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How to celebrate employee birthdays while remote

Personalized physical cards are super effective.

By Beatrice Muriithi, April 27th, 2020

When we started building Cardybot, our goal was to help teams celebrate birthdays in a personalized way that lets everyone participate. Most times, I've seen birthday messages that come from the top of the organization and that ends up being impersonal and routine. When your birthday card is from your colleagues, it feels different. And yes, this is kinda like the old school way of doing things when most people were not remote (or in lock-down from COVID-19).

I started my career in a non-remote company where (like many other teams) we signed birthday cards for co-workers. Unlike most other birthday perks, it was actually fun and personalized. But my last couple of roles have been on remote teams so it's been impossible to do cards like that. While I love working remotely, I wish we still did birthday cards. As a Slack integration, Cardybot's goal is to bring this back while making it even more fun for remote and non-remote teams.

Let's step back for a bit to talk about birthdays and employee engagement. To perform at their best, people need to feel like they belong to the team they are in - that's why employee engagement and recognition is so important. But engagement is much harder these days because increasingly, employees are working remotely. When working remotely, it's easy to feel disengaged from your co-workers because one is not part of the central hub, or maybe there is no central hub because your team is entirely remote.

Even before the acceleration of this trend by the COVID-19 pandemic, people were already increasingly working remotely. Over the last five years, remote workers grew by 44% according to Global Workplace Analytics. We are also seeing a fast increase in gig, part-time and contract work which tend to be better suited to remote work. Paired with this is a changing perspective around work tenure - the average work tenure is now about 2 years according to Payscale. So even keeping your great employees for an extra year is a considerable boost.

So how do you keep your employees engaged and also increase their tenure? Simply put, recognition helps prevent unhappiness and attrition. According to Gallup:

Recognition not only boosts individual employee engagement, but it also has been found to increase productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention.

Note that recognition doesn’t just mean acknowledging a job well done (although that’s certainly important). It also means recognizing and appreciating your employees as people. Now, here's an interesting find by the Harvard Business Review:

[Birthdays] can prompt employees to assess their careers and take action if they’re unhappy with the results. (Job hunting jumps 12% just before birthdays.)

Our take away: A birthday is a golden moment to show your employees you recognize them and build loyalty. Getting birthday celebrations right is an essential part of your employee recognition toolbox.

To sum up, here are some key points regarding recognition and birthdays that you'll find useful:

  • Employee recognition - particularly celebrating employee birthdays makes them feel valued and recognized.
  • As we’ve seen, employees who feel appreciated are less likely to get disengaged and quit.
  • Engaged employees are happier with their employer – research shows that happy employees are 15-20% more productive than their unhappy counterparts.

Recognition is about acknowledging the value of your employee as a person. It doesn't have to be expensive or tricky with remote employees - Cardybot helps you send personalized and fun physical birthday cards automatically from Slack. Everyone (that chooses to participate) is involved, and your employees will have personal sentiments from their co-workers to cherish for life.

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