Employers who think that paying staff well is enough to ensure their loyalty are in for a rude awakening — especially if they are hiring millennials.
New research conducted by a US human resources company shows that 66 per cent of all workers say they’d leave their job if they didn’t feel appreciated, and 77 per cent of those aged in their 20s say they’d walk out on an ungrateful employer.
It seems gratitude is the secret weapon in the battle to retain talent. Thankfulness, however, has also been linked to everything from strengthened relationships, to decreased absenteeism, to increased productivity.
Professor Robert Emmons, a leading researcher on gratitude, believes that far from being something employers can add to the bottom of the to-do list, focusing on how they can best foster appreciation is the key to developing positive workplace cultures.
“Most of our waking hours are spent on the job, and gratitude, in all its forms, is a basic human requirement,” Emmons told Stephanie Vozza in Fast Company. “Gratitude is the ultimate performance-enhancing substance at work.”
Aren’t cash bonuses enough to make staff feel appreciated? It seems money doesn’t always speak the language staff most need to hear. There is overwhelming evidence that performance-related pay can in fact be counter-productive and lead to a reduction in an employee’s natural desire to feel pleasure from completing a task.
Smart employers know that regular praise and more personalised tokens of gratitude are just as effective. From company-wide emails sent to staff acknowledging outstanding individual contributions, to handwritten thank you cards, to celebratory events organised not just for staff but for their families too — it seems frequency and authenticity matter more than the monetary value of the gesture.
Connecting to causes that staff care about is also enormously powerful. The Macquarie Group Foundation encourages employees to identify local causes that matter to them, and offers to match their donations and fundraising efforts.
This year, Division Director Terence Kwan’s team elected to work with Women’s Community Shelters, a charity that partners with communities to establish domestic violence refuges and house homeless women.
Apart from raising enough funds to support a shelter to run for 12 months, Kwan and his colleagues helped in more practical ways too. They rolled up their sleeves and offered unskilled support by physically helping WCS move offices, but also put their considerable professional expertise to use. Two team members, a lawyer and a operational risk consultant, joined the board of Bayside, a new refuge opening in southeast Sydney.
The partnership has helped foster a deep sense of connection within Kwan’s division. He notes that “it’s been an incredibly powerful way for me to learn more about my staff’s capabilities, about what motivates them, and to build trust.”
Dr Natalie Ferres, Chief Connection Officer at management consultancy Bendelta, believes that “thankfulness effects the bottom line. Not all workplaces realise how important it is for the leadership to show gratitude, but smart ones are starting to actively cultivate this and seek out leaders who intrinsically understand the importance of expressing appreciation in meaningful ways”.
In my work teaching gratitude skills to schoolchildren, I’ve observed parents and teachers are eager to encourage gratitude practices as they believe these will lead to happier, less entitled children — that it will breed more young people who are like the ever-appreciative Charlie Bucket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory than the “I want it now!” foot stamping Veruca Salt.
The eccentric Willy Wonka may have made his most astute and progressive management decision when he bequeathed his beloved chocolate factory to Charlie — after first testing all the golden tickets holder’s gratitude credentials.
This post was first published by The Daily Telegraph, 19/8/17. To enquire about having me talk to your students about gratitude, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org