What are you grateful for? Your family and friends. Maybe you also think of your community, your home, your good health, your good fortune. You may or may not immediately or directly think of your job, your colleagues, or your organizational culture.
As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, many people find themselves reflecting on the experiences and people that they are grateful for in their personal lives. Despite the complex and, for many, painful colonial history of this holiday, it remains an enduring reminder of the power and weight of gratitude.
For bosses and leaders, in particular, it might be time to bring that message back to the workplace when the Thanksgiving break is over, long after the pies and stuffing have been eaten and the best dishes have been packed away for another day. For years, organizational psychologists have studied the deep links between appreciation in the workplace and business success.
Appreciation by the Numbers
Reporting from an ongoing partnership between Gallup and Workhuman has consistently found that, when employees experience gratitude and recognition for their work, business outcomes follow, improving everything from productivity to employee retention to profitability. Here are a few measurable ways that a culture of appreciation drives outcomes.
1. $92 Million in Employee Output
A joint report from Gallup and Workhuman published in early 2023 found that a typical 10,000 person company with a strong culture of gratitude stands to gain an increase in productivity that amounts to nearly $92 million. The gains are even more pronounced for companies in the tech and finance sectors. A similar sample company also stands to save $16.1 million in improved employee retention and reduced turnover.
2. 24% More Motivating than a Raise
A report from Deloitte on the power of appreciation in the workplace found that 47% of employees were most motivated by a growth opportunity — a form of recognition — compared to just 23% most motivated by a raise. The numbers are even higher among younger members of the workforce. 51% of Millennials prefer growth opportunities to salary increases or other forms of recognition.
3. 4x Improvement in Engagement
Research from Blueboard and Wakefield Research found that employees at companies with a strong culture of recognition are more than four times as likely to report that the employees at their company are fully engaged in their work. Conversely, employees who reported a weak culture of appreciation at work were also much more likely to report low engagement.
How To Practice Appreciation at Work.
Roughly 2 out of 3 employees don’t feel adequately appreciated at work today; there’s a lot managers and leaders can do to move the needle.
Just Say ‘Thank You’
84% of employees say that they would be satisfied with a simple “thank you” in recognition of their hard work, either expressed verbally or in writing. Many employees find appreciation from managers and leadership most impactful, but also feel motivated by appreciation from peers. When managers model gratitude as a daily practice, it’s more likely to be adopted broadly across organizational culture.
Practice Recognition and Appreciation
Recognition is generally more formal and might be bound up total rewards in the form of raises, bonuses, and promotions. It generally lies within the power of managers, senior leaders, and HR to bestow. While recognition is very important, appreciation is less hierarchical and, when practiced, more likely to become an organizational norm. Appreciation can take the form of shout-outs, simple thanks, or showcasing a particular project or outcome, among other practices.
Lead by Example
Shifts in leadership behavior have been shown to meaningfully change the values of the entire organization. When leaders and managers take time to express their appreciation, both publicly and in private, those who observe or receive that gratitude are more likely to go on to do the same for others.
Create Opportunities for Appreciation
A study by the University of Colorado found that coworkers are kinder to one another when asked to keep a personal gratitude journal. Leading structured appreciation exercises might have a similar impact, as can creating clear norms for expressing recognition — like a Slack channel dedicated to shouting out teammate’s contributions.
Build a Culture of Trust and Connection
An organizational culture with tight interpersonal bonds and a sense of mutual trust and safety is highly correlated with a strong experience of appreciation. It’s a virtuous cycle, wherein expressing appreciation nurtures trust and safety, and a stronger sense of trust prompts people to express their appreciation for one another more readily.
Why Is Appreciation Important Right Now?
Thanksgiving is a great reminder to be appreciative of our colleagues, our organizations, and all that we do for one another. It’s also timely for another reason: rates of burnout, stress, and overwhelm can be particularly high in the run-up to the holiday season, which also, of course, coincides with the end of the calendar year. People are experiencing high levels of year-end stress, deadline pressure, and budget crunch, alongside the personal stress associated with balancing holidays and taking significant amounts of PTO.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to show our team members just how valued they are, and start reinforcing healthy practices and rituals around recognition that will last long after the fourth quarter ends. After all, this may be the season of gratitude, but appreciation has a big impact on the workforce all year round.
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