If you think appreciation and gratitude are mere corporate jargon that nobody believes in, you may want to think again. In a recent survey by McKinsey, 40% of employees reported that they were likely to leave their current job in 3-6 months as the Great Resignation is expected to continue for several more years.

Moreover, employees expect their organizations to provide a strong company culture, caring coworkers, and a sense of community–they expect to be valued as people and not just as workers. Therefore, building a culture of appreciation and gratitude is vital to valuing employees. The upside is that employees are more satisfied and engaged at work, increasing productivity, loyalty, and retention.

What is Appreciation?

Appreciation, in general, is acknowledging all the positive things in life, such as the goodness in other people, events, and experiences. Employee appreciation acknowledges employees' inherent value, not just their work performance. 

Building a culture of appreciation involves recognizing the contribution of employees for their meaningful contribution to the bigger picture. Whether it is thanking them for a job well done or acknowledging their efforts to help other departments or a member in need, employee appreciation encompasses it all.

What is Gratitude?

Gratitude, a close sibling of appreciation, takes a step further to recognize the influence of outside forces on our success. 

The word gratitude is derived from Latin and means' thankfulness'; therefore, it can also be thought of as a 'thankful appreciation.' Gratitude in the workplace is the foundation of trust, empathy, and communication, all of which are the most sought-after attributes of a strong organizational culture.

Why is it Important to Create a Culture of Appreciation and Gratitude in the Workplace?  

Human beings are social animals, and relationships are fundamental to any group structure- be it a family, a group of friends, or colleagues. Unfortunately, in the middle of hectic work cycles, employees get little time to bond to the team and organization in productive ways.

A culture of appreciation and gratitude fills in the gaps by engaging employees in thanks-giving activities that build trust while making them feel valued. At an organizational level, a culture of appreciation and gratitude is closely tied to productivity, engagement, and employee retention.

Benefits of Showing Appreciation and Gratitude to your Employees

There are clear benefits to creating a culture of appreciation and gratitude. Here are a few:

1. It can boost employee morale and job satisfaction

When the employees of an organization are appreciative of one another, it has the effect of lifting employee morale. It motivates them to work as a team and improves job satisfaction on the whole.

2. It reduces stress and absenteeism

A culture of gratitude makes the employees feel valued, reducing job insecurity and the stress associated with it. The lowered tension in the work environment also reduces sick leaves and encourages people to show up to their work.

3. It boosts employee productivity

Employees who are regularly appreciated by their managers and peers are more confident and engaged in their work. Such happy employees are eager to perform better and maintain their role as valued employees.  

4. It increases employee retention

Productive and engaged employees with the strong work culture of gratitude are satisfied with their job. Moreover, having such stability and nurturing atmosphere at work can significantly reduce employee turnover.

5. It helps attract talent

A strong work culture turns employees into ambassadors for the organization helping the recruitment efforts. In addition, word of mouth of happy employees improves the employer's value proposition and entices top talent.  

10 Ways to Create a Culture of Appreciation and Gratitude in the Workplace

The key to unlocking higher levels of engagement, happiness, and productivity in the workplace lies in creating a culture of appreciation and gratitude. So, here are some important tips on how to build a culture of appreciation and gratitude at work:

1. Promptly send thank you notes and emails

Whether for closing a deal, securing new business, achieving goals, or generating new ideas, make it a habit to send thank you notes and emails. Being prompt with your appreciation shows your employees that you are grateful for their efforts and value their presence in the workforce. To make it highly effective, send out the email immediately after an event or write a hand-written note to make it extra memorable.

2. Personalize your approach to the appreciation

Appreciation is most effective when it is delivered in a highly personalized manner. While personalization by itself has a strong impact, appreciating employees in a way in which they like to be appreciated can make all the difference.

For example, while some are elated by a simple thank you note, others might expect a tangible gift or public recognition for their success. The way to figure out their appreciation language is to observe how they appreciate others. Managers and team leaders will have personalized insights into their team members that can determine the best way to appreciate each individual.

