I noticed that today is Employee Appreciation Day, which sounded like a fun day (I know I like to be appreciated!), but what made it even more fun was when I saw the day was actually created by a long-time friend, Bob Nelson. So I gave him a call and asked him about it:

INC: What's the low down on this "up" day?

Bob Nelson: I created Employee Appreciation Day 20 years ago when I first wrote 1001 Ways to Reward Employees (now in a new edition entitled 1501 Ways to Reward Employees). I wanted to call attention to the importance of thanking employees when they do a good job. Common sense, I know, but far from common practice from my experience and research.

INC: Why is such an easy thing so hard for people to do?

BN: Lots of reasons: They're busy, they're forgetful, they aren't that creative, they don't think it's really all that important, they aren't sure how to do it well, "Isn't that HR's job?," "No one does it for me--when I start getting it, I'll start giving it," "We thank people--it's called a paycheck," "People should be glad they've got a job," and "Let me know who's not happy and I'll have a little talk with them to straighten them out." Basically, "the beatings will continue until morale improves."

INC: Is appreciation a growing need among workers?

BN: You better believe it. For the Millennial generation, currently the largest generation in the workforce today at 32 percent, they expect to be praised or recognized every day. That's not because they have a frail ego or need to be puffed up because they received trophies growing up just for participating. It's because they are smart enough to realize that in the fast-moving, dynamic times in which we all now work, a steady stream of feedback is essential to know when you are on the right track. And for the 40 percent of workers that currently work remotely, recognition is all the more important to let them know when they've done a good job. Feedback once a year in a performance review no longer cuts it for employees--did it ever?

INC: So, then, what's the best way to appreciate employees?

BN: Ironically, the best things are simple and free. Thanking them, in person, in writing, electronically or in public; direct, open & honest communication; asking them for their ideas and suggestions, and if they have a good idea, allowing them to pursue it; involving them in a decision--especially one that directly affects them and their work; and when they make a mistake, focusing on the learning they got from that error over finding fault and blame and embarrassing them in front of their peers.

INC: No balloons, confetti or pizza?

BN: Yeah, do those things, too.

For more great ideas from Dr. Bob's book--and a free copy of You Are Doing a Freaking Great Job--be sure to visit his website.