A couple of days ago (on March 1st), we celebrated national Employee Appreciation Day in the UK, US and Canada. Much of my ‘big corporate’ background was spent in employee communication and engagement, so this date makes my heart sing.

And I think it’s even more important for small business owners to show your people some love. Here’s why:

  • If you’re a sole trader / one-man band / solopreneur (*choose your preferred term), becoming a team is a huge leap. You’re used to doing everything yourself, and now you have to delegate, share and trust. The personality of your business is changing.
  • In a small business, culture really is everything. ‘How it feels to work here’ will impact employee productivity and customer satisfaction – all adding up to your business results.
  • We know that some people give a little bit more than they have to – we call it going the extra mile, or going above and beyond. In business it is known as discretionary effort and it’s the gap between ‘enough’ and ‘potential’. Can you imagine the difference it will make to your business to have a team operating even just a little above the baseline?

Feeling appreciated and valued always scores high in any research about employee satisfaction, and recognition is a vital factor in team performance. These things drive that discretionary effort and have a really positive impact on attendance, retention and brand experience. 

Appreciating your team can be simple, straightforward and relatively inexpensive. But the return on your investment is huge.

Here are just a few quick ideas to get you started – and the good news is that the most powerful actions are often the most simple:


I once worked with an airline headed up by a CEO who took employee appreciation very personally. Without fail, each employee (and there were hundreds) came to work on or just after his or her birthday to find a hand-written card and a chocolate bar on their desk. People loved it, and they often ‘went the extra mile’ for her.

One of the best companies I ever worked for used a ‘birthday buddy’ system; each of us had one colleague for whom we took responsibility for birthday gifts and celebrations, and we all worked to the same budget. It saved us all from trying to find cash for the constant whip-rounds, or gift values being unequal and unfair. Most importantly, it meant everyone was remembered and celebrated.

Whatever you choose to do, birthdays are a simple way to make your team feel really appreciated. Everyone has one!


Saying thank you is a given (we hope), but how you do it can make a big difference. In an online and automated world, a hand-written and personalised note can go much further than an email. Dust off your stationery and invest a few extra minutes, and see the impact this simple gesture can have.


How easy is it for you – or a member of your team – to reward a colleague for a great achievement or outstanding action? Is there a budget set aside? Is there a process for spending it easily and quickly?

We’re not talking mega-bucks or red-tape here – but a pre-approved way for a team member to buy a colleague a bunch of flowers or a bottle of wine or a small gift to say a timely THANK YOU is a lovely thing. And, if it’s all spent by the end of the year, celebrate that too – it’s a sign that your small business is full of people doing great things and celebrating each other!


Increasingly, we live in a world where careers are mobile and jobs are transient. People tend neither to expect nor want a job for life. But small businesses take a disproportionately big hit in cost and disruption when they face a staffing ‘churn’ – lost knowledge, recruitment, training and learning curve. Noting and celebrating a team member on their joining anniversary is a nice touch and shows you don’t take their loyalty for granted, and it’s a worthwhile investment.

Think about your business anniversary too. Here at Lucy & Emma | The Communication Coaches, we shut the shop on the date our company was formed and we do something fun, such as a team lunch by the river. We take care to practice what we preach!


There’s a famous story about a visit President John F Kennedy made to the NASA space centre in 1962, when one of the building caretakers described his job as “helping to put a man on the moon”.

In the big picture of your business, everyone is playing a part in bringing the mission to life. This is especially true in a small business. 

But who appears in the ‘about us’ section of your website? When a customer or visitor ‘meets the team’, do they just see you or do they get to put a face to the name of the person they speak to on the phone? What a great way to give everyone a public shout-out!

The list of things you can do to show your appreciation is almost endless, and should  be tailored to reflect your brand personality. From quick shout-outs to say thank you, through to giving more autonomy and freedom to show your trust – appreciating your employees will repay you beyond measure.

I’m so glad we have a date in the calendar to remind us – but don’t get caught out; why not include recognition and appreciation in your business plan each year?

We’d love to hear from you…what strategies do you use to show your team how much you appreciate them? Let us know in the comments, and (if you haven’t already), why not sign-up to get this blog and its weekly goodies delivered direct to your inbox? Make sure you never miss a thing.

Have a great week!


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