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Focus on the future

The power of saying ‘thank you’


During the last decade, the war for talents has reached a new level by putting the employee in the center of the employer’s universe. This ‘war’ has started with the complex concepts of the employee’s wellbeing and their happiness being the key aspects of wellbeing: physical, financial and mental.

Employers often measure employee engagement and overall satisfaction. They create wellbeing platforms that follow-up on the people’s workload, diets, amount of stress in their everyday life. Companies usually offer some recommendations on sports, physical activity per week, healthy food and advice people on the right time to take their vacations or short breaks. Companies spend thousands of dollars on gyms, yoga classes and meditation rooms; neglecting sometimes a few very basic and simple things that does not cost a penny, but bring a huge amount of satisfaction. I’m talking about inspiration and motivation towards the employees. I speak about verbal or non-material recognition.

The intangible reward

Do you remember what bonus amount you got two years ago? Or what was your quarterly bonus after your promotion in, let’s say, 2008? I surely don’t. What I do believe is that you might remember being named best employee of the year during the company’s annual R&R event. Or, another good memory that you might also have is receiving an extra day-off and congratulations message in front of the team at the end of a complicated project in which you absolutely succeeded. Maybe that thought goes to the lunch with top company executive that invited you to hear more about a really great achievement you’d just performed.

People need recognition to grow and improve just as much as they need air to breathe. Our basic instinct aspiring to be our best selves, and in our way to that, get a positive evaluation or, at least, a thank you for an extraordinarily well-done job. .

My father used to be a commander of nuclear submarines having 180 officers, warrant officers and sailors in his crew. He ‘inherited’ this team from his predecessor and after his first mission (89 days under water), he bought some diplomas, gathered the whole crew together, and gave these certificates if excellences to the best team members. The men, who had already done around 15 similar missions, were crying of happiness over this simple recognition. It turned out that nobody had ever done anything of the kind to them before, and that action stroke them to the core.

Our natural desire to be recognized explains the popularity of the gamification platforms where employees give points to their peers for anything they would like to express their gratitude.

Some managers may say that this form of recognition should not happen to often since it devaluates this type of reward. In addition to that, they may also say that there is a kind of limitation in the ways to express gratitude. However, I would argue to say that it is almost impossible to over recognize someone’s efforts and their contribution to the teamwork.

How to recognize employees’ extraordinary work today

There are many, and sometimes extremely easy and basic, verbal non-material recognition ways to award, support an employee.

  • An email or a WhatsApp message after a great presentation
  • A note just before entering into a team meeting
  • A framed letter signed by the team expressing their gratitude for achieving a big team goal
  • A mention in the company’s newsletter
  • Also, by maybe giving them something they’ve asked for like managing a specific project, launching an idea, organizing a team building.
  • Recognition, of course, can also take the form of a material award such as books, concert tickets, lunches or dinners, trainings, or coaching sessions.

The most important thing for managers is not to underestimate the power of “thank you”, and say it on a regular basis spreading and creating a recognition rich culture in their departments and in the organization.

Something to remember: if your employee tries to get a recognition you are already a bit late because then it will not be perceived as a recognition when they finally get it. Apart from that, just keep in mind that recognition can reduce your costs by reducing attrition and managing employees’ expectations in the right way.

My last, but certainly not least, advice is to always ask your employees what inspires and motivates them. Listening to them will bring you some really efficient ways to reward or motivate your best people.


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