Most people want more money, but typically we appreciate a ‘thank you’ more. Research shows that when people believe their salary is fair, non-financial rewards are far more effective than a higher income when it comes to building long-term employee engagement. While the appeal of cash rewards cannot be denied, words of gratitude and acts of generosity are more important.
Research conducted by Gallup, which surveyed four million employees worldwide, shows a clear and compelling link between recognition, and organisational performance – “Recognition not only boosts individual employee engagement, but it also has been found to increase productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention.”
Reflect for a moment on how you feel when you receive thanks for your efforts or contribution. For most people, the pride and self-respect we get from being appreciated energise our spirit and fuel our desire to achieve more. The reality is that people are more likely to strive to excel and go above and beyond the call of duty if they believe they are appreciated.
Be thankful for what you have
All too often leaders fall into the trap of focusing on the performance of the people who are struggling, or letting the team down. While it’s important to address underperformance, leaders would be wise to look for opportunities to thank people for their successful contributions. Never miss the opportunity to let high performers know they are valued.
Consider these important steps to ensure the thanks you give has a positive impact on your employees.
1. Be present
While a passing comment delivered on a whim may be well received, it’s unlikely to have optimal impact. Stop and take the time needed to connect with the individual you are thanking. Pay full attention to them, even for just a moment, to ensure they understand the extent to which your gratitude is heartfelt and sincere.
2. Personalise your approach
Optimising positive impact can in part be achieved by tailoring the approach taken to each individual in the way that works best for them. For example, some people enjoy being thanked in front of their colleagues, while others could think of nothing worse. Some appreciate a “song and dance”, while others would rather you quietly share your thoughts away from the spotlight.
3. Choose your words
Of course a “thank you” is always welcome, but when those two words are used casually, they can lack impact. Consider saying “I really appreciate that” or “I really appreciate you” as phrases that are less familiar are more likely to resonate.
4. Explain why
A “pat on the back” will make someone feel good for a moment, it’s unlikely to reinforce the behaviours that led to the complement. So it’s useful to give insight as to why the approach taken led to team success. Leave no room for confusion as to why you are thankful.
5. Acknowledge sacrifice and effort
Some outcomes are far harder to achieve than others. For people to feel truly appreciated, they need to know that you understand the depths of their effort and the extent of the sacrifices they have made. Articulate insight to the ways in which their efforts have been extraordinary.
6. Be timely
The sooner you are able to say thank you, the more able people are to connect their experiences with your feedback. Allow people to not only be energised but also learn from their successes by saying thanks as soon as the opportunity presents itself. It’s especially important for the younger generations to receive regular and immediate feedback that allows them to feel a sense of not only achievement, but also progress.