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  • Dave Caperton

How Will You Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day?


It’s the first Friday in March and you know what that means. That’s right! It’s National Employee Appreciation Day! Oh, you didn’t know that? Well, you’re not alone. The day was created back in 1995, but after almost a quarter century, it is still mostly unknown. That it is not a high-profile observance is probably the best argument for why it’s needed.

In this culture we accept with a weary shake of the head that employee disengagement hovers stubbornly around 70% and the cost in lost productivity, while impossible to accurately calculate, is—depending on what you take into consideration—estimated between $500 Billion to a Trillion dollars a year in the US. Wouldn’t you think we’d be trying to get to the bottom of such a costly problem? But maybe it’s like health issues associated with obesity. We all know what fixes it, but it’s just soo haard to exercise and McDonalds Drive-thru has so few Mediterranean Diet-friendly options (what? No McLentils?).


Since the 1940s when the New York Labor Relations Board first published their findings from a survey that asked employers and employees to list what employees truly want, many surveys from Gallup, Maritz and others have affirmed the consistently number-one expressed desire of workers. Now, employers often list compensation, opportunities for advancement and job security as the top three things that their workers want, but the employees themselves seldom do. What they consistently report craving most is: Recognition and appreciation for what they do followed by feeling included as valued part of the organization and then knowing that someone cares about them personally. None of those cost a dime but they do require a focus, intention and placing a priority on meeting emotional needs.


Ugh! You might be saying. Touchy-feely stuff? As I heard one manager I worked with remark, “So are we just supposed to join hands and sing Kumbaya?” My question to him was, “If that’s what it took as a leader to get your team more invested in your mission, are you saying you wouldn’t do that?” Well, he probably won’t have to (although it couldn’t hurt and frankly, I’d like to see it). A few years back, Gallup published the results of a survey asking employees how many times they had been thanked on the job in the past 12 months. 65% answered, “Not one time.”


That’s terrible news that has a silver lining. It’s awful that almost two-thirds of workers aren’t being thanked in the course of a year. It’s exciting how simple the solution is. Every day, thank individuals for doing what they do to create value, solve your problems, serve your customers, treat your patients, teach your students, sell your widgets, crunch your numbers, enter your data, and make a difference.


But it’s their job, some might say. They get paid to do it and isn’t that thanks enough? With 70% of employees not fully engaged, the answer is obviously no, it isn’t.

Next year, I hope you’ll mark the first Friday in March on your calendar. National Employee Appreciation Day is a great idea, but an even better one is daily appreciation of your employees, and that's one you can start any day of the year.

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