09-20-2021

The “Thank You” Effect

Thank you. Two of the first words we learn as toddlers. We’re taught those words form a cornerstone of good manners. So why then do we hesitate to use them in professional settings?

According to ITA Group, 85 percent of organizations have a recognition platform in place, based solely on tenure. While it’s great to recognize employees for years of service (we do that here at Parsons), what about the day-to-day lifting they do? Umpteen studies show recognition—formal or not—is better for business, fostering higher employee engagement and better retention. Upwards of 41 percent better, according to some studies. What’s more, recognition has been shown time and time again to be connected to stronger trust, more energetic employee efforts, and enhanced feelings of belonging among employees. It’s a win-win!

In 2019, our leadership assembled an internal team tasked with creating a formal recognition program for the company. I was lucky enough to be part of it and was blown away by the idea. A company this large was dedicating hours and harnessing employee insight from across the company to create a program that would resonate with all employees. This was our chance to show that at Parsons, we take “thank yous” seriously. On a personal note, this was my chance to make a tangible difference in the everyday lives of our employees and create even stronger ties within our company culture. Parsons is so dedicated to the cause, in 2020, a full-time position to handle all things recognition was formed. That’s me!

Hi, I’m Parsons’ Employee Recognition Visionary (I know, great title, right?), and I’m so proud to be one of the wizards behind the curtain pushing employee appreciation to new heights.”

At the center of that effort is the Parsons Distinguished Recognition and Incentive Program, affectionately known as the DRIVE Program. Launched in July of 2019, it’s the first formal program for employee recognition in Parsons’ decades-long history, designed to recognize, reward, and encourage high-caliber work. As an organization, we approach company culture this way: recognition is a mindset. Sure, it’s something you need to practice, but genuine and authentic recognition won’t come to fruition without the mindset. And let’s face it, there’s something to be said for positive reinforcement.

In a period of two years, what started as a recognition program consisting of three similar award levels that all included monetary bonuses has blossomed into a robust engine of recognition. The program is now comprised of nine distinct award levels, each with its own criteria, workflow, and rewards. The program is open to all part- and full-time employees around the globe, and awards can be distributed from supervisor to team member, individual contributor to supervisor, and from peer to peer. That flexibility is what we’re most proud of—no employee is unable to recognize someone else or be recognized themself.

And we didn’t stop at benefitting our employees. Here, we strive to Deliver a Better World. One of our award levels is directly connected to our six core values. For each employee awarded at this level, we make a monetary contribution to a specific charitable organization representing our core values. These organizations rotate each quarter, allowing us to positively impact the communities in which we work and live. With many of our employees dedicated to volunteering outside of work hours, this sort of community support shows we are committed to the causes close to our employees’ hearts.

Yes, the DRIVE Program is solid. It’s our main vehicle (okay, pun intended) for formal recognition at Parsons. But in returning to that motto, recognition is a mindset, there are plenty of less formal avenues we encourage employees to use. Managers can hand out Core Value coins to employees on the spot. These are like military challenge coins representative of our core values. We also encourage social recognition. Posting a shoutout to an employee on the company intranet or announcing it at the start of a meeting can have a lasting effect on the morale and motivation of employees—especially those among younger generations. Our employee database includes a feature that allows for positive feedback any time from anyone. It doesn’t matter which level of an organization you’re a part of, whether there is a budget available, how you do it (formally or informally), or whether you’re at work or somewhere else, getting into that mindset of recognition will influence your team and cultural connections. And you might find it gives you some extra skip in your step, too.

Bottom line: remember to say, “thank you.” Two words that say a whole lot more.

About The Author

Denise Mylin is the Employee Recognition Visionary for Parsons. She has been in the role for two years and focuses her energy on growing and streamlining Parsons’ formal and informal employee recognition efforts in creative ways that enhance the employee experience. She has several years of corporate communications experience, in addition to nearly a decade of experience working as a television journalist.

About The Author

Paula Rae Johnson, PHR, has over 20 years of experience in the field of Human Resources and has been with Parsons for over 13 years.  She serves as the Human Resources Director for Corporate, supporting Human Resources, Finance, Legal, Enterprise Marketing Group, Security, and Growth. Paula has a passion for personal and professional development. She has studied building and sustaining trust in the workplace, conflict management, decision-making and group dynamics, interpersonal relationships, giving and receiving feedback, visioning techniques, and organizational dynamics. In addition, Paula has led multiple high-profile enterprise-wide efforts, including the integration and oversight of the COVID-19 Track and Trace Team and Parsons’ employee recognition programs.

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