Beyond Employee Appreciation Day: Tactics For Year-Round Gratitude

ITA Group
ITA Group

Employee being recognized by her manager

We keep hearing the word “gratitude” bandied about, almost to the point of becoming a buzzword. But showing gratitude is never out of style. Call it what you will—thankfulness, appreciation, acknowledgement or recognition. The point is, people thrive on knowing their contributions (in the workplace or at home) have value.

With all the complexities of the workplace, expressing gratitude in the workplace is an important place for leaders to start to create a culture of appreciation. When you show gratitude to an employee for a job well done it elicits a positive response from the recipient, who in turn, may enjoy increased morale and productivity—and may return the favor by showing gratitude to supportive colleagues.

Here are eight easy-to-do tactics team leaders should focus on when getting started.

Tactic #1 – Be Authentic

Appreciating your team starts with living the values of your company. If your actions align with the corporate goals and principles, you’re demonstrating what you expect from your employees. Act as you say you will. Then recognize your employees’ performance as it aligns with your company’s values.

Tactic #2 – Personalize It

This one’s easy—put their name on it. Whether it’s an email, online recognition software or in a team meeting, using a person’s name and associating it with a specific task helps the recipient and other team members know why someone is being recognized. If you’re providing a tangible reward with the recognition, be sure it’s something the employee would want. Don’t offer a Starbucks gift card to someone who doesn’t drink coffee.

Tactic #3 – Provide Opportunities for Career Growth

While a pat on the back or a nice thank you note recognizing someone’s achievement is appreciated by most employees, 76% of them are also looking for some kind of career growth and development according to a study cited by Quadrant1. Show your gratitude for hard-working employees by providing them with resources that will enhance their value. Not only will you make your employees feel appreciated, you might even minimize turnover.

Related: Learn how upskilling employees can create a more well-rounded, cross-trained workforce, and increase your team’s effectiveness.

Tactic #4 – Don’t Overlook Personal Growth Either

Some companies recognize their employees for reaching company goals. Others recognize them for reaching performance goals. But why not recognize those who reach behavioral goals—holistic achievements. This reminds workers that the organization is invested in them as people, and not just as contributors to a bottom line.

Tactic #5 – Listen & Respond to Team Members

People know if their leader is really listening to them or not. Active listening is a rare commodity these days because of the fast-pace of business and thousands of distractions that come along with it. Show your gratitude for people on your team by seeking them out and encouraging them to express their ideas and concerns. Need some ideas? Check out this Forbes article, on Six Ways to Listen to Your Employees. There’s no better way to build trust than to acknowledge people by listening, responding and/or acting upon what they have to say.

Tactic #6 – Give Employees Respect & Autonomy

The HR Exchange Network notes in a blog that, “Few things lead to a greater desire for revenge than being treated disrespectfully.” How you respond—or don’t respond—to your employees can have an adverse impact on morale and productivity. One way to express thankfulness for your employees’ contributions is “by giving them as much positive control over their jobs as possible.” People need to perceive they have choices and some decision-making responsibility. Trust your employees to do the job their way.

Tactic #7 – Create Goodwill

More than two thirds (68.9%) of employees say that they are made happy by goodwill gestures from their colleagues and a further 84.2% state that they return the favor. Social scientist and New York Times bestselling author, Dan Ariely believes that creating goodwill in the workplace is key in true motivation (see video below). He states in his book, Payoff, that the “exchange of trust and goodwill is an important and inherent part of human motivation.” Nourishing goodwill is about making human connections between people. The more trust and goodwill are inspired, gratitude for one another becomes contagious and productivity and morale flourishes.

Tactic #8 – Make It an Experience

Unlike the standard cash bonus, experiential rewards are memorable, personal and shareable. Not to mention experiential rewards are proven to improve engagement and talent retention rates to help your company succeed over time. From hiking adventures to meeting your favorite musician to taking in some "me time" at the spa, reward experiences help them challenge their comfort zones, indulge in their passions or try new things.

Related: Learn more about how experience is the new preferred reward.

Gratitude Leads to Altruistic Behavior

Showing gratitude is one of life’s hacks in being a truly good person. If you want a thriving workplace where people are happy and productive and profits are flourishing, take the lead and be a role model for how people should treat one another. When companies celebrate the value of their employees, everyone wins. Employees are happier, less burned out and less likely to explore other options.

But why limit employee appreciation to a single day? Use this year’s Employee Appreciation Day as a chance to kick off ongoing efforts to show every worker they count.

Looking for even more ways to inspire goodwill within your employees? Download our ebook to get insights from social scientist and New Your Times bestselling author, Dan Ariely, as well as 50+ Ways to Motivate Your Employees for Measurable Results.

50+ Ways to Motivate Your Employees for Measurable Results