John O'Brien

Vice President, Employee Performance Group at BI WORLDWIDE
As Vice President of BI WORLDWIDE’s Employee Performance Group, John O’Brien’s primary focus is to develop employee engagement strategies and solutions that change the behaviors of employees to align with customers’ business objectives. An expert in Employee Recognition Strategy, he educates HR professionals around the world on how to best engage their employees through employee engagement strategies, solutions and best practices.

Sandwiched handily between October 16 (Boss’ Day) and the Wednesday of the third week of April, (Administrative Professional’s Day) is the holiday for everyone else – Employee Appreciation Day.


Observed on the first Friday in March, the holiday was established in 1995, by Bob Nelson, owner of Workman Publishing and board member of Recognition Professionals International. He struck on the idea as a way to, as he put it, “focus the attention of all employers, in all industries, on employee recognition.”


You might have started planning for Employee Appreciation Day months in advance. But we understand if perhaps your planning began … as soon as you started reading this post?


 Not to worry. If there’s one thing we’re good at doing at BIW, it is helping organizations with employee engagement. Here are few that you may be experiencing today: 

Q: “Help! I have done NOTHING prepared for Employee Appreciation Day! Does it really matter?

A: Recognition always matters. The more you can notice when your employees are doing something right, and celebrate their successes, the more engaged your entire workforce will be. Appreciating employees is a powerful way to keep your best people, enhance performance and build a culture of recognition.


Q: “Help!”  I only have to do this once a year, right?”

A:  No. Recognition works when it’s positive, immediate and certain. It makes the biggest impact when it’s given regularly and when it is absolutely sincere.


Q:  “Help!  Now that I know how important it is to recognize employees, I have no idea how to get started!”

A:  You can get started on one of these eight easy ways to recognize employees for making the extra effort, moving the needle, and going above and beyond.


BIW’s Handy List of Eight Ways to Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day!


1.      Buy a cup of coffee for an employee you want to appreciate, just the way they like it, and write “Thank you” on the outside of the cup in marker.

2.      Bake something. Better yet, buy doughnuts. Everyone loves doughnuts.

3.      Write a thank you note. Use your best handwriting. Be specific. Check your spelling.

4.      Say “thanks” in public.

5.      Free time:  allow employees to leave early, take a long lunch or enjoy an extra day of vacation.

6.      Give Certificates of Appreciation to everyone on the team. Include thoughtful comments about each person, such as: “Least likely to be rattled by a stressful day” or “Most willing to help a colleague in need”

7.      Have a pizza party for your team, as long as they aren’t too full from the doughnuts (see #2).

8.      Start a series of weekly breakfasts with employees. Ask questions, listen and prepare to be amazed by the great ideas your employees have.


What’s happening at your company the other 364 days of the years? Remember, recognition and appreciation aren’t just warm and fuzzy gestures, they’re business strategies, and you can see in difference in your organization if you begin with an intentional and well-communicated plan to recognize your employees.


Looking for a few more ideas? Download our tip sheet with 24 fast and fun ways to recognize employees.

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