The Season of Employer Gratitude

16th December 2021

December is the season to be jolly. Food, family, presents and (hopefully) snow.

We believe it should also be the season of employers showing their appreciation for all the hard work and stellar performances that their staff have put in, outside of the contractual salary and benefits.

Some employers mistakenly believe that this is enough to attract and retain top talent, but for many employees, it’s not. Money and benefits are what you’re supposed to give people to work for you. It’s linked solely to their job title, not to them as a person. In an age where competition for talent is increasing, these oversights can be costly.

In this article, we’ll explain how you can improve your displays of gratitude, what to consider before doing so, and how gratitude culture can benefit your company as a whole.

What is Employer Gratitude?

Pretty much what it says on the tin, employer gratitude is when employers show that they’re grateful for their employees’ efforts. This is done by taking into account a number of factors, including personality types, industry, relevance, finance and timing.

Each company is different, and it’s important to do what works for them and not ‘what works’. It’s good to aspire to do things that are on a larger scale than what can be accomplished now, but it’s more effective to focus on what you can do now and execute that to the best of your ability. Doing this repeatedly can lead to more success and eventually more opportunities to show appreciation in different ways.

The Benefits of Employer Gratitude

  1. Engagement

We’re wired to become more engaged with something if praised or rewarded for our efforts. This, of course, includes the jobs we do. Employee engagement is something many employers see as an issue for them as well as being a key performance metric. Simply making an effort to show appreciation in a logical way can be crucial to enhancing engagement rates, something which has a cascading effect on many other aspects of employee and, consequently, company performance.

2. Productivity

As we hinted at before, engaged employees are normally happier, more motivated and, as a result, more productive. If employees feel they are being shown gratitude in a format that suits them, their performance levels will likely increase, which is hugely beneficial to the company. Think about the last time you were praised for doing something — how did you feel afterwards?

3. Recruiting and Retention

Hiring is arguably the most difficult and important decision that a business will have to make. After all, a business is simply a group of people working towards a common goal in exchange for salary and/or benefits. We know it doesn’t sound as appealing when it’s put that way, but at its core, that’s what it is. Without the employees, a business doesn’t exist. Every business wants to hire the best talent, but it’s not easy, as the competition isn’t letting up.

If gratitude is something that you focus on, retaining and recruiting the best people will be that bit easier, giving you the edge over your competitors. If employees are being well looked after, they are more likely to become advocates for their company, telling their peers and other potential employees via review sites such as Glassdoor. This makes it easier to recruit top talent in the future, as there is more compelling evidence that your company is a good place to work.

Over time, this cycle can become a competitive advantage and leverages happy employees to become an extension of your marketing team. Everyone, in some way, shape or form, wants to have a job where they feel valued.

4. Brand Perception

When the phrase ‘brand perception’ is used, it’s often in relation to how customers perceive and interact with a brand. This is true, but it’s also referring to how employees, past, present and future, do the same.

A strong consumer brand is difficult to build without a strong employer brand. If somewhere is a great place to work and encourages employees to perform better, which satisfies customers more, encouraging them to become repeat customers and advocates, the cycle can go on, compounding the business’s success.
With any successful business, employees and customers are of equal importance.

5. Investment/Growth

There is a large amount of money available to companies seeking investment at the moment. This is because a lot of investors are sitting on significant cash piles and are looking to increase their wealth. One way they can do this is by investing in businesses at different stages of growth.

A goal for some businesses is to be acquired by a bigger business or secure investment from a VC firm or angel investor. Having a workforce that feels they’re appreciated can positively contribute to better business metrics, which makes a business more attractive to potential investors, as well as large conglomerates looking to make acquisitions. In a way, the purchasing company is buying the staff, so if they’ve been treated well and made aware of how much they’re appreciated, it might indirectly end up increasing the purchase price!

6. Awareness

Awareness in this context means the awareness of what is required for employees to be successful in their roles. If there is gratitude shown on a regular basis for what they do, they’re now aware of what is ‘good’ and will be more likely to continue doing it. Sometimes, a lack of outward gratitude can leave employees in the dark, not knowing whether or not their work is up to scratch.

