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What Is Recognition At Work?

You might have heard that 'thank you' goes a long way - harking back all the way to those Ps and Qs we were taught as a child. But those Qs don't stop being important once you get to the working world, and they can even work to improve staff retention and save you costly recruitment time. Recognise your staff, and reap daily dividends.


When children get a gold star at school, they're excited. Not because of the sticker (well, some of them might be) but because of the appreciation and recognition of their efforts. Translated into a work environment the principle remains, and money can form a part of that. But whether financial or otherwise, the focus on fostering intrinsic motivation – motivation driven by feeling – is key.

Key in a hand

Intrinsic motivation in the palm of your hand

Glassdoor’s 2013 Employee Appreciation Survey revealed more than half of UK employees (53 per cent) would stay longer at their company if they felt more appreciated by their boss. Moreover, four in five (81 per cent) reported they were motivated to work harder when their boss showed appreciation for their work. A 2017 Reward Gateway study reinforced the findings: 50 per cent of employees surveyed said they would leave a company if they weren’t regularly thanked and recognized for their efforts.

But what should that 'thank you' look like? Money's great - it makes the world go round after all* - but it doesn't go anywhere near as far as you think it might be. And we're not talking about tax.

Money on a map

*As seen here, money may actually make the world go flat

Research published in the Academy of Management journal found monetary incentive alone only increased employee performance by 11 per cent, but social recognition and feedback really moved the needle. The same study found that a combination of feedback, social recognition, and monetary incentive (or other forms of rewards) increased employee performance by 37 per cent. Basically, whatever you do, literally say 'thank you' too to make it go that much further.

With the formula for a successful recognition scheme clear, what forms of reward besides money are most valued by employees?

A study by Harris Group found that 72 percent of millennials would rather spend on experiences rather than material items, while studies have found spending on experiences brings more lasting joy than spending money on material goods. The experience economy is on the rise, so your employees will respond well to some more experiences in their lives.

Book with a bar graph

If X is time, Y is the amount of experience economy there is in the world

Last year, Barclaycard found the average adult would spend £129 on entertainment and events such as gigs, beauty treatments and adventure days over the 2018 festive period – a 115 per cent increase on 2017. One in five planned to choose an experience-based present for their loved ones. And research by Sodexo says it works. The firm found 63 per cent of employees at higher performing organisations showed a clear preference for non-cash rewards.

Moreover, experience rewards are helping to level the scales of the work-life balance, particularly if the experiences are rewarded at work. Experiences bring people happiness, happiness increases productivity (by around 12 per cent), so experiences increase productivity. That's science. Or possibly maths. Definitely a school subject featuring numbers anyway.

The bottom line? Motivation driven by feeling – through feeling appreciated, recognised and rewarded in a meaningful way – is more impactful and will last longer than sporadic bonuses. And that's Recognition At Work. Experiences and vouchers are successfully being deployed by companies in the know, but if you’re strapped for cash and the word “reward” is daunting: it doesn’t have to be. This is an opportunity for fun, and the science suggests even a simple thank you note goes a long way.


*Want to get some work recognition in your employees lives? Reach out with a contact form, or call us on *0330 111 3030, and we'll help you find the best form of recognition for your business!

Photos by: unsplash-logoCMDR Shane

unsplash-logoChristine Roy

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