September 26 marks HR Professional Day, an occasion to appreciate all the work done in HR departments around the world. Back when you were a manager, you probably would've marked the day with a kind gesture, such as bringing in doughnuts or ordering lunch for the team. But showing appreciation is more complex for an executive. Your time and your interactions with staff are limited. You need to make strategic, high-impact moves to let your staff know how much you appreciate them.
It's Not About a Day
If you wait until September 25 to think about how you'll show appreciation on the 26th, you've already missed the boat. Appreciation days shouldn't be treated as deadlines for showing gratitude. Instead, look at them as check-in points. Use days like this as markers for assessing the state of employee engagement in your organization. Find ways to show appreciation and boost engagement all throughout the year, then use these moments to assess what's working and what isn't.
Start with Culture
No number of gestures will make up for a culture that doesn't value employee contributions. This begins with you. Do you emphasize gratitude as a cultural value? Have you clearly described your cultural expectations? Most importantly, are you modeling the behavior you want to see in the rest of the organization? As an executive, you set the tone. Take the time to convey that your organization expects outcomes, but it also appreciates the learning along the way.
Keep the Remote Staff in Mind
Showing staff appreciation is hard enough if everyone is in one place, but remote work and an increasingly global workforce complicates the matter. How are you engaging staff who may be scattered across the country? Is there an attempt to show parity between the appreciation of both onsite and remote staff? Don't let an opportunity to increase engagement for one employee cohort cause another group to feel excluded. But don't fall into the "treating everyone the same is treating everyone fairly" trap either.
Connect Work with Mission
Many executives use occasions like HR Professional Day to make all-hands speeches or send companywide messages about staff appreciation. That messaging is fine (so long as it's short) but your staff have heard that speech many times during their careers, and the repetition dulls its effectiveness. Instead, look for ways to connect the work employees do with the mission of the organization. How are your employees changing the world? Connecting employee efforts to something bigger than just the bottom line makes your appreciation more sincere and meaningful.
Be Targeted in Your Involvement
Targeted, specific recognition leaves a greater impression than generic, widespread praise, especially at your level. But your time is limited, so look for high-impact ways to show recognition. Consider nominating one unsung hero, and then writing a short thank-you note acknowledging that employee's work in a particular area. The gestures don't have to be big, just personal and delivered to the people who will care about them most.