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How Great Leaders Say “Thank You!”

How Great Leaders Say “Thank You!”

We’re all in this together, so saying “thank you” just makes sense!

If you look closely at company performance, you’ll find that there’s a strong correlation between how companies engage with and value their employees.  It’s no coincidence that when people feel valued, they give value back.

Think about how the current structure in Corporate America was created. Most of what we consider “the way” to organize and manage companies started after World War II, when there was a collective culture in the United States of shared responsibility. In the military, the generals are responsible to and for the troops, just as the troops are responsible to and for the generals.  Now we have that same structure of hierarchy, but for some companies, the sense of shared responsibility has been lost.  Just look at the wage gap.

Here are some key reasons to focus on employee recognition:

  • 37% of employees report that more personal recognition would encourage them to consistently deliver higher performance. In fact, the study found that appreciation is the most important driver of superior work performance.  Learn more here.
  • A recent survey of 2,000 Americans found, while almost everyone agreed that thankful bosses would be more successful, only 10% actually reported acting on their impulse to express thanks on any given day. Learn more here.
  • A recent study of university employees showed that those who heard a message of thanks made 50% more fundraising calls than those those who did not.
  • In Glassdoor’s Employee Appreciation Survey, 53% of people said feeling more appreciation from their boss would help them stay longer at their company — even though 68% said their boss already shows them enough appreciation. The lesson? More is better.  Learn more here.

Unique and wonderful ways that companies are showing employees appreciation

Meaningful recognition doesn’t have to be expensive.

Appreciation doesn’t have to mean a big expense or come only when an employee has gone above and beyond. “Recognition is such a core human need,” says Lindsay Lagreid, senior advisor at Limeade Institute in Bellevue, Washington. “And it’s more important than ever because recognition connects to our deep psychological need to feel that we matter and we are valued.”

Offer a Personal Thank-You

Don’t underestimate the power of a handwritten thank-you note, particularly if it comes from the CEO.

“Employees love to know that the people at the top of the organization appreciate what they do,” says Danna Hewick, SHRM-SCP, VP of human resources for USSI, a Bethesda, MD.-based cleaning and janitorial services company. “Receiving a handwritten note from the CEO indicates that either the top executive noticed something the employee did or the manager made a point of telling him or her about it,” she says.

“Employees at the Marion Area Counseling Center in Marion, Ohio, were pleasantly surprised to receive handwritten birthday cards in the mail from their managers,” says HR manager Jessica Geyer.

Give PTO—and Permission to Use It

“Because many employees put off using their paid time off (PTO) last year, managers might consider working with the HR department to allow employees to roll over unused vacation time,” says Natalie Stute, chief human resources officer at Gainwell Technologies in Washington, D.C.

Companies concerned about having to pay out unused vacation time to someone who leaves the organization this year can address the issue by adding a new policy to the employee handbook, according to Rachel Alansky, founder of Seamless HR Solutions in Arlington, Virginia. Such a statement might read, “Due to the pandemic, we are allowing each employee an additional 40 hours of leave. However, if an employee leaves the company in 2021, those additional hours will not be part of the vacation payout.”

Extra PTO is meaningful only if managers give their employees permission to use it, Stute notes.

Alansky recommends telling employees who are taking time off, “Please turn off your computer. We will let the staff know you will be out.”

Offer Respite from the Day-to-Day Schedule

Back-to-back virtual meetings are tough on employees, so at Ephesoft Inc., a digital document processing company headquartered in Irvine, California, Wednesday afternoons are meeting-free to give employees a break from being “on,” says Heather Dilley, senior vice president of culture and people.

The company also has been offering “surprise” days off, extending three-day holiday weekends into four-day breaks by giving staff the Friday before the holiday off.

“We realize people are working different hours and there is real fatigue,” Dilley says. “It was an amazing boost to our staff that we recognized this.”

