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Transforming Workplaces Through Recognition

Research and analytics giant Gallup and human capital management software multinational Workhuman recently joined forces to look in detail at how recognition and appreciation truly impact our workplace engagement levels, employee retention and organisational culture.

Together, they have produced the “Transforming Workplaces Through Recognition” report. You can download this in all of its glory here. Subtitled “unleashing the human element at work”, they have collated and analysed data from thousands of employees across Western Europe and the United States to examine what good recognition looks like and what impact it has.

It’s a fascinating read, but if you don’t have the time for 40 detailed pages, we have summarised this for you into a few headline stats. It makes for some startling reading.

The benefits of good recognition

The report found that, when recognition is done properly, employees are:

  • 5x as likely to feel connected to their organisation’s culture

  • 5x as likely to see a path for growth within their organisation

  • 4x as likely to be engaged

  • 4x as likely to recommend their organisation as an employer

  • 56% less likely to be looking for other job opportunities

  • 73% less likely to “always” or “very often” feel burned out

  • 44% more likely to be “thriving” in their life overall

These are similar to the statistics often quoted about the importance of good internal communication and the benefits of a current and robust internal comms strategy. This is because the two are intrinsically linked and of similar value and importance to employees. Nobody likes to feel kept in the dark about what is going on around them, and everybody wants to feel valued, recognised and appreciated for the work they do and the contributions they make.

Are organisations adopting good recognition practices?

Despite these stats, the sad truth in this report is that many organisations are missing out on the benefits of a recognition culture by doing little or nothing. According to their data:

  • 81% of leaders say recognition is not a major strategic priority for their organisation

  • 73% of senior leaders say their organisation does not offer leaders training for employee recognition

  • Almost 2/3 of leaders say their organisation has no budget for recognition

  • Only 36% of employees say their organisation has a recognition platform

  • And only 22% of employees say their organisation uses digital recognition software

Recognition at work tends to come from above or from our peers. Whilst many would assume that recognition from above is by far the most important of the two, they would be only partially right. Gallup and Workhuman found that:

Employees who receive recognition only a few times a year from a manager, supervisor or leader are:

  • 5x as likely to be actively disengaged

  • 74% more likely to say they plan to move to a new employer within a year

  • 27% more likely to be struggling

Employees who receive recognition only a few times a year from their peers are:

  • 3x as likely to be actively disengaged

  • 39% more likely to say they plan to move to a new employer within a year

  • 24% more likely to be struggling

This shows that peer-to-peer recognition really does make a difference to the engagement and wellbeing of our people. A huge bonus with peer-to-peer is that, with the right platform, this can pretty much run itself whilst reaping huge rewards in engagement, wellbeing, and loyalty. Such a platform can also provide a host of insightful data to help leaders not only celebrate the shared recognitions, but also understand the kinds of acts, gestures and support that matter and are being appreciated across their teams. It also makes the recognition of commonly unsung heroes easier, those that have significant value or impact but don’t necessarily return the traditionally noticed and recognised metrics. We’re talking colleague support instead of sales figures, or collaboration over mystery shopper scores. These things really matter and are more likely to be recognised and shared by the peer who received the help than by a senior leader.

How to do recognition properly

According to the report, there are five pillars for making recognition properly meaningful. Recognition has the most impact when it is:

  • Fulfilling – recognition should meet employees’ needs and expectations. Yet only 23% of those surveyed strongly agreed they get the recognition they need.

  • Authentic – recognition should mean something to both the giver and recipient. However, only 1/3 agreed that they receive authentic recognition.

  • Equitable – employees should be recognised consistently and equitably across their organisation. But only 1/4 agree that recognition is given equitably where they work.

  • Embedded in the culture – recognition should be weaved into employees’ everyday lives. Sadly, fewer than 20% strongly agreed that recognition is an important part of their organisation’s culture.

  • Personalised – we are all unique and we have different preferences on how or where we receive recognition. Only 10% of those surveyed said they were asked about their preferences for receiving recognition.

The report concludes by suggesting these five steps for leaders:

  1. Make recognition accessible - It goes without saying that the easier it is for everyone to give recognition, the more they will do it.

  2. Make recognition part of the culture - Make recognition a daily habit. But set designated times and events to amplify it and make it special.

  3. Train managers on how to give recognition well - You may need to educate your leaders on the impacts of recognition and their options for providing it. This needs to be a part of their responsibilities.

  4. Model the behaviour - Leaders should lead by example. Senior management should recognise managers and leaders too, as these are too often overlooked in the recognition stakes (which won’t inspire them to pay it forward). Our advice is to send recognition right down the chain, starting from the very top and including every tier.

  5. Prioritise recognition - Give recognition the strategy and attention it needs and deserves. Assign time, energy, resource, and budget to do it properly and get it right.

In the light of this report, it really does seem like a no-brainer. Regardless of the size of your organisation, recognition and appreciation matter. And they have the power to make a significant difference.

It’s actually not that expensive to invest in a recognition platform to get you started. The cost of not doing so, however, could be huge.


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