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The Power of “Thank You”  

You may have heard there’s power in gratitude. But did you know that power is measurable? When it comes to thanking employees, the writing is on the wall. Research from Bersin by Deloitte shows that effective recognition lowers turnover rates by 31 percent. And, when Gallup compared companies with high engagement scores (including those with employee appreciation programs) to those with low scores, they found those on top averaged 22 percent higher profitability. Finally, a joint study between Globoforce and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) cites a 32 percent increase in productivity for companies that practice peer-to-peer strategic recognition.

There are endless studies like these confirming employee appreciation programs are valuable. But what is it about simply thanking employees for a job well done? The science behind the act of thanking employees is eye opening. As Nicole Lazzaro of XEODesign recently explained to, there are four major chemicals in the brain that influence our happiness: Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins (DOSE). These chemicals are released in different ways when we feel appreciated.

  • Dopamine is a “striving” emotion and can be released when something good (like a pat on the back) is anticipated.
  • Oxytocin is triggered through social bonding, like eye contact, attentiveness and, yes, being thanked in person.
  • Seratonin is responsible for mood. Lazzaro explains that 80 percent of serotonin exists in the gut and can be affected by how hungry a person is. So, in a way, it really does makes food being the way to a person’s heart and, perhaps, makes a thank you lunch even more effective.
  • Endorphins mask pain and discomfort. Smiling can create endorphins that can help alleviate a stressful situation, which makes thanking employees for trying when the chips are down even more important.

These are the most basic building blocks that make employee appreciation programs so successful. But what about thanking job candidates? Author Maya Angelou famously said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

In the current business climate, when top candidates are difficult to attract, it’s important to ensure those who don’t make the final cut feel appreciated for their time. Forbes Contributor Liz Ryan suggests the best way to do this is through a phone call, not a form letter.

“You can call each applicant on the phone and very quickly explain that you’re making an offer (or have already made an offer, which was accepted) to someone else,” she says. “That’s more professional, more personal and more upright than [a] wimpy form letter. If you say ‘I have too many candidates to be able to do that’ then you are interviewing too many people!”

Gratitude can benefit you, as well. It can even improve your health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people, according to a study published in Personality and Individual DifferencesAmy Morin, a psychotherapist and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, says gratitude can reduce toxic emotions including envy, resentment, frustration and regret. It can also help you sleep better, think better and feel better about yourself.

Have you said thanks to your employees lately? How about job candidates? If you have, tell us your approach. Do you think it makes you feel as good as it makes them feel? Let us know! Oh, and thank you for reading this post!


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