We have entered August and the toll of the global pandemic continues to wear on employees, many of whom are still working from home.
A survey by SHRM conducted during the pandemic found 41% of United States employees feel burnt out from work.The survey found employees are struggling with negative emotions and concentration. How can leaders and HR professionals keep employees motivated and cultures thriving in a time of social despair and anxiety? Gratitude is the answer.
Gratitude might seem introspective – keeping a journal, practicing daily mantras, having a gratitude jar. But what happens when you turn that gratitude outward through peer-to-peer recognition? Cultures change.
A grateful mindset provides emotional, physical, and social benefits, such as being more alert, creating a stronger immune system, and even helping manage feelings of isolation and loneliness. Gratitude is a proven and powerful force in building resilience and buffers against the stress your employees are experiencing.
As stated by Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” The most effective way to build a thriving organization is by creating an employee-centered culture based on gratitude
Social recognition is one of the most effective ways to consistently and frequently express gratitude to employees. Employees want to know how they are doing, and recognizing employees demonstrates what success looks like. Research shows recognition impacts engagement and connection in a profoundly positive way. Recognition makes people feel acknowledged for who they are and what they do, motivating and empowering them to do the best work of their lives.
Here are just a few reasons why building a culture of gratitude through recognition is a must-have, not a nice-to-have right now:
1. Recognition creates connection. Connection is a basic human need; and in these challenging times, connection is critical for your employees’ mental health and to build a sense of community. One of the best definitions of human connection is from Brené Brown: “Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” Your employees are feeling the need for connection – to their families, co-workers, and your company’s mission – more acutely than ever. Recognition builds connections in an authentic, positive way. When someone is recognized for the work they have done, that person feels seen and valued. It breaks down barriers and establishes cross-functional relationships, Recognition is about seeing the good in everyone and honoring the value each person brings. Organizations likes Cisco embrace the value in recognition since it creates a sense of belonging and an emotional connection between employees.
2. Recognition builds trust. When employees feel trusted, they can bring their whole self to work, creating a psychologically safe, human-centered culture. Workhuman® found that workers recognized in the last month at companies that have been through a merger or acquisition in the previous year are nearly 2x as likely to trust in their company’s leadership team, compared to those who have never been recognized for their work (82% vs. 46%). For recognition to be effective, it cannot occur once a year during a performance review. It must be ongoing, social, and public to build a culture of trust. According to Professor Paul J. Zack, “The neuroscience shows that recognition has the largest effect on trust when it occurs immediately after a goal has been met, when it comes from peers, and when it’s tangible, unexpected, personal, and public.” Social recognition enables others to take part in a recognition moment for a colleague. It uses the power of the crowd to celebrate and inspire others. It creates a culture of trust, not just between the giver and receiver, but with everyone who celebrates the recognition moment.
3. Recognition reduces stress. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), nearly half (45%) of adults in the U.S. reported that their mental health has been affected due to worry and stress over COVID-19. Social recognition reduces stress by increasing resilience. In fact, Workhuman found that workers who’ve been recognized in the past 30 days for their efforts experience significantly less stress than their non-recognized peers. Particularly relevant today: Employees at companies who have been through stress in the last year and have been thanked in the last month – are nearly 2x as likely to trust their company’s leadership team. Gratitude and recognition should not be postponed because we are in a crisis.
4. Recognition fosters inclusion. Being noticed and valued is a fundamental human need. Employees want to be included and feel part of the culture of your organization. One of the significant benefits of recognition is appreciating and valuing individuals for their contribution, regardless of race, gender, and other factors. Workhuman recently analyzed the relationship between an employee’s number of recognition connections and their sense of inclusion. The findings? More recognition connections engender a greater sense of inclusion – especially important when employees are remote and physically distanced. As an example, one of the goals of Procter & Gamble’s recognition program is to create an inclusive culture by valuing all voices. “We wanted to make this more of an inclusive culture of everybody appreciating everybody through Power of You. And ultimately, that’s going to drive engagement and productivity and have a positive impact on the business,” says Kevin Dalton, compensation leader at P&G.
We face an uncertain future, but recognition is a tool that can be implemented immediately to lift employees and help build a sense of community that is so needed.