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When Someone Leaves, It’s Too Late: 10 Ideas for Employee Recognition

We’ve all seen it happen.  Someone puts in their resignation or announces their retirement, and everyone suddenly has lots of nice things to say about the person.  “You’ve helped me so much…” or “No one can do… as good as you”    Maybe this has happened to you.  If so, did you find yourself thinking, “I didn’t know they all felt that way.  Why didn’t anyone say that before?   If I had known how they felt, maybe I wouldn’t have left.”

Let me repeat that last one.  “If I had known how they felt, maybe I wouldn’t have left.”

This is sad.

This is a lost opportunity.  

Employees want and need to feel appreciated.  We all want to feel like we are doing something worthwhile and that our efforts are noticed in some capacity.  When we feel unappreciated, at work or in our personal relationships, it can lead to dissatisfaction and disengagement.  Ultimately, it could even cause a person to walk away.  But it doesn’t have to be that way!


Creating a culture of appreciation doesn’t have to be hard or expensive.  It grows from the little things.  Little gestures. Quick comments. 


Here are 10 ideas to try:

  1. Candy gifts with a tag/thank you note – ie. Million Dollar Bar with a note “Thanks a million for your help on that project!” Or Lifesavers candy with “You were a lifesaver with XYZ Client!”   


  1. A store bought Thank You card with a hand written message. People don’t hand write much of anything anymore, so a hand written thank you card is often a treasured (and simple) gift.


  1. Take the team out to lunch or some other fun event (depending on your budget and what hurdle they had to overcome).


  1. Bring in food. A cake, breakfast sandwiches, pizza, whatever.  The boss bringing in treats is always a hit.


  1. A token gift for your employees for their birthday or Christmas. You could also get the team to decorate the person’s cubicle for their birthday before they arrive that day. 


  1. Extra time off – as a token of appreciation and a way to help the employee de-stress.


  1. An email blast to the entire department, or the entire company, announcing an employee’s achievement.


  1. A mention in the company newsletter or on social media showing your appreciation, whether it goes out to clients or just employees.


  1. Allocate time in every departmental meeting to highlight what went well, so the team can celebrate their successes together and express appreciation to each other.


  1. If you have a little room in your budget, a more personalized gift is appropriate for someone who has really gone above and beyond. For example, professional house cleaning service for people who work long hours, or dinner with the spouse if the person is married, or tickets to a family/children’s’ event for people with children.  Find something that will be meaningful to that individual, and they will be touched that you put so much thought into the gesture.


Here’s a bonus idea, and it’s the most important:  Just say “Thank You.”  Catch people doing things right.  Catch people going the extra mile.  Let them know that you noticed their efforts and you are glad they are on your team. Don’t wait until the annual performance review to say nice things.  Find time throughout the year to just say “Thanks” and “Good job” on something they have done for you, for the team, and for the company.   Don’t let them think no one cares.  Saying nice things after they turn in their resignation is too late. And that’s just sad.


Want to learn even more about employee engagement and how to retain and recruit talented employees? Download our free ebook - How to Achieve a Great Place to Work:

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About the Author

Amy Esry, PHR, SHRM-CP

Posted in: Human Resources, Great Place to Work

Posted by Amy Esry, PHR, SHRM-CP

Amy believes that a company will be successful when the employees are successful, and she values being a contributor to that success at Hausmann-Johnson Insurance. She uses over 20 years of Human Resources experience to oversee the agency’s internal HR management while also serving as a HR consultant for clients. Amy recognizes that running a business is complicated enough without having to understand employment law, so she does the leg work by continually researching and determining how the law applies to specific situations. She enjoys simplifying a complex employment issue to ensure that a client is considering all options and is aware of all ramifications. Amy holds a B.S. in Business Administration from Truman University, as well as an MBA from the University of Missouri – Columbia. In her free time, she loves gardening and sinking her hands into a bag of fresh potting soil. During the winter, she hibernates with books, craft projects, jigsaw puzzles or board games with her family.