Commentary: Employees are the personality of your workplace; they are its heart and soul. They carry out the mission of the company, bringing life to your vision. And in their dealings with one another they represent the human side of your business and define its culture — they’re the lifeblood of your enterprise. Employees are your business.

Employee appreciation means different things to different companies. Some have a formal program like “employee-of-the-month” to support service and production goals, while others might sponsor a quarterly luncheon or group activity to boost morale and build teamwork. The possibilities are endless. In any shape or practice, the action of showing appreciation for employees’ work and dedication is an important part of driving employee engagement. How it permeates company culture, well, that’s another story that many employees are still writing. In my experience, employees themselves create a culture of gratitude — amongst themselves, acting on the values passed down from their leaders.  

The power of peer-to-peer recognition

We all know that recognition from our leaders is motivating. It ties into conventional psychology — when a person is acknowledged for their efforts, it encourages them to keep up the good work and contributes to their satisfaction. That’s why companies put appreciation programs in place. But what about getting recognition from our co-workers? A special brand of respect, even sincerity, comes along with a colleague’s show of support. There’s some emotional impact, and I encourage you to think about how peer-to-peer employee appreciation plays a role in your culture.

It can be too easy to take our teammates for granted, even with the best intentions of keeping up friendly relations. We’d be lost without the special skills someone brings to the table, or we’d lose direction if it weren’t for another’s inspiring optimism — but do we encourage one another to stop and take notice? We work hard together on a project, but at the end of the day we wipe our brow and head out the door, happy to put the day behind us. The simple gesture of saying thanks speaks volumes, but it’s something people have to experience and practice themselves. They call this an “attitude of gratitude,” and employers can help cultivate it — I’ve seen it happen, and we’re working hard to maintain it at GuideSpark.

Working with leadership and rank-and-file employee teams across several companies, I’ve seen that building a culture of gratitude takes leading by example. Organizations can take their employee appreciation programs to the next level by simply inviting everyone to participate — by making it easy for them connect with colleagues and say “thanks.” Some ideas for putting this into action are to ask employees to recognize co-workers in weekly status meetings, provide employees with thank-you coupons their co-workers can save up and trade-in for small gift cards, encourage employees to call out someone’s hard work over social media or to simply build a culture of saying “thanks” in e-mail.

Employee Appreciation Day is this Friday, March 6, but at GuideSpark, we’re celebrating for the entire week beginning on March 2. And in the spirit of gratitude, we’ve created a special “thank you” video for any and all employees to send to their co-workers.  Join us in spreading the thanks: share this with your coworker in the next cubicle, across the hall, or around the world and let them know how much you appreciate them.

Keith Kitani is CEO of Guidespark, an employee communication and engagement company.

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