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Gratitude may be the secret to overcoming the talent crisis

You’ve probably never thought to show your appreciation when things go wrong, but that’s precisely when employees need to feel valued.

Gratitude may be the secret to overcoming the talent crisis
[Photo credits: fizkes / Adobe Stock Card link:]

Back in April, 4 million Americans quit their jobs, setting a 20-year record high. With the increased number of openings, workers can be more selective, and it’s causing a major talent shortage. According to Hawke Media, 46% of companies can’t find the right combination of people and skills in the job market. Employers are responding by offering higher wages, signing bonuses, and even cash for showing up to interviews.

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Better pay is a powerful motivator, but in my experience, when an employee jumps ship, it’s not just about the money. A study of 200,000 managers and employees found that 79% of people who quit their jobs cite lack of appreciation as a major reason for leaving. More than half of employees feel they worked harder last year than ever before but haven’t been recognized for it.

Feeling disconnected and underappreciated can lead to lower productivity and, ultimately, higher turnover. On the flip side, we’ve found that gratitude is the foundation for long-lasting loyalty. When managers are effective at recognizing employees, they see lower turnover. Another study found significant correlation between gratitude and job satisfaction.

While it may seem obvious that people who feel appreciated are more likely to stick around, gratitude is still underutilized in the workplace. One big reason is that leaders just don’t know how to show their appreciation without throwing meaningless money at the problem. If this sounds familiar, here are five concrete ways to practice gratitude within your organization.

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1. SHOW EMPATHY WHEN THINGS GO WRONG

One of the most obvious ways to express your gratitude is to thank employees for a job well done. You’ve probably never thought to show your appreciation when things go wrong, but that’s precisely when employees need to feel valued. This might mean treating your team to lunch when you don’t land that big client, or cutting a frazzled employee some slack on a missed deadline.

The IBM Employee Experience index found that employees who have more positive experiences at work are more likely to go above and beyond in their roles. Keeping morale high when things aren’t going well will help your team bounce back from setbacks.

2. GIVE EMPLOYEES A RAISE, AND TELL THEM WHY

Just because money isn’t the only factor in employee retention doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Even happy employees may be tempted to leave if they receive a compelling offer.

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A pay raise is one way to show your appreciation, and explaining why the employee deserves it will make it more meaningful. You don’t have to point to any single big event. Sometimes recognizing the small things employees do can be even more impactful.

3. EMBED GRATITUDE WITHIN YOUR CULTURE

If you want to make gratitude part of your company culture, you need to practice it on a regular basis. A great place to start your practice is by helping your employees appreciate the people they work with.

With so many company events now taking place virtually, it’s getting harder for people to form meaningful connections with their coworkers. Instead of hosting a stuffy Zoom gathering, why not try a monthly lunch or dinner? While you eat, go around and ask each employee to share something or someone they’re grateful for. This will help your team get to know one another and appreciate each other as human beings.

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Another simple way to practice gratitude is to allocate time each quarter for employees to write thank-you notes to their coworkers. For employees who need help getting started, they could try my signature question: “If you could give credit or thanks to one person in your life that you don’t give enough credit or thanks to, who would that be?”

4. PRIORITIZE DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION

One way to cultivate gratitude in your organization is to champion diversity and inclusion. Your team members’ different lived experiences make their perspectives invaluable, and it’s important to create an environment where those differences are acknowledged and appreciated. But one great long-tail effect of championing diversity is that it allows us to see past our differences to those values we hold in common. Digging deeper to find that common ground allows us to develop a deep appreciation for the people around us.

There’s a good chance that you’re already prioritizing diversity and inclusion within your organization, but what about your suppliers and vendors? Certifiably Diverse founder and CEO Tracey Grace emphasizes that prioritizing supplier diversity is a powerful way to support businesses run by underrepresented groups. Ensuring your supply chain is diverse can be a challenge, but using a platform to curate diverse suppliers can take some of the legwork out of sourcing.

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5. GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY

While donating to a good cause might not seem like the best way to attract talent, research shows that volunteer programs improve hiring and retention. As it turns out, workers are highly interested in their employer’s philanthropic endeavors. Two-thirds of employees feel it’s important for companies to give back (including three-quarters of millennials).

Employees increasingly want to feel that their employer is a force for good in the world. Matching employee donations, offering time off for volunteering, or organizing community workdays can foster gratitude and give employees a sense of pride in their workplace.

The effects of gratitude are now well-understood, but too few leaders are actually practicing it. Gratitude isn’t some corporate initiative to check off your list; it’s a way of moving through the world, and it has a measurable effect on the people you lead. If you really want to see an impact, you must be intentional about practicing gratitude until it’s embedded in your organization.

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Chris Schembra – The science of using Gratitude to get through hard times.

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