The Power of Appreciation: Transforming Employee Recognition into a Branding Opportunity

By Phase 3
February 07, 2024


Did you know that March 1 is more than just a date on the calendar this year? March 1, 2024, is National Employee Appreciation Day. It’s an excellent opportunity to strengthen your company culture, boost morale, and display the heart of your business – your employees. Last year, we offered you several great thought-starting ideas to celebrate the day in a blog post. This year, let’s explore how employer branding plays a role in effectively appreciating your employees on National Employee Appreciation Day and every other day of the year.

Why is Employee Appreciation Important? 

It’s no secret that the world has changed in the last few years. Many workers have changed their view of work and what they want out of it. Priorities about how we spend our time and energy have changed. Aspirations have changed. Employees expect more than a paycheck from their employers.

82% of employees say it’s important for their organization to see them as a person, not just an employee. However, only 45% of employees believe their organization actually sees them this way.

When employees feel less connected to their workplace or their employer, research shows these three critical outcomes:

  • The likelihood of them delivering good work decreases a whopping 90%
  • The probability of burnout increases up to 11 times
  • The odds that they leave the employer within three years jump up to 6.

In other words, it’s likely that employers who ignore employee engagement will never be fully staffed, and the employees they do have won’t be performing at their best. What can an employer do to prevent these detrimental events from happening? That’s simple.


The Best Way to Engage Employees is to Recognize Them 

Employees who receive regular and impactful recognition are 20 times as likely to be engaged as employees who receive poor recognition. Notice the words "regular" and "impactful." Recognizing employees doesn't have to be costly or extravagant. The best recognition programs are meaningful to both the company and its employees. In fact, of employees who have had great recognition experiences, 72% say that performance on "little things" is commonly recognized at their organization. The details matter. Employees feel valued when they receive authentic, meaningful recognition. It tells a clear story about their employer's values. In other words, the employer has embedded employee recognition into the company's brand.

Invest in Employer Branding  

Did you know employee turnover can be reduced by 28% by investing in an employer brand? When employees are connected and engaged with the brand they work for, their loyalty increases. They even become their employer’s best advocates. A solid employer branding strategy brings everyone together while also enhancing the employer's reputation.

Your brand can guide you in developing an effective employee appreciation strategy. It's more than making sure the correct logo is on a polo shirt or pen. Your appreciation message should be consistent with your brand's mission, values, culture, and personality. For example, if one of your company's core values is sustainability, offer appreciation to employees who bike, carpool, or take a bus to work. If a core value is innovation, recognize employees who bring a new time-saving tool or process to their team. This is employee appreciation done brand right.


What Exactly is Employer Branding?

Employer branding is the process of bringing brand identity, values, culture, and vision to employees. This helps them understand the brand's purpose. It drives the perception and reputation of a company as an employer. It encompasses the company's overall employee experience. A strong employer brand communicates to both current and potential employees what it's like to work for the company. It also explains why it's a great place to build a career.

A strong employer brand nurtures a sense of belonging and engagement among employees. It helps create a positive workplace culture, increasing job satisfaction and productivity. Highlighting your company's commitment to worker individuality creates a lasting impact. A well-defined program of personalized recognition spotlighting individual employees' unique contributions and achievements builds a high-performing and positive internal working environment. It is a strategic investment that pays off in successful talent acquisition, high retention rates, strong employee satisfaction, and overall organizational success.

Phase 3 offers consultative and prescriptive guidance for employee branding. As your employer branding agency, we can help your employees understand who their company is and how they fit into it. We'll ensure every employee feels valued and part of a larger purpose.

In the meantime, if you don’t have the time or resources to create your own version of Dunder Mifflin’s Dundee Awards for Employee Appreciation Day, here’s how Phase 3 can help you celebrate the day with style and strategy.

Celebrate with Branded Swag

Branded gifts foster a sense of unity and identity among employees. Wearing or using items with the company logo creates a visual representation of belonging to a collective. It contributes to team spirit. Offering branded swag contributes to a positive company culture. It demonstrates that an employer values employees and is willing to invest in a positive work environment. Receiving branded swag can boost employee morale and motivation. It is a tangible acknowledgment of their efforts and contributions, making them feel appreciated and valued. Employees feel a stronger connection to a company that invests in their well-being. Employee Appreciation Day is an excellent opportunity to connect with your team. Express gratitude for their hard work through thoughtful branded gifts.