Any negative workplace uncertainty should always be avoided, particularly when it’s so easy to give employees the information they need. It sounds very simple, but it can be really effective.

Contextual Communication

The pandemic has to be taken into account when implementing strategies and tactics to increase the level of gratitude. The world has changed drastically since early 2020. Many people are still recovering from the height of the pandemic mentally, physically, emotionally and financially.

There has been a shift in the priorities of some people as a result of the pandemic, with more people prioritising health, human connection, autonomy, among other things.

The way that employers communicate with their employees must adapt accordingly. It’s arguable that gratitude should be a higher priority than before the pandemic, as employees are now wanting a more human-centric approach to work.

Important Factors to Consider

Before you make any concrete plans, it’s important to assess all the information available to you internally. Not all employees or situations are the same and require deep analysis and nuance to navigate them effectively. Below are some of the factors that we believe are important.

Personality Types

The bigger a company, the more likely it is they’ll have a wider range of personality types. This means that a blanket approach won’t work for everyone. Without deeper insights into a person’s personality that can come from regular check-ins and employee engagement platforms such as Trickle, it’s pretty much a guessing game as to what works and what doesn’t. In 2021, with the amount of data we have available to us, this makes no sense.

Having employees complete a personality test either at the recruiting stage or after they’ve been hired is a great way to address this problem. Here is a great example of a personality test that is commonly used by employers.

The results of this test, along with data from Trickle and regular check-ins, can help to build a more accurate picture of who each employee is outside of their job title. Once the data is turned into insights, it becomes much easier to make more informed decisions about a range of initiatives, including displays of gratitude.

With married couples, there is something called ‘love languages’ where different people in a relationship express their appreciation for each other in different ways, as well as how they receive it.

It’s something that can be adopted in the workplace. No one is married to their job of course, but there is a contract between employer and employee that both sides have to adhere to. Similar to a marriage.

Both sides have to figure out how each other communicates their appreciation for each other. However, it tends to be imbalanced in the employee’s favour, particularly if they’re a high performer and/or have a valuable skill set that is hard to replicate. So, the employer needs to adapt their love language to suit how an employee would best receive it, based on information about their personality.

Company Scenario

Once the data that relates to the people is gathered and analysed, it’s now time to take into account what is feasible in your specific company’s situation. For example, if you’re a small start-up with little to no VC funding, it’s unlikely that you’ll have the resources to pull off large-scale gestures.

However, what you can do is use your lack of scale to your advantage and get more personal. For example, if half of the employees in your company have childcare duties, making changes to meeting schedules to accommodate nursery/school pick up/drop offs would likely be more appreciated than simply raising salaries.

This information could be gathered from the results of a company Trickle asking who has childcare duties and what the company could do to accommodate that.

It’s normal for some start-ups to not have all the processes in place so that this can be the norm from the beginning. This December is an opportunity to change that.

Industry

What is happening in your industry is also an important factor to consider when making a decision on how to show appreciation. It’s important not to just follow the trend of being whatever is happening in your industry without good reason, as this can be seen as being lazy and not treating employees as individuals.

How to Practice Gratitude at Work

In this section, we’ll give you a few practical ideas of how to show your employees that you appreciate them. It’s important to stress that these are just ideas. We strongly recommend you use your internal data and your specific scenario to guide your decision making.

Empathy and Consideration

Being in charge of a department or a person means you’re under more pressure — pressure from above to deliver and pressure from below to know what you’re doing. Managing up is arguably as important as managing down. However, a big part of being a good boss, in our opinion, is being approachable and friendly.

This may sound obvious, but sometimes it’s missed. Sometimes it’s these little things that get lost among targets, quarterly meetings and day-to-day tasks. Simply taking an interest in what employees do outside of work is a huge thing for many people. A small ‘Hey _, how are you doing? What are you up to this weekend?’ can make a big difference and allow you to learn something about that employee that you didn’t know before.

Sometimes at work, not everyone is forthcoming with what’s going on in their private lives. When you learn something new about a person, a certain trait may make more sense, whereas without context it may seem odd and even concerning. For example, if an employee seems anxious when they are in a large group of people, it may seem a bit unusual at first. However, having a chat with that person, getting to know them as a human being means you’re more likely to find out that they sometimes deal with social anxiety. You can then work with them to help them deal with that problem, and the awareness means that they are likely to feel more comfortable, as they know at least one person knows and has their back in tough situations.

