Your significant other never bothers to make any vague attempt to show their affection. Then Valentine’s Day comes around. They suddenly appear clutching a large box of chocolates and a bottle of champagne. They tell you how wonderful you are. They tell you how much you’re adored.

On February 15th the usual indifferent demeanour returns. That’s your lot until February 13th.

Are they insincere? Maybe they don’t regard you as being worth making an effort for on an ongoing basis. Either way, would you view that as a healthy relationship worth sustaining?

What is employee appreciation day?

Originally the idea of employee motivation expert Bob Nelson, employee appreciation day has been around since 1995 and is celebrated annually on the first Friday in March. It originated in the USA, but to date has failed to gain any impetus in the UK.

There’s nothing wrong with the philosophy behind it, which is basically a reminder to show your appreciation through employee recognition. We all need to be reminded from time to time (something we at Workstars really advocate). But there’s a risk that by turning it into an annual event it becomes a way for employers to tell themselves they’re doing enough.

Spoil employees on employee appreciation day then back to normal for the rest of the year may have been enough 20 years ago; today it’s a lazy message which is more likely to increase cynicism and a lack of trust.

Today’s employees want to know when they, or their team, are doing a great job. That doesn’t mean you have to bestow endless bags of doughnuts on your team or continually throw lavish parties.

They can have their place but equally appreciation can be conveyed by simple ‘thank you’s and acknowledgements that show you recognise your employees’ contributions and, as importantly, employees can recognise each other’s contributions. The essence of employee appreciation is showing employees they are valued and their strengths are understood. If someone does a good job let them know today.

This is becoming increasingly important as companies look for ways to motivate a changing workforce demographic. Because today’s employees, especially millennials, have very different expectations. They’ve grown up in a world of texts and social media. Instant responses, instant feedback. And that expectation extends to their workplace.

It’s not only because they aren’t satisfied with a one off acknowledgement of their value. They expect – and should get – feedback regularly. This is a key part of employees knowing they are getting better at what they do. Appreciation and recognition are the two positive aspects of that vital feedback.

The reason we end up with misguided initiatives like employee appreciation day or employee of the month is because workplaces in general are feedback deserts.

But as motivation and human behaviour expert Dan Pink states, ‘Where this may not have been such an issue for past generations, the millennials won’t stand for it. They have lived their entire life in a world of rich, regular, robust, meaningful feedback where if you press a button something happens. You play a game and you get a score. You send a text, it gets there instantly.

In this context, expectations at work have also changed. Today’s workforce wants to develop mastery and they need feedback to do this. This emphasis on evaluation and improvement has the potential to fuel vast improvements and is something companies must take on board if they wish to retain talent.

In other words these are not people who’ll wait a year until their annual appraisal takes place to know if they’re doing a good job. They aren’t people who’ll wait to be told once a year they’re appreciated.

So is it time to have another look at your employee appreciation strategy? Did you in fact get involved in this year’s employee appreciation day? Were you one of those employers making your employees dress up as pirates, have pedicures at their desk in front of their colleagues or wear their pyjamas and onesies to the office? All examples of this year’s celebrations.

I don’t want to be a killjoy, but I really don’t get Employee Appreciation Day. It is a step backwards, and does nothing to create a modern workplace where I am respected and appreciated for what I do.