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The 43 Best Employee Appreciation Ideas by Industry

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The first display of employee appreciation in history happened over 2,600 years ago. Cyrus the Great was rebuilding a temple, and he threw a party for his laborers to recognize their hard work.

How can you recognize the folks you work with? In this article, you’re going to learn the 43 absolute best ideas you can use now.

What Is Employee Appreciation?

Employee appreciation is the action of a business or employer in recognizing the work of an individual or a team. When an employee’s work is appreciated and acknowledged, it connects them emotionally to their company, increases their satisfaction at work, and encourages employee productivity, communication, and retention.

In this article, I am going to give you tips to recognize ANYONE you work with—whether you are the boss or not!

How Businesses Benefit from Employee Appreciation

Profitability is necessary for industries to be successful, and a Gallup poll revealed that employees who feel satisfied at work increase profitability by 21%.

Other employees surveyed in the healthcare and education sectors reported high levels of dissatisfaction between 15% to over 16%.

Employee resignations are a costly issue affecting the bottom line of many businesses, with job hoppers valuing personal career growth over the “Company Man” mentality of lifelong dedication to a single employer.

Employee Appreciation Ideas for Your Industry

For generations, owning a company or managing people meant throwing an annual holiday party, holding a summer picnic, or handing out a yearly bonus or the occasional pay raise to satisfy employees.

It doesn’t work that way anymore.

Today, the work environment is more varied than ever, and the best employee appreciation ideas will also vary by industry:

  • Remote organizations: The isolation of being a remote worker can affect employee morale.
  • Hospitality and Tourism: Hospitality and tourism have been plagued by employee shortages for years, with turnover statistics ranging from 81% to over 150%, and many hospitality employees aren’t returning.
  • Frontline workers: Frontline workers often face extreme mental and physical burdens in saving lives, requiring unique, uplifting support.
  • Educators: Teachers have it hard, and their current job satisfaction levels are low. Appreciating good educators is vital for the future of education.
  • Sales and Service: Commission sales equals no guaranteed salary. Professional sales stress calls for special motivational techniques.
  • Trades and Manufacturing: Labor shortages are an ongoing concern in construction trades and factories, and employers must recognize new workers as they replace an aging workforce.
  • Small business: Small business owners are always thanking their customers for their service. They deserve some appreciation too!
Why Employee Appreciation is Needed in Each Industry infographic

You want to keep your employees happy while you increase your profitability and decrease turnover. There is a world in which everyone can win!

We’ve got your employee appreciation ideas covered. We also include employee appreciation quotes as examples to inspire employee appreciation messages to your staff.

Let’s dive in!

Employee Appreciation Ideas for Remote Organizations

Employers now recognize the benefits of a remote workforce, with 90% of them saying remote workers are even more productive. There are many ways to appreciate your staff, wherever they lay their laptop.

Gift Quality Time

Some employees really appreciate quality time. But it can be hard to have 1:1 time when video calls and big group meetings are all the chances you get to spend time with your employees. So what do you do?

Set up a personal meeting for quality, 1:1 time to catch up with them! If you have a smaller remote team, you may find it best to do this once a week or once every other week.

Want some more ideas?

  • ​​learning time
  • book club
  • happy hours and activities
  • team retreats

These are all great ways to set up that quality time for each employee.

Go Zoom Fishing

Video conferencing is necessary for remote working, but “Zoom fatigue” may affect your staff’s psychological health. A great way to break up the stress is to grab a fishbowl.

It’s easy: Write down each person’s name on a slip of paper and put the slips in a fishbowl. Then, during your next video conference, pull out some names at random and deliver impromptu employee appreciation messages. Continue in subsequent meetings until everybody gets a shout-out!

Give Them Something They Can Feel

In a large group survey, employees felt better getting a personal thank-you over a generic gift card.

If you send remote employee appreciation gifts throughout the year, consider something fun and tactile like a personalized stress ball or something nostalgic like Play-Doh or Legos for a creative team-building exercise.

Fur Baby Fashion Shows

Creativity at work increases employee satisfaction, and we all know that “laughter is the best medicine,” so engage your staff with a creative pet costume contest and hold an online fashion show to pick the winners. Also, email gift cards to their favorite pet store!

Sing Your Heart Out

Anything works virtually these days… even an online karaoke party.

Sending out gift cards for snacks and libations at home is more affordable (and safer) than drinking at an off-site party location. When your turn at the mic comes, choose a “thanks-filled” tune and dedicate it to your staff!

Next Stop: Appreciation Station

Experts in human behavior tell us that one type of happiness involves appreciation. For example, recognizing your remote staff through a company-wide email chain increases their pride and satisfaction. It’s like a “thank-you train” at work!

