As the year comes to a close with the buzz of holiday excitement, there's often an enormous amount of pressure on employees to close out the year strong. In the mix of all the activity -- business and budget planning for the new year, paying final invoices, and closing sales by year end -- expressing gratitude for employees can go a long way to uplift morale when the pressure is high.

Whether through a casual lunch meeting, a well-written note, or a quick swing by the cubicle, taking a moment to pause and recognize employees for their hard work has a tangible impact on company culture and organizational performance. Here's why: 

Why the Gift of Gratitude Is So important

Gratitude and recognition go hand-in-hand. The Oxford Dictionary defines gratitude as,"the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and return kindness." The term "recognition" carries multiple meanings, but two resonate strongly with this discussion: "acknowledgement of the existence, validity, or legality of something" and "appreciation or acclaim for an achievement, service, or ability." 

Leaders' gratitude is expressed when they validate and demonstrate appreciation for their employees' daily contributions. Employees who receive this recognition at work feel more valued by their employer. The benefits of this are twofold, improving day-to-day morale and driving organizational success. 

When employees feel valued by their employer, they feel happier. And according to research by Partners In Leadership, when employees feel happier at work, 85% say they take more initiative, 73% say they are better collaborators, and nearly half care more about their work. 

These findings are further underscored by a study from the American Psychological Association, which found that 90% of employees who feel valued at work say they're more motivated to do their best, compared to 33% of employees who don't feel valued by employers. The study also sheds light on workplace turnover, claiming that 50% of employees who feel underappreciated intend to search for a new job within the year. On the contrary, 78% of valued employees would recommend their organization to others as a good place to work. 

In a positive workplace culture in which employees receive validation, recognition, and support, happiness levels rise. This company culture bodes well for business: topline business success flourishes as employees dig in and take accountability for Key Results

How to Recognize Employees In a Meaningful and Memorable Way

Effective, focused recognition comes in many forms and can occur in a variety of settings. Private one-on-one meetings, company-wide town halls, and shared digital spaces may all serve as appropriate venues for expressing gratitude and validating employees' hard work. 

Regardless of the mode in which leaders choose to celebrate individual employees, these actions serve as experiences that generate or reinforce desired cultural beliefs -- the values and beliefs that drive actions and deliver Key Results. These concepts are the basis of The Results Pyramid -- a simple, powerful framework for understanding the connection between workplace culture (the way people think and act) and business results.

When leaders create memorable employee experiences that applaud and validate employees' actions and behaviors, they cultivate beliefs such as: My opinions and ideas are valued by superiors and my efforts contribute to the company's overall success. 

For example, when the CEO of one large manufacturing company that we work with noticed that safety incidents had dropped to record lows and, as a result, so had workers' compensation premiums, he knew it was a result of his employees' stellar attentiveness. Rather than silently acknowledge this achievement and move on, he called a meeting with all of the manufacturing workers. He began the meeting with a heartfelt, verbal acknowledgement of their commitment to safety and followed up by announcing that the company would be granting a significant monetary bonus for each employee, letting them know that safety pays -- literally and figuratively. 

This highly intentional employee experience cemented the importance of safety into the minds of all employees and signified that their efforts did not go unnoticed. As a result, rates of work-related injury, illness, and other safety incidents continued to decline while employee engagement levels and morale soared

 The Gift That Keeps Giving

In the season of giving, it's often easy to overlook the gift of gratitude, especially as pressing, deadline-driven priorities rise to the surface. But research indicates that this is the time when recognition is needed most. 

According to Monster's 2018 Year in Jobs Report, January is the most popular month for new job searches. Employees have rounded the corner of a busy season and they're ready to start the new year in a new job that fulfills their career resolutions. 

Leaders boost employee engagement and reduce turnover when they take the time to practice focused recognition. Experiences rooted in recognition allow employees see how their daily tasks -- even the tedious, tiring, and downright stressful ones -- drive positive, meaningful results for the company as a whole. This bolsters their sense of self-worth while propelling the business forward, proving that gratitude truly is the gift that keeps on giving. 

Propeller is a digital tool designed to help you create meaningful, memorable employee experiences rooted in recognition. Learn more here