“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson. Here is how leaders can show their employees gratitude.
It’s true. By tapping into the power of gratitude, you’ll improve your physical and psychological well-being. It will also create stronger bonds since you’ll be more helpful, generous, forgiving, and outgoing. In short, gratitude will make you a better person and leader. In fact, one study shows that those who were thanked by their managers were 50% more productive.
But, that’s just scratching the surface. “[Gratitude is] going to make your business more profitable, you’re going to be more effective, your employees will be more engaged—but if that’s the only reason you’re doing it, your employees are going to think you’re using them,” says Steve Foran, founder of the program Gratitude at Work. “You have to genuinely want the best for your people.”
Moreover, it can cultivate an emotionally intelligent and empathetic workplace. As a result, you’ll be able to attract and retain top talent, customers, and investors.
So, if you’re ready to transform your workplace and life, then it’s time to express your gratitude. And, here’s how you can effectively show you appreciation.
Touch base early and often.
“While regularly taking time to say hello to employees and check in with them might seem like an unnecessary drain on your productivity, these interactions are actually valuable points of connection for your employees (and for you),” write Kerry Roberts Gibson, Kate O’Leary, and Joseph R. Weintraub for HBR. “They prevent your staff from feeling invisible.”
“One of the employees in our focus groups told us that simply hearing ‘Good morning’ or ‘How are you?’ from his department manager would have been as meaningful as formal recognition,” the authors add. “If you create routines that allow your employees to share stories with you about what they’re doing or working on, you can make them feel ‘known’ by you — and stay in the loop on what’s happening within your organization.”
Say, “Thank you.”
These are perhaps two of the most powerful words that you can say to your employees. Why? Well, according to author, consultant, and speaker Jon Gordon it’s because they can “transform our health, happiness, athletic performance and success.”
“Research shows that grateful people are happier and more likely to maintain good friendships,” adds Gordon. “A state of gratitude, according to research by the Institute of HeartMath, also improves the heart’s rhythmic functioning, which helps us to reduce stress, think more clearly under pressure and heal physically.”
How can you say “thank you” in the workplace? It’s not all that difficult. You good take 15-seconds and verbally tell them that they’ve done a great job. Or, you could follow in the footsteps of Doug Conant, who used to be the CEO of Campbell Soup. He “wrote approximately 30,000 thank you notes to his employees and energized the company in the process,” Gordon writes.
The key here is to be authentic. And, try to focus more on behaviors and not just outcomes.
Carve out time in your busy schedule for them.
Your employees are well aware that you have a packed schedule. So, what better what to demonstrate your gratitude than by making time for them frequently?
To me, that’s like when an owner of a business comes out and chats with you. For example, I recently had to get my brakes changed on my car. The owner of the shop I went to came and chatted with me for 15-minutes. It made me feel like an MVP because he makes it a point to stop what he’s doing and build rapport with his customers.
On your end, you can prioritize time with each employee by scheduling one-on-ones where you praise them and offer constructive feedback. You could also invite them to lunch or join you on your afternoon walk. Or, you could just walk around and check-in with them throughout the day.
Most importantly, don’t ever tell them that you don’t have time. If it only takes you a minute to respond to one of the messages, just do it. For more in-depth problems, block out a time to address this in your calendar or refer them to someone else who can help.
Spending time with each of your team members makes them feel valued and appreciated. It allows you to help them reach their goals and learn more about them. As a result, you can come up with personalized rewards for them. And, it also lets them know that you care about them as an individual and not just an employee.
Publicly recognize your employees.
Has someone ever given you a shoutout? It felt pretty awesome, right? Your team will feel the same when you publicly recognize their accomplishments. Publicly recognizing your employees means to include your remote workers, as well.
“We know from our own research that a handwritten note trumps an e-mail,” states David Sturt, author of Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love. Public recognition, however, “in a meeting or peer group makes people feel even more appreciated.” But, presenting an award in public “is most effective in conveying a sense of a good job properly acknowledged.”
In fact, it’s been “found that a new leader can foster an immediate boost in employee job satisfaction — by 31 percentage points — just by recognizing those who have never received any appreciation from their superiors,” adds Sturt. Best of all? Besides being effective, this is a cost-effective strategy.
Share positive affirmations.
“I post positive affirmations and questions every week on all of the employee computers to serve as simple reminders to enjoy life and stay motivated,” says Indira Hodzic, the owner of IMAGE MedSpa. “For example, by posting ‘What are you grateful for?’ I am reminding both my male and female employees to look beyond little annoyances the day may bring and stay focused on the positive.”
Provide learning and professional development opportunities.
Want to retain your top talent? Well, according to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report, you can achieve this by investing in their learning and professional development. A whopping 94% of employees reported that this only would keep them at a company.
You can offer this to your team members through online courses or certifications so that they can enhance their skills. You could also have them attend workshops, industry conferences, or joining a professional association.
I also wouldn’t rule out internal opportunities. For example, you could become their mentor or have them sit-in on a high-level meeting. Or, you could have departments swap jobs and responsibilities for a defined period. And, as long as you set the ground rules, let employees be “the boss” for an upcoming project or meeting.
Let employees choose their own perks.
Because there’s isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for which benefits and perks your team will find meaningful, let them choose. For instance, Spotify offers flexible public holidays. It’s a simple way to accommodate the company’s diverse workforce by allowing employees “take the holidays that matter to them.”
Another option would be using a gamification system.
“Each staff member could claim tasks of their choosing and would receive the point values associated with the tasks upon completion,” says Josh Braaten, CEO, and co-founder of Brandish Insights. “These points could be redeemed by staff members at a corporate rewards portal for anything ranging from an extra vacation and work-from-home days to company-paid continuing education.”
“It’s one thing to appreciate employees in the way that makes sense to you,” adds Braaten. However, “the gamification platform we used allowed people to be appreciated in a way that was most meaningful to each individual.”
In short, let your employees speak up — which in itself they’ll appreciate. If they want to be reward with tuition reimbursements, flex scheduling, or excellent healthcare plans, then grant them their wishes.
Have a blend of traditional and creative rewards.
Financial incentives. Food. Celebrating accomplishments. Unlimited time off. All are proven ways to show your team how much you appreciate them. And while you certainly should keep using these rewards, you should also think outside of the box.
Examples could be having a wall of fame, awards ceremony, sending employees to a business retreat, or hosting a hackathon. Want more ideas? Consider team outings, an allowance so that they can spruce up their workspace, or do something nice for them like hiring a cleaning service or covering their commute expenses.
Create your own fun traditions.
You don’t always have to follow your calendar to have a reason to celebrate. Create your own traditions. For example, you could have a monthly potluck lunch. It’s a simple way for your team to mingle while also showing off their culinary skills. It’s also an excellent opportunity to learn more about their interests and history.
Other ideas could be fitness challenges, celebrating the anniversary of an employee’s hire, or volunteering as a team.
Be respectful of their time.
Finally, you can show your gratitude by not wasting your employee’s most valuable asset; their time.
What does this entail? Well, if you have a team meeting scheduled from 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., then make sure that that’s precisely when it will start and end. If they can’t proceed on a task until you give the green light, then get back to them promptly. And, when they’re not on the clock, don’t disrupt their downtime by bombarding them with work-related messages.