputation. If your business has a positive standing in the community, consumers will be more eager to buy your product or service. Plus, happy employees are motivated to create better customer experiences through effective service and thoughtful customer appreciation.
  • Better teamwork and collaboration. With a well-designed peer-to-peer appreciation program in place, you can promote positive working relationships. This will encourage employees to uplift one another and work together to promote the company’s overarching goals. 

As you can see, employee appreciation affects every element of your business and makes achieving your goals easier. This is true for all types of organizations, including nonprofits and startups. Whether it’s for nonprofit staff members or business employees, you’ll need a strong framework in place to prioritize employee recognition. Let’s take a closer look at best practices for adding employee appreciation to your company’s agenda. 

Use these employee appreciation best practices to keep employees motivated.
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Employee Appreciation Best Practices

Your company can create an employee appreciation program that keeps employees motivated and eager to work at your business for years to come with the right strategies.  

Leverage these best practices to guide your employee appreciation efforts: 

Leverage these employee appreciation best practices to improve your employee retention rate.
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  • Encourage managers to celebrate team members. Set up easy ways for managers to give feedback and praise employees. For instance, managers acknowledge employees’ accomplishments by sending eCards that they’ll receive instantaneously. These are easy for your managers to send and highly rewarding for your employees to receive. 
  • Offer consistent and personalized feedback. Show employees that you care about their growth and development at your company by offering consistent feedback. For example, set up a weekly one-on-one meeting between managers and employees so managers can give both positive and constructive feedback. This critical one-on-one time, offered on a regular basis, gives managers the opportunity to highlight their employee’s recent successes and point them in the direction of improvement. 
  • Provide public recognition. One of the most effective ways to call attention to a stellar employee is by celebrating their success as a team. This can be done through an employee of the month award or employee wall of fame, which not only helps the selected employee feel valued, but also encourages other employees to emulate the quality of their work. 
  • Celebrate employee holidays. Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day with your entire company by offering a free lunch, distributing goods like company swag or gift cards, or hosting a company party. You can also take part in industry-specific holidays that are relevant to your company, like International Nurses Day or World Social Work Day. 
  • Commemorate milestones. Keeping track of major milestones and anniversaries can help employees feel seen, respected, and truly appreciated by your company. For example, you can offer rewards or shout-outs on work anniversaries, such as 1-year, 5-year, 10-year anniversaries, and so on! 

Employee recognition software and tools will be instrumental in implementing these best practices. While an ad hoc or casual approach can work for some very small businesses, consistency and ease are absolutely essential for ensuring your appreciation efforts will stick and have the desired impact over time.

Explore our guide to the best employee recognition tools to get a sense of the range of platforms available and how they can support your engagement and appreciation efforts.

Discover how eCardWidget can support your business's employee appreciation goals!
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Follow these steps to create a winning employee appreciation program.
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Steps to Create an Employee Appreciation Program

Now that you know what makes an employee appreciation program successful, it’s time to craft one that’s tailored to your company and its unique employee base. A structured, formal program will ensure that your employees, managers, and leaders are all on the same page and know how they can promote one another’s mutual success. 

To kickstart your employee appreciation program, follow these specific steps: 

1. Identify the goals and objectives.

Follow the SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound) model to create concrete goals that will guide your appreciation efforts. You should set specific goals pertaining to: 

  • Employee retention rate. Take a look at your retention rate over the last few years and create a goal that is reasonable but ambitious. Ideally, your company should aim to have a retention rate of 90% or more. 
  • Employee turnover rate. Your turnover rate is the percentage of employees who leave your business. Try to keep this to 10% or less. 
  • Productivity levels. Track productivity levels before and after you kickstart your appreciation program, and set a goal for how much you hope it increases. This might be the number of projects your employees complete in a month, the number of sales they achieve, or other relevant metrics. 
  • Level of engagement and satisfaction. Distribute a survey to your employees that assesses their level of engagement in your business and how valued they feel as an employee on a scale of 1 to 5. Set a goal for how much you hope this metric increases across your team. 
  • Number of employee referrals. Employee referrals are a great sign of whether your employees are satisfied with their roles. Track the number of referrals you’ve had in the past and set a measurable goal for how many more employee referrals you hope to acquire. Referrals demonstrate existing employees’ loyalty to your business and can help your business find new talented hires. 
  • Participation in your employee recognition program. If you’re planning to host employee appreciation events, set a goal for attendance numbers and the number of events you plan to hold on a monthly basis. 

As you roll out your appreciation program, track your key metrics. These will help you assess the performance of your employee appreciation program and whether it’s resonating with your team. 

2. Get buy-in from leadership.

Business leaders will be responsible for announcing, organizing, and executing your employee appreciation program. As a result, it’s pivotal that your entire leadership team is on the same page and can work together to create a program aligned with your company’s values and objectives. 

Set up meetings to review your employee appreciation goals and determine the resources you will allocate to the program. With a wider budget, you can add in more rewards, events, and other valuable incentives to motivate employees to strive for greatness. 

When leadership is actively involved in employee appreciation, it sets the tone for your program and demonstrates to employees that your company is genuinely invested in their professional development and well-being. Make sure all leaders, from managers to senior executives, are involved in your employee appreciation efforts and will regularly provide feedback and reward their direct employees. 

