Gartner: Finance Leaders Should Lead with Gratitude to Improve Staff Engagement

Finance leaders who are facing low levels of employee engagement in their function should make sure they understand how leading with gratitude can improve the situation, according to Gartner, Inc. These low levels of engagement are likely leading to high staff turnover and undermining key function priorities.

“Finance department employee engagement tends to trend below firm-wide averages, suggesting that the tactics used by finance leaders to drive engagement have not been entirely successful,” said Shannon Cole, senior director analyst, research, in the Gartner Finance practice. “Low levels of engagement are likely to put CFO priorities that call for finance employees’ change capacity at risk.”

“Finance leaders who are facing issues with staff engagement should know that leading with gratitude is an often-overlooked way to improve engagement,” said Rob O’Donohue, vice president analyst at Gartner. “Better still: it is entirely in their hands: no new approvals or budget are needed.”

Gartner defines engagement as how likely employees are to stay in their current job and exert high effort. (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Elements of Employee Engagement

Lead with Gratitude to Improve Workplace Engagement

Finance leaders should consider addressing employee engagement issues by displaying gratitude themselves and by fostering a culture of gratitude in their function.

“However, not all gratitude practices work,” said O’Donohue. “It will have limited benefit as a tickbox exercise, and when gratitude is given without being specific or heartfelt it can be seen as inauthentic and tends to have a negative impact on morale.”

For a successful “Gratitude Attitude”, finance leaders should consider peer-to-peer gratitude shares. Leaders can dedicate the first five to 10 minutes of each team meeting to the appreciation of others. Leaders should/can go first, but the real power comes when team members give thanks to each other for support they’ve received recently.

Finance leaders can also tweak the SMART goals approach by giving thanks by being:

  • Specific (what quality the person brought, e.g., humor to the team/project, honest feedback)
  • Measurable (working extra hours, closing more tickets, writing extra code, fixing more bugs)
  • Active (do it in person or over a video call)
  • Relevant (explain the impact it had on the group’s or team’s success and, more importantly, why it upheld a great culture)
  • Timely (do it immediately, if possible).

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