• July 2011

The Big Impact of Two Little Words—"Thank You"

By Barbara Mitchell
HR Expert and Co-Author
The Essential HR Handbook

Sometimes the result of thinking big can be a simple, free action with a huge payoff.
I am talking about something as easy as saying “thank you” to an employee who does something particularly well, or who surprises you with his or her initiative or inventiveness.

Survey after survey says that what employees crave the most is being thanked and, for the life of me, I can’t understand why more leaders don’t say thank you more often.

After all, it costs nothing to say thanks. It doesn’t take any time to say thanks.

And, if all the research is right, saying thanks goes a long way toward making employees feel rewarded and engaged. In fact, 76 percent of employees who responded to a World at Work survey published by Randstad, an Atlanta-based employment services firm, said feeling valued was the most important factor for happiness at work.

I saw a perfect example of this recently at a client site. A new manager took the initiative, without anyone suggesting she should do it, to create a welcome notebook for a new hire.

She included all sorts of valuable information to help the new hire be productive as quickly as possible. She said she thought about what she would have liked to have known when she was hired and used that as her guide.

When she showed the notebook to her director, the director nearly jumped for joy at having an employee who went the extra mile. The director thanked the manager privately and then, at their all-employee meeting, thanked her publicly.

As you can imagine, this manager glowed with pride at having done something that was so well received by the organization. She has been told that her work is being shared with other managers and will form the basis of standard operating procedures for the entire department.

She will, no doubt, be rewarded with more than thanks down the road, but the simple act of being thanked was reward enough—I know, since I was there to see her face as her manager praised her actions. This is the kind of small action that gets a big payoff.

How does your organization thank employees?

Are managers encouraged to say thanks? Do you have formal rewards and recognition programs? If so, have you taken a look at them in the past few years to see if they are still relevant to your workforce?

How do you personally acknowledge good work? Hopefully, like the example above, you say “thank you” early and often to encourage employees and to let them know that you are acknowledging them for their commitment to you and to your organization.


About Barbara Mitchell

Mitchell is a human resources and organization development consultant who is widely known in the areas of recruitment and retention. She has experience in both for-profit and not-for-profit sectors and has consulted for a variety of organizations around the world.

She served in senior human resources leadership positions with Marriott International and several technology firms in the Washington, DC, area before co-founding the Millennium Group International, which she sold in 2008.

Mitchell is a graduate of North Park University in Chicago, with a degree in History and Political Science. Contact Barbara by email.

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