I Appreciate You

Recognition—really proper recognition—is almost a science unto itself.

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By Jonathan Dahl

It came and went in a flash, and if you were a manager who remembered to take note of it amid the pandemic rush, my hat’s off to you. I’m talking about Employee Appreciation Day, which was last month and largely escaped media attention (although I’m proud to report that we covered it on our daily “Insights” page on KornFerry.com).

The holiday started in 1995, and some say it was in response to Boss’s Day, which, unsurprisingly, gets even less attention than this holiday. That day dates back to 1958, which according to the Days of the Year website means “it took almost 40 years for the favor to be officially returned through the creation of a day to appreciate employees of all sorts.” Today, of course, the workers’ day zips across social media as yet another hashtag that has become impossible to keep track of. Naturally, there is no shortage of advice for what employers could do pre-COVID, including lunch gatherings, swag bags (corporate water bottles a must!), and a handshake—which I wonder if anyone has ever gotten.

Surveys say that when it comes to people management, a little goes a long way. Some 70 percent of workers say a simple “thank you” would boost their morale and motivation “massively.” That’s good to know, not only because firms spend tens of billions of dollars on recognition programs but because it’s feasible to do in the lockdown era. But hold on—can anyone define what the thank-you should actually be? A phone call? An email? A $50 Starbucks card? And don’t forget the debate on how often. One survey found that eight in 10 workers believe praise should be given on a continual, year-round basis. So does that mean once a week? At the end of special projects?

Recognition—really proper recognition—is almost a science unto itself. Don’t laugh when I suggest that it’s one more skill that most managers need to be trained in. And I would be the first to sign up: Here it was, #EmployeeAppreciationDay, and my team was writing a piece on it. And I still forgot to thank them!