SVP strategy and consulting Workhuman
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The gratitude effect: making workplaces more human

9th Dec 2019
SVP strategy and consulting Workhuman
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Showing gratitude is not an uncommon practice in today’s world, and the ways that appreciation is shared have changed greatly. People are realising that they shouldn’t take things for granted, and are using different approaches to express their thankfulness, whether that’s inwardly through meditation, outwardly to friends and loved ones, or even through likes on social media.

Gratitude is everywhere in our personal lives, yet showing thanks in the workplace is far from commonplace. When’s the last time you were recognised at work? For some employees, the answer is that they can’t remember ever being thanked at all, something which is especially true in the UK, where recent Workhuman research found the UK had the lowest levels of gratitude in the workplace amongst the countries surveyed.

When those respondents were asked to report their stress levels, the ones who had never been recognised for their work had the highest levels of stress, while those who had been recognised within the last month reported the lowest. A little gratitude goes a long way, and encouraging recognition of people’s contributions in the workplace is a simple way to make a big difference to employee’s wellbeing and the work environment.

Creating a culture of gratitude

When it comes to showing and receiving gratitude in the workplace, the traditional once-a-year performance review isn’t cutting it. Many companies aren’t conducting annual or semi-annual performance reviews at all, with just 54% of companies conducting reviews in 2019, according to recent Workhuman research. Even when yearly reviews do take place, once-a-year recognition is far from effective. WARI report data shows a strong relationship between more frequent, regular manager-employee check-ins and increased trust, respect, and engagement from employees.

But it’s not just manager-employee recognition that matters. Peer-to-peer recognition is one of the best ways to build a culture of gratitude. When any employee, no matter the team, department or title, can show their gratitude and recognition to anyone else in the office, these human interactions create a ripple of gratitude that soon turns into a wave. Jeff in accounts can congratulate Sara in sales on winning a new customer, and Linda from HR can tell John from strategy how much she enjoyed his latest article. Each person who has been acknowledged is inspired to pass that praise onto someone else. The result? A more positive and open workplace where engagement and gratitude are natural and become habit.

When praise is accompanied by reward – as in company recognition and reward programmes – recognition becomes even more powerful. Workhuman research shows that job satisfaction increased and employee turnover was halved when people were recognised between seven and ten times a year, and year-on-year performance improved measurably for employees who received five or more awards a year. 

The human workplace

While these facts and figures should convince any ‘gratitude sceptics’ in the room that recognition in the workplace is worthwhile, at the end of the day, showing gratitude simply comes down to treating people with respect and appreciation. It does seem silly that we have to remind ourselves to practice humanity at work, especially when having a more human workplace is better for everyone, from those holding the purse strings to those doing the heavy lifting. So why not start by sharing a little gratitude at work today?

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