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Gratitude for newbies

An accessible, inspirational toolkit providing methods for cultivating a culture of gratitude, including a community website.

Photo of Jacqueline Antalik

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Gratitude Toolkit

The Gratitude Toolkit will be an engaging and accessible starting point for individuals to learn about gratitude and why it should be considered and cultivated in the workplace. It will offer content, ideas, examples, and exercises for those wanting to learn about and practice gratitude at work. The target audience for this toolkit would be individuals and organizations new and/or somewhat skeptical about practicing gratitude at work. They have an inkling as to what gratitude is but they have never considered it as something appropriate at work. 

The toolkit is a starting point, a gateway to exploring gratitude. However, it is up to the individuals within an organization (“gratitude ambassadors”) to use those tools as they fit to shape and form what their organization’s unique gratitude practice looks like. Specific examples of formal (e.g. driven by HR, top down) and informal (grassroots) gratitude initiatives will be shared for inspiration not prescription, recognizing that each workplace has its own unique culture and that a gratitude practice needs to be informed by that context. Cultivating a culture of gratitude is emergent, hence the need to provide individuals with a framework to start from, allowing for growth and adaptation over time. The goal is to enable these ambassadors to nurture a gratitude culture that fits within their organization while building employees’ capabilities to express and recognize gratitude, as well as the motivation and opportunity to do so.

Preliminary Toolkit Outline

1. Introduction to what is gratitude in the workplace and why it matters (introduce event level/episodic, persistent, collective as per Academy of Management Review journal article – “The Grateful Workplace: A Multilevel Model of Gratitude in Organizations”)

2. Information on benefits for both individual employees and organizations as a whole

3. Examples of how gratitude can be expressed and recognized. Some ideas that were generated at an internal co creation workshop included

  • Take a colleague out for coffee - Provide a $10 gift card (or coffee) per employee for which they take someone to whom they are grateful for out of coffee. Include a rule that you can't pick the same person for at least 3 months.
  • Gratitude tree - Stitch a leaf onto the office tree about why you are grateful. Quick & easy (located in  central place in the office) and a visual cue to trigger reflection and expression of gratitude.

4. Ideas for gratitude initiatives (categorized into appreciation programs, beneficiary contract, development feedback and more). Some ideas that were generated at an internal co creation workshop included:

  • Speed meeting to get to know your colleagues (goal: gain Insight into how to express gratitude in an authentic and meaningful matter).  This would be an opportunity to get a sense for one another’s personalities and what may be the best way to express gratitude to them.
  • A rotating team will be responsible for hiding Gratuity Reminder Objects (GROs) around the office in unexpected locations. This will result in GROs being randomly found, brightening someone's day, and reminding them to give thanks.

5. Generating ideas - Suggestions for how to run an internal co-creation workshop to identify current barriers to recognizing and expressing gratitude. How to generate opportunities to overcome the barriers.

6. “Light” introduction to designing for a behaviour change – using Susan Michie’s Behaviour Change Wheel (capability, motivation, opportunity) as a starting point -

Stage 1 - Prototype, test and refine the toolkit

We will produce the toolkit and test it with colleagues (those who have not worked on the OpenIDEO Gratitude challenge) in our office to assess if it the toolkit is:

  • Accessible/understandable
  • Inspiring
  • Motivating

Our goal is to  assess if the toolkit is perceived as a valuable resource to individuals and/or teams who take on the role of gratitude ambassadors. Does the toolkit inspire reflection and action amongst those who are exposed to it?

Stage 2 – Online community to discuss and evolve the Gratitude Toolkit

Recognizing that gratitude in the workplace is not a temporary initiative with an end target date, that it needs ongoing nurturing, the second stage would see the creation of an online community/space where individuals can pose questions, provide suggestions, etc. on their gratitude journey: what have they tried, what was the efficacy, what would they do differently, what would they not do again, and so on. The community could potentially become a valuable resource on the efficacy of various gratitude initiatives, including qualitative evaluation of experiences as well as quantitative before and after survey results: what is the impact on employee well being, satisfaction with work, retention rates, etc..

We’d like to explore if there is a way to build off of the community that has been started via the OpenIdeo Gratitude Challenge. 

Idea Title

Gratitude for newbies - a toolkit and online community for fostering a culture of appreciation

How the Idea will inspire the experience and expression of gratitude within an organization.

