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As a kid, there was nothing more exciting than getting a Pixy Stick (or what my UK coworkers call a sherbet stick), that rips open, tasted like raw citric acid, and sealed itself up half-way through eating it. As an adult, I watch confused while my kids poured the rainbow dust into their mouths. Now, a box of dark chocolate truffles? That’s MY love language. As we age our preferences age with us.

As a kid, Valentine’s Day involved handmade mailboxes, lollipops, and cards for every classmate and teacher. Remember these?


As an adult, while handmade gifts are still charming, the sophistication of what most of us do increases. 

So for instance, if my child brings home a “paper hug” for me – it is a treasure that I am thrilled to get. It takes effort and concentration for a child to make this project! If my husband threw this together for me – I would be less charmed. And if I made this for him? Likely the same reaction. It's time for a change.


As adults we can get more sophisticated and creative about how we celebrate Valentine’s Day. We have the ability as adults to give gifts that are catered to what the giver or the receiver of the gift likes – rather than just what we are capable of spelling with a crayon. 

How we show our love becomes more nuanced and sophisticated as we age. Bring on the dark chocolate, instead!


The same logic should apply to recognition. 

When we are toddlers our parents, teachers, aunties, etc. drill us with reminders, “What do you say?!?” And responding with “Thank you!” becomes automatic. 

Download our eBook to gain new ideas for recognizing your people on  Valentine's Day »


While a simple “Thank you” is a lovely quick way to send the message, there are equally simple ways to add a bit more thought to ensure your employee recognition ideas are fully appreciated – even by employees who are stressed or overwhelmed. What are some easy ways to break through the day-to-day routine and ensure that appreciation is really felt?

  1. Do something small but unexpected: Say thank you in a handwritten card or leave some candy on their desk. This idea is the most like what happens in school, but you can differentiate it by customising it to the person. If they love the cinema, gift them discounted cinema tickets. If they love a good Flake bar for a treat, leave them one on their desk.

  2. Kick-off a team meeting with the story: If the action was impactful, share the story publicly to let the person know it is bigger than just them. Sharing stories in this way also helps communicate project updates and focusses your team on what is working, rather than just what is “broken.”

  3. Use “AVI” to tell the story: When you share the story, whether that's in person or through a digital channel like a peer-to-peer recognition programme, say more than, “Thanks.” Tell the Action, select the company focus or Value it supports, explain the Impact of the actions. Giving these important attributes of the story will get people’s attention, even those that normally tune out during recognition.
 Step one: Tell the action
 Step two: Connect to an area of focus or company     value
 Step three: Explain the impact

So this Valentine’s Day, go beyond the paper hearts and cookie-cutter messages. Make it the day you expand your appreciation for others in a significant way, both in and out of work. 

Alexandra Powell

Alexandra Powell, Director of Client Cultural Insights, not only knows American Sign Language, but uses it to secretly communicate with her husband and kids at parties. Alex is a highly experienced employee engagement consultant, trainer and speaker. For over 20 years she has helped HR and business leaders implement strategies that drive true culture change.

Director of Client Cultural Insights

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