Most of the ingredients for the perfect Thanksgiving are easily attained, but many people struggle with (or forget) the "thanks" part. Silly, since that's what Thanksgiving is really about. Yet expressing gratitude does not come easily for everyone.

I find that entrepreneurs easily neglect to offer adequate thanks to their employees. Sure, they are paid for doing their job, but that doesn't eliminate their need for recognition, thanks, and praise.

Turn over a new leaf this year by devoting time to thinking about the special gifts and qualities each of your employees brings to your business. Then take the next big step: Show your gratitude in a meaningful way. Your thoughtfulness will go a long way. Employees who feel appreciated will reward you with their loyalty and more.

Research from the Division of Human Resources at Florida International University reveals the following benefits of showing recognition and rewarding employees:

  • Employees will take more pride in their work
  • Feel appreciated for their contributions
  • Go the extra mile
  • Heighten their level of commitment to the organization
  • Improve relationships with co-workers
  • Be more open to constructive feedback
  • Strive to meet or exceed performance expectations
  • Support and promote a positive atmosphere in which praise prevails
  • Get more enjoyment out of the work they do

I'd like to add that a happy employee will be your most vocal advocate, the best kind of marketing there is.

Here are some ideas to show employees your appreciation at Thanksgiving.

1. Take a break from potluck.

It's great to offer an opportunity for employees to celebrate a holiday over good food, but when they have to supply the food themselves it may diminish the gesture. A Thanksgiving meal with all of the trimmings can come from your local grocery store at a reasonable cost. Local caterers are a great choice if you want to do something a little more upscale. I once hired a chef to prepare a meal in my kitchen at home and bring it to the office. It was surprisingly affordable. Remember, the most important ingredient is gratitude, so be sure to address the group with a heartfelt statement of appreciation.

2. Give them the gift of time.

If it's possible for your business to function with limited staff, offer employees an additional day off to enjoy a five-day weekend. You can ease the pressure by splitting days off between the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving and the Monday after. For employees who are critical to operations, give them a voucher for a day off in the future.

3. Create a thank-you wall.

Purchase a set of colorful sticky notes or notecards and write a thank-you note to each employee. Make them all unique, pointing out specific contributions or the special qualities and talents the employee brings to the job. Leave a stack of blank notes available for employees to add their thanks to one another. It's a fun and colorful way to let everyone know they are special and appreciated.

4. Go the extra mile, literally.

For whatever reason, it feels a bit more meaningful to receive a gift of appreciation delivered to the home. I recall once receiving an unexpected bonus check in the mail. It was a small check, but what made it so memorable was the handwritten note from the CEO and the fact that it came to my mailbox, rather than being dropped on my desk. I was touched by the note because it didn't contain generic thanks--it was for and about me. Gifts of food, flowers, fine wine, and even gift cards bring extra meaning sent the extra miles to the door of your employee's home.

5. Donate to their favorite charity.

Everyone has a cause that is close to his or her heart. A donation to each employee's favorite charity would be a meaningful gesture. Not only does every donation make a difference, but the fact that you've taken the time to discover this personal detail about your employees will really touch their hearts.

What unique gestures of thanks have you offered to your team in the past? Share your success stories and ideas here!

Published on: Nov 24, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.