By introducing the concept of gratitude in an easy-to-access manner (staying clear of complex knowledge and ideas) with some low effort ideas for getting started, we expect that the toolkit will be an onramp to some quick wins. Individuals and/or team will be encouraged to join the online community to gain access to ideas and support as they further evolve their gratitude mission and vision. The toolkit will be produced with “inclusivity” in mind with a goal of reaching as many individuals and organizations as possible. Gratitude is something to be practiced in all workplaces, not just those that are viewed as “progressive”.

Who are you innovating for?

The toolkit will be accessible to anyone who seeks to learn more about gratitude and who is interested in becoming a gratitude ambassador. It’s important to have one or more ambassadors to champion the concept and build up a network of support. Large organizations may have a dedicated HR department with staff tasked to work on gratitude initiatives. In smaller companies the ambassador may be the individual with the “HR” role, or it may be distributed amongst a number of different employees.

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

Small to medium sized organizations (50 to 500 employees).

How you envision the Idea being introduced to your selected organization?

Our office would pilot the toolkit and refine it based on the feedback. Ideally we would also pilot the toolkit with another organization to assess how the toolkit resonates in a different workplace culture.

What obstacles, if any, do you foresee in implementing this Idea, and how would they be overcome?

Will the content resonate with the target audience and inspire a behaviour change? How do we evaluate the desired behaviour changes and whether the toolkit is having an effect?

How will you test and prototype your solution?

We will produce the toolkit and test it with colleagues. Our goal is to assess if the toolkit is perceived as a valuable resource to individuals and/or teams who take on the role of gratitude ambassadors. Does the toolkit inspire reflection and action amongst those who are exposed to it? The second stage would see the creation of an online community/space where individuals can pose questions, provide suggestions, etc. on their gratitude journey.

What immediate next steps will you take if you receive an implementation grant.

If we receive a grant, we would immediately work to complete the toolkit outline/sections and start producing content. We will also need to contemplate the form factor of the toolkit – most likely starting with something digital, but we will also provide an offline version to ensure access to all organizations and individuals.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

The Toolkit concept is inspired by learnings acquired by our internal Gratitude Challenge team as we worked together on the design challenge. We spent time gaining consensus on the definition of “gratitude”, what it looks like in action, what are the benefits, etc. and we’re still learning. We’d like to share some of our leanings and experiences with those who are about embark on an exploration of the impact of gratitude on workplace culture.

Tell us about yourself

For this project we assembled a small internal team of individuals passionate about gratitude and making the workplace better. Designers, project managers, developers, and staff worked together on research, co-design, and ideation to produce our submissions.

Where are you / your team located?

Vancouver, Canada

Company / Organization Name

OpenRoad Communications


Tell us about your experience

OpenRoad is a professional services firm dedicated to designing and building compelling websites, web applications, and intranets for our clients and their customers. Our services include user experience, interaction and service design, as well as visual design and end-to-end digital work including strategy, web development and analytics.

Please describe, in detail, how you will test and get feedback on your concept.

We began Refinement by facilitating team research and ideation sessions. A user mapping workshop was facilitated and opportunities for the toolkit were identified. > Developed two personas > Mapped two user journeys > Identified opportunities for interaction with the toolkit > Refined to one persona and user experience map > Created visual artifacts for persona and user experience map We designed and prototyped a higher fidelity version of the digital toolkit and one of the methods generated by the workshop. Supporting assets: > Initial sketches of digital Toolkit home page and method cards > Copy and messaging for home page and method > Art and design direction applied > Tested prototypes with users and recorded feedback > Findings analysis and summary of key learnings for future toolkit iterations We also designed and tested a second method prototype and designed a mobile version of the digital toolkit. We are eager to continue to evolve and improve these concepts.

Please describe specifically how you plan to scale your idea. What are the key next steps you will take, and how will those steps inform the evolution and growth of your concept?

The Toolkit is in an early prototyping stage. Based on feedback from testing, we will refine the prototype and continue testing and iterating the design. We plan to build out the prototype with a critical mass of content and features. Then, after additional internal build/test/refine cycles, we will offer it to one of our clients to pilot in their organization. Toolkits can be passive – what if there was a space for shared learning? A future phase component of the Toolkit is an online support community. Members of the community would be able to lend support to one another and share new methods. We recommend identifying gratitude ambassadors. They could be one of the OpenRoad team members who has worked on our submission or anyone who decides to join the community could volunteer to be a coach/buddy for a defined period of time. Coaches would be available to help “newbies” get started and talk them through any apprehensions they may be feeling. Finally, we wish to continue to build on the content and incorporate new ideas. We envision growth by establishing relationships with experts i.e., Greater Good Science Center of UC Berkeley to provide content and ideas as well as offer increased exposure of our Toolkit to a wider audience.