Another benefit comes when other employees read the congratulatory emails and get motivated to match their coworker’s efforts. Everyone craves recognition, and productivity always wins.

Live, Laugh, and Learn

Companies are embracing virtual town halls to foster remote work communities. You can make your town hall a tasty affair by combining it with an online cooking class.

Send out a company-paid recipe kit and hire a personal chef to host the cooking class. Everyone gets to participate from their kitchen at home, and family members can also join in the fun!

All News Is Good News

When it comes to employee recognition, a great management technique is delivering constructive feedback—including not just the stuff they’re hitting out of the park but positive and actionable tips to make them even better.

Employee Appreciation Ideas for Hospitality and Tourism

Anyone who’s ever worked in hospitality or tourism knows how challenging and physically demanding it is, with stress and failure at a premium. So employee appreciation gifts and gestures aren’t just nice. They’re necessary for the sustainability of this industry.

Prep Them with Professional Development

When you attract hospitality staff who want a career in the industry, enable their goals with on-the-job development and skill building.

For example, teaching a waiter to cook opens the door to a new job opportunity, and investing in your prep staff can decrease turnover and increase opportunities to promote from inside.

Don’t Make Them Wait

Immediately after busy seasons like the holidays, choose an evening, close your venue to the public, and invite your staff to be VIPs. Hosting a private party will reinforce that you value your staff. After all, it’s their hard work that makes you successful.

The Culture Club

Managing a restaurant staff presents many challenges, with front-of-house and back-of-house employees not always seeing eye to eye. Make sure to gather all staff together before or after service to de-stress, recognize collective efforts, and reinforce a high-fiving teamwork culture!

Raise Their Roof

When employees get scarce, an industry must respond, and hospitality wages are at their highest growth point in decades.

When you cut the fat in hospitality expenses (buying local, DIY digital marketing, relocating to up-and-coming areas), you can afford to recognize your staff with a living wage… the best example of employee appreciation in hospitality.

Cook with Kindness

According to recent industry estimates, it costs up to $6,000 to replace one restaurant employee.

When you view employee appreciation through a dollars and sense lens, it’s much easier to reinforce a positive, compassionate environment that keeps your staff satisfied—and employed. Box up leftovers for staff to take home. It’s more practical (and kinder) than wasting food.

Today’s Special: Recognition

One of the best employee appreciation gifts you can give in hospitality is on-the-job empowerment.

When employees get the freedom to make choices during service, such as giving them a small budget per shift to reward a regular customer or fix a messed-up order, you’re putting them in control, and they’ll appreciate you even more for it.

Employee Appreciation Ideas for Frontline Workers

Job stresses are commonplace in every industry, but the stress for frontline workers comes from a daily battle to save lives. The health effects are staggering, and employee appreciation should be in high demand for frontline workers.

Superstar Treatment

Schedule a staff meeting, and surprise your frontline team with a local glam squad to pamper them. Then, capture the day with a photoshoot, and revel in those heartfelt smiles.

Help Wanted

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are crucial to every industry, but mental health reports say that many employees don’t take advantage of this benefit.

The best employee appreciation ideas for frontline workers include encouraging your team to be heard and seek help. For example, create colorful flyers celebrating your EAP and post them in staff areas, or hand out fridge magnets to your staff with the EAP helpline number displayed.

Code Gratitude

Frontline workers often put the focus on recovering patients with a discharge celebration. Throw an impromptu “Code Gratitude” moment for your team now and again to release some tension and show your appreciation!

Thank U Text

Use SMS blasts to celebrate the good deeds and successes of your frontline workers. It’s a quick way to get employee appreciation messages across, and everyone shares in the recognition instantly.

Dig a Bit

Studies show that wearing scrubs or a uniform gives frontline staff a professional identity, but their personal identity gets overshadowed. So do some digging to find out a favorite snack or hobby and reward your frontline team with individual, affordable treat or hobby baskets.

Take ’Em Out to a Ballgame

A team-building outing to a sporting event is an excellent employee appreciation gift. If you can, get your frontline team featured in a celebratory greeting on the Jumbotron, and listen to the whole stadium go wild with appreciation!

Wall of Warriors

Hire a local caricature artist to capture your team members in drawings. Display the drawings in a hallway or a glass display to bring humor and humanity to a sterile frontline environment.

Turn Them Off

Shutting off work when the day is done is especially challenging for frontline workers. Float days are helpful to combat long and stressful shifts, but they can be hard to schedule.

Designating a no-judgment quiet space for your team is an excellent mental health alternative, and suggesting 15-minute downtimes can provide the quick break that your frontline staff deserves.

Call in the Canines

Animals somehow bring out our greater humanity, and hospital patients benefit from emotional support animals. So consider dog therapy to show employee appreciation to your frontline team.

