Employee communications

The power of thank you

thank you

One of the most common questions I have encountered over the course of my career in Human Resources is how to get staff to be more productive. I’ve worked with a number of employers who have tried everything imaginable to motivate their employees to produce more. From commission and incentive pay to free food, team building, overnight retreats and even allowing employees to bring their dogs to work – I’ve seen it all.

While all of these approaches have their benefits (and honestly, who wouldn’t love to bring their dog to work?) the question remains, do they truly motivate employees to work harder for your organization? In other words, does offering your team a free lunch or a monetary bonus make them want to work harder for your organization or does it make them want to work harder for their reward?

Two simple words

In my experience, if you really want your staff to work harder and buy into the vision you have for your organization then tell them these two simple words, thank you.

One of the biggest points I emphasize to managers and executives is to remember the human part of their human capital – they are leading a team of people. People crave positive affirmation and acknowledgement for what they do. By telling employees thank you it increases their self-worth and decreases the feeling of being overlooked and unappreciated. Additionally, telling your employees thank you will increase their motivation to go above and beyond their regular expectations. Finally, organizations see higher production and revenues when their employees feel appreciated and are engaged. Since we are on a site that is all about the “science” behind PR, let’s take a look at the how the science of gratitude impacts self-worth, motivation and production.

People crave positive affirmation and acknowledgment for what they do. Click To Tweet

Francesca Gino, who is a business professor at Harvard, released a book a few years ago titled “Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan”. In the book, Gino discusses a study she and a colleague conducted in which 57 students were given the assignment to fix a sloppy cover letter submitted by a fictitious student named Eric. Once the students made the corrections to the cover letter and sent it back, they all received a response from Eric. Roughly half of the students received an email with a simple confirmation that Eric had received their corrections. The other half however, received the following message from Eric, “I received your feedback on my cover letter. Thank you so much! I am really grateful.”

Gino then measured the sense of self-worth these students had in relation to making the edits to the cover letter. What she found was that only 25 percent of the students who received the confirmation felt a higher sense of self-worth, while 55 percent of the group who received thanks felt a higher sense of self-worth.

Gino followed up the study with an experiment on the same group of students. They each received an email from a different fictitious student asking for help with another sloppy cover letter. What Gino found was that while members of both groups were willing to help with the second cover letter, the group that received thanks from Eric was twice as more likely to help than the group that received just an acknowledgement from him. So showing gratitude to your team can improve their willingness to go above and beyond.

More revenue from a motivated workforce

One of the more common questions I get from executives when I start to explain the benefits of saying thanks is something like this “That’s great, but how does this help my bottom line?” Increased motivation means a more engaged workforce, one that will go the extra mile without the expectation of a reward for doing so. A motivated workforce, that feels appreciated for what they contribute to their organization produces more and leads to more revenue.

For example, Gino also did a field study where she looked at 41 university employees responsible for fundraising, all of whom were receiving a fixed salary. The Director for the fundraising team visited the office and just like in the previous study thanked half of the staff for the job they were doing while the other half didn’t receive any thanks. The following week the group that received a thank you from their Director increased the number of calls they made by 50 percent, while the other group made about the same amount of calls as the previous week. The reality is this, if you’re not thanking your staff for the job they are doing you are missing out on a cost-free means to improve their performance and your bottom line.

Thanking your staff for the job done is a cost-free means to improve your bottom line. Click To Tweet

I am a firm believer in the power of thank you because I’ve seen it work myself. I used to run HR operations for the largest independent communications firm in South Texas. When I first started, there was a huge issue with employee morale and production and addressing these issues was one of the main reasons I was hired. I ended up spending the first month of my employment there in my office listening as employee after employee came to me to vent about how they felt overlooked and underappreciated.

Fortunately, management was willing to listen to me when I approached them about the issues affecting employee morale. When they truly made an effort to thank our staff and communicate with them openly, we saw an uptick not only in employee engagement, but in the quality of work they produced. That made our clients happy because it improved their bottom line which in turn improved ours.

The power of thank you cannot be overlooked. While it is not a phrase that will magically turn your entire staff into a group of all star performers overnight, the benefits of thanking your staff cannot be denied. Simply acknowledging the good work your employees do heightens their self-worth, improves their motivation and increases their production.

So my advice is to always thank your staff when the opportunity arises. Let them know you see the effort they put in every day and that you appreciate the work they are doing. You will be amazed at how much more your team will accomplish simply by adding two small words to your vocabulary.

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