We look at ways employee recognition can boost work engagement and bring your business to the next level.
A little thanks goes a long way. We should know.
Do you send thank you cards when you receive a gift? How about thank you emails? How often do you leave a good review, thanking a business for treating you well and delivering a great service?
It varies, doesn’t it.
We might not always remember to do it, but when somebody goes out of their way to say thanks, it feels good, right? When you get a simple thank you, the effects are very real and can even be long lasting.
Fact is, we simply don’t always have time to remember our manners. But in the working world, that’s exactly what we need to do. Now, more than ever.
Say thank you to your staff and it’ll affect everything from employee retention to productivity, improving performance and even helping to create a positive workplace culture.
Problem is, how to go about it?
You might not be able to say it with roses, but there are lots of ways to recognise and praise the people who work for you. If you’re not already on board the thank you train, you’ll be amazed to see how a little employee recognition can go a really, really long way.
MANAGING THE ART OF SAYING THANKS
Many bosses simply don’t know how to go about saying a thank you that’s genuine and truly recognised for the positive gesture that it is.
Perhaps it’s because we’re all too British in the way we get awkward about compliments and our stiff upper lip just can’t deal with it.
If you’re finding it hard to show gratitude at work, that all needs to change, because with UK unemployment levels at an all-time low, talent retention is going to be even more important for businesses than ever before.
Here are some of the top reasons why employers struggle with saying thank you:
1. Everyone is too busy
When you’re rushed off your feet all day, the last thing you have time to do is think about saying thank you. It just seems like a bridge too far. But if that’s you, it could be a warning sign that you have all the more need to do it. Busyness is a badge of honour as they say, but it’s no excuse for sloppy manners – professional or otherwise.
2. Not the nature of the business
If your people are focused on daily tasks like working on a shop floor, selling goods or providing services, it might be tough to see how appreciation features. But trust us, it really does. And handled well, it can help to build relationships between team members.
3. It feels a bit cheesy
There are ways to express appreciation and many managers worry about sounding authentic, so the ‘thanks’ is received as it’s meant to be. You don’t want to look like you’ve got favourites or create any tension by singling people out. It’s understandable, so a formal process of staff recognition can help with this.
4. I’m not sure what to say
This is such a British response! But don’t worry, you won’t be the only one to feel tongue tied when it comes to praise. Some managers may also have had a bad experience in the past or not had the reaction they expected from employees, so have stopped recognising success in general. You can overcome this with a few pointers – keep reading.
5. Nobody thanks me and I’m ok
If you made it just fine without employee recognition, well done. It’s tough to model behaviours that we aren’t seeing from our own line managers or supervisors; perhaps you don’t feel appreciated either. If that’s the case, it’s time to act as a catalyst for behaviour change.
6. It’s not really necessary
Managers who feel that remuneration is more than enough reward might want to take a long hard look in the mirror. To keep employees motivated and stimulated beyond their pay packet, you need to get with the times and leave that attitude in the last decade where it belongs. Employees expect a little more these days than just cash. Crazy, huh?
BRING IN AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
When you start to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, it will help everyone to perform better and become generally more engaged with their work.
As Sodexo’s ‘Move, Mould, Motivate: An Essential Guide to Employee Engagement’ reveals, if you can create emotional connections between employee, employer and their work, you can bring about real work engagement.
Something that’s vital for greater business glory.
When you recognise an employee for their achievements, you can stir that all-important positive emotion within your employees. It’s the fuzzy stuff that can’t be bottled – you know, the reason happy staff enjoy their jobs.
What’s more, according to Josh Bersin and Deloitte’s research, “high recognition cultures have 30% lower voluntary turnover than those who just ‘push people to perform’ without regular recognition. Social recognition and praise have a big role to play in employee engagement.”
Say a regular thank you to your staff and you’ll strike leadership gold.
