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How to build a culture of thanks in today's workplace

As employees celebrate a day of thanks with family and friends this week, will they return to a culture of thanks in the workplace after the holiday?

If not, they should, says Eric Mosley, CEO and founder of Globoforce. He’s among an emerging group of company chiefs who are creating cultures of thanks in the workplace to commend employees for contributing to their companies’ success.

Mosely cites employee recognition as a means of thanking staff for their hard work and efforts. He and Derek Irvine, Globoforce’s vice president of client strategy and consulting, are co-authors of a highly-praised book, The Power of Thanks: How Social Recognition Empowers Employees and Creates a Best Place to Work. The book describes how companies like JetBlue Airways, the Hershey Company, Symantec, Intuit and ConAgra Foods are using social recognition to empower and show their appreciation for their workers.

What is social recognition and why does it matter?

“Social recognition” is a tool drawn from social media platforms that employees can use to connect with and acknowledge others, either through peer-to-peer, employee-to-manager, employee-to-customer or other relationships. Liking each other on Facebook, tweeting recognition and approval, and congratulating connections for reaching milestones on LinkedIn are examples of social recognition through social media. Social recognition is only one way of thanking employees for their work, but it’s one of the most powerful, according to Engagement Strategy Media (ESM).

Nineteenth century psychologist William James is quoted as saying: “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” If he was right, then that might explain the widespread use and popularity of social media and why social recognition matters.

Mosely says that social recognition taps into employees’ behavior, giving more of them a voice to say “thanks.” Now that the workplace is more global, mobile, social and multigenerational, he says social technologies can help companies create new employee recognition strategies.

Irvine says the most successful employee recognition programs are those that include everyone in the workplace and that are based on good work rather than employee-of-the month rewards.

Globoforce’s Work Human Research Institute survey, The ROI of Recognition in Building a More Human Workplace found that:

How important is recognition to employees?

A Harvard Business Review survey of 1,000 employees weighed in on the actions they liked least in managers. The number one action that 63% of the employees liked least was not recognizing employees’ achievements.  Not giving clear directions (57%) and not taking time to meet with employees (52%) were the second and third highest offenses in HBR’s Interact/Harrison Poll.

ESM says leaders understand that employee satisfaction drives engagement and productivity, but they often recognize workers only once a year during performance appraisals. The firm says companies must create a culture of recognition and hire leaders who will be committed to sustaining it.

Lou Solomon, CEO of Interact and author of Say Something Real, recommends thanking employees and showing appreciation for their work by telling them:

  • What’s appreciated about them and their contribution to the company. Tell them something you specifically appreciate, such as, “I liked the way you helped resolve the distraught customer’s problem today.” Leaders need to acknowledge specific deeds and let employees know they’ve noticed.
  • Thank you. Gratitude can be shown publicly or privately. Interacting daily, whether in the coffee-break room or the parking lot, can be opportunities to thank employees for their efforts. Public thanks can be given in a staff meeting. A private thank you can be handwritten on a note.
  • Hello, (employee’s name). Calling someone by name is a high form of recognition. Managers should learn as many names in the workplace as possible, starting with the people closest by.
Filed Under: HR Management