James River Capital Shares 10 Employee Appreciation Ideas for 2021

By Ernest Hamilton

May 17, 2021 03:38 PM EDT

James River Capital Shares 10 Employee Appreciation Ideas for 2021(James River Capital Shares 10 Employee Appreciation Ideas for 2021) (Credit: Getty Image)

You've led your team under harsh conditions for the past 14 months, staying afloat during a historic pandemic, social unrest, and an economic downturn. Many employees, including those at James River Capital, made sacrifices to stay productive at work, whether it meant canceling PTO or working longer hours. 

While it's important to get down to business, leaders have to show employees that they're appreciated. Employee retention was a concern pre-COVID, but today it means you need to work harder to keep your staff engaged. 

That's why employee appreciation initiatives are so critical. When you invest in your team, you'll see:

  • Increased engagement: 40% of employees would put more energy into their jobs if they were recognized for their work. 

  • Reduced turnover: 63% of recognized employees say they're unlikely to look for a new job anytime soon.

  • Better business outcomes: Improved employee engagement (courtesy of appreciation initiatives) can boost profitability by as much as 21%.

Employee appreciation needs to be a sincere part of your business's culture. If you haven't already, now is the time to build a culture of appreciation that keeps your business productive, peaceful, and profitable. 

In this guide, James River Capital Founder Paul Saunders shares 10 effective ideas for employee appreciation in 2021. 

About James River Capital & Paul Saunders

Along with his business partner, Paul Saunders acquired James River Capital back in 1995. In the 25 years since founding the company, Paul has served as CEO and Chairman of the Richmond, Virginia company

Today, Paul puts his 30+ years of experience in finance to work for James River Capital's products. His goal is to balance portfolios with alternative investments to optimize products for both risk and returns.

Paul knows the true value of his team and makes a great effort to recognize them. Employee appreciation builds stronger teams, removes barriers, and increases productivity. Paul recommends leaders go all-in on employee appreciation.

10 employee appreciation ideas for 2021

While a company picnic or team lunch is a fun treat for your team, that doesn't always cut it for employee appreciation. In fact, 37% of employees say they feel most motivated by personal recognition. 

Post-pandemic, your employee appreciation efforts should improve dramatically. You need more heavy-hitting perks that solve real problems for your employees. 

Boost team morale and cohesion with these 10 employee appreciation ideas. 

1 - Schedule frequent check-ins

Did your employee do a good job? Don't wait for quarterly reviews to let them know. Employee appreciation only works if you already have regular check-ins with your team on their performance. 

Your people want to be good at their jobs; this gives them a sense of security at work. Weekly check-ins between managers and employees give both parties a chance to address any issues and, of course, share praise. 

You can't make employee appreciation work without a culture of feedback. Institute regular check-ins first to invest in long-term results. 

2 - Allow 20% projects

Google allows its employees to use 20% of their time on work-related passion projects. The results have been amazing: did you know that Gmail is one of Google's many 20% projects?

Passion is key to employee motivation. If your employee designs something that they really care about, it makes them feel more motivated and engaged at work. Allow your team to spend a few hours every week (or every Friday) working on these projects. You never know where their innovation will take you!

3 - Offer PTO or time-saving perks

Has your team been pulling 50+ hours every week? They probably like Snow Cone Fridays, but what they really want is time to recharge. 

James River Capital instituted PTO that worked well for the team. The thing is, you need to give PTO or time-saving perks your team would enjoy. That can include: 

  • Summer Fridays: Give your team half days every Friday in the summer. This is a surprisingly sought-after perk that parents particularly enjoy. 

  • No-meeting days: You can block off Mondays or Fridays and prohibit meetings. This allows your team to catch up on their inbox or finish projects without interruptions. 

  • Extending deadlines: Unrealistic expectations and tight deadlines can hurt team morale. Does everything have to get completed ASAP? Work with your clients to see if you can give your team more breathing room on their deadlines. 

  • Holiday PTO: Shut down the office around major holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas. Instead of forcing everyone to use PTO on days when you know they won't be at work (and no work is coming in), give everyone the day off, paid. 

4 - Brag about your employees publicly

A little recognition doesn't hurt. When your employees accomplish something, they deserve praise. You can help them feel appreciated by bragging about their accomplishments via: 

  • An internal email newsletter

  • Slack announcements

  • Social media posts

5 - Permanently offer flexible scheduling

Flexible schedules were a must during the pandemic, but who says they have to go away? Show your team you appreciate and trust them with permanent flexible scheduling. 

Treat your team like the adults they are. Instead of nickel and diming them for going to a doctor's appointment, manage your team based on performance KPIs. Ask them to be available during core business hours (like 9 am to 4 pm) to stay productive but flexible. 

6 - Set up their ergonomics

If your employees are still WFH, you don't want them working from their beds or couches. Even in-office employees frequently suffer from back problems because of bad workstation setups. 

Ergonomics are a must to keep your team comfortable and healthy. Ergonomics is a great employee appreciation gift, especially when the company handles buying and installing all of the equipment. 

7 - Send "just because" gifts

James River Capital believes in rewarding both individual employees and teams on a job well done. If your team completed a big project or an employee scored a new account, give them a reward!

Try fun treats that they would enjoy receiving, like: 

  • A paid subscription to a magazine or podcast. 

  • A gift box. 

  • Free food delivery. 

  • Baked goods delivered to their door or office. 

  • Margarita or Smoothie Fridays 

  • Booking a food truck and pre-paying for employee meals.

8 - Start a peer recognition program

Managing a large team can be challenging. Management might not always catch their team's accomplishments. If you have a large team, consider implementing a peer recognition program. 

Several employee recognition apps give employees the power to digitally send kudos to each other. Some systems will even allow employees to collect points and cash them in for perks like PTO or prizes. 

9 - Cover their expenses

Salary should be just one piece of your compensation package. You can show how much you appreciate your employees by covering some of their expenses as a perk. 

This could include:

  • Paying for their home wifi or for wifi extenders. 

  • Paying for daycare. 

  • Paying their healthcare premiums. 

  • Overhauling break room equipment. 

  • Upgrading WFH webcams, microphones, and headphones.

10 - Gather employee input (and take it seriously)

These ideas from James River Capital should be a good starting point, but remember that every team is different. The only way to invest in employee appreciation programs that get traction is to involve employees in the process. 

What does your team want? What makes them feel appreciated and valued? What would keep them on your team? What makes them happy? 

You can anonymously collect feedback from your team to find out. Use this data to choose employee engagement options that your team will actually appreciate. 

The bottom line

Your employees are human and you can't work them like machines. Appreciation is an important component of feeling engaged at work, especially in the shadow of a historic pandemic. 

Employee appreciation is essential to keeping your team satisfied and productive. It's not only the right thing to do from a human perspective but it also happens to be great for business!

Remember that empathy should be at the heart of your employee appreciation programs. Work with your team to design recognition programs that they would actually value. 

Done well, these 10 employee appreciation ideas will help you create a positive, productive culture. Treat employee appreciation as an ongoing initiative with consistent effort: this will retain your hard-working employees, boost profits, and build a culture you can be proud of. 

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