We often hear from employees that they feel like they are racing from one project to another, with little time to appreciate – let alone celebrate – key successes along the way. Effective leaders understand their job isn’t just to foster an employee’s dedication to their work, but to celebrate when tasks (both big and small) are completed to truly deepen engagement.

Rituals of celebration make us feel proud of the hard work we accomplish. Strong leaders identify, recognize, and reward efforts and accomplishments. They take the time to pause and say, “Wow, look what you did! Thank you!” Creating a culture of celebration helps meet employees’ needs for inclusion, collaboration, and appreciation. Virtually all organizations that have high levels of employee engagement have rituals of celebration.

Celebration is also a form of feedback. It’s a very clear, and hopefully, visceral signal to an employee that what they just did was appreciated.

When you celebrate at work, it increases the “feel good” neurotransmitters in the brain. Positive celebrations and collaboration with colleagues aren’t simply a way to socialize – they establish healthy physical and emotional changes in the brain.

Our E3A survey includes a question that measures whether organizations celebrate employee accomplishments regularly. We ask this question because we know these more prosocial (even fun) forms of recognition resonate loudly with employees. This type of recognition should typically occur at three levels: individual, team, and the entire organization. This question scores an average of 2.66 on a 4 point scale in our client’s first survey year it averages 2.73 over time. This low score demonstrates that organizations and managers can certainly do more.

The nature of work has never been more complex. Organizations are experiencing unprecedented pressure from shifts in technology, customer expectations, and the demands of a shrinking labor force looking for more than a paycheck. However, when we don’t pause to celebrate, employees don’t have the chance to recharge their metabolic resources and prepare for the next big workplace challenge.

In a recent survey of employees, 74 percent of respondents who hadn’t celebrated their accomplishments with co-workers said they are more likely to leave their job.

Here are some strategies for creating a culture of celebration in your workplace:

Celebrate individual employees.

Celebrating each individual employee is a great way to instill pride, enhance culture, and build relationships.

Schedule time each week to acknowledge employees who have exceeded expectations, even in small ways. Consider starting staff meetings by highlighting employee accomplishments. Additionally, make sure to set aside time at least each quarter to collectively celebrate your employees’ achievements.

In addition to performance accomplishments, celebrate milestones, such as individual employees’ start dates, birthdays, or the birth of a child. Behaviors supportive of organizational core values, other team members, and other departments are all good options. One rule of thumb. When giving individual recognition publicly, always ask for permission. Some employees do not like to be singled out from their team.

Managers should ask themselves these questions:

Have I celebrated one of my employee’s accomplishments recently?

How do I celebrate for my employees?

Celebrate the team.

Each workplace team should be celebrating their accomplishments on a regular basis. The team leader should make it a priority to organize activities on a regular basis to bring the team together and recognize group achievements. These celebrations enable team members to build strong relationships, collaborate more effectively on projects, and produce higher-quality work. We are hardwired to work in groups so why not celebrate that way as well?

Celebrate the organization as a whole.

At the organizational level, corporate celebration is extremely important. It brings everyone from multiple departments together. It enables employees to feel a sense of connection to their work tribe as a whole. It helps create a positive environment at work, where employees perform better, work harder, are healthier, and are more creative and innovative.

In addition to celebrating performance-related achievements, incorporate fun celebrations for other milestones, such as great examples of core values in practice, customer testimonials, or the anniversary of the company’s founding.

Managers should ask themselves: How does my organization as a whole celebrate? and How do I encourage this to happen more?

Bring employees into the conversation about celebration.

Ask your staff members what it would look like to have a fun celebration with their team. They may have a great suggestion for an exciting activity that would motivate employees or a favorite restaurant where the team members would really enjoy eating lunch together. This helps to create that emotional velcro that makes employees want to come to work every day. It’s also a powerful way to connect the team and make great memories.

Utilize micro-celebrations.

Micro-celebrations are equally important to those bigger celebrations. This is when you provide recognition to celebrate employee or team wins. These are usually small wins, but still very important to the company’s growth and prosperity. The communication channel that you use as an organization, such as Slack or Jabber, is a great place to celebrate the success of team members by recognizing them. Tell other team members about an employee’s accomplishments there. You could even incorporate emojis to add a little fun. This method is free and it doesn’t take a lot of time, but it’s a really powerful statement for celebration.

Celebrations are typically underappreciated by leadership. As a manager, it’s essential to think about how you can create a strategy for your organization to celebrate in ways that are consistently done around things that support your mission, vision, values, and business outcomes. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Focus on organizing relational events that help tie your people together and signal to them that they are part of a successful company.

Key Takeaways:

  • Creating a culture of celebration helps meet employees’ needs for inclusion, collaboration, and appreciation. It also shows them that the work they do is contributing to the company’s overall goals.
  • Celebrate at the individual, team, and organizational level to nurture a strong culture of celebration in your workplace.
  • Bringing employees into the conversation and taking advantage of micro-celebrations are powerful ways to demonstrate to your employees that you value their contributions.

Looking for more ways to cultivate a workplace where your employees thrive? Read my book, Thrive By Design: The Neuroscience That Drives High-Performance Cultures.