Showing you care about the physical and mental effort your team has put in and the contributions they’ve made strengthens the personal bonds that hold your organization together. And it not only connects your employees to something bigger than themselves, but also you. Acknowledging the goodness in your life usually means looking outside yourself, after all. What’s more, research has shown that gratitude boosts happiness.
So to give yourself and your employees a boost while also creating a work environment that attracts top talent and promotes stellar performance, consider showing your appreciation in the following ways:
1. Lead by example.
A culture that prioritizes the well-being of its employees requires an ongoing commitment to cultivate it, and that commitment starts at the top. Sara Jensen, vice president of business development at Innovative Employee Solutions, explains that leaders must do more than just talk about the importance of employee wellness — they must practice it, too. That practice starts with workplace design. “When leaders model the changes in a company’s modern workplace design, employees are much more likely to follow suit,” Jensen says. “Set up walking meetings, flexible work hours, and a culture of no-meeting days to combat Zoom fatigue.”
Although building an environment that allows gratitude to thrive is largely a matter of implementing small common-sense practices, your efforts must be sincere if you want employees to take them seriously. That’s not always easy. Research suggests that more than one-third of managers avoid giving positive reinforcement to the people who work for them. Unfortunately, that approach can lead to a toxic workplace culture.
If leaders treat the well-being of their employees as secondary to productivity, their workforce will view any attempt at instituting wellness programs as a façade. On the other hand, making a deliberate effort to show employees they’re appreciated will make it easier to promote organizationwide policies and practices that enhance both employee wellness and performance.
2. Provide flexibility and meaningful benefits.
A recent survey by Ipsos and the World Economic Forum revealed that most employees want flexible work to become the norm. Harvard Business School professor Joseph B. Fuller doesn’t see that attitude changing. “Employers have to prepare for a ‘next normal,’” he says. “Employees are unlikely to return happily to a workplace driven by the ‘old deal,’ in which the employer sets standard rules of employment and the workforce acquiesces.” Indeed, the labor market has experienced massive upheaval as Americans quit their jobs in droves, often in response to employers attempting to bring them back into the office.
In the wake of the pandemic, many leading companies have figured out how to maintain and even enhance performance with a remote or hybrid workforce model. Those that haven’t will likely find it difficult to convince top talent to choose them over competitors. That said, some companies truly will be more productive with a centralized workforce (and not all employees want to work remotely). These organizations should still look for ways to offer increased autonomy and freedom to employees — for instance, by providing them with ample time to make arrangements for child care, elder care, or relocation — and consider other benefits that show you appreciate their efforts.
Three-quarters of employees want employers to support them during unexpected life events, and even more are interested in receiving support to help with personal financial wellness. Providing these and other impactful benefits will demonstrate that you have employees’ best interests in mind and remind them that they are valued and trusted members of your organization.
3. Prioritize personalized two-way communication.
The process of implementing new workplace policies to show your gratitude for your team should never be conducted unilaterally. Instead, you should actively pursue employees’ input to get a better understanding of the type of environment that’s most conducive to their happiness and productivity. By soliciting employee feedback on an ongoing basis, you can gain powerful insights that will allow you to continually optimize the processes and policies that anchor your organization’s performance.
As much as possible, try to create opportunities for individualized interactions with employees, whether they’re in the form of personal development reviews, casual conversations in the office, or via Zoom. In the same way that tailored brand messaging is more effective for generating customer engagement and loyalty, one-on-one interactions with your employees will strengthen their confidence and trust in your leadership. By getting to know how different team members prefer to communicate, you can maximize the value of every interaction. And when that happens, everyone benefits.
After a challenging (to say the least) 20 months, everyone could do with some gratitude. Express your appreciation for your team in whatever ways you can — you’ll have a happier, more engaged workforce to show for it. And you might get a lift of happiness, as well.