Money was found to be the most significant form of recognition received by workers responding to a Labor Day survey conducted by the Harris Poll for the American Psychological Association. Employees were not particularly happy, even though their attitudes are critical for engagement, motivation and retention.
- Only about half of the U.S. workforce (51 percent) say they feel valued by their employer, more than a third (36 percent) haven’t received any form of recognition in the last year and just 47 percent say recognition is provided fairly.
- The most common form of recognition their employer provides is salary increases based on merit (39 percent). Less than a third (31 percent) said that direct supervisors express verbal or written appreciation and only about one in four (24 percent) reported that their organization uses performance-based bonuses or promotions as a form of recognition.
While “atta-boys” by the boss were valued, cash remained king. Six out of 10 employees (62 percent) cited merit-based salary increases as important, followed by fair monetary compensation (47 percent), performance-based bonuses (43 percent) and promotions or advancement (38 percent).
The survey also explored the positive relationship between effective recognition programs and employee morale, engagement and retention. Employees who said that recognition practices are fair, that direct supervisors provide recognition effectively and that they value the recognition they receive reported a variety of positive outcomes, including higher levels of job satisfaction, a greater likelihood to work harder because of the recognition they receive, stronger motivation to do their best and a greater sense of feeling valued. Those who received recognition more recently also reported higher levels of job satisfaction and motivation to work hard.
Although 40% reported working remotely at least sometimes, no significant differences about satisfaction, morale and retention were found among remote workers. There were some gender-based differences. While both men and women gave equal importance to recognition (87 percent), men were slightly more likely than women to report being satisfied with their employer’s practices and to believe that recognition is provided fairly by their organization and by their supervisor.
Recognition is a mechanism for engagement, which is vital for the success of any human enterprise.
“When an organization makes people feel valued and appreciated, that not only creates a better work environment, it also affects whether employees want to stick around and help the company achieve its goals,” said David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, assistant executive director for organizational excellence at APA.
The way people react to the communication methods used by management has a critical impact on their performance. Unfortunately, the reality discovered in the APA survey seems pretty dismal. Far too many workers feel unappreciated. They see little personal positive feedback beyond merit increases, and most don't even get those. Relying on pay to be the prime recognition device may be misguided and overly optimistic. Regardless of the validity of this report, it should be a cautionary warning that we need to do better.
There is obviously a lot of room for improvement in the total rewards profession. If these findings are worse than what you see at your enterprise (or at your clients), count your blessings! You might want to share this article, showing how this survey contrasts with your superior achievements.
E. James (Jim) Brennan is Senior Associate of ERI Economic Research Institute, the premier publisher of interactive pay and living-cost surveys. After over 40 years in HR corporate and consulting roles throughout the U.S. and Canada, he’s pretty much been there done that (articles, books, speeches, seminars, radio/TV, advisory posts, in-trial expert witness stuff, etc.), serves on the Advisory Board of the Compensation and Benefits Review and will express his opinion on almost anything.
Creative Commons image "The Art of Being Happy" by Chi King