When people talk about employee recognition, they often gravitate towards massive programs, perks, and awards. But I find the most powerful tool to recognize employees requires minutes to activate, costs virtually nothing, and can have massive impact on your organization. That's right-I'm talking about the power of a thank you note.

Every time I visit one of our offices around the world, I pack thank you notes in my suitcase so that I can properly and promptly thank folks who go above and beyond to help their peers. The act, though simple in nature, goes a long way to showing people you notice their hard work and kindness, and gives them tangible evidence that you value both their effort and impact.

Robert Cialdini's book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, featured the story of Joe Girard, a remarkably successful salesman who sent handwritten notes to his clients with simple messages of gratitude. He asked for nothing in those notes, simply using them as an opportunity to build personal connections and loyalty, and later attributed many of his relationships and the associated success that came from them to the simple practice of connecting with them regularly via short, handwritten letters.

Every leader I know is strapped for time and seeking out ways to maximize the return on their time for impact on their team. My humble suggestion is that you don't need a massive budget or a fancy event to show your employees you care. The simple act of setting aside time to thank people with a personalized, thoughtful thank you note can be the recognition they need to feel valued at your organization and to create outsized impact for your team.

Below are three reasons why you should consider investing in (and sending) more thank you notes in your life:

1. Thank you notes help you break through the clutter.

The average person receives 121 emails a day, to say nothing of their texts, Facebook messages, What'sApp notifications, and Twitter direct messages. Meanwhile at home, the average household gets 848 pieces of junk mail annually, so the clutter doesn't stop when you take a break from your inbox or phone. It's counterintuitive, but choosing a seemingly old school medium to convey your gratitude actually helps you capture people's attention and stand out from the pack, if only as a nice break from their overwhelming inbox.

2. Recognition helps your employees feel valued.

We tend to think of recognition as company-wide awards, gifts, or trips, but the truth is that most people, regardless of their level or job in your organization, want to feel valued for the work they do. Simply taking the time to thank them for that hard work can go a long way to making them feel engaged and empowered at work. Teams that focus on strengths are 12.5% more productive, so knowing and recognizing what your employees are good at isn't just good for your team, it's good for your business. 

3. Gratitude is a virtuous loop.

Studies show time and time again that expressing gratitude makes both parties happier, but gratitude can also make you sleep better, perform at a higher level, and improve your long-term health. So in addition to making someone on your team's day, you will benefit as a leader from taking the time to express gratitude for what an employee, vendor, customer, or partner has done for your business, and your team will learn a leadership behavior they too can emulate.