Blogs by InnovatorsBox®

5 Ways To Say Thank You At Work Aside From Company Gifts Or Bonuses

Company gifts and bonuses are all well and good, but they’re not the only way to say “thank you” to your employees. Take a cue from business leaders at big companies like Google and Disney, who don’t just thank their team members: they recognize them. 

Disney, for example, encourages Disneyland and Disney World guests to share their good experiences with a cast member by tweeting about them with the hashtag #CastCompliment. 

At Google, former Senior Vice President of Senior Operations Laszlo Bock created a wall of gratitude statements between employees. Everyone who participated got their efforts recognized by any Google staff member or business leader who walked by. 

These forms of showing appreciation can have surprising ripple effects. In a 2016 survey, 65% of the participants in the survey agreed that travel incentives and rewards are remembered longer than cash bonuses. People want to be recognized and thanked for their hard work, not just given money (although that always helps).

Why would employees want incentives that have no monetary value? When you give them a gift, you are treating the process of thanking them like a transaction. But when you have a conversation with them, celebrate their efforts, and encourage them to keep up the good work, you are building a relationship. You’re helping them feel like they belong. In effect, you’re growing a team that will spread their positive feelings about you and the company out into the world, where they will make others happy, too.  

To start building relationships and creating a positive environment for your employees, follow these 5 ways to say thank you at work aside from gifts or bonuses.

1. Highlight Their Stories And Wins

Publicly recognize your employees’ accomplishments and stories of professional growth in the company. You can create a “Wall of Happy” a la Google; send out a weekly newsletter dedicated to hyping up your staff; spotlight each employee in a separate blog post on your company website, or schedule a monthly awards ceremony. 

If you’re having trouble thinking of the best way to publicly appreciate your team, survey them and ask them for their ideas. Just asking for their input is a great way to make everyone feel special and valued.

This is why, at InnovatorsBox, we started doing weekly highlights of our team members in a blog series called IB Backstage Blog series since August 2021 in celebration of our 6 year birthday.

2. Surprise Them By Supporting Their Self Care Efforts

No matter how wonderful the work environment is, everybody needs time for self-care. According to the 2021 Gallup report, 57% of US and Canadian workers feel stressed at work during the day. Another 65% of workers said that stress at their place of work caused problems in their personal lives. 

Workers in the US are struggling. That’s what we’re here to help with at InnovatorsBox. It’s part of our mission statement. Where would we be if we didn’t help our own team members stress less during work? 

Ways you can support your employees with their self-care efforts include: provide access to coaching services, therapy, and wellness treatment programs; encourage them to use their vacation days; and give them space to be alone and free from distractions periodically throughout the workday.

3. Create Team Building Opportunities So Your Employees Feel United

Employees need alone time, but they also need a great team behind them. In a study by the Queens University of Charlotte, 3 out of 4 employers rated working together as a team and collaboration as “very important” in the workplace. 

Whichever way you choose to team build, whether it’s doing trust exercises, using collaborative productivity tools like Slack and Google Docs, or organizing company picnics, make sure you include everyone. All employees should attend the event or perform the task feeling like they belong, and that their coworkers and bosses have their backs. 

4. Talk About Their Future As You Thank Them For What They’ve Already Done

When you thank your team members personally for the great work they’ve done, be sure to talk about the future, as well. Be specific on how you think they are growing in the company and where you see them in the next few months, or even years. Emphasize that the rewards won’t stop, they will only grow. Your confidence in them will make them feel confident, too, and they will only become more efficient, productive, and creative. 

5. Ask Them What They Want (And Listen)

This last tip for thanking your employees is perhaps the most important one of all. 

According to a study performed by the Workforce Institute at UKG and Workplace Intelligence, 74% of employees feel they are more effective at their job when they are being heard by upper management. 

It is your responsibility as a business leader, as well as a human being, to ask your employees what they want, and then listen. Listening is key. You can ask all day long, but if you’re not paying attention to their answers, then they are speaking into the wind.  

Ask your employees how they want to be appreciated. Furthermore, ask them if there is anything you can do to help make their workplace experience better. Then listen to their answers, and make a commitment to act responsibly on their behalf. If it’s something you can help with, do so immediately. If not, explain why and figure out another solution.  

Ask them to really learn what they care about and how they want to grow:

  • How do you want to grow personally and professionally?
  • How do you want to grow as a person?
  • What can we do to grow together as a team?
  • Where do you need more support? 
  • What can we do differently in how we work to work better together?
  • Anything you want me to be aware of that I could be of help?

You’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn from your colleagues.

Conclusion: Lead With Gratitude

The statistics don’t lie: people are happier and more productive at work when they are appreciated and thanked. Make a promise to always lead your team members with gratitude. 

Happy holidays and Happy Thanksgiving!

About the Author

Picture of Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang, Founder, and CEO of InnovatorsBox® and Author of Rethink Creativity is transforming today’s workforce through the power of creativity. She helps companies rethink culture, leadership, and team development by making creativity practical and relatable regardless of industry or job title. She has worked with clients worldwide including Fortune 500 companies, higher education, government, and nonprofits. Monica’s work has been recognized by The White House, Ashoka Changemakers, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Prior to InnovatorsBox®, Monica was a nuclear nonproliferation policy expert. She holds an M.A. from SAIS Johns Hopkins University in Strategic Studies and International Economics and a B.A. from Boston University.

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