By Paresh Shah
You know that feeling you get when you've given someone the perfect gift. You watch in anticipation as she unties the ribbon and unwraps the box. You see her face light up with joy and excitement, and you have a connection that brings you closer together. It’s these moments of connection that create harmony in the world.
Sure, the holiday season can be stressful and make you want to pull out your hair, but the giving spirit brings out the best in people — both personally and professionally. So, don’t say goodbye to those happy, connected feelings as soon as the holiday decorations come down. You can hold on to this giving spirit — and the benefits that come with it — all year long.
Creating a giving company culture is a powerful way to boost employee satisfaction, customer retention and even financial performance 365 days a year. Studies show that expressing gratitude can increase happiness by up to 25 percent, and happy employees are more productive.
But people such as Mike understand that a giving culture is about more than sponsoring events or donating to charity. Giving cultures foster a spirit of service, and employees volunteer, mentor and serve as leaders to create a sense of connectedness in their communities. Leaders of companies that develop this culture build a giving mindset that extends well beyond their teams to their customers and the rest of the world.
Giving is a vital part of my company, Glimpulse. My team often begins meetings by expressing gratitude, making sure to acknowledge our staff members’ contributions. Each person shares something simple yet powerful, such as “My job got easier because of…” or “Today, I’m inspired by…”
These powerful sentiments put the group in the right state of mind to work through challenges and recognize the contributions that each person is making. It’s also a great reminder that life is all about giving and that there are lots of ways to give as a company.
A powerful question is: “How can I help?” It makes us all feel good — to give and to receive.
Here are a few powerful ways to give back to your team without spending a dime:
1. Give your attention. As a leader, simply taking the time to really get to know your team members is one of the most powerful acts of giving. We’re all busy, but making time for your employees shows them that you care about them as individuals.
Tiane Mitchell Gordon, former senior vice president of diversity and inclusion at AOL, would devote a full hour to each of her staff members once a month to talk about whatever that person wanted to discuss — personal or professional.
2. Give insight. I have yet to meet anyone who couldn’t use a little guidance from someone more experienced or skilled, but corporate culture often makes it nearly impossible to ask for help when you need it. As a leader, you can make this easier by encouraging employees to spend time helping others through sharing their unique business and non-business talents. It’s not about taking over someone else’s job; it’s about playing together as a team.
3. Give information. Sharing information and data with employees fosters trust. It also gives employees the opportunity to contribute in ways they wouldn’t be able to without key information. Once you’ve armed employees with what they need to know, you’ll see the energy, support, and insights from everybody come together in new and exciting ways.
Contrary to popular belief, people won’t hoard and protect data; they’ll actually share and help one another. If a person in your company starts hiding data to protect his own interests, squash it right away. That’s the beginning of politics, division, and self-interests being put above team goals.
4. Give acknowledgement. Send thank-you cards, informal lunch invites, and other small tokens of appreciation to team members who go above and beyond. Don’t make it a big corporate thing, though. Keeping it personal will make it resonate more than a formal reward or bonus program. If it’s authentic, the word will get around.
5. Give enjoyment. No one wants to say it, but expecting employees to spend every second at the office working is simply unrealistic. Breaks are important, even when they happen spontaneously throughout the day. Creating a company culture where people are free to share stories, make jokes, dance, and send one another funny Vines can keep things fun and light — even in times of high stress.
Like anything else, giving requires constant practice, but building a giving culture is well worth the effort. Your employees will be more productive. And when your employees are happy and engaged, that attitude trickles down to your customers. Ultimately, a giving culture promotes prosperity for everyone involved.
Image credit: Flickr/State Farm
Paresh Shah is an experienced entrepreneur, executive, yogi, life coach, and dad of four kids. He’s the founder and CEO of Glimpulse, the Human Expression Company that creates products to challenge, inspire, and equip people to be happier, healthier, and more giving through authentic self-expression.