Connected Culture, Curated Communications

30-Day Gratitude Action Plan

two post its, one says don't forget, one says thanks with happy face, gratitude workplace plan

Is the glass half empty? Is it half full? Or is it just a glass of water? The answer to that question all comes down to your perspective and how you frame your words.

Those who adopt a ‘glass half full’ perspective live happier, more fulfilling lives – both at home and the workplace. That’s why we’re talking about gratitude today, just in time for Thanksgiving!

Genuine gratitude (or a lack thereof) can make or break an organization

By definition, gratitude is the quality of being thankful. Publicly sharing and applauding your team’s effort and accomplishments is key to building a positive workplace. The world’s best companies incorporate gratitude into their culture in a meaningful way. 

Research has proven, time and time again, that focusing on appreciation and positivity improves employee engagement and well-being. Morale-boosters are universally appreciated, and gratitude is an easy, inexpensive tool that fuels productivity. 

The biggest benefits of gratitude

Regular recognition results in improved mental and physical health – leading to:

  • Increased self-esteem, compassion, patience, sensitivity towards others, and resilience
  • Decreased resentment, envy, depression, hostility, and feelings of victimization

We’re willing to bet these are all things you’d like to see from your employees. But why is gratitude such an effective morale-boosting tool?

Think about it. Your employees get out of bed every morning and choose to spend a majority of their waking hours supporting your business. That’s a huge commitment, and that’s just the beginning. For most of us, work creeps into our personal lives, and closing the laptop doesn’t turn off the part of our brain that’s mulling over the next big contract. 

The truth is, for many of us, work permeates life – and if that level of personal sacrifice isn’t regularly, meaningfully acknowledged – employers will face engagement and retention issues.

Gratitude by the numbers

Studies consistently show that lack of gratitude results in job dissatisfaction, turnover, and burnout. In fact, the number one reason people leave jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated

On the flip side, Gratitude at Work’s stats illustrate how impactful kind words can be:

  • 93% of people agree that grateful bosses are more likely to succeed.
  • 88% of people say that expressing gratitude to colleagues makes them feel happier and more fulfilled.
  • A study by Harvard University and Wharton showed that receiving a thank you from a supervisor boosted productivity by more than 50%. 
  • 81% of people would work harder for a grateful boss.
  • Complacency and entitlement cost employers $2,670 per employee every single year.

So how does this impact a company’s bottom line? A Gallup study showed that more than two-thirds of employees do not receive any praise in a given week, even though the same research revealed that getting praise or recognition for good work increased revenue by 10% to 20%.

We could keep going on about the benefits of gratitude, but you get it, right? As a human being, there’s a good chance all of these things resonate. So now it’s time to share the love. How?

Implementing a 30-day gratitude action plan 

Adopting an attitude of gratitude shouldn’t be a solitary movement or a one-time initiative. Instead, it needs to be consistent enough that it becomes habitual. As a start, here are three simple things you can do right now to incorporate gratitude into your organization:

1. Launch a commitment to focus on thoughtful framing.

Creating a gratitude culture is a whole team effort, but it starts from the top. And there’s more to gratitude than constant thanks and praise. The core of it comes down to how leaders and employees frame daily conversations.

Leaders must buy-in to the idea of framing, as words that come from executives have a lot of influence. If all-hands meetings always kick off with “we missed this” or “that could have been better” rather than celebrating a milestone or achievement, over time, it will discourage your team and make them feel like the things they did accomplish weren’t as meaningful. To avoid this issue, executives should be mindful of the ratio of positive reinforcement and constructive feedback they deliver, both at company-wide and team-specific meetings. 

If a leader needs to call a meeting to address an issue, it’s best to provide employees with an agenda on what to expect ahead of time so it doesn’t catch them off guard. Knowing what to expect will also allow team members to come to the table prepared with ideas on how to make positive changes moving forward.

When delivering feedback in a one-on-one setting, career and leadership coach, Gia Ganesh, suggests the following approach, “Frame [it] in a way that [puts] the focus on the change that needs to occur without resorting to accusations. Include the benefit to the person making that change [and] change the focus from “you” to “how” to help deliver the message.”

Business and life coach, Gina Gomez, encourages framing that leverages the age-old adage to think before you speak and treat others the way you want to be treated. She says, “​​Think about why you feel the need to share the criticism. If it’s truly to help someone improve performance, approach it from a place of how you would want the information communicated to you. Stay factual to avoid an emotional confrontation and make sure you create the space for it to be a conversation (versus a directive) that leads to a positive outcome.”

