April 12, 2024
March 18, 2024

Why and How to Say Thank You to Employees

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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?

When leaders regularly show appreciation to their employees, every measure of employee morale, productivity, performance, and retention go up. Saying “thank you” at work can really have an impact!

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? 

In this post, we’ll discuss:

  • The importance of saying thank you
  • How to say thank you at work
  • How to include remote employees
  • When to say thank you
  • The role of employee rewards

The Impact of Gratitude at Work

Studies have shown that both expressing and receiving gratitude can have social, physical, and psychological benefits for everyone involved. These benefits include things like more optimism, more happiness, reduced anxiety and depression, stronger relationships, improved immune systems, and reduced symptoms of illness.

All of that from something as simple as gratitude! Another 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.

Gratitude in the workplace can:

  • Improve employees’ willingness to help
  • Foster stronger connections and relationships
  • Increase employee loyalty to the company
  • Make employee feel more valued
  • Decrease employee stress

These benefits all create a more positive work environment and company culture, which, in turn, improve productivity and retention. But how exactly do you say “thank you” effectively at work?

The Best Ways to Say “Thank You” at Work

Fortunately, there’s not one perfect way to express gratitude. Instead, there are many different ways that work for different people and different situations. Here are some ideas to keep in mind:

Fortunately 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.
  • Public appreciation. If employees enjoy public recognition (and not everyone does!), express your thanks during a team or company meeting. If they don’t want public recognition, go back to the personal conversation idea.

All of these methods of conveying gratitude are perfectly viable—the key is to avoid cookie-cutter, disingenuous expressions of gratitude. Instead, learn what would mean the most to your employees and then go from there.

Personalizing Your “Thank You”

The most important thing to remember when offering appreciation in the workplace is to personalize it to the recipient. Personalized gratitude will strengthen the message you’re trying to convey, but on the flip side, generic expressions of thanks will feel fake to employees.

Some of the best ways to make gratitude more personalized include:

  • Mention specifics about what the employee has done.
  • Talk about results that the employee’s actions helped you or the team achieve
  • Convey gratitude the channel that is most meaningful to each employee (public, private, written, oral, etc.)
  • Aim for quality expressions of thanks, not quantity
  • Give personalized thank you gifts as an expression of gratitude

The Impact of Peer-to-Peer Appreciation

While receiving thanks from managers and leaders is always great for employees, don’t underestimate the power of peer-to-peer appreciation. 

Peer feedback can enhance employee performance by 14%, and that’s because an employee’s peers work in the trenches with them and have more visibility into what that employee does each and every day. That can make peer-to-peer expressions of gratitude more impactful and meaningful.

As leaders, we need to empower employees to show gratitude to their peers. A couple ways to do this are:

  • Be examples of appreciation. Employees will often emulate what they see their leaders doing. When leaders freely give out gratitude to those around them, they create a culture of gratitude in which employees are more likely to follow suit.
  • Implement a peer-to-peer recognition program. A digital peer recognition program makes it easier than ever for any employee to recognize another employee. With the click of a button, employees can show appreciation to those around them.

Peer-to-peer recognition fosters a culture of belonging, teamwork, and friendship.

Recognizing and Appreciating Remote Employees

Many teams are either fully remote or hybrid, so how do you ensure that gratitude spreads to those who work from someplace that’s not the office? Here are some strategies:

  • Send physical thanks in the mail. Things like care packages and “thank you” cards are great for remote employees—imagine their surprise and delight when they check their mailbox and see a personalized gift from the company thanking them for their hard work!
  • Focus on social media and meeting shoutouts. If an employee is okay with public gratitude, ensure that you express it during team meetings and over social media, even over Zoom. If they prefer more private gratitude, send them an email.
  • Connect through one-on-ones. Managers should be frequently meeting with remote employees digitally, and this is a great time to express thanks. Recognizing employee achievements in these face-to-face settings can go a long way.
  • Implement a recognition platform. Just like with peer-to-peer gratitude, a recognition platform can help remote employees feel more valued, supported, and appreciated. A platform makes it easy for peers or leaders to thank remote employees at any time.

What to Actually Say When Expressing Gratitude at Work?

Some people may simply not know what to say when it comes to expressing gratitude at work. That’s okay! Sometimes it can feel awkward—however, we guarantee that, even if you feel weird about it, the recipient will appreciate it.

To help, here are some of the best ways to say thank you at work:

  • “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 are more formal, and some are more casual. Decide what’s best for which employee and run with it!

When to Express Gratitude at Work?

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.

Where Do Employee Rewards Fit In?

Rewards play a big part in the employee experience, and, in some situations, they can convey gratitude better than words. In fact, symbolic rewards, such as cards or public gratitude, can significantly increase employee motivation, performance, and retention.

90% of employees who receive rewards also have increased trust in their leaders, which increases their bonds with the organization. 

So employee rewards are definitely a part of showing gratitude. Whether you give service awards, birthday gifts, holiday rewards, or random items to express appreciation, these rewards can have a big impact on employee happiness.

Make Saying “Thank You” a Daily Occurrence

Expressing and receiving thanks can improve everyone’s physical and mental health, and it can help form and strengthen bonds and loyalty at work. This creates a long-term work culture of respect, appreciation, collaboration, and satisfaction.

It’s time to make gratitude a regular part of the work day. We hope the strategies listed in this blog will help you make that a reality.