The importance of gratitude in creating human workplaces

September 13, 2019 Derek Irvine

3-minute read

Thank You

When we think about gratitude today, it can often seem solely introspective – keeping a journal, practicing daily mantras, having a gratitude jar. But what happens when you turn that gratitude outward and use it to strengthen work cultures through peer-to-peer recognition? Amazing things.

When we recognize one another, it makes us even more appreciative and it inspires the person we’ve thanked to give that feeling to someone else.

This is the gratitude effect: a ripple of acknowledgment and appreciation that surges forward, transforming and inspiring us, and improving business outcomes.

Gratitude works because it creates meaning. In the latest report from the Workhuman® Analytics & Research Institute (WARI), meaning is the most important aspect for employees when it comes to their jobs. It’s not about free snacks or ping-pong tables; it’s whether what they’re doing matters and understanding how. People who have a sense of meaning and purpose are more than 4x as likely to love their jobs.

Recognition programs fueled by gratitude build cultures rooted in positivity and create a better employee experience. But it’s not just gratitude alone that creates meaning – it’s about the reach, frequency, and value of it.

In fact, research done in collaboration between WARI and the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute shows employees in the top 25% of high-scoring organizations had 3x the ROA and more than double the ROS compared to those in the bottom 25%. What are the differentiators? Employees in the higher-scoring organizations received more frequent, monetary recognition (5+ awards annually) from peers.

Peer-to-peer recognition transcends teams, departments, and titles. The more gratitude going around, the more human connections are being made and the more collaboration, engagement, and innovation across the organization. It’s a similar story with the amount of rewards people receive. Turnover is cut in half when people receive between seven and 10 recognition moments a year, year-over-year performance increases with five or more awards a year, and engagement and appreciation increase with between one and two awards per quarter.*

What’s the investment for major ROI like this? Probably less than you’d think. According to research done with SHRM, programs funded at 1% or more of payroll are 86% more likely to be rated as good or excellent. More than that, programs funded at 1% or more tend to be aligned with the organization’s people strategy. And because an organization’s people strategy is often tied to important business metrics, like retention rate of critical employees, strength of company values, and employee happiness, a recognition program to shed light on these metrics is invaluable.

We want to share this knowledge with everyone – especially with World Gratitude Day approaching on Sept. 21. Because, for us, gratitude is too important to be celebrated on just one day. When people lift one another with acknowledgment and recognition – when giving and receiving gratitude is the foundation of a culture that’s lived and breathed by its people every day – we’re all elevated, we’re all able to blossom into the best versions of ourselves, and one person’s success becomes everyone’s.

The data doesn’t lie. It all comes down to simply treating people with dignity and appreciation. It’s not revolutionary or rocket science. And it seems silly that we need to remind ourselves to practice humanity at work, doesn’t it? Here’s to a future where we no longer need to. It’ll be here sooner than you think – maybe it already is. Now that’s something to be grateful for.

*Based on WARI customer research

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About the Author

Derek Irvine

Derek is senior vice president, client strategy and consulting, at Workhuman.

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