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Companies around the country are preparing to celebrate Employee Appreciation day on March 1, and celebrating this day in a meaningful way is more pressing than ever. A recent Gallup survey showed 60 percent of millennials, a cohort that now makes up the majority of the workforce, are open to a new job, and 21 percent of them have changed jobs in the past year. Making them feel more valued could result in greater retention, but appreciation shouldn't just be reserved for wooing millennials into staying.

Organizations need to communicate their appreciation and invest in all employees' personal growth. After all, a survey by management consulting firm Cicero Group revealed that 37 percent of U.S. employees between the ages of 25 and 65 say that getting more recognition would encourage them to do great work.

As companies experience higher than average turnover and face the challenge of a low unemployment rate, HR departments are having to get creative about showing their employees that they're valued—consistently. Here's how two companies are showing their workers that they matter.

Southwest Airlines Isn't Waiting a Decade to Reward Employees

Employees at Southwest Airlines, who once had to wait for their five- or 10-year job anniversary to receive recognition, now receive a travel-related freebie like a duffle or battery backup on an annual basis, thanks to a new company program. Small perks like these can go a long way. As a result of Southwest's recent efforts, 95 percent of the company's employees say they take pride in working there. Moreover, the voluntary turnover rate is less than 3 percent, according to Rhonda Hanson, manager of awards, recognition and cultural services at Southwest Airlines.

Hanson and her team know that the competition for talent is fierce. Managers understand that they're not just competing with other airlines for qualified employees—tech companies want their programmers and marketing agencies want their communicators and content experts. “We are always competing with ourselves and other companies to recruit and retain talent," she said.

Motley Fool Opts For Smaller—But More Regular—Signs of Appreciation

Multimedia financial services firm Motley Fool has also begun investing more in employee appreciation programs. The Northern Virginia-based company draws a tech- and finance-savvy roster to its 300-plus positions and has consistently ranked as one of the top places to work. The company has made it a priority to listen to feedback from all employees, regardless of title or experience level and one consistent piece of feedback has been that employees value recognition from their peers even more than from the traditional top-down, manager-level channels.

As a result, HR introduced the YouEarnedIt platform, which allows employees (or Fools, as they are referred to within the organization) to post electronic pats on the back for anything from running a good meeting to writing a sharp sentence. The digital notes are seen by everyone at the company and come with “Gold" that can be used to buy gift cards or other tangible awards.

“Because we have this amazing record for every Fool, we are able to draw from it like a well of good feelings," Motley Fool's Alison Southwick wrote in an email. “For example, to thank/celebrate a Fool employee who was done serving her time on the board of directors, we printed off every piece of recognition she was given on YouEarnedIt and put it in a jar for her to keep," Southwick said. “It hopefully showed to her how positive an impact she's had on so many Fools throughout her tenure."

While celebrating Employee Appreciation Day on March 1 is a great way to start giving back to your employees, these activities should not be limited to one day out of the year. There is no "right" time to show colleagues that you are grateful for the work they do. Employee appreciation comes in many forms, from something as small as a thank you note, to something as large as a promotion. Think about who your employees are and what they value. Once you know your audience, you can build an employee appreciation program that can be replicated at your organization for years to come.

Photo: Creative Commons