9 ways to show gratitude to your team

As many of us enjoy Thanksgiving with our families this week, we reflect on the importance of expressing gratitude. Tech executives share how they celebrate and recognize their teams year-round
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Your company can have the most innovative tech on the block, but it won’t amount to much if you don’t have a solid team behind you that feels supported. The Great Resignation is at least somewhat reflective of people finally realizing their worth and proves how important it is for leaders to show employees how much they are appreciated.

Showing gratitude is especially pertinent this year as many employees work from home and don’t get to experience the camaraderie of in-office relationships and support they may have previously enjoyed. Sharing your thanks with employees helps to boost morale. And gratified employees will take more pride in their work.

I’ve gathered thoughts from tech executives about their unique approaches to showing gratitude to their teams year-round. Here’s what they’ve done to say thanks:

Break bread together

“Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year, and it’s not just because of the traditional Thanksgiving menu (which I love). A holiday about giving thanks is a powerful thing, especially during the pandemic, which has reminded me daily to take stock of what is most important and to appreciate those who bring a smile to my face at the end of every day – including my IT team, whom I am grateful to call my “work family" at ISACA. The IT team at ISACA has had many accomplishments in recent months – and I am grateful for how they have come together and persevered to make incredible things happen throughout a challenging year.

To show my gratitude, I make a point to not only acknowledge my team through ISACA’s recognition system but also try to catch them by surprise throughout the year with thank you gifts, like a gift card to their favorite restaurant. I have also started a practice of coordinating informal 'Coming to the Table' get-togethers outside the work environment where I treat any available team members to a casual meal where we can sit and chat. Breaking bread has a way of not only allowing all of us to better connect and communicate but also provides an opportunity to for me to recognize team members for their valued contributions.” –Simona Rollinson, Chief Technology Officer, ISACA

‘Thank you’ goes a long way

“Showing gratitude is something that is a core part of our culture at NYIAX. It begins with the phrase 'Thank You,' something we try to end our discussions with instead of simply wrapping up. It also plays out in very personal gestures depending on who is expressing their gratitude. Personally, I am Italian and love wine. So if you are on my team, one of our partners, or a client, it’s likely that my gratitude has expressed itself as a bottle delivery.” –Carolina Abenante, Esq., co-founder, NYIAX

[ Leaders know their words matter, but listening is just as important. Read: How active listening can make you a better leader ]

Don’t underestimate the power of a handwritten letter

“It’s vital not to forget the power of the handwritten letter. In this digital world, it signals time was taken to think about the person, the circumstance that was inspiring, and that it warranted pen to actual paper. The emotional benefits of opening an envelope and reading those words that someone constructed for you leave an imprint on the mind. It’s something I do often. Gratitude is a continuous flow of interaction, a culture of authentic leadership through every single engagement with another person. There’s the everyday email, Slack, and text conversation, but the more overt 'thank you’s' and special recognitions, like hand-written notes, are equally as important to celebrate team effort, ideas, milestones, and wins.” –Vicki Brakl, SVP, Marketing at MNI Targeted Media.

Have genuine gratitude and the rest comes naturally

“Of utmost importance when it comes to relaying gratitude for your teams is to firstly have gratitude for your teams/people – as in, genuinely. From there, the rest follows authentically and consistently, not just at strategic points in the year. We all know that actions speak louder than words, and so we express our gratitude through taking well-being-centered (mental, emotional, and work-life balance) actions at the forefront of all the decisions we make. From investing in the career growth and education of all our folks (à la rolling out tools like LinkedIn Learning company-wide) to offering a ‘take what you need’ vacation policy, to profit-sharing bonus plans, to corporate social responsibility volunteer opportunities, right down to our very core values: ‘Love and respect for one another’ is our first and foremost stated core value. You get the point… when it comes to our people, nothing is off-limits to ensure they constantly know the company as an entity is deeply grateful for each and every one of them to call our company their home away from home.” –Dan Levin, President, COO and co-founder, ViralGains

