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Last Minute Employee Appreciation Ideas

August 16, 2023

By Aspen Christopher
Appreciation matters to employees. They value positive feedback on the contributions they make to their department—and the company overall. Unfortunately, in the fast-paced bustle of today’s business world, supervisors and managers fail to recognize employees as often as they should, leading to discontent, disengagement, and turnover.

Fortunately, there are a myriad of ways that supervisors and managers can recognize employees—from simple to the elaborate. These ideas can make last-minute employee appreciation simple and seamless wherever your employees are located—on-site, or working remotely. Best of all, they represent employee appreciation ideas on a budget.

Here we take a look at some last-minute employee appreciation ideas that you can easily implement regularly.

Quick and Easy Recognition Ideas

One very important thing about employee appreciation is that its impact can be cumulative. When you recognize individual employees—especially in front of others—that recognition serves as a motivator not just for the employee recognized, but for other observers as well.

In addition, employee appreciation can, and should be, expressed for groups of employees, whether a team or task force, a department, division, or the company as a whole. The cumulative effect creates a culture of appreciation throughout the organization.

Recognition can be either public or private, but it’s important to know when each is most appropriate based on both the situation and individual preferences. For instance, an introverted employee may prefer to be recognized personally or in a small group setting, but not in front of the entire company. The power of recognition can easily fizzle if it’s not geared to individual employee preferences.

Some quick and easy last-minute no-cost employee recognition ideas can include:

  • Handwritten thank-you notes: Even in an era of digital technology, “old-fashioned” touches can be welcomed and appreciated.
  • Personalized emails or messages: Of course, we do live in a digital environment. Sending a quick recognition email is definitely alright, as long as it’s not the only way you recognize employees.
  • Shout-outs in team meetings: A quick acknowledgment of a team member’s contributions can be easily done in team meetings.
  • Social media acknowledgments: Slack and other digital channels can also be a great way to recognize employees, while also ensuring that their colleagues know about the great work they’re doing.

When recognizing employees, it’s important for recognition to be personalized for individual employees, and specific. Not just “great job!,” but “I really liked the way you incorporated customer comments into this e-letter.” These quick and easy recognition ideas are the perfect way to do that.

Instant Gift Solutions

Who doesn’t like to receive a surprise gift? Your employees certainly do! Gifts can come in the form of digital gift cards, subscription services, customized e-gifts, food delivery vouchers and more.

Here, again, it’s important to consider individual preferences. When gifting, a great way to do this is by allowing employees to select gifts of their choice. Inspirus offers an innovative e-commerce marketplace that provides options by budget range and includes a generous selection of awards.

Gift solutions bring up another important element of employee appreciation—making sure to budget for it! While, as we’ll see, not all appreciation efforts carry an out-of-pocket cost, some do. Make sure you’ve provided funds to help your managers and supervisors leverage gift solutions.

Spontaneous Team Celebrations

Team celebrations can be a great way to recognize employee efforts and bring them together for camaraderie and team-building. Celebrations don’t all have to occur in just one place—something we all learned during the pandemic. You can readily bring together employees who are working remotely and those working on-site to celebrate together. It’s good to mix things up now and then to cater to employees wherever they may be.

Some employee appreciation party ideas might include:

  • Office mini-parties: After completing a challenging project or meeting a team goal, office mini-parties can be a good way to kick back, relax, and debrief in a casual setting.
  • Coffee or ice cream breaks: Whether gathering together in the morning to share fancy coffee drinks, or on a hot summer afternoon for an ice cream break, these impromptu treat breaks are always a hit.
  • Impromptu team games or contests: Games and contests were quite popular during the pandemic as teams gathered together for video conferences to help break up the day and bring people together. There’s no reason to stop now, even as many employees have returned to the office.
  • Themed dress-up days: Whether on site or working remotely, all employees can also participate in themed dress-up days. Maybe it’s a “wear your favorite” team’s jersey at the start of a sporting season, or a holiday-themed dress up, or some other creative idea that can offer both some fun and a way to get to know each other better.

Thoughtful Acts of Kindness

Thoughtful acts of kindness can go a long way toward showing employees that you care about them. Seize on daily opportunities to recognize and celebrate employees in a way that serves to foster a positive company culture.

An easy way to incorporate this is by providing flexibility to take a little time off, come in or leave early, or take an entire day off. In addition, recognizing personal milestones—a birthday, completing a personal goal, graduation, marriage, etc.—lets employees know that you value their personal achievements as well as their professional ones.

Professional growth is also important of course. Offering growth opportunities can be a great way to boost employees’ confidence and skill sets. In fact, LinkedIn research has indicated that opportunities for professional growth and development are critically important to employees—and employers are recognizing this. In fact, “providing learning opportunities” was identified as the number one way organizations are working to improve retention.

Another great opportunity to recognize employees and provide them with valued learning opportunities is to organize skill-sharing sessions where employees can share their expertise with others.

Incorporating Peer-to-Peer Appreciation
While appreciation from supervisors and managers is clearly important to employees, recognition can come from other sources as well—like each other. Incorporating opportunities for peer-to-peer appreciation and making these opportunities highly visible and easy to use can contribute to a culture of recognition. Peer-to-peer appreciation can be extremely meaningful and have a company-wide positive effect.

Implement and promote programs and opportunities through last-minute employee appreciation activities like:

  • Peer recognition circles: Employees come together in a group to recognize each other. This can be done both virtually and in person. Taking time after completing a major team project to come together and call out the contributions of team members can be very rewarding.
  • Kudos cards from colleagues: Whether you print up physical cards, create a template online, or do both, making kudos cards available and encouraging employees to appreciate each other often can support the climate of appreciation you want to achieve.
  • Teammate thank-you wall: Make team appreciation visible on a wall—real or virtual—where praise and appreciation can be publicly shared.
  • Virtual high-fives and applause: In the digital environment, virtual recognition can be done at the click of a button, adding an element of fun too.

Leaders can set the stage for peer-to-peer recognition by taking advantage of these opportunities to recognize their peers.

Leveraging Leadership Involvement

In addition to peer-to-peer recognition, acknowledgment from leadership sets the right tone and is an important model for employees to follow. Leaders can get involved in a number of ways—from sending out their own hand-written notes, creating personal video messages, hosting small group lunches as an opportunity to “meet your VP,” or delivering a surprise thank-you speech from the CEO at a company meeting.

Yes, leaders, managers, supervisors—and employees—are busier than ever before. But, just because we’re all busy, doesn’t mean we can’t take time to provide appreciation to our employees, our peers, and others.


Creating a culture of appreciation can be done readily through the last-minute employee appreciation opportunities we’ve covered here. You can also create your own opportunities and be innovative in finding ways to engage employees by showing them you value their efforts—not once a year, but every day.