How measuring gratitude can help entire companies work better

Data analytics hasn’t moved as quickly into HR, but workplace and employee data offers a more complete view of how work really gets done through human connections.

How measuring gratitude can help entire companies work better
[Source photo: Lady-Photo/iStock]

“Gratitude is the high-octane fuel without which we’d be in relational ruin . . . organizations, families, societies would crumble,” according to Robert Emmons, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis.


One way organizations can infuse gratitude into their cultures–and generate useful data in the process–is by implementing an employee recognition program.

Social recognition is a real-time stream of the excellent work happening in your company, and it empowers all employees to reward each other for behaviors that align with your values and mission. While most recognition awards are public to the whole organization, givers do have the option to make the award details private. Role-based security allows data access for only certain roles, such as program administrators and executives.

Peer-to-peer recognition strengthens ties among team members and departments. It illuminates how large employees’ networks are, which employees have cross-departmental and cross-functional networks, and who holds highly central roles regardless of title. These influential employees are likely enjoying a positive employee experience, which correlates to better work performance.

Jennifer Faulkner, vice president of team member experience at Baystate Health, said, “When we see recognition flowing multidirectionally between different entities like community hospitals and our academic medical center, we know that we are truly helping to better integrate our health system.”

Employee recognition data also shows which departments have isolated or less engaged people and where to put more effort into helping them communicate, collaborate, and recognize each other. This brings to light all the goodness that comes with expressing gratitude at work, which can lead to a reduction in costly voluntary turnover.

There are three other areas that data analytics on recognition and gratitude can have an impact.



There’s more to the typical people leader’s job than having one-on-ones and guiding more junior employees. They’re in meetings, approving projects, and ensuring all the work for which their employees are responsible is getting done. As such–especially on large teams–they can’t see everything.

For First Tech Federal Credit Union, continuous performance management made up of feedback, check-ins, and priorities dramatically improved communication. “We know which leaders are really interacting with employees. I’m most excited about the data we can leverage to make improvements for leaders and employees, ultimately supporting measurable business results,” said Chary Krout, former senior vice president of human resources at First Tech and now co-owner and partner at Cultivate.

Company values

Engaged employees are less likely to leave and more likely to feel connected to their colleagues and organization. You can inspire that engagement by tying your organization’s values to reward activity.

The resulting recognition program data can then show which values your employees frequently use to recognize each other. This can clarify with which values they most and least align and show where you need to more clearly define values.

Diversity and inclusion

Recognition data can also help your leadership team understand the state of diversity and inclusion in your organization. Because everyone communicates differently, it’s possible to get a window into unconscious bias by observing how people write to one another within an employee recognition program. By analyzing their words, trends emerge that show how fair and equitable your organization truly is and illuminate areas for improvement and opportunity.

In one case, we’ve observed that women receive awards for teamwork one and a half times more often than other award types than men do. Women also receive awards more frequently, but they’re receiving about 12% less in value–and that’s from other women, too, not just from men. It’s one kind of unconscious bias that shows up in the data.


Knowing diversity and inclusion data specific to your organization can unveil pay equity challenges, show where you can overcome bias, build empathy among all levels of the organization, and do a better job of amplifying employee voices.

Gratitude changes the giver

We often discuss recognition from the perspective of the recipient–the person who is recognized–and how data shows they are more likely to be engaged and less likely to voluntarily resign. For instance, as a company, LinkedIn saw a 95% retention rate for all employees who receive four or more awards annually.

But as Workhuman CEO Eric Mosley emphasizes, “The act of giving in recognition is even more profound. When you write a special message describing how it impacted you, you are vulnerable at that moment. You’re authentic. Gratitude changes the giver.”

Data can show where people need and give support, who your most committed employees are, and where to improve in order to lead a truly human-focused company. This information is vital for leaders who want their organizations to succeed in this new world of business.

Jesse Harriott is the global head of Analytics at Workhuman and executive director of the Workhuman Analytics and Research Institute.