Yes, I know. Every day is supposed to be Employee Appreciation Day. But in the real world, supervisors and managers and other leaders get busy, and they may forget to take a moment or two or three to thank their employees for a job well done.

Surprisingly, according to a survey by employee recognition firm O.C. Tanner, while 44 percent thought it was "extremely or very important" to recognize Employee Appreciation Day, only 8 percent knew when it was observed, and only 10 percent said that their current place of employment does anything to actually celebrate the day.

On this very special day, I decided to check in with the guy who actually invented Employee Appreciation Day some years ago -- Dr. Bob Nelson. When thinking about recognizing and rewarding employees, Dr. Bob suggests using something he calls ASAP-Cubed:

  • As soon. Timing is very important when using positive reinforcement. Give praise as soon as the a desired behavior is displayed.
  • As sincere. Words alone can fall flat if you are not sincere in why you are praising someone. Praise someone because you are truly appreciative and excited about the other person's success. Otherwise, it may come across as a manipulative tactic.
  • As specific. Avoid generalities in favor of details of the achievement. For example, "You really turned that angry customer around by focusing on what you could do for him, not on what you could not do for him."
  • As personal. A key to conveying your message is praising in person, face-to-face. This shows that the activity is important enough to you to put aside everything else you have to do and just focus on the other person.
  • As positive. Too many managers undercut praise with a concluding note of criticism. When you say something like, "You did a great job on this report, but there were quite a few typos," the "but" becomes a verbal erasure of all that came before.
  • As proactive. Lead with praising and "catch people doing things right" or else you will tend to be reactive -- typically about mistakes -- in your interactions with others.

Recognizing an employee for a job well done only takes a moment, but the benefits -- to your employees and to your organization -- will last for years. And remember: every day really should be Employee Appreciation Day.