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Enjoy Higher Employee Retention by Giving Thanks

Cornucopia symbolizing thanks and employee retention

It’s no secret that better employee appreciation leads to higher employee retention. But unfortunately, exactly how to show employees they’re appreciated remains a mystery to many employers. Sometimes this kind of neglect is a matter of taking people for granted and sometimes it’s due to a misunderstanding of just how easy and fiscally conservative giving thanks can be – but whatever the reason, be it arrogance, miserliness, or ignorance, the impact on an organization’s bottom line due to turnover and lost productivity can be significant. Take in the following advice this Thanksgiving and keep it in mind all year round to help maintain a more productive workforce, a happier workplace, and a promising future.

The power of saying “thank you”

Giving thanks is as easy as saying “thank you”. In fact, it’s amazing how much that simple phrase affects both the person who hears it and the one who says it. It’s obvious that when someone hears “thank you”, they feel valued, but showing gratitude also leads to happiness. In fact, feelings of gratefulness have been linked to higher relaxation, greater physical fitness, a longer lifespan, and generally more happiness. What these discoveries show is that gratitude works both ways. Thanking your employees isn’t just about retaining your top talent or ensuring everyone works their best; if as a manager, you show your gratitude, don’t be surprised if your own mood and performance improve, your social and professional networks grow, and you achieve more of your goals.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a more productive workforce and higher employee retention. A 2010 study published by the American Psychological Association showed that someone who expresses thanks after receiving help increases their chances of receiving more help in the future by about 100%. The study even showed that those who receive gratitude from one person weren’t only more likely to help that person in the future, but they were also more likely to help other people. All this extra gratitude lowers people’s insecurities, allowing them to focus more clearly on their work, improving their performance, and reducing absenteeism – and that equates to substantial savings for your organization. In fact, according to a Kansas State University study from 2009, low employee wellbeing can cost an organization about $75 per week per person, and doing that math no matter your organization’s size is sure to affect any manager’s well-being, so let’s just leave it at that.

Praise them like you should

Some say talk is cheap, when really they should say it’s inexpensive. Just like saying “thank you” can have a dramatic impact on your employees’ wellbeing, productivity, and loyalty, praising them for a job well done can only bolster those benefits. Praise is easily overdone, however, so it’s important to ensure it’s done right after someone accomplished something and not for every little thing that’s done right. In other words, don’t praise your employees for simply doing the things they were hired to do; highlight what it is they’ve done that’s gone beyond the call of duty. And remember that when praising someone, it’s really not appropriate to throw criticism in there with it. Some managers refer to the famous “sandwich model” (praise-criticism-praise) when providing feedback to employees, but it’s important to remember that that model is more useful for those uneasy about confrontation over situations that really require more criticism. Heck, you wouldn’t use the sandwich model to talk about them if you were to send out a company-wide email praising them – which, by the way, may be called for depending on the accomplishment. The truth is that real praise shouldn’t be anything but.

Giving thanks by actually giving

Of course, as powerful as saying “thank you” can be, there are times when you should take your gratitude to the next level. Gift giving is a great way to show employee appreciation, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. It really is the thought that counts. A gift could be – or even should be – something that feels straight from the heart. Many large organizations with deep pockets like to throw lavish parties and give hi-tech presents, particularly during the holidays. But individual managers in such places would likely have more of an impact on employee satisfaction by scrawling brief thank-you notes in cards from the corner store – and during a time of the year when it’s not expected. For particularly special accomplishments, one can even tuck a gift card inside from a retailer that speaks to their interests, be it movies, clothes, technology, or restaurants. Not only will they enjoy the gift, but they’ll know that you’ve taken an interest in them personally.

Food itself goes quite a long way, especially when you’re praising a group. Order pizza, bring in some doughnuts, or treat everyone on your team to a team lunch. Remember – especially at this time of year – why we share food. It’s a symbol of solidarity and security the same way it is when you eat with friends, with family, or on a date – it’s bred in the bone.

Reward them with time away – from you

As ironic as it sounds, offering an employee added time away from work, even if it’s in the form of flex hours, is another excellent show of gratitude. By allowing someone extra vacation time or telecommuting options for a job well done, you’re acknowledging that they are entitled to a happy, flexible, and fulfilling personal life, and everyone likes a boss who knows there’s more to life than just work.

Top performers deserve top praise

While it’s important to treat people fairly, it’s also important to remember that rewarding those who perform well, as opposed to those who don’t, is indeed fair. To treat everyone 100% equally when only one or a handful of people achieved something extraordinary is bound to cause resentment among those achievers and possibly breed complacency among those you wish would perform better. However, remember that for your most ambitious, best-performing employees, more responsibility may be just the reward they’re looking for. They want the opportunities to prove themselves as management material and would probably welcome grooming and mentorship over time off and presents any day. When it comes to employee retention, make extra sure you do what you need to do to retain those who not only keep your business in shipshape, but who can one day join you on the bridge or even take the helm.

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