75% of Americans agree: If bosses want happier employees, start by saying 'thank you'

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Sure, receiving an award at the annual holiday party for "most helpful employee" is cool, but have you ever felt the validation of receiving a thank-you email from your manager right after beating a tough deadline?

When it comes to employee recognition, the verdict is simple: Workers just want to hear "thanks" a little more often.

It's the preferred way workers want to receive positive feedback, according to a survey of 1,500 workers conducted by Reward Gateway, an employee engagement platform. In fact, 75% of U.S. employees surveyed agreed that motivation and company morale would improve if managers simply thanked workers in real-time for a job well done. However, delivery of said consistent feedback is something two in three workers say their manager could be better at.

On the flip side, just 20% of workers said they liked receiving praise at a single event or function.

Positive recognition is crucial to employee performance and retention. According to one survey, 60% of people say they value recognition as much as money, and 40% say they would put in more energy at work if they got more recognition.

The desire for more real-time feedback (and praise) is one of the major reasons annual performance reviews have been on the decline, replaced by more frequent check-ins, like weekly one-on-ones between managers and reports. By some accounts, 60% of millennials want to hear from their managers at least once a day.

Here's how people-managers can easily make more real-time feedback the norm:

Share the spotlight. Maybe it's a Slack room dedicated to shouting out wins across the team, or a weekly email that runs down what projects were accomplished and by whom. Share information about where team members are succeeding, and encourage peer-to-peer recognition in the process.

Get clear on expectations. It's possible that the positive feedback isn't there because there's a disconnect between what you think your report is working on and what they actually are. Set an agenda for your routine check-ins that covers to-dos on ongoing projects and targets of completion by your next meeting.

Ask how they want to receive recognition. Where some workers may feel validated by a quick thank-you email, another might feel the gesture is over-the-top. Get clear on how an employee feels about receiving feedback and in what form is most conducive to their working style.

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Power of recognition: David Novak
Power of recognition: David Novak