Gratitude is expressed differently across cultures, workplaces, friends, and families. It is something we learn early on when our parents tell us to say "thank you." We learn quickly that expressing gratitude is not merely an act of saying thank you, but it also generates a warm feeling for both the receiver of gratitude as well as the giver of gratitude.
In today's diverse and dynamic workplace, gratitude has become more and more muted, limited to forced expressions such as Employee of the Month or weekly shout outs.
There are many proven benefits of gratitude such as increased motivation, happiness, connection to others, and commitment to one's company. Then, why do employees feel under-appreciated and over-worked? Why are people not experiencing or expressing gratitude, when all humans learn to express gratitude from a young age?
We asked ourselves these questions and realized that expressing gratitude in the workplace is different than at home. At home with our friends and family, it can be easier to express gratitude because we are comfortable with each other, know each other's cultures, and have learned over time what is meaningful to each other.
Knowing that people are capable of showing gratitude at home and in personal life, this led us to ask: What is stopping people from opening up and expressing/experiencing gratitude at work in meaningful ways?
The Workplace is Better with Gratitude
At CultureIQ, we believe in the power of gratitude. We think that people in the workplace lack a common language to express gratitude. Because people work in diverse companies and organizations, they also encounter people who express gratitude differently from them and also prefer to receive gratitude in other ways. For example, when we did our brainstorming session, one of our employees said she likes to get a reward such as a gift card when she has accomplished something. Another employee said he likes to receive a verbal thank you by his manager in private. A manager said he likes to recognize people at his meetings. All of these examples revealed that there may be a disconnect in how people give and prefer to receive gratitude in the workplace.
This past year, our company conducted an analysis of Top Company Cultures and we found that the culture quality of "Support," as in when employees feel valued as people and feel confident and connected to leadership, was a top driver of engagement at companies with top cultures.
Building a culture of Support where people feel valued can be a challenge. We know there is room for improvement. According to a Gallup Poll, only 65% of Americans say they have received no recognition in the past year.
We Are Building a Platform for Learning About Gratitude Preferences
Our idea helps people overcome obstacles from expressing gratitude in the workplace. Just like how the 5 Love Languages help people in relationships figure out what they each need, our idea is to build the 5-6 Gratitude Expressions for the Workplace. It will be a survey that people can take to indicate how they like to receive appreciation from others in the workplace.
The Gratitude Expressions Survey can be taken by both managers and employees. The results are then populated into a dashboard to give leadership an idea of team-level and department-level preferences. The results can also be distributed as reports (Gratitude Profiles), so managers and teammates can learn about each other's preferences and start showing their gratitude in ways that are most meaningful to each other.
The User: Employees, Managers, Leaders
We are designing for all members of the workplace! This includes employees, managers, and leaders.
To truly understand the perspective of the user, we conducted a user experience mapping session where we brought together members of our CultureIQ team who have experience with our clients and exposure to employees, managers, and leaders of a variety of types of companies. We put ourselves in the users' shoes and mapped out their needs and experiences.
Here is a LINK TO USER EXPERIENCE MAPS which was the output of this workshop. We came up with stories for each type of user we expect to use the Gratitude Expressions Platform.
Prototyping: Developing & Testing Our First Survey
Since the 5 love languages do not translate directly to the workplace, we are researching and testing the 5 expressions of gratitude that are applicable to the workplace.
We conducted a prototyping workshop to come up with our initial iteration of the Gratitude Expressions survey.
From our prototyping workshop, we were able to produce our first iteration of the survey where you'll see that we have 5 Gratitude Expressions that we are testing with our company.
Once the gratitude expressions were determined, we asked our company to take the survey explaining what we are trying to achieve and encouraged people's participation.
After running the survey for a few days, we were able to see some interesting findings on how our company employees feel about gratitude and their general understanding of the concept. Since our company is small, the testing was not necessarily representative of the larger population but the testing exercise still enabled us to better understand how we all perceive gratitude.
Once the surveys were all completed, the results also provided us with a 'Gratitude Profile' that can be generated for each individual. Below is a sample of a gratitude profile.
This type of 'Gratitude Profile' summarizes what the results mean for each individual employee and offer suggestions as to what to do for that person with that specific profile. So for example, if employee Julie's #1 Gratitude Expression is "receiving thoughtful rewards," her manager and peers know that this is what they can do for her whenever she accomplishes something great or does something positive in the workplace. This guide can be distributed out to an individual's team, manager, and leadership.
What We Hope to Do With the Prize Money
If our idea is funded, we would spend the money on doing research to confirm what the 5 Gratitude Expressions for the Workplace should be and vet the associated survey questions. We would then deploy our survey at scale to organizations willing to pilot the method and offer us more feedback to continue to iterate. For example, we could work with organization to include the Gratitude Expressions survey in an on-boarding process, as well as for any existing hires. Lastly, we plan to build out guides for the different Gratitude Profiles on what type of expressions of gratitude would work best for each profile.
Ultimately, we aim to build out a survey program and training module that can be scaled to organizations of all sizes and industries.