A Thank You Culture Starts at the Top

Want a Thank You culture? Start with senior managers. (Photo via Highways Agency, Flickr)

Does your company have a “Thank You culture”?
A company-wide culture of appreciation has a profound impact on the everyday lives of employees, the quality of your products and services, and the satisfaction of your customers.
You’ll find evidence of a strong Thank You culture in the way entry- and mid-level employees interact with each other and customers. You’ll see it in how the CEO talks publicly about the company. You’ll see it in employee innovation, retention rates, mentorships, Glassdoor reviews and in how empowered your HR department is.
In short, a Thank You culture is powerful company-wide.
But building that Thank You culture doesn’t take a blanket, company-wide approach. It grows on a specific path, starting from the top. Think of it like a tree: the roots need to take hold before the branches can grow. The CEO and senior management team need to be on board before others in the company will adopt appreciation practices.
Read on for tips on growing your Thank You culture from the top.

How to Spark a Thank You Culture

Overwhelming research shows that employees who feel appreciated are more loyal and productive, according to “PR All-Star” and Forbes contributor Ken Makovsky.
“Supervisors must accept this as gospel,” Makovsky writes. “You either have a Thank You culture or you do not have a very good one.”
A company culture will turn toxic when employees don’t sense appreciation or commitment from on top. Even the best employee perks will fall flat if they’re not accompanied by genuine, sincere “thanks” from management.

Start with the CEO.

“Every CEO can set the tone,” Makovsky writes. Every CEO has the power “to buck surveys that show that the workplace ranks dead last among the places that people express gratitude.”
This is no place for a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude.
Once the CEO is fully committed, senior management is next. Make sure the CEO is communicating appreciation directly to senior management. Managers need to be recognized the way you want employees to be appreciated — otherwise, how will they really know how important it is?
A Thank You culture is about so much more than saying “thanks”! It’s an important aspect of employee development. Provide your CEO and senior managers with specific pointers on how to spread appreciation throughout the company hierarchy with …

  • Daily Appreciation — Encourage managers to give meaningful thanks every day, and more than a quick “Thank You!” in passing. Meaningful appreciation includes an explanation of how and why you’re grateful. Be sure to tie appreciation to results as much as possible, like this: Your compelling research helped us reach new customers and beat our sales goal this month. Thank you!
  • Thank You notes — Put it in writing. Especially in the digital age, the handwritten Thank You note has added value. It’s a keepsake that can be pinned to a cubicle or put up on the fridge at home (and every time the recipient sees it, they’ll be reminded of your gratitude).
  • Regular Interaction — Nobody likes a CEO locked up in an office all day. Encourage the CEO and other managers to get out of their offices regularly, walk around and engage with reports. Managers need to get to know employees – what’s important to them, what they think about a work challenges, what drives them to do well, etc. If time is an issue, have it scheduled in. For remote workers, Skype regularly. It really is that important!
  • Mentoring — One of the most concrete, valuable ways a manager can say “Thank You!” to lower-level employees is through mentoring. It sends an immediate message that the company cares about employee development.
  • Tokens of Gratitude — Gifts are another great way to demonstrate appreciation. Like displaying a Thank You note, the best gifts can be shared socially — food, gift certificates or event tickets. For best results, have top brass hand out gifts individually with a smile and handshake.

Once the CEO and top managers are fully committed to a Thank You culture, it’s time to train everyone in management.

Don’t assume employee recognition is a skill that comes naturally to all leaders. Provide training in recognition best practices — and then stay in touch. Do managers understand what to do? Do they have the support and resources they need? Start holding mangers accountable for engagement and recognition goals.
Gratitude is a daily practice, not something you can check off a To-Do list and then forget. Still, it’s important to keep everyone accountable, measure the impact and act on the results.
Are you tracking employee happiness through engagement surveys, focus groups or apps? Once that data comes out, how will you respond and who will be involved in taking action?
Lastly, be sure you’re hiring for a Thank You culture! A fully formed culture of gratitude doesn’t suddenly happen at employee orientation. The process begins the minute a potential employee applies. When you specifically seek employees who will embrace and sustain your company’s Thank You culture, you actively plant seeds that blossom down the road.
Want practical tips to build your Thank You culture every day this year? Click the image below to download gThankYou’s FREE Day-to-Day Celebration Calendar for tips on how to plan daily recognition and organize regular celebrations throughout the year. This one-of-a-kind eBook will help you to build an everyday culture of appreciation with month-by-month guides, case studies, research highlights, how-to recognition advice and celebration ideas for specific holidays and anytime!

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