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Why HR Should Cultivate a Company Culture of Gratitude

With this being the time of year we give thanks, gratitude is on our minds as much as gravy.

Of the two, gratitude should be a year-round practice. After all, it’s the only one among the pair to actually improve physical health. (No offense, gravy. You are loved.)

It’s true: As reported in Psychology Today, a 2012 study found that those who are grateful “experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people.”

Furthermore, a study investigating gratitude’s effect on sleep found that participants who kept “gratitude journals” reported increases in time spent exercising and sleeping by a respective 19% and 8%. (Bonus: The quality of said sleep jumped by 25%, which is a leap I can – *yawn* – certainly get behind.)

But the overall physical benefit is hardly the only reason to onboard gratitude and introduce the concept as a regular face throughout your organization.

Gratitude plus people

Look, work is often stressful, and while negativity is contagious, so is positivity. Not to say we should act phony and unrealistic, but who wouldn’t want to work in an environment where people sincerely thank and appreciate one another?

Studies show embodying a positive attitude increases happiness and empathy, while decreasing depression and aggressive behaviors. Lest you doubt gratitude’s ability to spread like a virus, a pair of studies found a discernible link between showing gratitude and having more “social capital” – that is, being liked.

Constant cravings

Your employees crave gratitude. Consider these statistics:

  • For more than 25% of employees, recognition stands among their three most important factors for staying at a job, per Achievers.
  • Nine in 10 HR executives believe recognition programs improve the employee experience, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.
  • Employee Benefit News magazine reports a disparity between senior leaders and their employees. While 22% of the former do not see a link between gratitude and retention, a whopping 70% of the latter say being appreciated by their managers makes a “massive” difference.

And yet, so few companies express gratitude well. Greater Good magazine cited a survey of 2,000 Americans, in which respondents “are less likely to feel or express gratitude at work than anyplace else.”

What can HR do?

Showing appreciation doesn’t take much; for 85% of employees in a Deloitte study, it literally can be as simple as saying “thank you” for their everyday work – a gesture that costs nothing.

Cultivating a gratitude-first culture can include sharing kudos companywide, via email, intranet or break room bulletin board. Encouraging co-workers to single one another out for specific praise helps foster morale and engagement, especially across departments.

Other companies go a step further by surprising employees who express gratitude with a financial reward, whether that be cash or a gift card. Even a small amount offers big support to your overall initiative.

Regardless of how your organization chooses to incorporate gratitude, thank you for reading!