Dear Employees, We Want To Thank You

It’s Thanksgiving tomorrow, the beginning of that time of year when people give thanks—thanks for family. Thanks for friends. Thanks for health and wellness and, yes, even thanks for material goods. This “thanks-giving” is highlighted during the holiday season, but is something that should be practiced year-round—especially if you’re trying to build a culture of appreciation at your own workplace.

For any company, it is important for senior management to say “thank you” to their employees in one manner or another. Obviously saying it out loud, face to face, is always welcome (as is cash—I’m fairly certain no one will disagree with me on that!). But what are some other ways of letting your employees know you really do appreciate all they do?

Give a reward with a personal touch.
In this era of email, texts and conference calls, sometimes all it takes for an employee to get those “warm fuzzies” is to get a handwritten note, and it’s even better if it comes from one of the higher-ups at his or her company. If you want some tips relating to the handwritten appreciation note, Inc has a great article about it.

Taking it further, if you’re looking to recognize a direct report, you should already know a bit about them as a person. Is one of your rockstar employees really into Broadway? Get them a pair of tickets to a hot new show. Show your employees that you know who they are, and not just as another person on the payroll, and they’ll be exceedingly grateful—and know that you’re grateful for them.

Host appreciation events or activities.
Here at WorkStride, we’re fortunate to have an internal “fun committee” that periodically organizes activities for the employees. These activities—including chili and meatball cook-offs, Cinco De Mayo and Thanksgiving potlucks, a company-wide trip to the movies on a random Friday afternoon, and so on—are strongly and openly backed by the executive team. And at every event, the CEO or one of the other executives gives a short speech on how thankful he or she is for the people of the company and what they’ve accomplished.

At one of my previous companies, once per quarter we had a “team meeting,” which was specific to our department. The head of the the department, a VP, footed the bill for dinner and drinks for the whole team. Why? Because a) most of our team worked remotely and rarely saw each other, and b) we had just spent two days together at an offsite meeting in which each of us presented our activities of the quarter, and he thought that having a casual night out with the team would boost both rapport within the team as well as appreciation for the company. Guess what? He thought right.

Hosting events is a relatively low-cost way of letting your employees know you care about them. It doesn’t have to be a team climb of Mount Everest; a couple of hours during (or after) work can accomplish the same thing. Just make sure you vocalize why you’re doing it in the first place: because your employees are doing a fantastic job.

Recognize achievements publicly.
For those employees who have really knocked a recent project out of the park, or for those who are consistently diligent in what they do, a bit of publicity about their good work can go a long way in making them feel your gratitude.

Coincidentally, I jumped over to LinkedIn to check the WorkStride page during a moment of writer’s block and the following post showed up at the top. It was posted by the Senior Director of Talent Acquisition at Capital One and included a selfie of the two colleagues.

Tim is my favorite security guard at Capital One. He offers an amazing candidate experience by standing up and greeting each of our candidates who come in to interview with us. His giant smile and welcoming demeanor is always noticed and appreciated. Tim lives the culture of Capital One. Recruiting is thankful for him! #lifeatcapitalone

It made me smile just to read that. Can you imagine how Tim is feeling right now? And it takes only seconds to write a blurb about someone’s accomplishments and then share it via a department-wide email or social media post, or to send it to the person in charge of internal communications.

With regard to the latter, it’s not as though you have to pick out a specific “employee of the month.” In fact, it’s even better if you highlight the accomplishments of three, four or five employees (or more, given the size of your company). Introvert or extrovert, the employee(s) mentioned will feel appreciated and special.

Support career and life development.
A good manager realizes the potential of his or her best employees and encourages them along their career paths. Give the well-performing employees free (on their end) access to things like or Udemy. Pay for their certifications in reputable systems that they use every day. Allow them to attend industry or networking events that are suitable to both their job responsibilities and their personal career trajectory.

Listen…and show them you listened.
Performance reviews are pretty standard, whether they’re ad hoc or on a monthly, quarterly or semi-annual basis. However, these conversations can often be one-sided: the manager talks through the good and the bad of the employee’s work. In the same vein, while you can glean some data from internal surveys, you either a) know exactly who is giving bad ratings (in a small company) or b) assume that a 70% positive attribute is good because, well, it’s over 50% (in a large organization).

While you don’t have to go to the extreme of having an open-door policy in your office (though there can be benefits to having one), you can certainly build relationships with your employees by having a more open dialogue with them. Ask for their input on new policies, new campaigns, new initiatives…and then implement that feedback into things that you do with the company. If you can add a follow-up to that by communicating to the employee that you heard what they had to say, or if you can actually give them credit, externally, for what advice they offered, they’ll feel much more valued and have a lot more loyalty to your company.

Encourage peer-to-peer recognition.
If you have an employee recognition program, you likely do so because you already realize the benefit of peer-to-peer recognition (and if you don’t have one, here are some tips to get you started!). It’s one thing for someone to approach a colleague at the water cooler and say, “Thanks so much for your inputs on [insert project here]!” It’s another situation altogether if he or she can post something to an internal or external social channel that praises the employee in question but also allows visibility throughout the organization. With an employee recognition program, he or she can even nominate a colleague for rewards, which you, as management, only needs to approve.

The possibilities for making employees feel appreciated is practically endless. Some managers choose to get creative; a WorkStrider told me today that, at a former company, one manager of a customer service team rewarded his star employee by taking over the employee’s phone duties for an hour. American Express OPEN Forum offers a number of ideas that are out-of-the-box, including my personal favorite: hosting an internal awards ceremony where a number of employees are called out for contributions to the company, great teamwork and so forth (remember the Superlatives section of your high school yearbook?). 6Q, a company that develops an online employee feedback and engagement survey app, even suggested an afternoon of manicures or pedicures as an option for thanking employees. Whether you’re male or female, that’s not a bad deal!

This holiday season, keep these things in mind. Yes, give thanks for family, friends and all of the usual suspects…but don’t forget the people who work hard for your company. It really doesn’t take much to say, in whatever way you deem suitable, “thanks so much for everything you do!” A happy employee means an engaged employee—and an engaged employee is committed to making your company successful.

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