3. Gather input from employees.

Different employees like to be appreciated in different ways. For example, while one employee might like tangible rewards like gift cards or company swag, another might prefer a company-wide spotlight in your all-hands meeting. 

Survey your employees ahead of time to ask about their appreciation preferences. This can help you get a better understanding of what rewards most motivate your employees. 

You can also ask employees which forms of peer-to-peer recognition they think would be most valuable across their individual teams. Ultimately, these should be as convenient and accessible as possible so employees will regularly recognize their peers without feeling like it’s tiresome to do so. 

4. Develop the program framework.

To structure your employee appreciation program, identify the specific ways you’ll demonstrate employee recognition. For example, you might choose to:

There are many ways you can show employees that you want them to excel. Ensure that the rewards system you use aligns with your company culture and values. Doing so reinforces employee behaviors that push your goals forward. 

5. Implement the program.

Launch your employee appreciation program through a company-wide announcement from leadership. Your business should outline the following details to create transparency and ensure employees understand what they’re working towards:

  • The goals of your program
  • Relevant deadlines or dates of employee appreciation events
  • How employees will be recognized
  • Instructions for management on how to show employee appreciation
  • Instructions for all employees on how to engage in peer-to-peer recognition

Make sure your employee appreciation program is inclusive so all employees can benefit. For example, if you only set employee appreciation goals for the sales team, other subsets of your employee base will feel undervalued. Carefully consider how each team member will fit into your employee appreciation efforts. 

6. Evaluate the program’s effectiveness. 

As your employee appreciation program kicks off, actively assess whether it’s meeting the goals you’ve laid out. While you may need more time to determine whether your employee appreciation program is making a difference in your retention and turnover rates, you can assess how employee appreciation affects your productivity and engagement levels on a monthly basis. 

Send out a survey on a monthly or quarterly basis that asks employees for their feedback. This way, you can actively troubleshoot issues or take steps to improve your employee appreciation program. Have managers ask their direct employees about things they would like to see changed or added to the employee appreciation program.

If you’re planning to host employee appreciation events, compare your registrants and attendees to the total number of employees at your company. If a low number of employees are attending your events, determine how you can improve your approach, whether that’s by better marketing your employee appreciation events or hosting events that are more closely tailored to employees’ interests. 

Engaging employee appreciation ideas can help employees feel supported and valued.
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Top Employee Appreciation Ideas

Now that you have a solid understanding of employee appreciation and how to make the perfect program for your organization, let’s explore employee appreciation ideas all businesses can incorporate into their recognition efforts.


An eCard is an electronic greeting card that makes recognizing employees easy, rewarding, and fun. With eCardWidget, you can create custom greeting cards for a variety of special occasions and accomplishments that represent your company’s values. 

eCardWidget’s comprehensive eCards makes it fun and simple to express employee appreciation.
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Here’s how your business can create and send eCards:

1. Your business uploads its own branded designs or chooses from one of eCardWidget’s many business-ready templates. 

2. Leadership or employees personalize the eCard to the recipient, referencing specific occasions or accomplishments with a custom greeting. Then, they send the card off with one click via email, SMS, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. 

3. Recipients receive their eCards and feel honored that they’ve been recognized. 

eCards are the best way to create a culture of appreciation and encourage recognition across your team. Plus, they can be created and sent in just a few moments, making it highly convenient for employees to uplift one another. 

Awards ceremony

A dedicated ceremony that takes place at the end of each year brings your entire community together to celebrate individual and collective achievements. This awards ceremony can take place in-person or virtually for enhanced flexibility and convenience. If you have a larger company, consider hosting team-specific award ceremonies. Use this opportunity to spotlight employees that are exceeding expectations, reinforcing your values, and supporting a positive company culture. 

End-of-year holiday party

Your employees have worked hard all year to meet your company’s goals. Along with an awards ceremony, consider hosting an end-of-year holiday party. This corporate event gives employees a chance to engage with team members they don’t regularly work with and congratulate one another on a job well done this year. Survey employees ahead of time to find out what type of celebration they might prefer, whether it’s a formal dinner or a mini golf event. 

Company swag

Company swag, like branded tees, water bottles, and backpacks, help employees feel valued and more connected to your company. Plus, sporting your company swag can market your business and attract new talent or customers. Consider creating a tier system, where bigger accomplishments equate to higher-value company swag. 

Free meals

Employees love receiving tasty meals. Make this a social experience by catering food at your office or inviting employees out to dine together at a nearby restaurant. Alternatively, you can reward employees by allowing them to pick up a meal at any time and reimburse them for the cost. 

Wrapping Up 

Whether your organization is a business or a nonprofit, employee appreciation is a powerful way to retain your talented team members and increase productivity across all departments. With the right strategies, you can effectively show employees that you value their contributions and are invested in their professional growth. Leverage eCards to amp up your employee recognition efforts and make expressing gratitude a priority at your business. 

Curious to learn more about how eCards can boost retention? Explore these additional resources:

Discover how eCardWidget can support your organization's employee appreciation goals!
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