During a recent introduction, I was asked about my previous roles. The new acquaintance, upon learning I was former military, instantly remarked, "Thank you for your service". No-one had ever said that to me before and to be honest, I wasn't sure how to respond! When somebody thanks you, it's customary to respond by saying, "You're welcome", but this felt a little inappropriate at the time, so instead, I just mumbled something like, 'no need to thank me'. 

In a corporate environment, getting praise right has clear benefits and has proven to be most cost-effective! A study published in the Harvard Business Review in 2010 showed that a mere 0.1% increase in employee engagement at Best Buy, drove $100,000 in operating income to the bottom line of each store per year, with simple recognition being the most important factor.

So how do you go about giving thanks, and making sure it lands in the right way? 

Chester Elton, author of The Carrot Principle, suggests: 

  • Give praise now. The closer the recognition is to the behaviour, the more likely it will be repeated, as the positive feelings will be more closely associated with the act. 
  • Give praise often. The more you reference what's important to you, the more people will focus on that. (Read more in this interview). 

Experts stress the importance of specificity. Psychologist Dr. Wayne Nemeroff, CEO and co-founder of PsyMax Solutions, says, "Recall a particular situation and describe a specific behaviour; acknowledge the impact the behaviour or action had on the group or the project, or on you." 

While specificity is important, sincerity is vital. Sincerity will automatically lead to impromptu praise (the best praise of all, because it is automatically perceived as sincere). Sincerity takes advantage of a moment that is already happening; an email, the beginning of a meeting, and it is one of the three factors which make up credibility, as covered in more detail in this article by Kyle Hughes of Applied Influence Group. 

Back to the story. What do you do when you meet a service leaver and you want to show your appreciation and support? The best course of action would be to find out how the transition into their new life is going. 

A service leaver is like anyone else in that they just want to fit into their new organisation, so perhaps show meaningful appreciation by asking how you can help them make a smooth transition to the world of civilian employment (no mean feat!). You will soon see the true value that a service leaver can bring to your organisation.