This experience – which I’m guessing may be familiar to many of you – hit me hard. With how much we put into the work, why didn’t we take the time to pause and celebrate?

When I reflected on this question, I realized that celebrating takes effort. Going back to deadlines is easy. Creating fun and meaningful celebrations takes time and planning and is a commitment. However, in what I’ve observed and learned with a bit of research, the payoffs are huge.

Celebration can be a powerful force in creating a thriving culture, retaining talented employees, and in growing your business. With these benefits in mind, creating opportunities to celebrate is a priority we should all remember.

The Benefits of Celebration

In recent years, there has been a good deal of research into motivating employees and the impact of rewards and punishments. It turns out that rewards, including public recognition and celebration, are among the most powerful forces in motivating and influencing positive behavioral change.

The neuroscience research shows that celebration works wonders in the brain, releasing a powerful array of chemicals, including oxytocin, endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. When these chemicals are combined with personal recognition, employees become more motivated, speak up more, and gain confidence.

These individual benefits extend to teams and as Liz Jazwiec, author of Eat That Cookie!: Make Workplace Positivity Pay Off…For Individuals, Teams, and Organizations, says, “The bottom line is that workplace celebrations foster relationship building, improve morale, enhance retention, and encourage employees to achieve results.”

The Downside of Not Celebrating

On the other side of the equation, a lack of celebration can cause real issues.

With how hard many folks work these days, the lack of celebration has been equated to a lack of nourishment in this article entitled Without Celebration, We Wither Away.

At a larger scale, this issue was highlighted in a recent Towers Watson study, where it was found that 80% of people cited lack of appreciation as a key reason for leaving their jobs.

Success Factors

Since celebration is so key to employee and team engagement, here are some things that will make yours successful:

1. Celebrate Often

The Towers Watson report stated the employees want some form of recognition every 7 days. While you’re likely not going to throw a party every week, expressing gratitude and letting your team know that you’re aware of their efforts is key.

For some of our clients with the strongest cultures, we’ve seen them adopt a monthly rhythm for team recognition celebrations and more substantial annual celebrations for big awards.

2. Celebrate Both Small and Big Wins

Whether it’s a new client, a product shipping, or a great quarterly result, celebrate your wins. This can create a real sense of momentum with your team and when done well, can help each individual see how their work contributed to the overall success of the organization.

3. Connect Celebrations to your Values

If your organization’s values are truly what they are meant to be (non-negotiable standards for behavior), it is crucial to celebrate employees who exemplify them. As famous author Tom Peters said, “celebrate what you want to see more of.”

As the recent SHRM global workforce survey stated, “Rewarding employees for performance that reinforces organizational values and contributes to the organization’s overall business goals can help engage employees and create a purpose-driven culture,” said Tanya Mulvey, SHRM researcher. “While monetary investment is also important, the research found it had a more positive impact when recognition was core to the organization’s talent strategy.”

Many of our clients give regular values awards to employees like coffee mugs and t-shirts to employees who exemplify that behavior. Some go even further and give annual awards to the employee that best exemplifies each one of their values.

4.  Build a System

To make sure your celebrations happen and become a habit, it’s key to make this a program with owners and budgets attached. From what I’ve seen, you’ll find a number of people willing to take on the party planner role.

Start Now

Considering how big an issue employee engagement and retention are for many companies, creating a culture that celebrates needs to become a strategic priority. Clearly, there are many behaviors and milestones to celebrate. I encourage you to be deliberate about identifying and celebrating what matters most to your business and the culture you seek to create. At the same time, I encourage you to schedule your first celebration now and start building the muscle to make this a regular habit with weekly or monthly team gatherings and larger quarterly and annual celebration rituals.

Have you had experiences where regular celebrations created positive results? If so, please share them here so others can benefit from your learning.


Banner image courtesy of the National Institute Of Biomedical Imaging And Bioengineering


Want more from Fathom?

Sign up to receive updates about our articles.