Employee Appreciation Ideas for Educators

There’s science behind great teachers, proving how some teachers increase their students’ learning capabilities by as much as two grade levels in a single school year. That’s why a school district should appreciate great educators, and here’s how principals can do that.

Homework with Heart

A great, affordable way to show teacher appreciation is to send a blank index card home with each student and ask the parents to help their kids write a note about why they like their teacher, what they’ve learned, and any special feelings they’d like to share.

Give a deadline to collect the index cards, and present each teacher with their own “recipe box” of appreciation.

Try a Little “E-ppreciation”

If your school board budget is really tight, use the free power of email to gather employee appreciation messages for your teaching staff. Google Forms makes it easy to forward an email to parents to gather appreciation notes, and you’ll save time by getting responses emailed back.

Bonus Pass to the Bake Sale

Take the old-school bake sale idea, but give your teachers a free pass! Other fun employee appreciation ideas include renting a specialty coffee station from a local restaurant supply store and bringing it into school to make caffeine treats for your hardworking educators.

The Sweetest Sentiment

A handmade bouquet is a heartfelt employee appreciation gift for your teachers, and it’s great for families on a budget. Ask each student to bring in a single flower for their teacher. Assemble the bouquet with a ribbon, and present the arrangement to the teacher in front of their class.

Encouraging Street Artists

Give students colored chalk and let them draw, write, and express their teacher appreciation messages on the sidewalk around your school.

Local Businesses Love

The business community is waking up to the sentiment of teacher appreciation gifts. It’s great for a business’s reputation to support educators, and you’ll find many services from spas, salons, restaurants, boutiques, or tech stores offering discounts or packages for teachers.

Employee Appreciation Ideas for Sales and Service

There’s a psychology to successful selling, but the emotional toll is equally heavy on sales reps who may only hear “yes” one out of every five times they work that pitch. Service reps, meanwhile, bear the brunt of customer dissatisfaction.

Here’s how to keep these employees feeling appreciated and motivated in the game.

Go Public

Your salespeople and customer service representatives are used to the proverbial door getting slammed in their faces, so make a public announcement that you have an “open door” policy, whether your office is physical or virtual. Be transparent with your employees and as open with your “mind time” as possible.

Sprinkle Appreciation on Everything

Yes, sales reps are motivated by sales awards. That’s the nature of competition in business—but recognition is equally motivating to the sales psyche.

Start a monthly Appreciation Award that’s not based on top sales—it’s an inclusive way of motivating sales and service employees to keep getting better and stay focused on the company’s end goals.

Instant Gratitude

Princeton University researchers studied the impact of instant gratification on the human brain. When you apply those findings to the sales brain, you may gain a new perspective.

Some sales reps focus on quick wins instead of fostering slow-burn opportunities, even if the long-term wait means more significant profit. If that mindset doesn’t mesh with your company goals, flip the switch on a salesperson’s need for instant gratification with instant gratitude.

Show immediate appreciation to your sales rep for meeting quota or getting that win, but mentor them to get invested in leads that will deliver better results in the end game. And don’t forget, a genuine “thank you” every time a salesperson puts forth a real effort goes a long, long way.

The Gift of Gab

We can’t think of a better employee appreciation gift for a sales team or CSRs than a Zoom call with their favorite celebrity. So many celebrities today use social media to send out influential and motivational messages, and some celebs get paid to have these personal conversations with fans.

Imagine gifting your team with a pep talk by a musician, athlete, or company guru they admire. The inspiration could last for a lifetime in business.

Gold Star Fridays

Gold Star Fridays are the brainchild of senior pastor Craig Groeschel as a fun and affordable way to recognize employees by surprising them near the end of a busy week.


At Life.Church, we have some of the hardest working and most faithful people that I’ve ever met. On Fridays late in the day, it would be easy to go home and call it a week. (And our team is free to do it.) But once or twice a year, I like to drop in spontaneously and recognize those who stay to the end on of the week. This little celebration has become known as “Gold Star Friday.” Thank you to every staff member, spouse, and volunteer who faithfully serves to lead people to become fully devoted followers of Christ. #goldstarfriday #lifechurch

♬ original sound – Craig Groeschel

If your company doesn’t quite have the budget to hire a celebrity, get loud and proud of your employees, hand out small tokens of appreciation and some high fives, and have a bit of fun at work!

Employee Appreciation Ideas for Trades and Manufacturing

Employment interest in skilled trades and manufacturing is reaching all-time lows. In addition, the current generation of workers is aging out, and employee appreciation needs to factor into attracting and motivating a young workforce to build successful careers in this industry.

