Thanksgiving is upon us and the spirit of this holiday always encourages me to stop and reflect on the things in my life that I am grateful for and offer appreciation. I think this reflection comes easy when I consider my personal life. I am extremely grateful for my family—mom, dad, sister, boyfriend, and friends—those who have shaped the person I am and supported me throughout my life. But for me, and I think many others too, stopping and reflecting on the things and people in our organizations that we are grateful for can be more of a challenge. I don’t think enough organizations take time to truly show appreciate for the employees that shape and support them. Sure, we offer a few days off and perhaps even a holiday party or appreciation gift. But does that company-branded umbrella or mug truly tell your employees their value to your organization and give them the appreciation they need and deserve? In a new book written by several members of the leadership team at O.C. Tanner, Appreciate, they share that, “appreciation and gratitude are far more complex than someone receiving a nice thing – it’s a connection between two or more people that benefit everyone… in other words, it isn’t just about the reward. It involves morality, connecting with others, and even taking their perspective. It teaches us what it’s like to be them.”
"Appreciation and gratitude are far more complex than someone receiving a nice thing – it’s a connection between two or more people that benefit everyone… in other words, it isn’t just about the reward. It involves morality, connecting with others, and even taking their perspective. It teaches us what it’s like to be them.”
--Appreciate: Celebrating People, Inspiring Greatness
Over the summer, I had the fortunate opportunity to attend a conference called Influence Greatness, #Greatness17, hosted by O.C. Tanner, an organization with more than 80 years in the employee recognition and engagement business. O.C. Tanner is a company that truly understands the impact of appreciation on employee motivation and organizational success. They also sure know how to throw an amazing conference! From the moment I arrived, I, as an attendee, felt appreciated! Imagine that! The welcome bag I was given was thoughtful and helpful for the days ahead. It included not just a company-branded bag with the conference agenda inside that I have come to expect at conferences like this, but one that was easy to carry on a mountain—we were in the mountains of Utah after all. It included a stainless steel water bottle and handy flashlight (high-altitude and mountain essentials), a journal for notes, and a book to read during downtime that really helped me reflect on what I was learning. Sure, it is all stuff, all just things that anyone could give. But, to the point made above, appreciation and gratitude are more than giving a nice thing, it is about connecting people and taking their perspective. This company considered the perspective of the guests at their conference when designing their swag bag. It was more than stuff; it helped each of us feel more connected to the place we were in and the message we were there to receive.
During the conference we heard from amazing speakers like Captain “Sully” Sullenberger (Yes, I met him, check out my pic!), Linda A. Hill, Ph.D., Patty McCord (Yes, met her too, and yes, I made that face in my picture with her!), David Sturt, and Robin Benincasa, just to name a few. Each shared stories and inspiration about the importance of organization culture, employee motivation, teamwork, creating change and inspiring innovation. But what stood out to me most and felt like the thread that tied it all together was the focus on the true impact that appreciation for your employees can have on productivity. Each night during the conference, I read a little more in the Appreciate book we were given. One passage in the opening chapter truly embodies what I believe is the importance and impact that appreciation can have on organizations. (Since that opening chapter is available on Amazon as a preview of the book, I feel comfortable sharing it with you in this post.)
For some reason, it’s easy to look back into our own lives and replay the moments where we felt the transformative power of appreciation. It’s easy to look back and see the impact it has made on our life, our work, and our career. It’s easy to verbalize how much someone’s words of appreciation meant to us. But, as you’ll soon discover, studies show it’s difficult for us to verbalize our appreciation for the people we work with, and even for those who work for us… Why is the workplace different? Why are employees expected to perform monumental tasks without praise? Is it because they get paid? Do we view work differently than the rest of our lives? Do we see work as simply transactional? For some reason, the workplace hasn’t followed suit with our global culture of celebrating greatness. The human desire to celebrate at work has been seemingly quashed by the expectation of progress. Workplace culture has somehow dictated that a stellar performance at work is rewarded only by a paycheck.
It’s no wonder the world watches the Olympic Games with an emotional eye—that we all feel emotionally connected to athletes in random sports most of us would never consider as entertainment and that we can relate to the heartache of losing and the aspiration of winning in such an intensely human way. It’s because, in a way, we are those people. The difference is many of us do not get the chance to celebrate our achievements. We don’t get to cheer for our coworkers. We go to work each day seeing the effort, witnessing the struggle, experiencing the results, and watching our coworkers and employees develop into experts in their fields, and yet we rarely say a word to show our appreciation.
Appreciation lives deep within us all. It’s been a foundational aspect of all recorded cultures. And although applause is almost everywhere we look and in almost every single endeavor possible, it’s not everywhere it needs to be. It’s all of our jobs to change that. We can influence greatness by bringing appreciation to work.
(Excerpt from chapter one of Appreciate: Celebrating People, Inspiring Greatness by David Sturt, Todd Nordstrom, Kevin Ames, and Gary Beckstrand)
These are serious, impactful words if you take the time to truly consider how little appreciation, beyond a paycheck and a holiday party, we give in our workplaces. I hope this Thanksgiving and holiday season, you consider the impact appreciation and gratitude can have one those around you in your organization. And I don’t only mean managers or leaders. Every one of us can create opportunities for appreciation of one another! I am challenging you to find a way to do just that.
Need ideas? Sign up for O.C. Tanner’s weekly appreciation tip and they will send you an idea and reminder to make someone’s day each week.
This week, I had already been planning to write this post related to appreciation and the Influence Greatness conference I attended. The overlap with the Thanksgiving season felt very appropriate for a post before the holiday. As a surprise and delight, O.C. Tanner sent out a small gift this week to all the participants from the conference that included a beautiful paperweight, embossed with the mountains of Utah and our conference theme, and a personalized “yearbook” with memories and takeaways from the conference. I didn’t need that gift to recognize the impact this conference had on my perspective, but I truly appreciate that O.C. Tanner recognizes the impact that small, thoughtful celebrations can have, leaving us all with grateful spirits.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Bethany J. Adams, MA, SHRM-SCP is an Assistant Director in the Graduate HRD program at Villanova University. Learn more about her here!