Consider reward programs

“It’s an important part of our culture to acknowledge and recognize the hard work, innovation, and collaboration that our employees display and drive every day. Our company would not be what it is today without our teams, and we strive to show gratitude and foster employee well-being, on the professional and personal level, in a few different ways. On the day-to-day level, we have a system of sharing successes across the global organization and enabling anybody at the company to give 'Kudos' or shout-outs to any employee who deserves to be appreciated for their efforts. Many of our leaders take the time to personally thank their teams for the great work they do by calling or sending a personal email.

Recently, we held a company summit where teams were formally recognized for making a big impact over the past year. In the longer term, employees who have stayed with the company for five or more years (quite a rare feat in the digital advertising world these days!) are honored with a Tenure Recognition Award that provides a monetary bonus to be used for a vacation or experience. We also offer employees who have been with the company for four or more years an invitation to our Transformational Leave Program, which provides 4-6 weeks of paid time off to pursue a passion, interest, or experience that will allow them to grow as an individual.” –Scott Kellstedt, Chief Operating Officer, VDX.tv

Nurture deeper personal connections

“Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on and express appreciation for those you care about. More recently, employers have started taking time during November to implement special tactics to show appreciation as well. However, companies should do this all year, not just for one holiday. It is important to recognize the value of your employees and celebrate their successes by giving them time to connect and share on a regular basis during team meetings. This allows you to truly get to know and appreciate individuals for who they are, not just for their job function. Thanksgiving is a great time to expand these conversations and take a more personal focus - having a dedicated team meeting where all employees can share details about their families and home life, providing a chance to develop deeper personal connections and help employees focus on what matters most and get in the right mindset for Thanksgiving.” –Sam Getty, CMO, Tilt365

Career advancement can happen anytime

“We commissioned a study this year to better understand what’s fueling 'The Great Resignation,' and found that more than a third of respondents felt that their personal impact was being overlooked by their employer. Slightly more also felt that the personal efforts that they put into their role were also unrecognized. So, showing gratitude and recognition is part of the everyday fabric of our business to ensure we can nurture and retain great talent.

At WorkReduce, we promote team members regularly, not just once a year following their annual review. If someone’s showing exemplary effort and impact, we want to acknowledge and reward them with positive career advancement. Outside of tangible rewards, we encourage peer-to-peer 'shout-outs' on our general Slack channel, as we’re a fully remote business. Our team managers do the same by sharing great feedback their team has received from our clients. It enables the whole company to celebrate together and feel acknowledged throughout the year.” –Sarah Calkin-Ward, Head of Marketing, WorkReduce

Gratitude breeds success

“At Limitless Health Institute, we inspire our team to collaborate successfully by helping each other succeed and to show gratitude for what each team member brings to a project, rather than being competitive. We honor the passion each team member has for the work they do by giving them opportunities to contribute their unique skills to the programs’ curriculum. In this way, we invest in acts of gratitude as a strategy, building our organization to improve, sustain, and fulfill its mission. We show appreciation to our team and never underestimate the value of giving staff the appropriate compensation for the experience they bring. Being grateful breeds success.” –Lobsang Chunzom, Buddhist Nun and founder, Limitless Health Institute 

Make gratitude a year-round endeavor

“You don’t just show up during the holidays and suddenly become ‘The Gratitude Guy.’ Reminding employees that they matter, that they are heard, and that they’re appreciated should be daily, weekly, and year-round leadership behavior. There’s still a great deal of power and meaning in simple but sincere words and phrases like ‘please,’ ‘what do you think?’ and ‘thank you.’” –Scott Moore, Global CMO, Mood Media

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Katie Sanders
Katie Sanders is the Content and Community Manager for The Enterprisers Project, seeking contributors who have expertise that can be shared with an audience of CIOs and IT leaders. She has always been interested in building relationships and connecting people.