Instill Pride

Working a trade should be a source of pride. Giving trade or manufacturing employees professional workwear or safety equipment will motivate them to think proud and foster a great attitude.

Being Boss

Every job site can be a training ground for future lead hands and forepersons. Mentor your employees on what to do, and then trust them to get the tasks done.

Encourage your employees to gain apprenticeships and give them time to attend in-class sessions. As a contractor, you’re building a skilled workforce and a management team from within.

Create Value

Let’s focus on the obvious: A career in trades can pay well, especially with the current shortage of workers.

But sometimes your employees should appreciate their work in creating something of value—a standing building or a piece of furniture that means something to someone and will exist for centuries.

Take pictures of your job site and text them to your workers as a project progresses. Invite your workers to use the images in a portfolio to demonstrate their skills to future clients.

Think Like Cyrus

Remember Cyrus the Great and the first recorded incidence of employee appreciation in history?

In 583 B.C., Cyrus was rebuilding the Jerusalem temple. He motivated his construction laborers with a celebration involving a pat on the shoulder, a satisfying beverage, and the payment of a coin depicting “the Great’s” face.

A simple group get-together—and an ice-cold beverage—can still be one of the best employee appreciation ideas in trades. Recognize your hardworking staff with an informal outing after a productive day!

Employee Appreciation Ideas for Small Business

While a small business owner isn’t precisely your employee, it’s still a great idea to appreciate small business owners for the important work they do.

Consider sending your favorite small business an actual letter with a small monetary token of your appreciation. For example, a great letter can go something like this (the more personalized, the better!):

Dear “Small Business Owner / Insert Name”:

Thank you!

I appreciate your service and the long hours that you work. You’ve been there for us, sometimes at the last minute, and always when we needed you.

Not only do you make us feel great, but we also trust you, and that’s a beautiful thing to say.

We look forward to your service, and we thank you again!

Best wishes.

Employee Appreciation Quotes for Any Industry

Here are great examples of recognizing your staff through employee appreciation messages. Aim for sending an appreciation message to your employees at least once a week!

  1. “When I got your email last night, I realized how much extra time you put into our presentation. So why don’t you take the rest of the afternoon and go watch your daughter’s soccer game.”
  2. “That was a great report. You obviously worked hard behind the scenes gathering everyone’s feedback.”
  3. “I would love to work with you in person! But I’m glad that you’re happy working remotely. Your satisfaction is important to me.”
  4. “It’s late. Why don’t you servers grab a rideshare? I’ll pay for it.”
  5. “Thanks for a great service tonight. All of your tables complimented me on your fantastic attitude.”
  6. “This restaurant is my dream come true. Your hard work makes it a reality.”
  7. “You bring grace and patience to the toughest job in the world. I’m honored to work with you.”
  8. “You’re a true example to your family and our community. Thank you.”
  9. “You lift this team during the hard times. I couldn’t do this without you.”

What’s Your Appreciation Language?

You’ve heard of the 5 love languages—employees have their appreciation language too!

Take the quiz by clicking the link above, and read on for the summary:

  • Quality Time: People who love quality time appreciate deep 1-on-1 time. This can be hard to achieve in the workplace, where there are quick meetings and shallow water cooler conversations. To connect better with these people, set aside weekly 1-on-1s where you can touch base with them and give them your full attention—eye contact, no cell phones, and all.
  • Gifts: These types of people love giving and receiving gifts! Pick up a little trinket at the store, buy their favorite candies, or create a handmade gift of your own. Make sure to mark down their birthday and any special holidays for a chance for gift giving.
  • Physical Touch: Physical touch gives off feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin. However, giving physical touch to those who love it can be hard in a professional setting. A safer way to initiate touch is to lead in with a handshake. You can also give off the same chemicals we receive from touch by maintaining good eye contact—even through the webcam!
  • Acts of Service: People who love acts of service do things for others and enjoy others doing things for them! One of the easiest ways to fulfill this love language is to complete a task for someone—it can be anything from printing out a document for them, tackling an objective they were trying to achieve, or even opening the door for them.
  • Words of Affirmation: People who love words of affirmation love to hear that they’ve done well. You can send them a thank-you email, tell them in person, or even leave a nice comment on their LinkedIn.

The #1 Secret of Employee Appreciation

We’ve identified how employee appreciation can increase productivity and morale for employees of many industries. That can increase profits for your business and decrease the expenses of employee turnover.

But employee appreciation does something for you, “the boss,” too:

Making employees happy increases a manager’s happiness and job satisfaction, like when you give a gift and receive much more.

So whether you’re giving employee appreciation messages or an employee appreciation gift, you’ll feel rewarded too!Ready for the next steps? Check out this article for more tips on how to be a good manager.

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