Alan A. Ayers, MBA, MAcc is Chief Executive Officer of Velocity Urgent Care, LLC and is Practice Management Editor of The Journal of Urgent Care Medicine.
Urgent message: In an era of widespread worker disengagement, one simple way to improve morale in your urgent care operation is to embrace a “culture of gratitude” which starts with saying the simple phrase, thank you.
America has a workplace engagement problem, as evidenced by a consensus of HR experts estimating that around 70% of all employees are at least somewhat disengaged. In urgent care, this disengagement often manifests in high turnover, low productivity, and low morale, which makes it difficult to consistently move patients through with a high level of service.
The most common reasons employees cite for this pervasive lack of engagement? It’s often as simple as not feeling adequately acknowledged, challenged, or appreciated at work.
To tackle this widespread issue, managers in leading organizations typically lean on tried-and-true engagement-boosting processes such as providing clear goals and feedback, building employee-manager relationships, practicing transparency, and fostering autonomy. And while those strategies usually produce positive returns, as noted in an article published in The Wall Street Journal there’s a less-frequently cited method that’s gaining momentum among business leaders for its effectiveness in building happy, productive teams; creating a culture of gratitude.
Gratitude in the Workplace
Taken at face value, gratitude would seem as good for business as life in general. But when we discuss gratitude in the workplace, do we envision employees loudly declaring from cubicles and corridors how grateful they are to have a job? Not quite. It’s mostly about bosses, managers, and leaders taking the time and effort to acknowledge and recognize employees for their hard work and the value they bring to their organizations. Expressing gratitude this way has proven to be a powerful gesture toward making employees feel valued and appreciated. And as a result, those employees are measurably happier, work harder, and are more productive.
Indeed, study after study shows that happy, engaged employees make a big difference in the bottom line. The companies with the highest-rated workplace environments tend to outperform their competitors in metrics such as stock price and revenue growth, for example, while happy workers score higher than their counterparts in overall productivity and creativity. Job loyalty also increases among happy employees, and they tend to take fewer “sick days” that are actually “mental health days” while demonstrating greater cooperation and collaboration with colleagues. And more often than not, expressions of gratitude from company leaders play an important factor in many of these areas.
In short, gratitude as part of a workplace culture increases retention, engenders engagement, and results in higher performance. It remains a powerful vehicle to differentiate yourself from the competition and solidify important business relationships. Especially if your expressions of gratitude go beyond that of your direct reports, and extend to vendors, business partners, and clients, gratitude can be exceedingly fruitful. Lastly, a workplace culture of gratitude doesn’t have to be a one-way street; it should flow freely in all directions. In addition to managers expressing gratitude to their employees, employees should reciprocate expressions of gratitude to management when it’s deserved, as well as acknowledgements from colleague to colleague for their efforts and contributions.
First Things First: The Power of Recognition
For there to be a workplace culture of gratitude, there must first be one of recognition. In fact, the two concepts go hand in hand, such that you can’t really have one without the other. Given that statistics show nearly half of employees looking for new employment point to a lack of recognition as a causative factor, it’s a critical issue to address.
So what does recognition look like in the workplace? It can be something as simple as noticing someone doing their job and letting them know they’re doing it well. Or it could be putting employees’ pictures on the wall. Whether it’s a big gesture or small doesn’t matter. The key thing is the time it takes to recognize the employee for their efforts and reinforce that, in the grand scheme of things, they’re more than just a replaceable cog; they truly matter to the company.
Look no further than leading hotel chain Hilton for an effective roadmap on how to build a thriving hospitality business on the foundation of recognizing its employees. By going all out, and making team member recognition a celebrated company value, Hilton continually ranks among industry leaders in categories such as Happiest Company in America according to Careerbliss.com and 100 Best Companies to Work For according to Fortune.com.
The John Templeton Foundation surveyed workers in 2012 and found that 71% of employees would be happier if they heard more frequent expressions of gratitude from their bosses, while 81% would be spurred to put forth greater effort if they were appreciated more.
Ways to Express Workplace Gratitude
Extraordinary leaders—from historical figures like Abe Lincoln and George Washington, to present day honchos like Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff and Wegman’s Chief Executive Colleen Wegman—all grasped the power of a gratitude-based culture to boost morale, increase optimism, and galvanize their charges towards accomplishing goals and objectives. To that end, here are several tips and strategies, borrowed from Hilton, Wegman’s, and other industry leaders who have demonstrated a firm grasp of the power of gratitude, your organization should begin employing to create your own gratitude-based culture.
- Borrowing from ideas and concepts used by the Hilton Hotel chain, create a full-fledged Gratitude and Recognition Initiative, customized to your organization and designed to honor and celebrate your team members. This includes thank you cards, posters, e-greetings, certificates, coupons, and even a dedicated Team Member Appreciation Week.
- Bring in coffee and donuts, and cater lunch frequently, especially during hectic and stressful times.
- Acknowledge team members when they have done a great job.
- By handwritten note or face-to-face interaction, sincerely thank team members for their service. Remember birthdays and send flowers on significant work anniversaries, cookies to recognize a job well done, or a turkey on Thanksgiving.
- Photograph team members and display the photos prominently throughout the workplace.
- Hold meetings where the sole purpose is simply to give thanks and acknowledge the contributions of others.
- Rather than looking to catch people doing wrong, actively seek out opportunities to catch people doing the right thing and acknowledge them when they do.
- Use the phrase “thank you” judiciously.
A culture of gratitude doesn’t just make team members feel good about themselves. Those positive vibes are transferred to customers, clients, and guests—which creates loyal fans, positive word of mouth, and repeat business. By making a concerted effort to instill more thankfulness, gratitude, and recognition into your workplace, it can literally transform your urgent care organization from ordinary to exemplary.