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February 25
10:17 2020

The Innovative Workplace

By Joy Justus


Focus on culture, not just special occasions or annual reviews

In a tight labor market, attracting quality  employees is more important than ever. But once you have them, what are you doing to keep team members happy and show your appreciation on a regular basis? Contrary to popular belief, there are effective ways of retaining and showing appreciation for employees besides just doling out pay raises!

Saying thanks and showing appreciation shouldn’t be limited to special occasions or annual reviews. Here are some ways to create a culture of appreciation in your workplace:

Involve your employees in big decisions and strategic planning. Solicit their ideas about the direction you’re headed. Discuss with them the future of the company and their place within it. Consider what they have to say and give them credit for their input. By doing all this, you show your employees that they’re important to you and to the success of the organization.

Keep employees informed. Hold a monthly or quarterly “town hall” meeting (and remember to conference in your remote employees) to introduce new staff members, announce promotions, recognize special accomplishments, and share updates about company culture and vision.

Provide coaching and training sessions—or cover the costs of outside education. Employees will feel appreciated when they can see that you care about their professional development.

Invest in your employees. Offer opportunities for advancement and clearly communicate the levels of advancement and performance expectations to attain each level (e.g., how to advance from account manager to senior account manager to account executive).

If promotions aren’t possible, then help employees enhance existing skills and learn new ones. Provide coaching and training sessions—or cover the costs of outside education. Employees will feel appreciated when they can see that you care about their professional development.

Regularly recognize employee achievements. Don’t wait for performance reviews or end-of-year events to give employees the recognition they deserve. Use your electronic communication system to speak well of your employees and their achievements.

Consider instituting a peer recognition program in which employees can praise each other for jobs well done and identify behaviors that led to their success. Place a recognition box in the break room where employees can acknowledge the contributions of peers with notecards that might be posted publicly. You’ll find a host of inexpensive online platforms that encourage employee participation and recognition. One I like is “Bonusly” (

Declare your own employee appreciation day. In 1995, the U.S. and Canada assigned the first Friday of March as National Employee Appreciation Day, and you can create your own. Maybe yours will occur on the anniversary of the day your company was founded or after the last day of a fiscal quarter. Certainly employees would enjoy a huge bash, but you might also consider a simpler celebratory event, perhaps focused on team building and with a catered lunch.

And don’t forget your remote employees who might not be able to participate in an on-site event. Consider acknowledging them by sending an electronic gift card to a favorite restaurant, store, or ice cream shop.

Use company swag. Making employees feel happy and appreciated can be part of getting your organization’s name out in public for all to see. Order coffee mugs, water canteens, laptop cases, and professional backpacks—all with your logo! Whether you distribute the gifts to everyone or reserve them for milestone accomplishments or special recognition is up to you.

Say “thank you” every day. How managers behave sets the tone for the workplace. Regularly saying “thank you” fosters a welcoming and respectful environment and helps employees know they’re appreciated. Take it a step further by keeping a stack of notecards at your desk and hand-writing thank-you notes. In a world where we’re so reliant on e-mail, an old-fashioned handwritten thank-you note truly stands out.

Appreciation can be expressed in many ways, and whether you show it through engagement, involvement, investment, or recognition, you’ll be making gratitude a key value of your workplace culture.

The author

Joy Justus is senior vice president responsible for overseeing the insurance channel marketing and distribution strategy at ThinkHR. She possesses 25 years of experience in employee benefits, property and casualty, and human resources. Joy joined ThinkHR ten years ago when it was startup. She has been instrumental in driving the company’s growth, holding executive leadership positions in sales, marketing and strategic initiatives. ThinkHR’s flagship solution, People Risk Management (PRM), is used by over 1000 full-service agencies across the country. Core product features allow employers to reduce risk, drive efficiencies, and resolve people-related human resources and compliance issues quickly and efficiently. Agencies that partner with ThinkHR report improved cross-selling outcomes between commercial and benefits departments and stronger marketplace differentiation. To learn more, visit or contact Joy at

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