In the book, "Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations," behavioral economist Dan Ariely recounts a week-long experiment in which employees were promised one of three rewards for great work - cash, free food, or a "Well done!" email from the boss. The biggest motivator of the week? The compliment.
Great leaders know that giving thanks for their team is important, and the Thanksgiving holiday is a good reminder to show your appreciation. We asked business and IT leaders to share the unique ways they say "Thank you!" Read on for their inspiring responses.
1. Peer recognition
By John Marcante, CIO of Vanguard
“Once a quarter, everyone in IT has the opportunity nominate someone that they’d like to recognize for our Peer Recognition Award. A small panel of previous winners chooses five employees who receive a small monetary prize, a trophy for their desks, and breakfast with me and my entire team. We have a lot of awards at Vanguard, but I think this is special because the nominations come from peers. It’s one thing for your manager to recognize you, but you really need to be doing something right to have your team rally behind you.”
2. Forced time off
By Omer Trajman, CEO of Rocana
"We regularly give shout outs to team members on our town hall meetings, recognizing their contributions to the whole company. My favorite way to recognize consistent work that goes above and beyond is to give employees an opportunity (pay for dinner, spa, travel) for them and a loved one to enjoy together and take some forced time off."
3. A sweet thank you
By Brandon Howard, CEO of All My Web Needs
“I try to tell my team how great they are doing on a regular basis, but every once in awhile I like to show it with something extra. For example, just yesterday I brought a couple of my team members some jams and butters I knew they'd love. It's nothing huge, but they really appreciated the thought. We also have specific goals set for each month and if those goals are exceeded then I take the team out to a nice dinner. We happened to double our goal last month so I'm taking them and their spouses to a Brazilian steakhouse.”
4. A feast prepared by the bosses
By Vince Devlin, chief procurement officer for Kronos Inc.
“The Kronos annual Thanksgiving Day luncheon is just one example of the many ways we thank our hardworking employees throughout the year. At this employee appreciation luncheon, executive team members don chef hats and aprons, roll up their sleeves, and serve a full T-Day lunch to employees across three different buildings at our headquarter campus. We also used this year’s luncheon to kick off a new ‘Six Weeks of Giving’ campaign as part of our GiveInspired initiative. During lunch, employees worked together to pack winter clothing care packages that we’ve donated to The Lazarus House, a local homeless shelter.”
5. A bonus for education
By Hristo Stalev, CTO and co-founder of Kanbanize
“We believe that hiring a new person is like adopting a child into the family. This is why we are very picky when we hire new people and we try to take care of our team members as much as we can. One of our more innovative approaches to rewards is aimed at updating each member’s knowledge about their respective field and encouraging them to share it with others by presenting about it. All presentations are rewarded cumulatively at the end of the year based on a percentage of the employee’s usual monthly compensation. We do other things to make sure our team members feel appreciated, too. For example, on someone’s birthday, we share a cake to celebrate. On a day-to-day level, I aim to make sure to give credit where it is due and, depending on the scale of the achievement, recognize it at our company all-hands meetings.”
6. Unique trophies
By David Bray, CIO of the FCC
“Every week at our 20-minute stand-up "IT Boardwalk Meeting" we conclude with the team recognizing those who have gone above-and-beyond the call of duty with different thank you items, including a Thank-a-Saurus Rex, a 'flak jacket' from DARPA, and other items that the Team decorates or signs as they pass them along to others.”
7. A personal touch
By Guy Yehiav, CEO of Profitect
"As the CEO of Profitect I set out to instill a company culture that praises employees every day of the year. We have traditional perks like company outings, fitness programs, luncheons, and off-site activities. However, the one perk that I really admire is our ‘employee of the month’ program. This is far from a traditional awards program and it’s something I’m especially proud of. Historically, the employee selected would be publically announced and praised – I changed that and wanted to make it more personal. When the employee is selected it is not announced company-wide. Instead, I set aside time to meet with the chosen employee one-on-one to celebrate their hard work. I find that the employee values this insight, and it’s a lot more rewarding and personal.”
8. Praise in print
By Rose Manjarres, SVP, information technology for CBRE
“We created a Spirit Committee that organizes various events/team outings to appreciate our team members. We also do quarterly newsletters and request input from others to share a note of praise in print.”
9. Face time with the CEO
By Kostis Mamassis, founder and CEO of Megaventory
"My busy schedule requires me to work remotely most of the year. Although I’m in contact with my team on a daily basis, I don’t get the chance to cheer them up and praise them for their hard work. So each time I return to the central office, which happens to be around November (and around Thanksgiving!) I always arrange a special dinner for us. It helps with bonding and gives me the chance to properly show me appreciation. This dinner is now a tradition and sometimes past members of Megaventory come by as well, making it feel like a true reunion!"
