How and why you should show gratitude to your team

What do you think is the most successful way to keep employees happy and loyal to your company? Money? Promotions? Attractive perks? It turns out, it’s actually gratitude.

Employees who feel appreciated are the ones who tend to work harder and stay with a company longer. In fact, Harvard Medical School reported on a study where a college fundraising group was divided in half. One half sought out alumni donations the same way they always had, while the other half received a pep talk from a director before they began their work. After one week, researchers found that the group that received the pep talk made 50 percent more calls compared the other group.

Translation: Showing appreciation and value to employees is a must-have, not a like-to-have.

From the top down

The companies that excel at making employees feel valued typically have one thing in common — they recognize value from the top down. Creating a culture of showing appreciation and valuing good work starts with the C-suite leading by example, celebrating the wins, big or small, of their employees.

At Donatos, we practice something called a PIA, or Promise in Action, where we recognize and celebrate members of our team who are living the Donatos Promise, “To serve you the very best pizza and make your day a little better” and Mission, “To promote goodwill through product and service, principles and people.”

To show how important this is to associates, we have PIAs as the first line item on the agenda for each and every team meeting at both our home office and in our restaurants. We do this to demonstrate how much we value our associates and recognize when they do something that goes above and beyond, whether professionally, personally or philanthropically.

Align with company values, create a policy

That said, PIAs are just one example of how you can give your employees recognition for their good work. To find what would resonate best for your team, work backwards.

Start with your company values to determine what’s most important to you. Do you value a positive company culture? Then come up with a system that celebrates employees who embody it. Is giving back something that’s important to your company? Think through ways to spotlight team members who volunteer their time.

By acknowledging the behavior that most aligns with your company’s values, you’re encouraging others to take a similar leap. Beyond that, creating a policy around gratitude creates a culture of gratitude, which employees will take note of and appreciate.

So, go ahead, keep your eyes and ears open to any team members sharing about how they’re living your company’s values, and be sure to give them positive reinforcement when they do. Once this becomes a common practice in your company, you’ll notice that the results are far-reaching in terms of morale, willingness and retention.

Tom Krouse is the President and CEO of Donatos Pizza. Tom has over three decades of restaurant industry experience, countless civic contributions and an award-winning career in marketing and management.