Employee Recognition Linked to Satisfaction, Motivation and Work Effort

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As Labor Day approaches, one survey has found that only about half of the U.S. workforce (51%) say they feel valued by their employer and more than a third (36%) haven’t received any form of recognition in the last year. The survey from the American Psychological Association (APA) also found that just 47% say recognition is provided fairly.

Although a majority of working Americans (81%) reported that their employer provides some type of recognition, less than half (46%) said their organization recognizes employees for individual job performance. Additionally, less than a third (29%) said that team or work-unit performance is recognized and even fewer reported that their employer provides recognition for company-wide results (21%), or engaging in specific behaviors, such as those consistent with the organization’s values (18%).


“Today, business success depends on sustainable workplace practices and a healthy, high-performing workforce,” said Norman B. Anderson, PhD, chief executive officer of the APA. “Part of promoting employee well-being is demonstrating how their efforts contribute to the organization’s success and recognizing them for their good work.”

According to U.S. workers, the most common form of recognition their employer provides is salary increases based on merit (39%). Less than a third (31%) said that direct supervisors express verbal or written appreciation and only about 1 in 4 (24%) reported that their organization uses performance-based bonuses or promotions as a form of recognition.

Survey results linked effective recognition practices to both employee and organizational outcomes. 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. They reported 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. In addition, employees who received recognition more recently also reported higher levels of satisfaction, motivation and work effort.

The survey also explored the relationship between recognition and employee retention. Employees were most likely to plan to leave their employer in the next year when they felt less valued, had lower perceptions of fairness regarding the organization’s recognition practices and experienced lower overall job satisfaction. Working Americans who reported high levels of supervisor effectiveness in providing employee recognition and valuing the recognition they receive were more likely to say they plan to stay with their current employer three years or longer.

“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, assistant executive director for organizational excellence at the APA.

Additional findings from the survey include:

  • More than a quarter of working adults (28%) said that written or verbal appreciation from their direct supervisor is important, but when it comes to the types of recognition that working Americans say are important to them, money tops the list; 6 out of 10 employees cited merit-based salary increases as important, followed by fair monetary compensation (47%), performance-based bonuses (43%) and promotions or advancement (38%).
  • Men and women reported that recognition in general is equally important to them (87%), but men were more likely than women to report being satisfied with their employer’s recognition practices (54% vs. 46%), to believe that recognition is provided fairly in their organization (52% vs. 42%) and to say their supervisor provides recognition effectively (56% vs. 47%).
  • Although 4 in ten employees reported working remotely at least sometimes (30% sometimes, 5% often, 6% always), no significant relationships were found between employees working remotely and their satisfaction with recognition or how long they plan to stay with their current employer.


Contents © 2014 WorldatWork.

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