Details to Consider

Branded gifts should say more than just your company name. It should make a statement about who your employees are and why they matter. Consider the personal preferences, interests, and lifestyles of your employees. If you can customize the gift to the employee, it would be wise to do so. A gift that resonates with the individual shows thoughtful recognition. If not, ensure the branded gift aligns with the values and culture of your company. Choose gifts that are practical and useful in the daily lives of your employees. Select items that are durable and built to last, ensuring they will be a lasting reminder for the employee. Make sure the gift is inclusive and appeals to a broad range of tastes and lifestyles. If your workforce includes remote employees, choose gifts that are easily shipped and enjoyed at home. Remember that details matter.


Small to Large Branded Gift Ideas

Here are some creative ideas to celebrate employees with branded swag on Employee Appreciation Day:

  • Trendy/Hard-to-Get Gifts: You'll be the day's hero if you gift employees a hot commodity, like Stanley Tumblers or eco-friendly tech swag.
  • Personalized Desk Drops: Surprise employees by leaving branded swag items on their desks. This could include branded mugs, stress balls, or desk accessories. Personalize the items based on individual preferences or achievements. Accompany the gift with personalized thank-you notes expressing appreciation for each employee's unique contributions.
  • Branded Apparel Catalog: Offer a selection of branded apparel (hoodies, hats, or jackets) through an online storefront portal like Media:Link. This allows staff to pick items they'll genuinely enjoy wearing.
  • Branded Fitness Gear: Promote a healthy lifestyle by providing branded fitness gear such as water bottles, workout towels, or fitness trackers. This not only celebrates employees but also supports their well-being.
  • Swag for Remote Employees: Remote employees may like practical items like company-branded laptop sleeves, wireless chargers, or cozy blankets to warm up their home office.
  • Tech Gadgets: Consider high-quality, useful tech gadgets like branded earbuds, power banks, or laptop stickers, which can be both practical and appreciated.
  • Employee Swag Requests: Allow employees to request specific swag items they want. This ensures that the swag is branded and tailored to individual preferences.

Branded Swag Kits 

Create branded and themed appreciation kits filled with thoughtful goodies. Themes could include cooking, wellness, travel, tech, crafts, pets, or other interests or pastimes. Include custom-branded merchandise like company T-shirts, accessories, drinkware, or notebooks. This fosters a sense of belonging. It also turns your employees into proud brand ambassadors inside and outside the workplace. If you are in a time crunch, our online merchandise site also features pre-made swag kits. They are available for branding.

Real-Life Employee Engagement Case Studies Using Media:Link

Media:Link is Phase 3's proprietary and customizable marketing asset management system. It provides a strategic, cost-effective platform that simplifies the ordering and fulfillment process of branded materials. It eliminates the bottlenecks created when multiple departments or locations are ordering materials while the Corporate headquarters maintains control of brand standards, compliance, and corporate identity. The portal also allows localizing, regionalizing, and customizing items, providing branded gifts with more relevance. For example, employees can shop for their appreciation gifts, choose their customization (colors, size, etc.), and have them shipped directly to them. Here's a real-life case study of Media:Link in action.


Supreme Lending 

After Supreme Lending refreshed its branding, leaders partnered with Phase 3 to launch a new online store for employees to celebrate and show off the new look, offering them fresh custom-sourced apparel and branded merchandise. For their annual Sales Rally event, we set up a "supreme swag" in-person pop-up shop and an online company store for employees to shop.


Supreme Lending_swag room



Norfolk Southern

Norfolk Southern approached Phase 3 to help them recognize employees during their busy season. They wanted to let each employee select a gift of their choice. Phase 3 used Media:Link to build three sites, one for each group of employees and then three tiers within each group. The system determined which gift option level an employee could access through their email address. There was a total of 26 gift options across all tiers. More than 7,600 orders were placed during the ordering period, all with unique shipping addresses. Phase 3 ensured that the fulfillment and distribution of the gifts went smoothly so that each employee received their gift promptly.


Phase 3 Proposal Case Study_Norfolk Southern2



As Employee Appreciation Day approaches, create a meaningful brand celebration that goes beyond a single day. By consistently showcasing your commitment to your employees, you enhance your employer brand. You also cultivate a workplace culture where appreciation is a part of every day. Remember, a celebrated employee is an engaged and motivated one, contributing to the overall success of your organization.

If you need to better define your brand, develop an employee engagement strategy, or curate a show-stopping new hire kit, Phase 3 can help. Connect with us today.