Best engagement, lowest cost: Say Thanks

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Right now, many Communications and HR teams are reviewing employee engagement results from surveys conducted at the end of last year. They're trying to improve engagement and no doubt reduce turnover. They're weeding through data as well as sorting comments left by employees. As someone who's helped with these initiatives, these are arduous tasks.

Most likely, these teams have a project of things they're implementing from intranets that enable social on every page to better management programs. They're trying to prioritize which to roll out first and also discussing budgets needed. 

I believe in low-hanging fruit should go first -- easy wins. It's best when these easy-to-do projects are also inexpensive. So let me say by far the best and easiest program to implement is a thanks program. That's right, your organization should create a program simply to thank employees

Why thanks?

Besides the fact it takes such little time, it motivates employees to work harder.  According to Glassdoor, "80% of employees are motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work." Inc. reports, "Employees who received recognition were much more likely to rate their workplace as more fun." Moreover, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) notes that optimism and social support can predict job success. HBR goes onto say that employees are more likely to take innovative risks because their job isn't threatened. Being appreciated can have health benefits, especially mental health benefits. In fact, there's data that proves that after being thanked, people are more loyal to their company and manager; in other words, they're less likely to leave a company.

Better manager relationships, better peer relationships, employees who are more loyal, more apt to be successful, sick less often, more productive -- these outcomes can increase revenue and decrease cost. 

How to thank employees

Thanks can come in many different varieties, most of which cost little or nothing. The main idea is to show appreciation and mean it.

  • Personal, said aloud thanks from peers, managers and leaders to the individual or team
  • Kudos at meetings, small and large, thanking people
  • Cards with written thanks, given to people or mailed to their home
  • Phone calls directed to a person or team
  • Emails sent to people, including more than just the employees who need to be thanked
  • Recognition on your intranet site
  • An employee of the month award with possibly a picture of the employee and what they did

What should be included in the thanks?

Think about the behaviors you'd like to see replicated, not just by this employee, but by everyone in your organization. When you're thanking someone be as specific as possible, noting the effort and the outcome. Don't forget how their work impacts the company -- customers, products, services and maybe even you. If thanking someone personally, call that person by name. 

Here's an example:

Thanks, John, for your help in sorting the binders the other day. Although you said the work was fast and easy, and that you love cleaning, those unsorted binders have been an issue in our department for a while. By spending just 15 minutes sorting them and putting them back correctly, you've made us all more efficient and effective -- saving time and money -- because we'll be able to find them easier. Best of all, you took the initiative. I'm really glad we have you on our team.


Thanking people may seem small, but it's not. Thanks lasts much longer than the time it took to give that thanks. It even feels good doing it. So if you're looking for a quick win, make thanking people part of your company culture. And know that it starts with you.

About TamiMatthews

About TamiMatthews

Tami Matthews has been an internal communications professional for about 15 years, helping companies communicate change, goals, programs, IT projects, and more. Now she works for ElevatePoint as a content strategist where she writes about the intersection of communication and technology. In her spare time, she writes, watches science fiction and any BBC production, and reads.

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