Blog post

The Art of Gratitude: How recognition boosts productivity & reduces turnover

min read

How many of your co-workers say please and thank you?

When contemplating whether you mind your Ps & Qs at work, I am sure you immediately conclude, why yes! But do you really know the meaning of this statement? There are a variety of origins for this phrase, my favorite involves English pubs in the 17th century. Back then, bartenders would keep an eye on the alcohol consumption by tallying patron's pints and quarts. When customers got out of hand, barkeep would remind them to "mind their Ps and Qs". Another theory refers to saying please and thank you. If this is the case, then minding your Ps and Qs at work could really have an impact on your company's bottom line.

Have you ever known someone who rarely says please and thank you? In Western society, it's expected and when absent it can be considered rude or offensive. For some people, lack of these simple gestures could alter a relationship long-term. Now consider your work environment. What if your boss neglects to say thank you? It may leave you with mixed emotions. As an employee it would be natural for you to feel unappreciated, unheard or even irrelevant. These three words, unappreciated, unheard, and irrelevant, are the root causes of low levels of employee engagement today.

Why are business leaders concerned about employee engagement? Why is it so important? It is important because our unemployment rate is low, employee turnover is high, and "gig" work is trending up.

Right now, labor is scarce, so finding top talent is even more of a challenge. Potential employees, especially millennials, are acutely attuned of the importance of company culture. They frequently access "insider information" from resources like Glassdoor and Indeed. And they believe, common courtesy has a direct impact on culture.

If you are competing for the best candidates, your company gains a competitive edge by having a great culture. Earning and publicizing "best place to work" recognition is a good way to do this. Today, millennials are more influenced by their peers than they are their managers and 28% of them say "feeling appreciated" contributes to their loyalty (Staples). Having a peer recognition program, promoted via social media, can showcase a positive work culture and motivate candidates to choose your company over others.

Since the demand for talent is so high, even employees somewhat satisfied with their job are willing to move. Many progressive companies feature a "total rewards" package by offering more than just the standard insurance and 401k plan. Offering "work remote" flexibility, perks, and expanded benefits help keep employees from looking elsewhere.

Companies with a "butt in the seat" requirement are not attractive to many workers today. And no longer is an employee expected to work a nine to five. Instead many employers are saying, "work where you can when you can. So long as the job gets done". Many employees find they are more productive when their workday is flexible. Ceridian, a human capital company, in the Minneapolis area, offers a "Take Two" program so employees have the flexibility to take two hours to manage their personal life (dental visits, childcare needs, etc) without affecting their PTO.

Offering lifestyle discounts, onsite childcare, dog-friendly office, free food & beverages, are also becoming more common in the workplace today. Wellness plans show employees that the company cares about their wellbeing. Aligning company value with an employee's personal values will not only increase their belief in the company, they will also work harder.

Insurance (pet, home, auto, life) discounts, legal assistance, and nurse lines are examples of additional benefits available in many programs today. Lower-paid hourly employees often don't have the funds or credit when an appliance or furnace fails on them. By offering a pay-as-you-go purchase plan, the employer manages the payroll deduction but has no other obligation (including cost). These programs can act as impulsive exit barriers because employees feel obligated to the company until the item is paid off.

More and more employees are moving to contract work. If your goal is to have long term, W2 employees, then you may want to provide gig-like benefits. This goes back to flexible hours and working virtually. Companies can also implement a long-term recognition (thank you) program that continually motivates employees to hit targets for attractive rewards.

What does all of this have to do with p's and q's? While these suggestions may be helpful to attract and retain good people, they represent another way of simply saying "thank you". We have all heard that people don't leave companies, they leave managers. If every manager consistently (and simply) said thank you to their employees, productivity would likely increase, and turnover might decrease.

So, could improving your company's engagement be as easy as making sure everyone minds their p's and q's? According to employees, the most memorable recognition comes from an employee’s manager (28%), high-level leader or CEO (24%), or the manager’s manager (12%) (Gallup). Saying thank you (recognition) will certainly make your employees feel more appreciated, heard, and relevant.

Workplace Engagement
Employee Recognition
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