Pinaki Kathiari on gratitude and the power of employee recognition

By Amanda Berry
PInaki podcast image
What do you do when your left brain pushes you toward engineering, but your right brain aches for creativity? You meet in the middle, of course, which is precisely what Pinaki Kathiari did when he became the CEO of Local Wisdom, a New Jersey-based communications agency focusing on internal and external communications. 

In a recent episode of the Simpplr Cohesion Podcast, Pinaki sat down with host Amanda Berry to talk about creativity, gratitude and the ROI of employee recognition in The ROI of employee recognition with Pinaki Kathiari, CEO & Owner of Local Wisdom. We have some insights from it to share below, and be sure to listen as he shares wisdom that you will not want to miss!

Local Wisdom runs the tactical aspects of communications to give leaders room to work strategically. And that includes everything from placing a ready-made comms team inside a business to providing studio access to create video content. 

Since “local wisdom” refers to knowledge passed down through generations in tribal communities, it only makes sense that Pinaki would have some wisdom of his own to pass on to fellow communicators.

“You go from one thing to the next,” he said, referring to the daily grind of work. “You’re based on some goals that you’re trying to hit by the end of the year, and there’s no time for all of this stuff. I realized, though, that if people don’t know how they’re making a difference, then they kind of lose sight of why they’re here.”

Pinaki describes how everyone takes the time to express appreciation and give kudos to each other at all of his monthly team meetings. “It’s so magical and wild to watch. When we have guest speakers at our meetings, they’re wowed by it. And it makes a ridiculous impact when a new hire comes on board and sees it, as well.”

Pinaki believes that gratitude can be infectious. “What if people take it home with them? What if someone says, ‘I should stop and tell my daughter how proud of her I am for talking to her manager and asking for a raise and getting it?’” And more than that, Pinaki has taken that gratitude concept to form the core of the business. “I’m really thinking about how businesses can be more human and how corporations can make a positive social impact with something as basic and as little as a ‘thank you.’”

The ROI of employee recognition

Business leaders want to quantify every initiative, including recognition systems and programs. And adding these systems always takes some commitment to investment and planning. Pinaki encourages his fellow CEOs to consider how crucial it is to take that step, even if it’s not data-based. “I know leadership has to have data, but it’s really difficult to quantify feeling. The real question is, why do we have to quantify it?” Because, honestly—doesn’t everyone like to be recognized for something they do?

Pinaki points out that gratitude is simple, likewise, employee recognition doesn’t need to be elaborate or expensive. “I’m an entrepreneur, so I try to think like ‘what’s the most I could get with the littlest investment?’ And it’s really about finding those small trigger moments to say thank you rather than creating some kind of big and arduous recognition program.” 

At Local Wisdom, Pinaki adds thanks and recognition talking points to his regular meetings. In addition to recognizing employees for work anniversaries and hitting project milestones, he celebrates what he calls “the in-betweens.” He offers thanks and kudos even during low moments of a project, “because that’s when they need it most.”

To do that, Pinaki and his team forecast when there might be difficult moments ahead of time. “We work to circumvent that,” but hard times are inevitable in business. And that’s when Pinaki works hard to find time to connect with people on a human level. “As a leader, there’s so much to do, so many things to communicate to so many people. But we can find one little way to carve out time and say, ‘Hey, thank you for all of this.’”

Though the return on investment can’t be calculated in dollars, it shows up in abundance when times are hard. “How confident are you that people in your organization will band together to get you through the hard times?” Pinaki asked. 

The other consideration is employee experience. When people feel valued, they’re more willing to go the extra mile. Pinaki points to a vicious cycle he works consciously to break: “We need results, so we have to move fast. So there’s no time to appreciate or make people feel valued.” As a result, productivity drops, and organizations don’t get the quick results they need. “Making people feel valued actually makes them faster to bring you the results.” And this is something we know for a fact from our work here at Simpplr. 

Listen to the full Cohestion Podcast The ROI of employee recognition with Pinaki Kathiari, CEO & Owner of Local Wisdom to learn more about Local Wisdom, gratitude, and Pinaki’s thoughts on internal communication maturity.

Check out our blog to learn more about how rewards and recognition can improve employee engagement

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