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Survey Says: Most Companies Engage in Recognition

A survey conducted by WorldatWork with underwriting support from Maritz Motivation reveals that the vast majority of companies are recognizing employees both informally and, increasingly, through a formal company-wide program. The "2019 Trends in Employee Recognition Survey" shows that while there is an increase in deeply embedded recognition programs (17 percent in 2019 compared to 10 percent in 2015), there is also an icnrease in companies that say they have no employee recognition policy, strategy or philosophy (19 percent in 2019, compared to 12 percent in 2015).

The survey aimed to identify new and continuing trends into why, how often and how employees are recognized. To motivate high performance, create or maintain a positive work environment and increase engagement were all popular reasons for recognition; 24 percent used recognition to support a culture of change at their organizations, the survey found.

Some tried and true huzzahs—like rewarding employees for length of service, celebrating the employee of the month, and rewards of watches, trophies and plaques and certificates are popular incentives.

The survey respondents agreed that while their programs are doing a fairly good job of meeting goals, there is definite room for improvement. Only 18 percent said they are definitely meeting their goals.

Key findings include:

  • Most organizations have an informal recognition program, but 36 percent of those with written programs and policies say they are not widely applied, compared to 44 percent who said they were applied in 2015.
  • The average organization uses eight separate recognition programs. The most typical are length of service (72 percent) and above-and-beyond performance (62 percent). Programs to motivate specific behaviors or outputs such as customer service (34 percent), productivity (27 percent) and quality (27 percent) are also occasions for recognition.
  • Two old chestnuts, the employee of the month/year is used by 18 percent of companies; and 49 percent give clocks and watches as rewards.
  • Gift cards are the most common reward, given by 62 percent of respondents.
  • Companies use incentives to keep employees healthy. Biometric/wellness programs are the recognition programs that reach the highest proportion of the workforce (40 percent).

Human resources administers recognition programs in half of the organizations, followed by the compensation department in about a quarter of them. But most organizations are not training managers and employees on them, the survey found. Only 52 percent of senior management views recognition as an investment.

"Recognizing co-workers—publicly and often—is a terrific way to reinforce what is really important to any organization," said Scott Cawood, president and CEO of WorldatWork. "A well placed 'thank you' generates buzz for delivering on a promise to a customer or exceeding an expectation. Recognition costs very little but delivers powerful ROI, including helping all employees celebrate their great work, which both excites them and encourages them to stay with you. As this study suggests, those who administer these programs recognize that they are valuable, but there is a big opportunity to call out employees for work well done in a more formal way."

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