Paul L. Marciano, author of Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work, says, “Organizations have spent billions of dollars creating and implementing reward and recognition programs, in the hopes of motivating their employees and increasing morale. This approach seems to make good sense, however, in terms of return on investment, the numbers don’t add up. Most programs intended to motivate employees actually create an overall deficit in employee motivation. While a handful of employees may be reinforced, many are left feeling punished.”
If rewarding high performers only or giving company-branded coffee mugs to the masses regardless of their results isn’t effective, what is? There’s nothing more effective in the workplace—and in life in general—than a sincere thank you for a job well done. That’s it. Be it written or spoken, the most powerful form of recognition in the world is to know that we matter and are appreciated … it’s one of the greatest human needs.
Another added benefit to verbal recognition is that it’s a two-way street. The employee on the receiving end of the thank you benefits and you do too. Being grateful can improve your well-being and physical health, and people who are thanked are more willing to provide further assistance. In a recent recognition study, 32 percent of participants who received a neutral email volunteered to help again. When the leader expressed his gratitude, volunteerism skyrocketed to 66 percent.
The key to rewarding people well is that the recognition must be sincere, timely, and specific:
- Be Sincere: The most important part of saying thank you is being sincere. People are smart. If you thank them out of obligation, they’ll know. Speak confidently, showing that you mean every word you say, and be honest. Open up and speak from your heart.
- Be Timely: It’s more effective to dole out the praise as close to the timing of the event as possible vs. waiting days or weeks to thank the employee. When an employee is thanked in real-time, it re-enforces the positive behaviors that the employee exhibited.
- Be Specific: When recognizing an employee, content is king. The recognition must be specific to the person and highlight his/her role in the accomplishment. When people are praised for something specific, it increases the likelihood that they will repeat the positive behavior.
Don’t underestimate the power of a simple thank you. When it occurs frequently it will help create an environment that people love where they can soar, so your company meets or exceeds its goals. Saying “thank you” often is a simple and inexpensive way to fuel your employees—and your employee engagement levels—forward.