Celebrating Gratitude on World Gratitude Day

thank you sign“The Great Resignation.” “The Mass Exodus.” “The Big Quit.” Or how we at Workhuman think of it - “The Great Talent Swap.” Whatever you call it, the figures are remarkable – and alarming.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, during the months of April, May, and June 2021, a total of 11.5 million workers quit their job. And in a Workhuman® survey of more than 3,500 workers in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, and Canada, nearly 4 in 10 (38%) said they plan to look for a new job in the next 12 months. Compare those figures to the findings of Workhuman’s December 2019 survey when just 21% – nearly half as many workers – were looking for a new job. When you consider the cost to replace an employee can be as much as 2x that worker’s salary, we’re talking about business losses measured in the billions of dollars.

What’s sparked this sudden uptick in people looking to bring their skills and talent elsewhere? According to the Workhuman survey, “The pandemic has forced a dramatic shift in the employer/employee relationship. It’s also helped workers realize what really matters when it comes to their career.” In fact, among those workers planning to look for a new job, one-third (30%) cited “more flexibility” as the primary reason to make a move – just behind, “My salary is too low.”

Gratitude – the antidote to mass employee resignation

The survey examined three key areas of opportunity that will help companies stay competitive and retain employees during these unprecedented times:

  1. Appreciation
  2. Communication
  3. Psychological safety

To mark this special day, World Gratitude Day, let’s take a moment and explore the first area: appreciation. As the survey points out, one of the best antidotes to mass employee resignation is, in a word, “gratitude.” Not only does gratitude – fueled by employee recognition – correlate with a lower risk of turnover, expressing appreciation to others and being a recipient of gratitude and appreciation contributes to the overall health of your organization.

And the data backs it up. As the survey notes, receiving thanks can be a powerful factor in whether an employee is thinking of leaving a company:

Workers recognized in the last month are half as likely to be looking for a new job (26% vs. 49%).

Gratitude delivers other benefits as well. Employees that have been recognized in the last month – compared to those who have never been recognized – are:

  • Nearly 2x as likely to be highly engaged (60% vs. 32%)
  • Nearly 3x as likely to agree their work has meaning and purpose (53% vs. 18%)
  • More than 4x as likely to agree their company’s leadership team is appreciative of the work they’re doing (59% vs. 13%)
  • More than 4x as likely to be happy at work (47% vs. 11%)

Gratitude changes the giver and the receiver

What’s more, the actual act of saying “thank you” to a colleague has demonstrably positive effects. The survey notes that givers of gratitude are:

  • More than 2x as likely to be highly engaged (54% vs. 21%)
  • Nearly 3x as likely to agree their work has meaning and purpose (46% vs. 16%)
  • Nearly 3x as likely to agree their company’s leadership team is appreciative of the work they’re doing (47% vs. 16%)
  • More than 3x as likely to be happy at work (38% vs. 13%)

As the survey points out, “Gratitude changes the giver and the receiver. Multiply these positive impacts across an organization or a company, and gratitude can change culture. Case in point: Respondents were asked what happened to their company’s culture during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those recognized in the last month were nearly 3x as likely to say their culture got better – with more connection and cohesion across teams.”

Employee recognition – driving a culture of gratitude

So what’s the best way to infuse a culture of gratitude into an organization? According to the survey, it’s through an employee recognition program, defined as “a company initiative to reward employees for achievements, anniversaries, and milestones.” When a comprehensive, strategic, company-wide recognition program is present, employees are:

  • Much more likely to feel a sense of connection to their company (53% vs. 30%)
  • More than 2x as likely to see a path to grow in the organization (38% vs. 16%)
  • 2x as likely to trust their company’s leadership team to make the right decisions for the company and its stakeholders (40% vs. 20%)

At a time when companies and their leadership teams are seeking ways to show they care, building an organizational culture of gratitude – fueled by an employee recognition program – is perhaps your most valuable tool in strengthening culture and protecting against turnover.

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About the Author

Aaron Kinne

Aaron Kinne is a senior writer at Workhuman.

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