'Tis the season to give thanks.

And when it comes to the workplace, science says expressing gratitude to your employees doesn't just keep them happy, it keeps them on your payroll.

Studies show that workers who don't feel adequately appreciated are twice as likely to quit in the coming year.

Employees who feel their efforts are recognized, on the other hand, are happier, more satisfied, and more motivated.

But here's an interesting twist: Studies show you don't actually have to be the one giving or receiving thanks to benefit from the positive feelings associated with recognition for a job well done. Studies show that simply witnessing acts of gratitude and recognition can make employees feel good and motivate them to be more productive and creative.

In other words, it pays to take private recognition public.

Google's former Senior Vice President of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, wrote on Google+ that "public recognition is one of the most effective and most underutilized management tools."

Here are five ways to make public recognition work for you:

1. Go social with your salute.

Your company's Facebook and Twitter pages are easy avenues for far-reaching recognition.

Disney, for example, has created the hashtag #CastCompliment. If you're visiting a Disney park, and have a positive experience with a cast member (Disney's term for employee), you're encouraged to tweet about it. The employee's supervisor retweets the compliment, along with a picture of the employee.

Disney Senior Programming Director Bruce Jones blogged about the program being "an opportunity to create some magic with the positive tweets."

So whether you create a company hashtag, or just make a practice of posting positive comments, social media provides the perfect vehicle for publicly thanking outstanding employees.

2. Add gratitude to the agenda.

Looking for a way to infuse mundane meetings with some positive pizazz? Try adding employee recognition as a regular agenda item.

Studies show that consistent gratitude practices within the workplace have the power to transform the entire culture of an organization. When employers show appreciation on a regular basis, employees report increased feelings of well being, stronger relationships with coworkers, and increased job satisfaction.

Try taking a few minutes at the beginning of regularly-scheduled meetings to thank individual workers for specific contributions. They'll feel doubly appreciated because of the public nature of the recognition. And you'll get the added benefit of employees motivated to get their achievements recognized at a future meeting.

3. Call a special meeting.

Tensions run high this time of year. Deadlines are crunched, routines are disrupted and fuses are short.

Here's an idea to combine employee recognition with the element of surprise at a time when they'll least expect it: Issue a memo telling workers to attend a mandatory meeting with a confidential purpose.

Once they arrive, hand them an agenda with a one-sentence, individually-tailored statement of appreciation for each employee.

Read each one out loud, adjourn the meeting, and feel the positive energy shift you created, just by saying thank you. And you'll set the tone for a spirit of gratitude this holiday season.

4. Show them a sign.

Google's former Senior Vice President of People Operations created what he called a "Wall of Happy." Laszlo Bock developed an online tool called gThanks, where employees could publicly thank one another for outstanding contributions. He'd print out those kudos and tack them up on a sign outside his office, for all to see.

"Broadcasting a compliment makes both the giver and the receiver happier," Bock wrote in his book: Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google that will Transform How You Live and Lead.

Your sign can be as simple as a bulletin board in the break room or outside your office, with sticky notes highlighting specific employee accomplishments. You can even leave a blank pad and a pen beside the board, encouraging employees to add notes of public praise for their colleagues.

5. Write the book on recognition.

This idea had the added bonus of being interactive. Create an employee recognition book, along the lines of a hotel guest book where happy customers comment about their positive experiences.

First, buy a blank book and personalize the cover as an "Outstanding Employees" journal for your company. Then, start the gratitude flowing by writing the name of an employee and their noteworthy action.

Leave it in the lunch room or pass it around the office, encouraging employees to add the names of coworkers and their corresponding kudos.

There's certainly a time and a place for private recognition. Home Depot's former CEO told me that personal handwritten notes were his top management tool. But if you want the recognition to ripple out through your organization, give some of these public praise tools a try. And watch the gratitude grow.

Published on: Nov 16, 2017