Sodexo’s study also tells us, “Employees crave consistent, immediate acknowledgement for a job well done and are fast prepared to switch off and jump ship without it.”
Millennials are big into communication and with technology making us more socially aware and demanding as a society at every turn, we’re expecting big things from our places of work.
For employers, it means it’s time to dial up the appreciation stakes and fast.
HOW TO SAY THANK YOU EVERY DAY
There are all sorts of ways to say thank you to your employees. It’s largely recognised that cash rewards like vouchers and gift cards can fall flat, being quickly forgotten as well as commoditising the overall effects of the thank you experience.
WORDS OF PRAISE
Managers can say thank you in person to an employee or write them a note. Public praise is just as important as a private ‘well done’. But whatever you do, pitch it to the individual’s personality and strengths as outlined here.
James Malia, UK Director of Employee Benefits, Sodexo, says, “Recognition should always be a personal thing. Employers who can’t capture this in their messaging, making it as human as possible, will only alienate their team.”
The advice is to step away from the blanket email and approach people as the individuals they are. Otherwise, you may as well keep walking. The way you communicate couldn’t be more important when it comes to employee recognition.
IT'S COOL TO BE KIND
Gratitude and kindness is a quality we’re going to be hearing more about in the workplace. As a leader, the best thanks you can give is to demonstrate a supportive and appreciative nature towards employees.
It seems “being an impossible, demanding and ungrateful boss such as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, is not something to aspire to”, according to Dr Bernice Ledbetter of Pepperdine Graziadio School of Business and Management.
Matt Dawson, former England Rugby captain and Sodexo Ambassador offers good advice too, saying “Take time out to understand what makes people tick. It creates more empathy around the relationships, and that gives you faith and trust from the people around you.”
Take an employee out for a spontaneous lunch or organise a big team feast and encourage everyone to sit together and chat once in a while. Get to know your people, and you’ll find that nice bosses definitely don’t finish last.
While we’re on the subject of socialising, team building in the form of a fun event like a trip to the races or a party is a great way to say thank you to staff. The sky’s the limit on this one so the more imaginative you are, the more you’ll show you care.
You can celebrate just about anything, from good performances to birthdays, weddings, new babies, long service anniversaries or business milestones – staff events are a great way to show you appreciate your employees.
Just make sure you avoid the usual uninspiring corporate events – you know the ones. And remember, while staff events like these are infrequent ways of saying thank you, they can still boost employee engagement by the suitcase full.
When you formalise your thanks by enlisting the help of engagement specialists to bring staff recognition schemes into your workplace, you can be more unique and creative in your response to achievements at work.
Staff recognition schemes can really help managers to button down the process of saying thank you so that the business’s motivational success stories don’t get lost in the everyday workplace noise.
The important thing is to pitch the reward at a personal level. As Sodexo’s research found, just “10% of employees say the rewards offered to them are ‘very relevant’ to their lifestyle and personal interests”.
It means they’re just not having the desired impact.
If you’re confusing staff rewards with employee benefits, stop it right now. There’s no way a company pension is ever going to say ‘thank you’ to your employees. Like Homer Simpson’s bowling ball gift for Marge, it’s an empty gesture that won’t win you that strike.
Iain Thomson, Director of Incentive and Recognition, Sodexo, says, “Recognition programmes enable us to find and celebrate the stories that define our company culture and influence others to change their behaviour.”
Trust us, he knows what he’s talking about.
GO FORTH AND BE THANKFUL
So there you have it. It’s time to inspire your people to go out and work wonders for your business.
Bring out the best in them with a positive leadership style and you’ll keep them happy and motivated to go the extra mile.
For further inspiration, in the immortal words of David Brent, “I don’t do it so they turn round and go ‘thank you David for the opportunity, thank you for the laughs.’ I do it so that one day, someone will go ‘there goes David Brent. I must remember to thank him.’”
It seems a better attitude to gratitude is the way forward for all of us – mind your manners and you never know how far you’ll go.