How to Show Gratitude to Your Employees


Thanksgiving should be every day. There’s no room for taking people for granted in your personal or professional life. Yet, many employees are quitting their jobs because they feel unappreciated.

“The best way to stabilize your business is to stem the tsunami of attrition and increase your retention,” according to Harvard Business Review. “In the frantic need to hire more people, the group we often forget to attend to are the folks who stay — those showing up day-in and day-out shouldering the work that needs to get done.” 

While senior HR leaders are scratching their heads about how to win the talent war during a historic labor shortage, there is one simple solution they could try. Show gratitude for the people moving the business forward.

In 2020, Harvard Business Review highlighted studies that pointed to the effectiveness of thanking your employees for their hard work. Adam M. Grant and Francesca Gino studied the effectiveness of showing gratitude and found that those who received thanks increased prosocial behavior. For example, fundraisers made more phone calls after getting thanked by managers. 

REPORT: Great Regeneration: How to Win the War for Talent

Researcher Perry E. Geue found that gratitude reaps many rewards.

Create Positive Vibes 

“A quantitative study of positivity in a team-based food service context elucidated significant relationships between positive practices, social climate, work engagement, and task performance,” according to the abstract about Geue’s findings. “Finer delineation of positive practices demonstrated the importance of team members discovering meaning in their work through mutual interaction that promotes trust, respect, and confidence, with employees believing the best in one another and inspiring one another in their performance.”

HR leaders who want to increase engagement as part of their retention strategy can give thanks. Harvard Business Review pointed out that some supervisors seem to think that showing gratitude is complex or feared it would become another box to tick off the to-do list. But employees felt it was much simpler. 

“Showing gratitude lets employees know when they’re excelling and can increase engagement,” according to Indeed

Discover a few ways you can let employees know you are thankful for them: 

Give a Round of Applause

Some organizations set aside time to publicly applaud the work of those who are deserving. For example, Badger Maps praises employees at weekly Friday meetings. 

“Anyone on the team can give ‘props’ to anyone else on the team, which fosters an atmosphere of appreciation, respect and teamwork. It’s a time to recognize co-workers for their accomplishments and contributions that week in front of the group and show them respect for working hard and having done something great,” Steven Benson, founder and CEO of Badger Maps, says in Business News Daily

Write a Thank You Note

In a world of emails and text messages, a handwritten note sends the distinct message that you care. Write an old-fashioned thank you card to share your appreciation. Be specific about what the employee has done to warrant your gratitude. For example, you might write, “Your presentation was impeccable, and I think it helped us win over the client.” The point is that it should not be generic. 

READ: Want to Reduce Turnover? Have Employees Review Their Managers

Feed the Team

A small business owner provides his employees with a barbecue dinner or pasta lunch periodically throughout the year. At Thanksgiving, he gives them each a turkey to cook for their family. He brings coffee and donuts to work sites. Even if he didn’t frequently say thank you to the team, he is demonstrating his gratitude by feeding them. Hosting social events or providing meals as rewards are nice gestures that also foster a sense of community or even family. 

Provide Financial Rewards 

Obviously, bonuses are the ultimate demonstration of thanks. But you can also provide gift cards or other financial rewards more frequently throughout the year. By paying employees something extra, you are demonstrating that there is definite value to their work.

READ: Innovative Solutions for the Historic Labor Shortage

Give the Gift of Time

Another way to show your gratitude is to give your employees extra time off. This can be complicated at big companies, where benefits are carefully tracked. But if someone works really hard, you could let them come in late or leave early. One employer at a medium-sized business has talked about giving employees an unexpected day off as a reward. 

Whether you offer a grand gesture like extra PTO or simply say thank you, be sure to express your gratitude. Demonstrating that you are thankful can help employees feel accomplished and appreciated. 

How do you show gratitude? Continue the conversation and share ideas on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Photo by George Dolgikh @ for Pexels

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