Here are a few other go-to guidelines that will help your leadership team be intentional and use emotional intelligence to build strong relationships throughout your organization:

  • Praise in public, criticize in private
  • Be specific about changes or behaviors you’d like to see
  • Frame constructive criticism as an opportunity for growth whenever possible
  • If you’re not in a good state of mind to have a productive conversation, table it for later
  • Focus on building a collaborative environment by encouraging new ideas

The big so what is, the single highest driver of workplace engagement is whether workers feel like their managers care about them and their well-being. The way a leader approaches delivering positive and constructive feedback has a significant impact on the health of the working relationships within their team. 

People teams can proactively support conscientious communication across all levels of the organization by providing training on thoughtful framing.

2. Build in easy ways to recognize teams and individuals consistently.

There’s been a dynamic shift among teams these last two years as colleagues saw each other struggle and supported each other through a foreign COVID world. Overwhelmingly, the result has been tight-knit colleagues getting to know each other and each other’s families – mostly through Zoom or your virtual meeting platform of choice – on a different level. 

As a result, teams have a new respect for the balancing act we’re all working on perfecting and can support one another more intuitively. Why? Because now we can see all the things our colleagues juggle each day. 

How does that translate to workplace gratitude? Thanks to their increased closeness, team members are more willing to celebrate each other’s successes and lift each other up.

Consider using this shift to your advantage by implementing a peer-to-peer praise system and putting some of the onus on your employees to celebrate each other. Giving people a platform and process for championing colleagues and celebrating wins goes a long way in building a gratitude-powered culture. There are easy, automated, and structured ways to encourage gratitude, e.g., surfacing recommendations to individuals on who they may want to give praise to based on recent meetings in their calendar, featuring kudos from different departments on a weekly basis, mapping gratitude to company values to encourage specific behaviors, or scheduling a recurring Gratitude Week.

When you structure a recognition and reward system, be thoughtful about your process. Often, the most visible people within a company garner the most kudos, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the team is doing less work. 

To avoid having people feel left out, consider accepting nominations that include anonymous self-nominations and randomly select a set number of people to celebrate based on your company size. You may surface some ‘quiet but mighty’ all-stars who are doing great things.

3. Ask everyone to add a little more detail to praise this month.

Which of these acknowledgments has more impact:

“Jen is super great – let’s all say thanks to Jen!”  Or:

“Huge shout out to Jen for working her butt off to bring our Q4 app overhaul project to a successful conclusion. She tirelessly drove the project forward by spearheading research efforts, collaborating with our engineering team, and performing endless QA tests to make sure we were ready for a seamless launch. Major kudos, Jen! Thank you so much.”

If you chose option two, we agree. 

Think about your career to date. Has there ever been a time when you felt like your efforts have gone unnoticed, or you’ve been overlooked? That feeling is born from a lack of recognition for your effort. Employees can see that their leaders and peers are really paying attention when they receive feedback that includes acknowledgment of specific actions. Detailed feedback also helps employees establish good habits because they know what elicits praise.

Ultimately, companies that prioritize making the time to be specific build stronger cultures. As a result, their team operates more efficiently, and everyone gets to take advantage of all the incredible productivity and revenue gains we talked about at the beginning of this post.

Action Plan Summary

When it comes to gratitude in the workplace, there’s nothing to lose and so much to gain. Use the next 30 days to build an action plan to cultivate a transformative culture of gratitude in your organization. Don’t be afraid to take fast action and optimize your process over time. Here are three things you can do to get started right away.

1. Launch a commitment to focus on thoughtful framing.

Use the guidelines above to train your team on how to deliver effective feedback and incorporate more praise into their day-to-day interactions.

  • First, copy and paste some of the tips shared above into an email and send it to your leadership team.
  • Over time, consider offering managers and executives access to ongoing training or one-on-one coaching sessions to build their leadership skills.

2. Build in easy ways to recognize teams and individuals consistently.

The key here is making praise and gratitude a habit – so whatever you do, make it a goal to inspire frequent, consistent participation across all levels of your organization.

  • First, consider setting up a channel dedicated to public praise on your company’s chat platform and encourage employees to recognize a colleague once a week. Test choosing a specific day and sending out reminders to prompt action.
  • Over time, make your recognition program more robust. Create new processes with channels for submitting nominations, build a celebratory component into your all-hands meetings, or include prize incentives to increase participation.

3. Ask everyone to add a little more detail to praise this month

Being specific is the quickest and easiest step to implement, but it does take discipline, especially on resource-constrained teams. 

  • Start by encouraging leaders to include at least three specific bullet points in any public praise they deliver.
  • Over time, try to build another layer into your praise system by celebrating team members who prioritize recognizing others. Acknowledging progress toward consistent, effective praise can help you build momentum when it comes to participation.

For a lot of us, this year felt like an ever-so-slightly better version of 2020. We faced many of the same challenges – but some silver linings started to appear, with a shimmer of normal on the horizon. As we head into the holiday season, focus on gratitude by giving your team something to celebrate. Acknowledge the good things that happened this year – big or small. 

Be glass half full. Thanks! 🙂

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