Improve Employee Engagement by Giving Thanks

Six Tips to Cultivate a Culture of Gratitude in Your Organization

This week, millions of Americans will sit down at their dinner tables with friends and family to celebrate Thanksgiving. Gratitude campaigns generally start in November: 30 Days of Gratitude posts swim around social media, putting a pause on the gripes posted during the remaining 11 months of the year. “Gratitude” is in the air. Though it’s not directly addressed in many organizational strategies, cultivating gratitude in the workplace is a smart move to be more successful.

You can’t put a dollar amount on employee engagement. Feeling relevant, needed, and that the work we do has meaning is the crux of employee engagement. That said, thanking people for a job well done often gets placed on the back burner. “It’s his job. That’s what he’s supposed to do,” is the knee-jerk reaction of many managers and employees. Ironically, appreciation and recognition remain two of the top desires of employees around the globe.

This doesn’t mean you need to buy stock in a card company and start sprinkling “Thank you” cards around the office. Certainly if overdone, gratitude backfires, and employees won’t feel like the gratitude they receive is sincere.

Gratitude is a mindset that can build success in your organization. It’s scientifically been proven that people who are grateful tend to be happier. Happy employees, ones that feel that their work has meaning, are more engaged. More engaged employees are more productive. And the outcome is a happier client or better end product.

Here are six tips to improve employee engagement and create a culture of gratitude in your organization:

1. Start with top management: Managers lead their teams. So if the teams never hear, “thanks,” they’re less likely to express it themselves. Gratitude can be part of your organization’s strategic plan. Be public about your employees’ successes. Before ending a meeting, make sure the best performing team is congratulated. Ask new hires how they like to be thanked for their work.

2. Be specific about your gratitude. It goes beyond, “Good job.” It’s not about the number of “thank yous” instead the quality of the thank you. Instead of saying, “Nice job yesterday,” it means more to say, “You really worked hard to get that report in on time yesterday. You were under a lot of pressure. I appreciate it.”

3. Have a Corporate Social Responsibility Program: Oddly enough, the more people give, the better they feel. Gratitude isn’t about “receiving” anything, instead sharing time, energy, and a common goal. If your organization has a corporate social responsibility program that all employees can get behind, it’s a domino-effect of gratitude. It feels good to give.

4. Don’t overlook anybody: Each organization depends on each worker to succeed. If not, the position of that particular employee would be cut. So, take the time to thank the office administrator for making sure everything is stocked as it needs to be. Recognize the work the janitorial staff puts in to make sure the workplace is clean. Pay attention to the details of others' work, even if they're not the "stars."

5. STOP: Stop. Take three breaths. Observe. Proceed. Think of all the times you rush through the office or phone calls without really being present. When you’re in this state of chaos, you can’t give or receive. So if an employee is trying to share something with you, STOP. Cultivating gratitude means being present and mindful of what you are doing and saying.

6. When you hit bottom, give thanks: The project failed. The grant didn’t get approved. The advertising campaign was a bust. In the aftermath of a “failure” we tend to focus on the negatives. Take the time to discuss with your team, specifically, the positive outcomes of the “disaster.” With this kind of measured approach, you can calm choppy waters and use this as another brick in the foundation of a company to make it stronger. You’re modeling resilience.

Skills like communication, negotiation, creativity, ambition, and organization are all valuable to any company. Gratitude, however, shouldn’t be overlooked. It can be cultivated and built in an organization’s strategy. It’s something we can all learn and practice. And the benefits start with an overall good feeling to a stronger bottom line.

Happy Thanksgiving today and all year.

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