How to give thanks in your company
Jenny Dearborn, chief people officer for Klaviyo, reminds you to be grateful every day of the year.
Early in my career I made the mistake of saying "thanks” to my staff inconsistently, which led to the perception of bias and favoritism. When I said thanks to one person, good news spread fast and that nice gesture would backfire if others felt left out. I quickly learned that it’s important to make time to say thanks and to be clear about the employee behavior I’m trying to promote.
Giving thanks recognizes employees or teams that do great work, but more importantly, it’s a positive example to others in the organization to strive to do similar great work and is a great reminder to all that they work in a meritocracy that celebrates success.
Today, I’m purposeful in how I say thanks, while keeping it authentic and personal. The most precious thing I have to give as a leader is my time and my endorsement.
Here are some simple best practices to keep in mind when giving thanks:
A hand-written note in the modern digital world is surprisingly effective. My hand-written thank-you notes are a part of my brand. For example, as a 6-foot-tall Amazon, I have a healthy obsession with Wonder Woman. My goal is to use a big box of Wonder Woman stationary per quarter. I know it’s appreciated because I see my fun super hero cards on display in folks’ work spaces.
To this day I have kept the hand-written thank-you notes I’ve received over the years—they are very precious to me.
Be a mentor
Consider giving more than your thanks—give others the benefit of your expertise. Invite the high-potential contributor for coffee and spend time to hear about how things are going and share their future goals.
Be specific and observant
When you give thanks, directly address their specific success: “I’ve noticed how generous you are with your time and expertise; I and your fellow workers appreciate it. Your creative insight made all the difference in today’s presentation.”
Be a developer
If employees have excelled, reward them with a trip to a conference or the opportunity to attend a class that will augment their knowledge and expand their horizons. Give folks a fun special project to work on.
People know when they are getting a genuine thank-you. When you pass by their desk or when on the phone, think about your words, and make the effort to really connect with the person. Tone of voice, eye contact, and focus all contribute to a genuine moment of gratitude.
At company meetings, make a point of calling out those who has done well. Be careful to recognize people consistently and spread the gratitude to all departments. When you send a quick thank you email to someone, cc their boss—executive level kudos and visibility for work well done is golden.
Be a connector
I thank the high-potential contributors in my organization when they do outstanding work by securing skip-level conversations for them with senior-level executives. I also prep them so their meeting with the senior exec is super-successful.
Recognize when employees need work-life balance and encourage them to take time for mental and physical wellness. When an employee in my team was working long hours on an important project, I knew she needed external help to get balanced or she would burn out. I sent her a reoccurring calendar appointment to go for a run every day. Then I mailed to her a new pair of running shoes in her size (with a handwritten thank you note on Wonder Woman stationary!)
Saying "thank you" empowers your employees, raises morale, and engenders a level of performance for all to emulate. But here’s the added bonus: Being grateful, even for just one hour a week, makes you a happier person, boosts your health, and give you a more positive outlook on life.
Everyone wins when you say thanks. You’re building relationships of trust and transparency, gratitude and attention, and it can only be done if you’re generous in your thanks-giving.
Jenny Dearborn is the chief people officer for Klaviyo, which helps growth-focused ecommerce brands drive greater sales. Jenny is also the author of "The Data Driven Leader: A Powerful Approach to Delivering Measurable Business Impact Through People Analytics" (2017) and "Data Driven: How Performance Analytics Delivers Extraordinary Sales Results" (2015). Jenny was previously Chief Talent Officer at SAP and a C-level executive at SuccessFactors, Sun Microsystems, and Hewlett-Packard, leading award-winning teams that drove measurable business impact.