3. Celebrate both the big and small victories

Celebrating big wins is necessary to break up the monotony of long project durations and return the employees with increased passion, dive, and focus. Big celebrations are also a time for employers to get creative with their rewards. Small wins also deserve celebrations as they build the path towards big wins.

The secret to maintaining morale is to break up the task into bite-sized chunks with a frequent appreciation for every little victory. Small and frequent pats on the back are what keep the employees on their toes to stay productive.

4. Incorporate gratitude into leadership

Leaders in an organization’s management are responsible for guiding individuals and teams towards organizational goals. However, with the stress and anxiety of being reactive to the dynamic business landscape, leaders seldom have time to appreciate their teams.

The condition is further exacerbated by the lack of trust many employees have in the management. Leaders can strengthen employee morale and trust by holding gratitude debriefing sessions after project completion and actively appreciating everyone for their contribution periodically.

5. Make gratitude part of your storytelling

Your social media posts, blog content, podcasts, vlogs, and newsletters form the narrative about your organization. Weaving gratitude into your stories is a component of building a culture of employee appreciation. Include stories that talk about the contribution of your employees to your success in a tone that is highly appreciative and grateful. Talk about gratitude as part of the organization’s culture from the top down and across.  

6. Create opportunities to express gratitude

To build a culture of gratitude, everybody needs a chance to participate. The change can come in the form of informal meetings every month or every week where everyone takes a turn to express their gratitude to individuals or the whole team.

Other exercises can include writing a gratitude journal, leaving anonymous gratitude notes on a notice board, or gratitude box entries for something good that happened at home or work. Employee rewards and recognition programs established by organizations are also a great way to reinforce a culture of appreciation.

7. Highlight the best qualities of individuals

Building a culture of employee appreciation is incomplete unless the individual is highlighted. Appreciating the best qualities of individual employees is one of, if not the most powerful way to bring out the best in the person.

Appreciate seldom recognized qualities such as honesty, admitting to mistakes, and willingness to learn and change. An exercise in the same direction could be to give turns to each employee to sit in the ‘appreciation hot seat’ while their team members go around talking about their best qualities.

8. Thank those who are seldom appreciated

All organizations have employees who are seldom or rarely recognized for their work which keeps the organizational machinery running smoothly. These include people working in support roles such as IT, HR, accounting, maintenance, and janitorial staff.

Thanking them periodically is central to building a culture of appreciation as it highlights the interdependence of different departments in an organization. Be authentic in appreciating the unsung heroes, and you will boost the morale of everyone in the organization.

9. Build a culture of recognition in the workplace

Employee recognition is central to creating a culture of appreciation at the workplace. Recognition of employees involves recognizing not only the outcomes but also the efforts and the progress. Public recognition in the form of company-wide shoutouts boosts the morale and self-esteem of employees. Recognition can take the form of congratulating on completing projects, reaching milestones, or even a simple “thank you.

10. Promote peer-to-peer appreciation

Although appreciation by the managers and leaders is significant, peer-to-peer appreciation has a more profound impact. Employees in every team share a sense of comradery and the highest honor one can receive is to be recognized and thanked as an important team member. Establishing peer-to-peer recognition programs can solidify your efforts toward building a culture of appreciation and gratitude.

Closing Thoughts

As social animals, we are wired for acceptance, appreciation, and gratitude from our peers. To establish a culture of gratitude, it is essential to start from the top-level management and tickle the attitude down to the teams and individual employees.

A culture of appreciation takes time to establish as relationships in most organizations are perceived as transactional. However, as gratitude becomes the norm over time, people will become more trusting of their peers and leaders and reinforce the attitude across the organization.

Build highly engaged and high-performing teams with Empuls!

Discover how people leaders are building engaged teams through continuous feedback and improvement.

Employee Engagement