Spanx CEO surprises all employees with 2 first-class plane tickets and $10,000

Sara Blakely, the CEO, and founder of Spanx celebrated a $1.2 billion deal by surprising her employees with a big gift.

“Behind the scenes @spanx telling the employees (some live and some on zoom) about the sale and partnership with Blackstone,” said Blakely. “It was an emotional announcement filled with happy tears acknowledging how far we’ve come.”

And then the tears really started to flow when I surprised everybody with 2 first class @delta plane tickets to anywhere in the world and $10,000 cash to spend on the trip. I really want every employee to celebrate this moment in their own way and create a memory that will last them a lifetime! Cheers to 21 years of magic and many more to come …. ? #ToNewBeginnings

OneDay: A remote work destination

A change of scenery can make all the difference in supporting worker wellbeing, Deena Naccarella, CFO at OneDay, told me.

The video technology company’s New Digs program reimburses employees for a stay at a destination away from home where they’ll work remotely.

12 Great Employee Perks That Will Make You Jealous

Inc.’s first-ever Best Benefits Awards honor companies that went above and beyond to build a more supportive culture.

8 Unusual Employee Benefits in 2021

Freeborn– Luggage Party, All Expenses Paid Vacation

Chicago Law Firm Freeborn & Peters LLP, employees are offered a chance for a free, spontaneous vacation. They host an annual “luggage party” where employees come to work with a packed bag, and four lucky drawing winners are whisked away to the airport in a limo for an all-expense paid weekend getaway.

Patagonia– Exclusive Surfs Up Breaks

Famous activewear brand, Patagonia, has an unusual employee benefit that is all about getting outside and enjoying the sun and surf. The company headquarters are right on the beachfront in Ventura, California, so employees are encouraged to get out and surf on their lunch breaks.

“We have a policy that when the surf comes up, you drop work, and you go surfing.” says founder Yvon Chouinard.

Google- Going Above and Beyond with Generous Death Benefits

We’re not surprised that Google made this list. The tech giant has long been a leader in innovative employee culture building. Things like: on-site healthcare, free food, shuttle services, education leave, fantastic holiday parties, vacation perks, bring your pet to work permissions, and more are old-hat for the brand.

Their death benefits are no exception. While it’s not unusual for a company to pay a lump sum benefit to a deceased employee’s family, Google goes above and beyond by offering the family of deceased employees 50 percent of the decedent’s salary for ten years after their death.

While it’s not an unusual employee benefit anyone would be excited to use, it does offer peace of mind to folks who want to ensure their families are looked after.

Companies with Unique Perks & Benefits


When the pandemic hit, we converted our normal monthly commuter stipend to a $100/month work-from-home stipend. Employees can use that money on anything that makes their lives working from home more enjoyable. We also granted 1 Mental Health Day per month to all Axions.

City National Bank of Florida

Family Fund Benefit: The Family Fund program provides our employees access to up to $10,000 in reimbursement for fertility treatment expenses, not covered through insurance, or adoption process-related expenses. Also, we have  Special Moments benefits, that provide $1,800 to employees purchasing a home, giving birth, or finalizing the adoption of a child and $1,300 to help cover expenses upon the unfortunate death of a close family member.


Company-wide recharge days. Once a month, on top of our unlimited paid time off and paid holidays, we give employees another day off to unplug their devices, recharge, and rest.


Among Chipotle’s most beloved employee benefits is a debt-free degrees program that allows every eligible employee to receive a free business or technology degree at participating universities with no upfront tuition costs. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and has helped to drive attraction, retention, and promotion within the organization.


Our employees love having a well-stocked fridge and breakroom with a flowing freestyle coke machine. We also have catered in food or local food trucks every day for lunch.


A company-wide favorite perk at Drift is our sabbatical. Most companies that offer a sabbatical offer it after five years, but at Drift, we offer this perk after three-years. Every employee is eligible for a one-month sabbatical when they hit their three-year mark, and every three years after that!