10. Extra something special
By Daniel Muzquiz, president of The Predictive Index
“Nothing beats being thoughtful. Your team (IT included) wants to know that their sacrifices are noticed ... that their hard work made a difference. Taking time to do something thoughtful crushes all other rewards. This assumes you’re not a cheapskate and are paying competitively with good bennies, AND it assumes you are not a jerk boss. Important Note: this doesn’t mean you will save money by being thoughtful, quite the opposite.
Here are a couple starter ideas on how to let them know that they matter and they made a difference. Idea No. 1: Buy them and a friend/spouse dinner at the fanciest restaurant in town ... NO, do not let them expense it. Call the restaurant and let them know that their dinner will be paid by your company and your guests should be treated like royalty. Idea No. 2: Get them something they really think is cool and demonstrates to them that you know and care about them. Cool things may inclue: huge mega resolution monitor, awesome water-cooled computer, 3D printer, autographed baseball bat or tickets to playoffs. All of these ideas mean more to people than the fleeting joy of a bit more cash because you took the time to make something special them happen."
11. A culture of gratitude
By Mark Babbitt, CEO and founder of YouTern
“For a virtual company with contributors all over the planet, rewarding good work has become a challenge. Dinner or happy hour isn’t always possible. An awards program loses something in the translation when executed through digital means. Even hand-written thank you notes become a challenge to deliver in a timely manner. So, knowing that it is the human aspect of thank you that makes it memorable, we take a two-step approach to displaying gratitude for a job well done. We call it 'scheduled spontaneity.'
First, we take advantage of our video calls to extend a compliment. It is never part of the meeting agenda; no one ever knows it’s coming. We simply say, 'Hey, Eileen, before we get started: you did an amazing job on the latest content campaign. Thank you!' Second, knowing we’ll eventually be in the same room at some point – even if it is weeks or months later, we unofficially schedule a moment of praise. It may be at a dinner, or during a break in a meeting; it may even during a ride back to the airport. And it goes something like this, 'We don’t always say thank you enough, or in the right way ... but I want you to know we appreciate your hard work. From that content campaign to your everyday tasks, we value you and your contribution. Thank you.'"
An awards program feels okay, yet staged. A financial incentive starts to become expected. Notes and gifts are great until they find their final resting place in a desk drawer. But a human-to-human spoken gesture, complete with eye contact – either digital or real-time – creates a culture we wish to embrace: a culture of gratitude.”
12. A holiday tradition
By Dan Ortolini, SVP of worldwide customer support services for Information Builders
“Each year, Information Builders hosts a Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey and all of the traditional trimmings for our customer service and BI product groups, which includes nearly 200 staff members. Our teams go above and beyond every day to make sure our customers have the best experience from their first interaction with our company. It’s important that they understand how much we appreciate the work they do – and this is just of the many ways we can show our thanks."
13. Nurturing healthy competition
By Mick Whittemore, VP of IT operations for Paychex
“Our organization makes a conscious effort to thank our employees not just during performance reviews, year-end, or the holidays – but all year long. We do this in a number of ways, but the initiative I’m most proud of is our PD+IT Awards Program. This is an annual initiative that includes us soliciting nominations at the manager level and presenting awards for things like operational efficiency, moving the needle, and on-time delivery. The winners are presented with their awards in front of more than 1,000 of their peers as a part of our annual offsite meeting. We find that recognizing our IT teams in such a unique and public way helps cultivate pride of work, productivity, healthy competition, and ultimately employee retention.”
14. A coveted award
By Jim McNiel, CMO of NETSCOUT
“We view our employees as dedicated professionals, and even heroes, the connected world as a precious and fragile asset, and NETSCOUT as a partner in keeping things working reliably, thus Guardians of the Connected World. So to recognize our internal Guardians for their innovation and achievements, marketing created a beautifully-designed Steuben glass sculpture titled the Orbie award. The Orbie truly celebrates those who are making a difference, are committed to our mission and inspiring others to think outside the box.”
15. Say it with food
By Jean Holley, CIO of Brambles
“I like to say thank you by sharing a meal. Whether it’s a potluck, or a fun lunch, it is a fun way to thank the team. There are 1,001 ways you can give food, or celebrate with food. I enjoy the conversation and stories, but most importantly, getting to know the team as individuals.”
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