People often associate job satisfaction with a fair paycheck. While compensation is an important way to make employees feel valued, recognition and a positive work culture is also essential for retention.
A survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that employees who felt valued were more likely to be involved in decision-making, see a potential for growth and advancement, have flexible work arrangements, and receive non-monetary rewards. The APA concluded that being valued at work leads to better physical and mental health for employees, and greater productivity. It’s a win-win.
To see whether employees feel valued at work and how it impacts their job performance, we conducted a survey of 1,417 employed Americans and found that nearly 2 in 5 (58%) believe it’s extremely important to feel valued at work. With this in mind, we wanted to know what type of recognition they crave most and how it helps them stay engaged.
- A majority of employees (83%) say they feel recognized at work.
- Verbal and digital thanks are the most common forms of recognition, but pay increases and bonuses are the most desired.
- Nearly half of respondents said they’ve considered quitting a job due to lack of recognition.
More than half of the employees we surveyed said they feel extremely valued at their workplace, and more than 4 in 5 (83%) reported feeling recognized for the work they’re putting in. In fact, 81% said they received the recognition they believed they deserved the last time they accomplished a big project.
How often are they recognized? When asked, 1 in 5 said their boss had shown appreciation for their work within the last week, and 22% said this happened a few times a week. Recognition also came from colleagues, who were almost equally likely to show the same level of appreciation: 18% said their colleagues recognized them a few times a week.
When broken down by gender, women were less likely to feel valued or recognized than men (77% vs. 86%, respectively). They were also less likely than men to feel they’d gotten the same amount of recognition as their colleagues (55% vs. 61%, respectively).
Additionally, we wanted to understand which positions were most likely to feel valued. Nearly all managers surveyed said they feel somewhat or extremely valued (97%). Meanwhile, 93% of individual contributors said they feel somewhat or extremely valued and just 88% of entry-level employees could say the same.
Recognition typically came in the form of positive feedback. Most often, respondents said recognition for day-to-day accomplishments came in the form of verbal thanks (63%), followed by digital thanks, like a Slack message or email (47%), and handwritten thanks (37%).
That held true for more significant accomplishments, too. In such cases, recognition most frequently came in the form of verbal thanks (50%) or digital thanks (40%). However, recognition for these larger contributions was more likely to take a tangible form, such as a pay increase, which was reported by 36% of our survey respondents, or new growth opportunities (34%). Other types of recognition mentioned in the survey included celebration events like dinners or event tickets.
Working in an office setting can provide more opportunities for recognition, such as awards handed out at company lunches and a personal “thank you” in the boss’s office. However, this hasn’t kept employers from recognizing employees who work remotely.
On the contrary, remote workers we surveyed felt their contributions were valued, too: 92% said they felt just as valued, if not more so, while working from home as they did while working in an office. More than half (54%) said they actually recognize their colleagues more in a remote setting than in an office.
A key takeaway is that recognition can take the form of trust: 96% of remote workers said they feel trusted by their boss. This fits well with the APA findings that flexible work arrangements and involvement in decision-making—another indication of trust—are among the factors that make employees feel valued.
It’s clear from our survey that employees want to feel valued. Still, how do employees say they want to be recognized?
A majority of employees said they’d prefer to receive recognition for their constant efforts and contributions than for big wins.
More specifically, nearly 2 in 5 respondents said they prefer to be recognized once a week to a few times a week (39%). And the highest percentage (49%) said they’d like to be recognized by the leader above their direct manager.
When asked what type of recognition they would most appreciate, the top two choices, perhaps unsurprisingly, had to do with money: 67% named a pay increase, while 53% said they’d like a bonus. Another popular choice was verbal thanks at 44%, with digital thanks and a high performance rating (which in some jobs is linked to pay raises) both at 37%.
While large gatherings might appeal to some, the vast majority (86%) would prefer their recognition to be delivered privately or with just a few others in attendance. And when it comes to nonmonetary recognition, they prefer to hear it verbally. When asked how they’d most like to receive recognition, 38% said verbally, and 24% answered digitally.
Money isn’t the only tangible form of appreciation that employees like to receive. Company-branded swag is another popular way for employers to show they appreciate their employees.
Three-quarters of our survey participants (75%) said they’ve received swag, and 95% of those who did have kept it.
Respondents were most likely to want (and keep) tech or tech accessories, bags, and drinkware, and favorites included the first three items along with pens and paper. The most popular forms of swag were drinkware, pens and paper, and bags.
In addition to making employees feel valued, recognition is one of the best ways to ensure employee retention. Nearly half (49%) of the employees in our survey said they’d quit a job because of a lack of recognition.
With that in mind, we asked respondents whether or not they were happy at work, and the response was overwhelmingly positive: 90% said yes. Of those who said they were happy, 90% said they felt recognized and valued, once again linking happiness to recognition.
Similarly, more than 9 in 10 said they expect to be working at their current employer in a year. However, of those who said they wouldn’t, fewer than 1 in 5 said they feel recognized and valued, only 22% said they are completely engaged with their job, and a staggering 79% said they’re experiencing burnout.
Of those who said they weren’t happy at their present job, 65% said they don’t plan to be working there a year from now.
Employers who keep their employees productive and motivated in their jobs tend to be those who make them feel valued. There are many ways they can do so, ranging from verbal praise to bonuses. Some methods are more appreciated (and effective) than others, as our survey showed, but the most important thing is that employees feel recognized on the job.
On October 15, 2021, we surveyed 1,417 employed Americans. Of these, 62% were employed full-time, 30% were employed part-time, 7% were self-employed, and 1% were self-employed, contractors, or freelancers. When it comes to job roles, 47% were managers; 28% were individual contributors; 19% were entry-level employees; 2% were VP or C-Suite. The average age was 41; 58% of respondents were male and 42% were female.
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