One of the biggest issues facing organizations is The Great Resignation. Throughout the pandemic, many employees have seen how their companies handle difficult times and have also questioned what they want out of their workplace. And for some, this resulted in deciding to leave their jobs. In fact, 4.4 million Americans left their employer in September 2021 alone.
Since this issue is not going away, employee retention is top of mind for many leaders and HR professionals. In these times of fundamental change, it’s an opportunity for leadership to step up and really show they care about their employees. As they look into improving their company culture, many are seeing how gratitude can help create a better workplace. But if leading with gratitude is the solution, how does that actually show up at work? And what steps can leaders take to transform the everyday work experience?
3 Ways to create a workplace culture of gratitude and appreciation
While well-intentioned, many leaders are not showing the level of gratitude that their employees want. According to Chester Elton, a bestselling author on leadership who has been referred to as a “must-read for modern managers” by CNN, many leaders overestimate how much appreciation they show their employees: “We surveyed managers and asked, ‘Are you above average in giving recognition?’ And 70% would say, “Yeah, I'm really great.’ And then we would survey their employees and around 23% would say their manager is actually good at showing recognition. So, there’s a deficit gap.” This research shows how important it is for HR professionals and leaders to rethink how recognition is showing up at their workplace. Here are some tactics:
1. Be frequent in showing employee gratitude and appreciation
When Elton prodded leaders on why they think they’re great in showing recognition, many said they wait for big events, such as hitting a quota, launching a product, or during a performance review, but this is not enough. According to a Gallup survey, employees who don’t feel recognized are twice as likely to quit and yet only one in three employees said they’ve received recognition within the past seven days.
So how can you improve how you show recognition? Chester spoke with one leader who set a goal of ten positive experiences a day. And to track this goal, he’d put ten pennies in his left pocket at the start of every day. Every time he’d show recognition, he’d move a penny to his right pocket. This is how you can set up habits and reminders to improve the level of recognition in your company. After all, as they say, a compliment is free.
2. Listen and customize your 2022 organizational strategy to your employees' needs
LuAnn Heinen, Vice President at Business Group on Health, a non-proﬁt organization dedicated to representing large employers on health and beneﬁts policy, has spoken to leaders across their 450 member companies, representing around 60 million employees and family members, about how they’re addressing the Great Resignation: “We're hearing really regularly throughout the pandemic that our member companies are making listening, caring, understanding, and being flexible a top priority. And not every company would have said that pre-pandemic.”
With this shift in focus, it’s important for leaders to not only say they’re grateful but also show it. Instead of insisting employees return to the office five days a week, listen to your employees by hosting town halls and conducting surveys. See what they really want. Maybe some want to return to the office full-time or part-time, while others are adamant about remaining remote. Through more data, HR professionals can create a return to work plan and rebuild a post-pandemic company culture built not only on the wants of leadership but also around the needs of employees. This shows employees you’re here for them and dedicated to removing frictions that could cause them to be unhappy at work and ultimately make them look elsewhere for employment.
3. Choose wellness benefits that have a real impact on your workforces' lives
Many employee benefits that were popular before the pandemic don’t really address the stressors employees are facing today. Through speaking with her members, LuAnn found that the benefits that moved the needle for employees were designed around enhancing their overall wellbeing. With the pandemic remaining as an ongoing obstacle, many employees have added responsibilities outside of work that are causing anxiety and getting in the way of being productive and happy at work.
As put by Tom Futch, VP of Freshly for Business, “Leaders have to ask themselves: how do you support your employees during these times to deal with all the pressures that we're all dealing with, whether it's caring for their parents, their children, a family member who is sick. One of the things that excited me about joining Freshly is we know that nutrition is such a foundational element to health and well-being. For example, do your employees have access to healthy meals? It can be hard to make healthy meals at home when you're working and trying to balance a busy family life with meetings and working late hours.” As you choose employee benefits, consider which will have a daily impact on your employees. Not only will these benefits be attractive to employees who are considering joining your business, but they will also remind current employees–every time they use these benefits–how your business truly cares.
What is the first step in implementing gratitude into your corporate culture?
Adrian Gostick, a partner with Chester at “The Culture Works” and New York Times Bestselling Author of "All In," "Leading with Gratitude" & "Anxiety at Work," suggests starting this process by aligning your company values with your objective to add more gratitude to your employee experience: “How we behave with each other, defines a company’s values. And really when it comes down to a corporate mission it’s who we are, vision is where we are going, and values are how we get there and how we accomplish our mission and vision. These are really very simple building blocks. And whether leading a team or leading an organization, that's really where you begin.” In other words, show don’t tell. Create a work environment where your employees feel appreciated and heard on a daily basis.
If you’d like to hear more tips from thought leaders, check out our recent webinar on Employee gratitude and appreciation: The cornerstone of an engaged workplace culture webinar.