What Thanksgiving can show us about gratitude across the ages


The annual Thanksgiving holiday is just around the corner – a time for reflection and pause, when families across North America come together and celebrate all that they’re thankful for. More often than not, the Thanksgiving gathering, much like the modern workforce, spans several generations, with each family member bringing something different of value to the table.

In my experience, the things that grandparents say they’re grateful for are also quite different to the things appreciated by their children and grandchildren.  But, when you stop to consider why this is, it comes as no real surprise – when looking at today’s multi-generational workforce, Baby Boomers are in a completely different stage of life to their Gen Z grandchildren, and their priorities are therefore equally dissimilar.

So, what should organizations be doing to optimize their appreciation of employees?

We see three definitive actions that can make a real difference and promote positive feelings of appreciation across the entire workforce:

Don’t forget ‘thank you’

The days of waiting until annual appraisal time before recognizing an employee’s achievement are well and truly over. More and more, HR leaders are beginning to understand that appropriate, timely and tailored reward and recognition needs to be ongoing – businesses need to ensure they have modern HR systems and processes that enable real-time employee recognition and feedback throughout the year.

In fact, a study earlier this year showed that Millennials actually have a tendency to value verbal recognition over and above financial reward, so the importance of getting this right should not be underestimated.

It’s well documented that employees who feel appreciated are not only more loyal but also tend to stay with their employer for longer. Saying ‘thank you’ is a simple and inexpensive way of recognizing your employees, but it is remembered and valued by those who matter, and its impact on business performance can be significant.

Be grateful for the good (and focus less on weakness)

No-one is great at everything in business, that’s why people train and hone their skills to excel in a certain area. For example, an organized, process-driven project manager may be less creative than their co-worker across the hall, but their business worth is no less. Similarly, a Baby Boomer may not have the wizardry IT skills of a just-out-of-college Gen Z worker, but their career experience and direction is likely to be invaluable to their organization.

Rather than focusing on what an employee could be better at, there are many instances when employers should instead be grateful for the things that an individual is good at. After all, if an employee is performing well in their area of core expertise, yet this is not receiving the recognition this deserves because they’re weak in other areas, the employee is likely to feel undervalued and under-appreciated. And, when this happens, it’s only a matter of time before that employee turns to your competitors in search of a little more love.

Promote peer-to-peer recognition

Encouragingly, we’re seeing more and more businesses adopt HR systems that allow peers to recognize one another for good work. This provides a new take on the more traditional manager to employee recognition, and, with evidence that some employees actually value praise from a peer more than recognition from a manager, it would seem this is increasingly important.

Establishing a platform that enables peer-to-peer recognition can do wonders for corporate culture too by fostering a positive and supportive atmosphere where all good performance is recognized, irrespective of whether it was carried out by a Gen Z, or a Director on the cusp of retirement. With studies also showing that as a generational trait, Millennials tend to seek out positive reinforcement, peer to peer recognition is a perfect way to ensure needs are met and employees feel both valued and valuable at work.

So the morale of the Thanksgiving story? In a nutshell, always be grateful for your people and what they do well – you’ll be able to grow a more stable and productive workforce as a result, and that will pay off dividends in the long term.

To learn more about engaging the multi-generational workforce, download our report today.

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