Yes, we all know we’re at work and have to be professional, but human connections shouldn’t be lost because of that. There can be a healthy balance between being your job title and yourself and still thriving as a company. We have blood vessels, not wires. Computers have software, we don’t — something we should always remember.

Personalised Benefits

Similar to showing gratitude, a blanket approach to providing benefits is also not ideal if you want to retain or acquire the best staff. It’s another example of not treating people like individuals. Remember, people are complex. You might love a prospective candidate and they might love the company, but they don’t join because of the benefits, or they leave because the benefits no longer suit them.

That doesn’t mean they’re not suitable for the job. It just means there needs to be some adjustment from your side. If married couples can get along for years and like completely different things, then employees can work together doing the same.

A change in benefit structure can be a good way of showing appreciation as well as acknowledgement of what people prefer. Insights from the Trickle platform can show if there is a gap between what people want and what they’re being offered. We’ve already written an article on the benefits of personalised benefits, which you can check out here.

Workspace Investment

With remote and hybrid working becoming more popular, this probably won’t look the same as it did 5 years ago. An office refurbishment in 2021 may involve distributing money and/or equipment to staff so that they can improve their own remote workspace. If the insights show that people want better tools, e.g. better laptops, better chairs, or keyboards, then it would be a good idea to do this now, if you haven’t already.

The role of the traditional office is changing. With more people working away from it, it no longer needs to function as an ‘office’ anymore.

A home or a co-working space is very appealing, but if an office had something that wasn’t available at these locations it could improve morale and collaboration, for example, making the building or floor more geared towards collaboration and fun vs deep work. Now those ping pong tables make more sense, as there is more time to use them!

Turning an office into a hybrid hub could be a great way of saying thank you to employees, particularly if the data you’ve been collecting signals that this would be a good idea.

Spontaneous Annual Leave

Randomly announcing time off for the entire company, whether that be a day or a week, could be a great way to say thank you for all the hard work they’ve put in. However long you decide to give, employees would always like it to be longer, but they’ll know that’s not feasible and will likely be grateful for the gesture, especially after a stressful year dealing with perpetual uncertainty.

We’re a big advocate of using insights to make informed decisions, but we’re pretty sure that this will be something that goes down very well with virtually everyone.

Spontaneous Pay Rises

Similar to taking more time off, this one will also probably go down well, provided that it’s an amount that is generally accepted. Everyone hopes for their salary to be doubled, but that’s not realistic. A good idea would be to increase everyone’s salary to match the level of inflation (if you can). It may not seem like much, but the more financially savvy staff know that any year without a pay rise is technically a pay cut due to inflation, so pledging to give a pay rise to counter this is a great way of showing appreciation.

With inflation being a newsworthy topic for some time now, this may be a welcome boost for some staff who find that their finances are under a bit more pressure than they used to be.

Gratitude Culture

The aforementioned ideas can all be a great starting point. However, integrating gratitude directly into the company culture can be a more proactive tactic that could pay off more in the long term.

If empathetic gratitude across the company becomes the norm, it could be more effective at improving and sustaining employee morale and in turn productivity. Less and often is usually better than bigger and irregular.

Grand gestures can be effective, but it’s the small day-to-day activities and interactions that are more important. If gratitude is shown by employers in some sort of extroverted gesture once a year, employees could become disillusioned.

It’s important to remember that you’re trying to change what is normal within your company, not just providing spontaneous actions.

Positively changing the culture in this way could also mean that employees are able to take on a more prominent role in showing gratitude, instead of it all having to come from management.

Show Your Employees You Appreciate Them With Trickle

Now you know the tangible value of showing gratitude to your employees, it’s time to get the tool that can make it happen —Trickle. Gain real-time insights into what your employees are thinking and feeling, as well as involving them in the decision-making processes.

Click below to get your free demo today.

Merry Christmas, from the whole Trickle team. We appreciate you taking the time to read this.

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