As we have seen in the Challenge, there is a tension between authentic expressions of gratitude and mandatory gratitude. How does your idea inspire truly authentic expressions of gratitude versus mandated ones?

Rather than a single person or department mandating how gratitude will be expressed, our research showed authenticity is increased if the framework is customized in a grass roots manner. A workshop to support this was designed and tested – no facilitation experience necessary to conduct. We will also warn about some of the pitfalls of “mandating” gratitude and talk about how an expression of gratitude may come across as forced or insincere. This would take the form of a short animated video.

Gratitude often thrives when opportunities for connection are created. How will your concept create new opportunities for human connection?

The Toolkit will provide methods with supporting examples to encourage individuals to connect with one another. We prototyped “take someone to coffee” to provide an accessible method that encourages time to connect at a personal level. We provide tips on how to express/phrase appreciation when meeting for coffee. It will also provide specific ideas for gratitude expressions to ease people into the practice and also communicates the importance of leadership modelling expressions of gratitude.

Who (specifically) will benefit from your concept, and how they will interact with it? What design considerations have you included to ensure easy and intuitive interactions? 

The Appreciation Project Toolkit will be both accessible and motivating and is designed for small- to medium-sized organizations that may not yet have a dedicated HR role or team. Not targeted strictly towards digital work environments, it will also suit other types of workplaces, e.g. mills or breweries, where meetings, workshops, or even desks and computers may not be part of the work environment. The concept of gratitude will be introduced in an easy-to-access manner staying clear of complex knowledge and ideas with low effort suggestions to start with to provide an onramp to quick wins. The Toolkit itself is mobile and print friendly. The Toolkit is for individuals and organizations new or skeptical about practicing gratitude at work. They are aware of gratitude, but have not considered it as an appropriate work practice. Not likely to seek information on gratitude, they instead search for topics like “boosting employee morale” or “how to work better as a team”.

Please describe how you intend to use the prize funding, if selected as a Top Idea. Be specific.

As a selected Top Idea, we would continue to build and refine the Toolkit prototype as well as identify requirements for launch - web development, hosting, ongoing support, and marketing. The workshop described above requires further testing and design to be packaged up for sharing though the base concepts are complete. As the above concepts are iterated and improved upon, we would explore options for partnering with other organizations in order to pilot and continue to scale the Toolkit.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Vikram Vysyaraju

Hi Jacqueline Antalik , I was wondering how you think organizations will use the toolkit to show employees that showing gratitude is valuable, even if the employees are resistant at first. The concept may be foreign to some office environments, so how can companies convince their employees to give the Toolkit a chance?

Photo of Lauren Ito

Great to see you jumping in here Vikram Vysyaraju !

Photo of Jacqueline Antalik

Hello Vikram, thanks for your question. We envision that the toolkit will be something an individual employee and/or manger will refer to when wanting to introduce some positive change in their work culture. It is less about this person "rolling out the toolkit" to the entire org, and more about the individuals taking some of the ideas and modelling the behaviours. Modelling expressions of gratitude will hopefully inspire others to also give it a try. Our toolkit will encourage those who are early adopters to become gratitude ambassadors within their organization and will provide tips, methods, workshop ideas for how to spread the word and get others on board. We want to stay away from a top down "though shall use the toolkit" to a more organic diffusion of gratitude thinking and practice within an organization.

The Toolkit is for individuals and organizations new or skeptical about practicing gratitude at work. They may of heard of the concept of gratitude, but have never considered it as an appropriate work practice. They are not likely to seek information on gratitude, per se, but instead may search for topics like “boosting employee morale” or “how to work better as a team”.

The concept of gratitude will be introduced in an easy-to-access manner staying clear of complex knowledge and ideas with low effort suggestions to start with to provide an onramp to quick wins.

Photo of Vikram Vysyaraju

Fantastic! I think that that encouraging the early adopters to be gratitude ambassadors is a great way to implement the toolkits.

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