As healthcare continues to move toward evidence-based practice, there is plenty of research that indicates that feeling appreciated is one of the single-most sustainable motivators at work. In the end, sending thank you notes to team members' homes is an effective, low-cost method for ensuring retention and boosting engagement.
It's been nearly ten years since I received the best thank you note of my career. Well, I didn't receive it. Craig, the budget director at the hospital where I worked, sent it to my home, addressed to my wife and three children. He wrote:
Dear Hilary and kids,
I want to thank you for sharing your husband and dad with us at the hospital. Lately, he's put in a lot of long hours-including nights and weekends. I'm positive he would have rather spent those hours with you because he constantly talks about how much he loves you. Please know the work your dad does is important and helps the patients in our hospital get better. I sure appreciate your dad and his quality work.
Those few sentences reminded my family that I loved them and that I was doing purposeful, worthwhile work. We all felt appreciated. Craig's note hung on our refrigerator for months.
As a bonus, my family now had a personal connection to someone from the hospital. When I talked about our team, my daughter would say, "Oh, yeah. Craig's the one who sent us the letter."
If you want to invest some time in this low-cost, high-impact tactic, here are some tips for sending thank you notes to employees' families:
- Ask first. It's okay to say to a team member, "I hope you know how much I appreciate you and your contributions. Would it be alright if I wrote a thank you note to your spouse/partner/children? I want them to hear about the great things you're doing and how much I appreciate their support for you."
- Got Millennials? If you are working with a younger employee, consider asking to send a thank you note to their parents or another important person in their lives.
- Hand-write, don't type. In the age of email, text and emoji, a handwritten note demonstrates respect and sincerity.
- Be specific. Point out the good things the team member does and explain how those actions improve people's lives -- including your own.
- Be timely. Make sure the note is sent in a timeframe that makes it relevant.
- Too busy? Keep it short. Few five-minute tasks could be more worth your while than sending a thank you note.
As a savvy finance director, Craig may have known that this low-cost, high-return strategy would boost my engagement. I felt genuinely appreciated when my wife read the letter aloud to our kids. I remembered I was doing purposeful, worthwhile work. I was making a positive difference. All for the cost of a stamp.
Todd Hendricks is a Studer Group coach who collaborates with leaders to improve and sustain extraordinary clinical, operational and financial outcomes while focusing on the meaningful work we do as caregivers. With energy and insight, he helps healthcare professionals strengthen relationships and achieve excellence.