If You Forgot to Thank Your Freelancers at the New Year, Do It Now

If You Forgot to Thank Your Freelancers at the New Year, Do It Now
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As a business owner, you know the importance of showing your employees appreciation -- especially toward the end of the year. A quick "congrats on the great work" email, thank-you note or pat on the back can go a long way in cultivating improved job performance and a positive company culture for the rest of the year.

Unfortunately, few outsourced staff members get the same treatment even though, as a former contract worker myself, I can attest to the value of a thank-you. A small show of appreciation makes more difference than you realize. Although we're already past the holiday season, there's still time for New Year's resolutions. This year, I challenge you to make a concerted effort to appreciate your freelancers.

Here's why:

1. Freelancers are people, too.

Because you don't see your outsourced employees in the break room every day, it's easy to view them as an email address. But they're still your employees, and they deserve the same treatment as every other teammate. In business, the Golden Rule reigns supreme. Take a moment to consider the value each freelancer added in 2015, and specifically thank him or her for that action. If possible, write the notes by hand. This kind of personal touch will build rapport -- not to mention boost morale.

Related: Do Employees Even Notice You Care?

2. They won’t hesitate to say goodbye.

When you consider that more than half of workers are willing to leave their current jobs for companies that show their appreciation to employees, adopting a culture of gratitude becomes your most valuable retention strategy. If your freelancers are still working for you, they must be good, right? Showing them that you truly appreciate their good work is part of making it worth their while to stay.

There are numerous ways to cultivate this mindset in your organization, but it all starts at the top. When you show your employees that everyone -- including outsourced staff -- matters, their outlook on the company will shift in a good way.

3. Gratitude is good for the brain.

A little gratitude can go a long way to improve the overall atmosphere of your company. When your employees see that you're grateful for them, they get a brain boost. According to a study from the National Institutes of Health, people who experience feelings of gratitude show increased blood flow in areas of the brain linked to the "feel good" neurotransmitter: dopamine. A feeling of gratitude can also activate the hypothalamus, which controls not only essential bodily functions such as sleeping and eating, but also metabolism and stress.

Related: 3 Reasons You Should Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude

4. It can boost employee performance.

Encouragement and appreciation can also prompt employees to give you their best work, as evidenced by a study conducted at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In the study, a fundraising group that listened to a gratitude-filled speech from the director of annual giving made 50 percent more calls than those who did not.

Showing gratitude should be an ongoing process in your company, but the new year presents a good opportunity to bring it top of mind. Find little ways to show your freelancers how much they mean to you, even if you only know them by an email signature or Skype avatar. An e-gift card, personal note or thank-you voicemail will go further than you realize.

When you set the example of a culture of appreciation, that sentiment will trickle down through the rungs of management until your entire organization is bursting with gratitude. Everyone wins when you stop to say thanks.

Related: 20 Quotes on the Importance of Thankfulness and Gratitude