Once a Year is Not Enough: 3 Incredibly Simple Ways to Thank Your People

A survey of millions of American workers conducted by the Gallup Corporation discovered that 65% of them received no praise or recognition for the work they did in the past year. That’s right, for two-thirds of the workforce a whopping 52 weeks went by without any affirmation. It’s like we’re saying to our employees, “I told you I loved you when I married (hired) you. If it changes I’ll let you know.”

Is this what it’s like working for you? No praise given for work well done? No thanks offered for extra effort? No recognition awarded for accomplishment? No wonder your leadership effectiveness is waning with your people.

Here’s the crazy thing: praise is free! Bootstrapping entrepreneurs working on a limited budget have just as much access to this resource as the largest corporation. Here are three incredibly simple ways four you to give it.

1. Weekly Thanks-giving

No week should go by without the people who work for you being praised in some way. Private compliments, thoughtful notes, public accolades at staff meetings, and personalized voice mail messages must all become part of your leadership repertoire. Like anything else in life, it’s a habit that must be learned. Put three poker chips in your right pocket at the beginning of every day and move a chip to your left pocket when you thank someone for their good work. Make sure that at the end of every business day all the poker chips have been moved to your left pocket.

2. Quarterly Thanks-giving

Break down your yearly goals into quarterly sprints. Create finish lines, specific measurable targets, that people can hit each quarter, or every month of each quarter. Post these targets prominently on the wall and keep track of people’s progress. When finish lines are crossed, celebrate. A sales team I work with does this every month, and it injects our meetings with energy and enthusiasm.

3. Annual Thanks-giving

There’s a place for a big Thanksgiving Day-like event in your company as well. Annual reward and recognition allows you to celebrate major milestones and rally the entire company. Create a fun, meaningful yearly event where you publicly recognize excellence and reward years of service. Here’s a warning, however. If you don’t do steps one and two, an event like this will feel hollow and quickly become the company joke.

Your business budget for these three things should be around 1% of total compensation. For weekly rhythms, get nice stationary or note cards and drop in the occasional gift certificate to a local coffee shop, spending $5 – $10 per person per month. For quarterly recognition and reward, spend a bit more, $50 – $100 per person per quarter, and tie it into achieving certain goals for that period of time. Finally, invest $100 – $500 per person in annual career recognition.

Bottom line: When it comes to saying “Thank you”, once a year is not enough.