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The gift of gratitude during times of change

With the holidays quickly approaching, gestures of gratitude are on the rise.

Whether it is greeting cards, team lunches and parties or bonuses, many companies and their leaders are expressing their thanks in different ways for a job well done.

As change specialists, we’re well aware of the positive impact that gratitude can provide. When people feel appreciated and acknowledged, they are better able to cope with changes that affect them personally.

Unfortunately, various studies and polls indicate that the gratitude that workers crave from their leaders and even colleagues often goes wanting. A Harvard Business Review article titled The Big Benefits of a Little Thanks found that 35% of people surveyed said their managers never thanked them while also noting that “even a tiny bit of gratitude can have a huge impact.”

Meanwhile, a Deloitte study reported that 85% of professionals want to hear Thank You in their daily interactions.

With such compelling statistics, how can organizations and senior leaders ensure their employees feel valued, particularly during times of great change? Here are a few of our suggestions based on past experiences and observations.

Make it personal

Some executives are so laser-focused on dealing with their day to day operations that taking the time to express gratitude simply isn’t a priority or they struggle with how to strike the right chord.

One thing we share with leaders that we collaborate with is that gratitude doesn’t have to be expressed in the form of a monetary award. While bonuses or gift cards are nice and have their place, it can be as simple as highlighting how a staff member or team contributed to a successful project or milestone.

On one project that we championed, we wrote down every week who we were grateful for on the team and why. We put post-its on a wall for all project team members to see which generated both trust and camaraderie.

In other instances, we’ve recommended providing treats or ordering meals for staff working long hours during particularly turbulent times to raise their energy and also morale. Not surprisingly, they were well-received.

The Deloitte study also highlighted how providing growth opportunities to staff who go beyond the call is another way of demonstrating your gratitude. This is welcomed across all generations and genders and is also a good way for organizations to build their expertise and reduce turnover.

Make it authentic

To truly resonate with staff, the gratitude you share should also be authentic. To accomplish this, sometimes leaders have to take a moment to reflect and ask: Who are we grateful for today? Or Who helped add to our success or challenged our thinking?

By articulating specific examples, you have an excellent opportunity to connect with your staff and show how much you value their efforts.

If you are looking for a great role model on how to connect with your staff, you would be hard-pressed to find a better one than Belfor Holdings CEO Sheldon Yellen. Business Insider chronicled his proud tradition of hand-writing birthday cards to each of his estimated 9,200 employees along with notes and cards to mark other occasions.

Make it fun

Expressing gratitude can take many forms and sometimes it can be expressed in a light way.

For example, when we work with organizations that are replacing a system or technology, we’ll usually usher out the old system with a Goodbye cake and cake cutting ceremony. It’s a great way to gather key team members in a social setting and recognize those who have been involved in the change effort.

One executive we know circulated a song of the week that captured the sentiment of the project team. One of the favourites was Bob Marley’s Keep on Moving.

Whatever activity you choose, the important thing to remember is that taking the time to celebrate special moments with your staff can build long-lasting bonds and loyalty that can only make your organization stronger and more successful.

Reap the rewards

With a wealth of research showing the benefits of providing ongoing gratitude – including increased engagement, productivity and resilience – isn’t it time for organizations to take stock of how they are recognizing people for their efforts?

While the holiday season is certainly a good time to share your feedback, why not make it a year-round tradition?

Note: This marks our final blog post for 2019. A sincere thanks to all of our followers. We hope you keep following us next year and feel free to reach out to us at

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