man in suit holding a heart

How to Create a Culture of Gratitude to Show Employees Appreciation

Showing employees appreciation shouldn’t be reserved for work anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions – it must be a year-round effort. When employees feel appreciated and seen as people, not just names on the payroll, they work harder and are more loyal to their employer. The result, however, isn’t just a more engaged workforce, but also a stronger employer brand that attracts and retains talent.

At iHire, we take employee appreciation seriously. But that doesn’t mean that we take our teams out for lavish lunches every day or give out weekly cash bonuses (although those sound like nice perks). Expressing gratitude toward our most important business asset – our people – is entwined in our company’s DNA. With our core values serving as the foundation, we’ve built a culture of gratitude where employees feel empowered to give and receive appreciation through efforts big and small.

If you think your workplace needs a little more love, check out these five ways iHire hones a culture of gratitude for some inspiration.


1. Support a healthy work/life balance. Believe it or not, your employees have lives outside of work. When employers are empathetic and understanding of employees’ personal situations, family endeavors, and stressors outside of the office, each staff member feels heard and valued. Something as seemingly small as encouraging an employee to take off early to catch their child’s sporting event or allowing them to work from home when the plumber is coming creates a sense of gratitude that, in time, exponentially increases engagement, job satisfaction, and productivity.

Ensuring that our employees enjoy a healthy work/life balance is one of iHire’s priorities as an employer of choice – we know that “things come up,” but also hold our staff accountable for getting their work done. In fact, accountability is one of our core values.


person writing a thank-you note


2. Consider the power of a compliment. A few months ago, we set up an area in our lobby where employees could write handwritten notes to thank one another for great work or to simply say, “Hi.” We even hand-delivered a batch of notes to our Indiana office from our Maryland office, and vice versa, to build a greater connection between our two locations. The entire Appreciation Station was $100 to make, but the benefits far outweighed the cost. 

Never underestimate the power of a compliment, a thank-you, or a smile on someone’s day. In fact, one of our employees who initially scoffed at this initiative emailed me later to say that he felt so good after


3. Keep it simple. Often, the smallest tokens of appreciation have the biggest effects. At iHire, we give every new employee a “swag bag” filled with iHire-branded merchandise (shirts, stickers, coffee mugs, notebooks, etc.) and give out similar gifts throughout the year for special events and company milestones. For example, all of our employees received an iHire-branded backpack and commemorative shirt (among other fun items) in celebration of our 20th anniversary last November.

We’ve found that when employees are happy and enjoy their work, they become excellent brand ambassadors. Part of that, I think, is that they also enjoy wearing or using branded items because it gives them an opportunity to talk about their company (a “win” for our employer brand). We also host regular social and teambuilding activities for our employees, such as outings to local baseball games, annual holiday and summer parties, and monthly happy hours. These simple initiatives always go a long way in creating a culture of gratitude (and giving employees the chance to wear their branded swag).


employee holding a trophy


4. Gamify with social recognition tools. Sending an email around when someone does a great job is nice, but iHire takes recognition one step further. We built an online social recognition tool for employees to acknowledge a fellow associate for an achievement that reflects one of our core values: Growth Focused, Transparent, Collaborative, Accountable, Innovative, Committed, and Optimistic.

Recognized employees are highlighted in an online dashboard that keeps running tabs on everyone’s successes. Then, once a month, we hold a gift card drawing for honorees and those who took the time to give their colleagues a shout-out. We’ve found that using this tool is a great way to build camaraderie, make our employees feel appreciated, and instill our core values in everything we do.

Create Your Account Today

Already Registered?
Sign in »


5. Don’t forget your managers. Before I was a manager on iHire’s Senior Leadership Team (SLT), I emailed the group to thank them for a great presentation at an “all-hands” meeting. My small gesture of appreciation generated a response from our President and CEO, Steve Flook, who replied, “Thanks for saying that. SLT are people, too!” 

The moral of the story is that managers who feel valued and appreciated by their own managers and higher-ups will continue to find ways to recognize their team members and boost morale. It’s a domino effect that helps build trust and transparency across the entire organization.


These are just a few of the ways we create a culture of gratitude at iHire and encourage you to emulate some of them within your own company. Above all, remember that different people like to receive and give appreciation in different ways, so it’s good to do so in a variety of efforts. Not everyone wants to be publicly recognized – some people prefer a personal note over an email shout-out, for instance.

Creating a culture of gratitude won’t happen overnight, but you can start laying the foundation. Begin with a set of core values and determine how you can align your employee appreciation initiatives with those values. When your culture of gratitude is based on your core values, employees will be more likely to engage in your efforts – setting you up to strengthen your employer brand and keep your best talent aboard, long-term.

By Michelle Emmons | February 12, 2020