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Growing With Gratitude: Making Authentic Appreciation a Cornerstone of Your Culture


Align team at SBP Build site

Members of the Align Team participate in a day of building houses for SBP Disaster Recovery in New Orleans, Lousiana. 


Why We Say Thank You

In a growing business, especially one that focuses on planning for the future with strategy and goals, it’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of the next accomplishment. With such a strong emphasis on increasing sales, growing the team, achieving a BHAG, and every other change that comes with scaling up, finding the time to reflect with gratitude for what we have can be difficult. 

Yet as Align employees gather around the table with our families this holiday season, we have so much to be thankful for this year. 

Last Friday, some of the Align team (pictured above) spent a day building new houses in our local New Orleans community for SBP, a local organization who has now grown into a national disaster recovery organization. While our team worked on just two houses, SBP has rebuilt over 1,888 homes with the help of more than 180,000. They’ve also used Align to help build out their strategic plan for scaling their impact in the coming years.  

Working as a team on painting, carpentry, and landscaping gave us an opportunity to work together outside of the office and to reflect on our relationships with each other and why we do what we do on a daily basis. This led to some valuable conversations when we returned to the office. 

Align Advisor Emmy German has recently started a weekly series of team article discussions focused on workplace habits and culture. This past week, following the build, the discussion focused on employee appreciation and workplace culture. As we discussed how we express gratitude to each other some deeper themes emerged.  

Expressions of gratitude, we decided, mean more than just showing appreciation. At its core, it demonstrates that the work we do is not just for the goal of growing revenue, but in some way for each other. The jobs we have, our ability to grow in our roles, and the impact we have on the community as we scale are all dependent on each other’s actions. 

When we express authentic appreciation for one another we are not just recognizing someone’s accomplishments, but recognizing the impact that all of our individual actions have on the collective whole. Expressing gratitude becomes a cornerstone of a culture aligned around shared values. 

Going the Extra Mile

All too often, office expressions of gratitude seem to just check off a box. This reduces the heartfelt act of saying thanks to empty displays of recognition. Leaders may put on an occasional pizza party to celebrate some milestone or recognize key contributors in a monthly email. However, these actions may not be enough to infuse sincere thankfulness into the culture of an organization. 

The simple act of saying thanks takes on so much more meaning when done with the personal care it deserves. Gratitude is not just about reciprocating a favor, it is an act of wholehearted appreciation. It builds team solidarity by reinforcing the role every team member plays in advancing the collective good.   

One of the most impactful ways we say thanks at Align is through the writing of thank you cards during our quarterly planning sessions. Each employee writes two, one for someone present in the planning and one for someone outside the company. 

The delivery of the letters may be the most important step. Instead of simply dropping them on the desk of a colleague, the letters are read directly to the recipient by the writer. Hearing the sincerity in the writer’s voice and seeing the expression of gratitude on their face gives the act of giving thanks a greater impact. Many employees like to save past notes of thanks and keep them on their desk to remind them during hard work of why they do it. 

Thank you cards

The Rewards of Gratitude

When it comes to the benefits of a culture of authentic appreciation, don’t just take our word for it. A meta-analysis by the London School of Economics of 51 experiments found that “incentives may reduce an employee’s natural inclination to complete a task and derive pleasure from doing so.” While incentives can and typically should be part of a goal-oriented company culture, they are no match for the power of a culture of open gratitude. 

A study by Glassdoor, on the other hand, found that 80% of employees said they will work harder when their boss shows appreciation, and 70% said they would feel better about themselves and their work if their boss thanked them more regularly.

This suggests that expressing thanks gets to the heart of what Simon Sinek describes in his “Start With Why” Ted Talk. Showing appreciation reminds team members that the work being done is not just for a paycheck or for the company’s bottom line, but for the community they are a part of within the company and beyond. 

Entrepreneurship allows great business ideas to create better, more fulfilling lives for employees and their families. Giving sincere thanks reinforces the role employees as individuals play in making that collective prosperity possible. 

On Thanksgiving, Americans come together in similar gratitude. It represents the best of who we are as a nation and is a time of unity. 

Companies that truly believe in the collective prosperity of their employees and community will, as we Americans do on the last Thursday of November, carve out time to come together with expressions of authentic gratitude. 

We hope that you, like all of us at Align, will find lots to be thankful for this holiday season. We wish you and your loved ones a wonderful Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays!