Benefits and Compensation, HR Management & Compliance

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Gratitude

Business leaders are resorting to a variety of measures to offset the “Great Resignation” trend, including offering pay raises and more flexible work schedules and expanding employee health and wellness programs. Yet, CNBC reports almost half of employees are looking for a new job or plan to soon. So, what else can managers do to raise job satisfaction levels among their team members and reduce turnover? A growing volume of research suggests by simply and regularly saying “thank you.”

employee gratitude

What is the Power of Gratitude?

Consider the findings of a recent study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology that found simple expressions of gratitude can have a profound impact on helping employees feel more engaged and connected to their companies. Researchers surveyed hundreds of doctors and nurses at hospitals in China and Singapore on how much gratitude they received from patients.

“We found that receiving gratitude energized health care workers on the job,” write the researchers in their article. “Gratitude, it would appear, has a greater impact on the recipient than what many might think.”

Their report presents two key takeaways for business leaders across all industries:

  1. Because workers who identify more strongly with their occupation are more likely to be energized by gratitude received at work, it is in the direct interest of managers and organizations to nurture this sense of identity in employees.
  2. Expressing gratitude to employees is not effective if it’s only done once a year. “For gratitude to work its magic and give essential workers the energy to go on, the key is to practice it regularly,” the report’s authors say.

The study’s conclusions correlate with numerous previous studies into the impact expressions of gratitude have on employees’ mental well-being, as well as with the feedback we receive from our clients who use our platform for their employee recognition and reward programs. They confirm that frequently recognizing people in front of their colleagues for their hard work and accomplishments is a powerful motivator.

There are three common components to any effective employee reward and recognition program:

  1. Make it public: Put employees in the companywide spotlight. Celebrating and rewarding an employee’s accomplishments and hard work in front of colleagues not only makes the worker feel valued but also can inspire and motivate his or her colleagues to earn special recognition.
  2. Provide a choice: Don’t just hand out physical or e-gift cards from one brand. Giving employees the opportunity to select their reward from multiple brands makes the reward feel more personal and special.
  3. Instant delivery: Allow recipients to choose how they receive their rewards. Handing someone a physical gift card is great if it can be done in person. But in this new age of remote work, don’t make people wait for a gift card to arrive in the mail. Send it to them instantly via e-mail, text, a retailer’s mobile app, or even direct deposit to their bank accounts.

Preventing employees from becoming another “Great Resignation” statistic requires helping them understand how the work they perform on a daily basis maps to the entire company’s success. As the research shows, business leaders should not underestimate the power of expressing gratitude and simply saying “thank you.” 

James Gary is a founder and CEO of Virtual Incentives. He has more than 20 years of executive management experience in both Fortune 50 companies and growing software companies. Before Virtual Incentives, Gary was a founder and CEO of mdINR, which was acquired in 2009 by Linde AG, FWB: LIN. mdINR is a platform that delivers home health diagnostic services for healthcare providers managing anticoagulation patients’ self-testing at home. Before mdINR, Gary founded GlobeTrend Technologies, a value-added reseller for AT&T Business Services.