This Year, Show Your Gratitude with Words and Small Deeds

This season reminds us to do the things that make our world a kinder and more beautiful place, including expressing our thanks and appreciation to employees, suppliers, contractors, and customers. 

But 2020 has really been a struggle for many American companies and workers.  The pandemic is demanding that we rethink traditions like the annual holiday party or lunch.  So, with many businesses experiencing disengagement and low morale, what are some meaningful and safe ways to show gratitude and begin to shape a healthy culture for 2021?

The Personal Touch

Of all the ways to show employee appreciation, a face-to-face “thank you” always comes out on top.  That’s because humans need to know that the jobs they do every day have meaning and are appreciated by others.  Taking five minutes, either through an in-person chat or via Zoom, means much, much more than a holiday card or email.  If you are a large company, ask team leaders or supervisors to deliver their in-person and specific recognition for commitment, flexibility, and hard work.  The time spent will have a powerful impact in helping employees feel valued and supported.

Not everyone finds it easy to communicate face-to-face, but practice makes perfect!  Here are some ideas if you struggle to find the right words:

  • This year, dedication and flexibility made the difference and helped us to survive.  I knew that I could count on you to be an example and bring your best efforts to work every day.
  • Without your technical ability to get us up and running remotely so quickly, I don’t think we could have made it.  On behalf of myself and the entire team, thank you for leading us to success!
  • Your cheerful daily outlook really uplifted the entire team.  I could not ask for a better role model!

Recognition on a Budget

Many business owners had to rely on the CARES Act to stay in business, so employee recognition might not be in the budget.  Therefore, here are some ideas to show appreciation that do not involve buying one hundred frozen turkeys.  Pinterest is a terrific repository for creative and fun ideas.  Here are just a few:

  • Pay it forward:  When you recognize someone in the office, give them a thank you note and a treat, along with a second treat and blank card.  After they read your warm words of praise, ask them to use the second set to pass along to an impressive co-worker.
  • Put up a 2020 memory wall in a hallway or break room.  Ask people to post remembrances, funny anecdotes, achievements, or kudos to those on the team.  Don’t forget a six-foot rule reminder!  For remote workers, use an app like Pinterest.
  • Use food and a kind word to communicate your thanks:  Pop Rocks: “You rock!” Box of Lucky Charms: “You’re my lucky charm!” Million Dollar candy bar: “You’re worth a Million!”  

Start the New Year Off with a Bang

American businesses are due for a reset, so jumpstart yours by showing your employees that there is good news on the horizon.  Instill hope for 2021 by planning now to reset engagement, motivation, attitude, and culture early in the year.  What are some ideas?

Winter can be a slow time for many companies.  Reward your employees with a little time off or let them have flex time in January.  Extra vacation is highly appreciated and has the added benefit of lowering worker stress.  

The new year is also an excellent time to communicate new plans.  Set up a virtual town hall for the CEO and key executives to chat frankly with employees and answer questions.  Be upbeat and positive.  Use the time to introduce any updates to the vision or mission, but skip the speeches, listen to feedback, and show an authentic leadership side.  

If able, send or deliver gifts to employees, suppliers, and customers that connect your brand and your appreciation.  A decent quality branded face mask and some hand sanitizer in a fun mug is a terrific way to say, “Thank you for sticking with us.  We are looking forward to a safe, healthy, and prosperous 2021!”


Small Budget, Big Impact: 10 Employee Recognition Ideas.  Ten employee recognition ideas for small budgets and a big impact (