October 17, 2022
November 20, 2019

Why and How to Say Thank You to Employees

Employee Recognition for a Modern Workforce
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Did you know that 85% of professionals would like to hear “thank you” more in their daily interactions? But only half of employees report being thanked by their bosses regularly. A simple “thank you” can be a powerful phrase in the workplace, so why is saying it so hard for so many? Is it hard to remember to do? Is it awkward or difficult to fit into a regular conversation? Or are you just not sure the best way to express gratitude? 

Whatever your appreciation roadblock is, we hope to make it easier and more natural to express thanks to the amazing people around you. But first, let’s go over why saying thank you is even worth it in the first place.

Why is saying thank you important?

Multiple studies show that expressing and receiving gratitude can improve our health and happiness—in fact, studies have shown that gratitude can have social, physical, and psychological benefits for everyone involved. Expressions of thanks can also strengthen the relationship between the giver and the receiver.

A newer study even shows that expressions of appreciation can improve the relationships and moods of an entire group—even the act of witnessing someone express gratitude can bring a team closer together and build a culture of mutual appreciation and respect.

For specific workplace benefits, gratitude can improve an employee’s willingness to help, to devote time to others, and to be loyal. Gratitude also helps employees feel valued, reduce employee stress, and it can reduce workplace mistreatment. A simple “thank you” can transform a company culture, bringing employees and managers closer together and making everyone happier.

But how do you say it?

How should you say thank you at work?

Luckily for us, there’s not a perfect way to express gratitude—instead, there are a lot of different methods you can use. Here are some of the best ideas:

  • Personal conversations. In-person conversations are one of the best times to express appreciation. Whether thanking someone for their outstanding performance or for their selfless attitude, a genuine compliment said face-to-face can have a huge impact.
  • Physical notes or letters. Thank you notes are popular for a reason. It’s simple to write your thoughts on a piece of paper and leave it on an employee’s desk. You can also mail a letter of gratitude to remote or hybrid employees.
  • Digital thank you. Giving thanks is easier than ever with digital tools. Send a thank you email to employees when they knock a project out of the park. Or use your employee recognition platform to write a personalized note (and maybe reward some points, too!).
  • Social media shoutouts. Platforms like LinkedIn or Instagram are perfect for a quick shoutout. You can even tell a story of why the employee is so awesome for everyone to see. Plus, using the corporate account to thank employees creates an awesome brand for you.
  • Meeting shoutouts. If employees enjoy public recognition (and not everyone does!), express your thanks during a team or company meetings. If they don’t want public recognition see the “Personal Conversations” point above.

All of these methods of conveying gratitude are perfectly viable. The key is to learn what would mean the most to your employees and then go from there. But now that you know how you can say thank you, what do you actually say?

What words are best when expressing thanks?

Many leaders want to express appreciation more, but they may not know how to put their feelings in words. This uncertainty can lead to simply not giving thanks at all. Never fear—here are some great phrases to start:

  • “Thank you!”
  • “We want to express our appreciation for…”
  • “We want to let you know how valuable you are to us.”
  • “Great job!”
  • “I appreciate how you…”
  • “I’m grateful for…”
  • “We’d like to acknowledge…”
  • “Things really wouldn’t be the same without you on the team.”
  • “We’re lucky to have you!”

Some of these expressions are more formal, some are more lighthearted, but all allow you to express thanks for specific things in an effective way. The best part is, people don’t really care what words you say—they only care that you’re trying to show them appreciation!

When to say thank you to employees.

We know why appreciation is important, and we know how to express it, so now let’s talk about when it’s best. The short answer is that it’s always a good time to say thank you. Whenever you’re considering expressing gratitude, it’s best to err on the side of saying it! However, here are some specific times that saying thank you to employees can really work:

  • When good work gets done. This sounds simple, but it takes effort. Great work is getting done around you every day; pay attention to who gets what done, and make sure to express appreciation for each person’s hard work. Make sure your thanks are timely and specific to each person, as well.
  • During a team meeting. As we mentioned above, as long as the employee is okay with a public shoutout, team meetings are a great time to express your thanks. Whether in front of the whole company or during a smaller get together, public thanks are a great way to build team unity and closeness.
  • During one-on-ones or performance reviews. Managers have the perfect opportunity to say thank you during these personal meetings. They should always take the time to talk about why they appreciate each employee’s time and contributions.
  • During Employee Appreciation Day. Employee Appreciation Day is the first Friday in March each year. Use this national holiday to thank every employee in the company. You can give gifts, give them the day off, provide food, or simply send notes to everyone. And if you want, host your own Employee Appreciation Days throughout the year instead of only in March.

There is no optimal time to say thank you. The above ideas are good starting points, but you can really say thank you at any time and at any place.

What about employee rewards?

Employee rewards are a great way to express appreciation. Whether through holiday gifts, service anniversary awards, or birthday presents, employee rewards are an important part of making employees feel valued and cared for. We actually have a whole post about the importance of giving gifts and rewards to employees, and we have one about effective service anniversary awards, too.

Awardco knows how to do employee rewards right, and we’re happy to help you in your reward-giving efforts. Suffice it to say, make rewards personalized, meaningful, and thoughtful. These types of gifts will show your appreciation more than anything else.

Thank you for reading!

The bottom line is this: expressing and receiving gratitude at work can create a culture of respect, appreciation, collaboration, and happiness. And while these guidelines are meant to help you get started, there’s no right way to say thank you. Just start! Your employees will appreciate any effort you make.