In smaller organizations, it’s easy to recognize each individual’s accomplishments and milestones. As organizations grow, this becomes more difficult — and it’s increasingly easier to take employees for granted.
One simple but powerful way to show your employees you care is to celebrate their birthdays. Ignoring milestones like birthdays and work anniversaries isn’t going to help employees feel like they’re part of the team.
Unfortunately, this approach to employee recognition (or lack thereof) seems like the norm, with only one in four employees feeling valued at work, according to our 2017 Employee Engagement Report. This is a major problem because employee recognition and preventing turnover are tightly linked.
The good news is that improving recognition is easily accomplished. For example, even at large organizations, it’s possible to recognize each employee’s birthday in a meaningful way, especially if you divide up the company by departments.
You don’t need to throw a big party. Small gestures can have a big impact. But either way, you should do something to let your employees know that you’re aware of their special day. With that in mind, let’s take a look at nine ideas to make every birthday count.
01. Sugar, sugar
Everyone deserves a treat on their birthday! Make sure you find out what the employee likes — whether it’s chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cups, or red velvet cake. A candy bag can be a good choice because employees can share it throughout the day.
Alternatively, ask your team to do a bit of detective work and figure out which treats to bring in. This way everyone in the workplace can participate in making the birthday celebration an enjoyable one.
In general, birthdays are an ideal time to build some camaraderie among your team. They’re the perfect excuse to throw a party.
02. Decorate their desk
What better way to show employees you’re thinking about them on their birthdays than to show up to the office early and really decorate that person’s desk?
Print out pictures of their favorite celebrities. Hang up some funny artwork along with banners and balloons. Leave a small gift or two like candy in a coffee mug or a bunch of company swag.
Go all out! Some surprise decorations are a surefire way to make each employee feel valued.
03. Show your gratitude with a note from the whole team
A birthday is a great time to show how much the employee means to the organization. Instead of a generic birthday card, have colleagues write a few sentences about the employee’s contributions and what they like most about working with that person.
This sends the clear signal that the whole workplace sees and appreciates each employee’s hard work.
Our research has uncovered that peer-to-peer recognition is extremely valuable to fostering a positive workplace culture. In fact, it’s actually more important than recognition from a supervisor. Everyone wants to work with people they respect — and it’s even better if they’re working with their friends.
04. Give them a gift card
A simple, low-key way to celebrate an employee’s birthday is by giving them a gift card. This could be a good option for more introverted employees. Even if it’s for a token amount (e.g., $25), the employee will appreciate the gesture.
For the employee whose desk is always littered with coffee cups, a Starbucks card might be the perfect gift. A Groupon gift can work too. You can also get a deal on an activity that takes the employee into a new realm like paintball, rock climbing, or an art class.
Just make sure it’s something they’re interested in first before you pull the trigger. An easy way to do that is by talking to your employees directly.
05. Take them out for a meal
This might be a good opportunity to get to know your employee better. Suggest that you take them out for lunch or dinner at the restaurant of their choice. Bring along some coworkers too so that everyone can join in the fun.
If you’re not feeling up for a night on the town, you could host a potluck-style lunch at the office instead. Have each member of the team bring in something special on the employee’s birthday. Either way, eating a meal together is a great way to get people talking to one another.
06. Charitable contributions
Donating money to charity is a good way to show your organization’s investment in the community and in social responsibility. To make it more meaningful, find out which charity the employee would like to make a contribution to and donate on their behalf.
Alternatively, you could take the day to do some charitable work. Organize an event with Habitat for Humanity or another positive community organization. These opportunities can serve as a great team-building tool while also recognizing individual employees.
You probably can’t afford to do community service on everyone’s birthday. You may want to consider celebrating birthdays once a quarter. Celebrate everyone who has a birthday in January, February, or March during your Q1 outreach event, for example.
07. Get a little help from their friends
If you ever want to have a bona fide birthday celebration for your employees, it’s crucial that you rope their work friends into the conversation. Have a chat with the employee’s closest colleagues and brainstorm an idea for their birthday.
This is an important step no matter what you choose to do. If your employee is on a strict diet, for example, sweets might not be the best way to go. If your employee is very shy, they may not want their birthday recognized at all.
By discussing your plans with the employee’s friends, you’ll guarantee that you’re doing something the employee will enjoy.
08. Give them the spotlight
Birthdays could be the perfect opportunity to profile your employee to let the whole office get to know them a little better. Either send out an email blast with a little bit of information or post something on your company’s internal network. Of course, if you’re trying to showcase your company’s personality a little more, you can also post this content on external-facing platforms (e.g., Twitter and your blog).
These profiles could include lesser-known facts, places they’ve been, and other interesting tidbits. You could also highlight their recent work accomplishments.
Be sure that your employees are on board before choosing this option; the shier members of your team might be mortified by the idea.
09. Give them the day off
Some employees may not be interested in celebrating their birthday at work, instead choosing to be around family. Or your employee just might need a day off to recharge their batteries. Whatever the case, offering a personal day for this once-a-year event is something employees will appreciate.
Keep in mind, however, that you can’t force your employees to take a day off. If they don’t want to relax on their birthday, consider the extra personal day a birthday present that they can redeem any time of the year.
Birthdays are special celebrations for individuals. It’s their day. Make your workers feel truly valued by incorporating these ideas into your employee recognition program to show your appreciation for your team’s hard work.
Not only will it make them feel valued as an employee, it makes them feel valued as an individual. The end result? A happier, healthier workforce that’s motivated to push themselves even harder.
- 18 Creative Employee and Sincere Recognition Ideas
- 3 of the Worst Employee Recognition Methods for Introverts