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Is “Thank you!” a business strategy?

The impersonal message arrived at her desk by email:
 “Come to the break room to pick up your certificate for your Christmas ham.”

That was it.

No personalization outside of her email address.

No “thank you” for a job well done.

No indication of why she was getting a ham.

Even so she knew she’d get a ham. Every year for the past five she had received the same message and the same — well, not literally — ham.

“Frankly,” said my friend, a middle manager, “I’d prefer if my boss would stop by my desk and thank me for what I’ve done for our team or the company this year. All I’m asking for is simple acknowledgement of my efforts and accomplishments.

“Not to mention support in doing my work, but that’s another issue.”

She’s on to something.

When I read that company loyalty is declining, I know it’s for several reasons including the failure of companies to recognize individual contributions and thank their employees for their efforts

And that’s a shame — not only for the unappreciated employee, but for the company.

If you have received my newsletters over the years, you’ve read about how recognizing and thanking employees play a big role in improving employee engagement.

But the point I want to make today is that it’s also good business strategy.

You don’t have to take my word for this. A number of studies conducted by long-time respected organizations point to a direct connection between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Aon Hewitt’s engagement case studies, for example, show that

  • a 5% increase in engagement results in 3% incremental revenue growth
  • highly engaged sales forces exceed sales goals by 4% on average
  • companies with top quartile engagement experience a 4% point increase in incremental operating margin

Aon Hewitt is among the world’s top global human capital and management consulting firms.

And according to Towers Watson, for each 15% increase in employee engagement, you’re likely to experience a 2% increase in operating margin. Towers Watson, too, is an international professional services company. It helps organizations improve performance through effective people, risk and financial management.

But before you jump into engagement programs willy nilly, you need to prepare.

Because ensuring that your most valuable employees receive the recognition they deserve requires special effort.

In other words, you need to give more than Christmas hams.

And you need to do more than acknowledge your employees during their annual reviews.

Although that’s important, it isn’t enough. For the greatest effect, employee recognition needs to be a normal part of daily life in your workplace.

That means you need to make sure you give thanks quickly, personally and sincerely and that your thanks are specific, positive (don’t mix in criticism) and proactive (don’t wait for a perfect performance).

The trick is to find the perfect mode of thanks for given situations, your workplace and the individuals who work there.

Here are 15 ideas:*

  1. Simply say “hello” at the start of a day and “goodbye” at the end of the day.
  2. Give a sincere thank you for a job well done. Tell your employee, “Your idea to include production workers in our discussions will help us identify our bottlenecks. Thank you.”
  3. Give an employee a Snickers candy bar.
  4. Send a personal note on a hand-written note card or by e-mail. (Hint: Copy your president, CEO or executive director.) 
  5. Tell your employees when you receive positive comments about them from others.
  6. Acknowledge a job well done “publicly” in your organization’s newsletter, or at a meeting or special event. (As a bonus, this might inspire others, as well.)
  7. Celebrate at the end of a project, after a quarterly review, to mark individual or team milestones. You might even celebrate just to celebrate.
  8. Throw mini parties with muffins, pizza, candy, ice cream or whatever inspires you.  Not all the time, do these things spontaneously. Just because.
  9. Remember birthdays, work anniversaries, new babies, marriages… 
  10. Give hour-off certificates or a day off.
  11. Hold a team meeting at a local coffee shop or restaurant.
  12. Post client “thanks” on a “way-to-go” bulletin board.
  13. Give a gift card.
  14. Take an employee to lunch.
    14) Attach a thank-you note to an employee's paycheck.
  15. Write three things you appreciate about your direct reports and give it to them.

*Based on recognition ideas from a variety of sources and primarily from Bob Nelson and Recognition Professionals International.
Can you add to this list? What, if anything, does your organization do to ensure that recognition and thanks don’t slip through the cracks?
 

Here’s the bottom line:
Recognizing and thanking employees doesn’t have to be expensive, difficult to plan or manage, or time consuming to be effective.

Further, it will likely pay for itself through cost savings in increased productivity

And further yet, higher performance will reward you with a bigger and broader base of happy, loyal customers AND revenue growth.

The way I look at it, if you send a ham at Christmas, you pretty well must send a thank you with it. Much better, cut the cost of hams and simply say, “hello” and “job well done” to your employee. You’ll be miles ahead.

Best wishes for a bright and beautiful season and a New Year of prosperity, peace and good health.

See you in 2016 — Mary