HR Hero Line

Exploring how HR can inspire thankfulness in employees

Flexible schedules, freedom to telecommute, professional development opportunities—those are all things that foster gratitude in the workplace. And as the Thanksgiving holiday finds people across the country pondering what they’re thankful for, human resources professionals can use the occasion to consider how to make organizations the kind of workplaces employees are thankful to work for. 

Changes in the profession over the last several years have empowered HR professionals in ways that make them more valuable to employees, Brad Federman, chief operating officer for HR consultancy F&H Solutions Group, says. For one thing, HR is often the advocate for professional development, and employees appreciate those opportunities, making employees more likely to stay with an employer.

“As transformational leaders in the workplace, HR professionals can be the ones to develop and implement the training and development programs that employees want and need,” Federman says. “HR can develop coaching skills to support the growth of people and leaders in their organization.”

Employee benefits are another important component in encouraging gratitude among employees. “If an employee feels taken care of, he or she will want to reciprocate it in their quality of work,” Federman says, and although selecting benefits packages may fall to others in the organization, HR “can be the first in communicating to the executives any improvements, modifications, or addition to a benefits package based on feedback from employees.”

Federman suggests HR use quarterly or bi-quarterly surveys to check the pulse on employee satisfaction. “You will receive tangible data from employees so that you can pinpoint exactly what areas are excelling or lacking from their perspective,” he says.

Change agents
Attorney Holly Jones researches a variety of HR topics through her work as legal editor at Business and Legal Resources, and she’s noticed a number of ways HR can make workers grateful to work for their employers. She says HR can be “a significant driver for change in the workplace and the way we perform work in the global and digital age.”

“HR professionals are among the key ‘disruptors’ we have to thank for making the modern workplace a more balanced, productive, and adaptable place for employees—often in ways that are mutually beneficial to the employer organization,” Jones says. “For example, when presented with challenges such as reducing turnover, expanding qualified talent pools, or providing reasonable accommodations to valuable personnel, HR professionals have responded with flexible work schedules, remote work opportunities, and an always-evolving selection of perks and benefits as diverse as the workforce.”

It’s also HR professionals who are often the first to question the “well, we’ve always done it that way” mentality, Jones says. “The unique balance of common sense and creative thinking in HR is critical for building motivated and effective workplace communities.”

Valuable policies
As mundane as it sounds, workplace policies also give employees reason to be thankful, Reggie Gay, an attorney with the McNair Law Firm, P.A. in Greenville, South Carolina, says.

“While employees sometimes think policies and procedures are only for the employer’s benefit, there are many reasons the employee should be thankful for well-drafted policies,” he says. “Such policies set forth guidelines giving employees necessary and needed information regarding benefits, expectations of the employer, and where to go or what to do if problems arise. They also provide a level and fair playing field for all employees.”

Great workplaces
The workplaces that land on various “great places to work” lists showcase the kind of HR programs that make employees thankful. The Great Place to Work Institute posts reviews of companies with a high percentage of workers who consider their workplace “great.” A few examples:

  • Information technology firm Edgenet in Nashville, Tennessee, offers free gym memberships, a flexible work program, a community outreach program, and professional development opportunities that include tuition reimbursement and flexible scheduling for employees going back to school. The company also offers its Edgenet Academy for customers that also provides opportunities for employees. The program involves bringing clients in from all over the country for training led by Edgenet employees who then get to take them out for a night on the town in Nashville. Some events have included trips to professional sports games and live concerts in Music City.
  • Farmers Insurance offers a variety of perks as well as its Props! Program designed to honor stand-out employees and teams. The program’s description says it’s an interactive and social recognition site that allows the company to “celebrate our employees, earn points to redeem for merchandise, event tickets and travel, and honor service anniversaries in different and fun ways.”
  • Professional services firm Point B, headquartered in Seattle, Washington, but also located in nine other cities, offers employees training programs focused on developing knowledge expertise, skill mastery, and leadership competency. An especially appreciated perk is the company’s annual getaway program, in which employees and their partners can take a fully sponsored two-night, three-day summer trip.