The humble handwritten thank you note can boost your company’s bottom line, believe it or not.
A recent Forbes article by Josh Bersin, founder and principal at Bersin by Deloitte, illustrates the point. His article, “New Research Unlocks the Secret of Employee Recognition,” cites his company’s comprehensive research project on employee recognition showing that organizations giving regular thanks to their employees far outperform those that don’t.
Companies scoring in the top 20% for building a “recognition-rich culture” actually had 31% lower voluntary turnover rates.
That makes sense to Geil Browning, founder of Emergenetics International. In an Inc. Magazine article, “How to Thank Your Employees in Only 8 Words,” she writes:
“When you recognize the contributions of others, you reinforce the kind of behavior you want to see again. People who feel their efforts are noticed, and their work makes a difference, are more likely to go the extra mile in the future. Leadership is about empowering others to realize their own abilities. Communicate your belief in your people, and watch them rise to meet your expectations.”
Put another way, recognizing employee’s contributions shows you’re paying attention and that you care. It makes people feel valued. When you write a thoughtful note of gratitude, it’s also a permanent keepsake reminder.
Browning quotes business guru Tom Peters: “People don’t forget kindness.”
Her research at Emergenetics suggests most employees appreciate personal thank you notes, if they’re personalized and meaningful. To be meaningful, notes should be specific and prompt. And to reward behaviors you want people to repeat, be sure to recognize efforts involving those behaviors.
Browning offers 10 tips for customizing thank you notes to celebrate employee strengths, according to brain-related research:
- The “gift of gab” is a work asset for gregarious people. You might write: “I celebrate how you share your enthusiasm,” or “Thanks for keeping the lines of communication open.”
- For quieter people you could say: “I prize your well-considered solutions,” or “I appreciate your respectful attitude toward everyone.”
- For assertive people, try: “Thank you for keeping the momentum going,” or “I appreciate your decisive action.”
- More easygoing people who want everyone to get along might appreciate: “Thank you for helping to keep the peace,” or, “I appreciate your amiability more than you know.”
- To flexible, change-seeking workers who don’t get flustered easily you might write: “I recognize your easy resilience” or “Thanks for how you handled [difficult client].”
- To focused staffers with strong opinions, try: “I depend on your support,” or “I honor you for your convictions.”
- Analytical thinkers might value: “I appreciate your penetrating questions,” or “I respect the depth of your knowledge.”
- For structural-minded, detail-oriented people, consider: “Thank you for transferring all that data perfectly,” or “You always meet your deadlines—impressive!”
- Social thinkers want to please you, so you could write: “I’m so grateful for your team building skills,” or, “I couldn’t have done it without you.”
- Conceptual workers who want to feel unique might value: “Your solution to the XYZ problem was stunning,” or “I treasure your creative long-term views.”
Bersin’s research also showed the effectiveness of rewarding employees for:
1. specific results and behaviors and,
2. making thank yous public.
Consider displaying a list of employees you’ve recognized in your company newsletter, on bulletin boards, or via social media.
The best practices his research project uncovered also recommended including peer-to-peer recognition and making it easy for employees to recognize each other frequently. For more on new “social” peer-to-peer recognition, you might enjoy Incentive Magazine’s article, “The Pressing Case for Peer-to-Peer Recognition” by Andrea Doyle.
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