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Workhuman-Gallup Research Finds Recognition at Work Bolsters Engagement and Shields Employees from Burnout

Research reveals four practical steps organizations can take to improve culture through the power of recognition

Workhuman® and Gallup released a new report today, Empowering Workplace Culture Through Recognition, which examines the significance of recognition in the workplace as both a foundational element and a catalyst for organizational culture. Employees who strongly agree that recognition is an important part of their organization’s culture are 3.7 times as likely to be engaged, 3.8 times as likely to feel connected to their culture, and half as likely to experience frequent burnout than those who do not.

In the wake of pandemic-era workplace shifts and the Great Resignation, and amidst recent mass layoffs, the research highlights crucial considerations for leadership in reinforcing strong organizational cultures. Employees who strongly agree they are connected to their organization’s culture are over three times as likely to be engaged at work. They also are over five times as likely to strongly agree they would recommend their organization as a great place to work and 55% less likely to be actively or passively seeking new job opportunities.

“This new research serves to illustrate the choice that lay ahead for company leaders: to either invest in culture and define it for themselves, or risk it being defined for them,” says KeyAnna Schmiedl, Workhuman Chief Human Experience Officer. “Our analysis found that when engaged employees describe their company’s culture, they’re using words such as caring, innovative, and inclusive. Meanwhile, actively disengaged employees are more likely to use words such as toxic, disorganized, and chaotic. It’s up to leaders to decide which of those cultures they want associated with their companies, keeping in mind this isn’t just about their employee satisfaction scores or the tone of the office, it’s a choice that determines if their business is future-proof or not.”

The report finds that only 34% of employees say that their employer has a recognition program in place. And of those who do have one, just 13% of employees rate it as excellent. Employers are missing out on a simple way to reinforce the other cultural elements that an organization views as important. Employees who say their recognition program is aligned with the values of their organization are 4.9 times as likely to strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work compared with employees who indicate their recognition program is not aligned with the values of their organization.

“Giving great recognition is an effective way for leaders to communicate the values and behaviors they most want to see from their employees,” said Gallup Global Practice Leader, Ed O’Boyle. “It also sets the example for establishing a culture of recognition and inspires employees at all levels to receive and give recognition that is authentic and meaningful, and to do so often.”

Workhuman and Gallup have identified four steps to create or improve a recognition program, outlined below:

Step 1: Establish Your Workplace Culture Goals and Values in Alignment with Business Strategy

  • Define the values, behaviors, rituals, and routines that will best support your business strategy so that you are cognizant of where to aim recognition. Just two in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree they are connected to their organization’s culture – clearly defining culture can solve for this.

Step 2: Use Recognition to Reflect Your Workplace Culture Goals and Values

  • Strategically recognize employees who are exemplifying the culture goals and values established in step 1. This promotes employee understanding and connectedness – among employees who strongly agree that recognition is an important part of their culture, seven in 10 strongly agree that they feel connected to their organization’s culture.

Step 3: Continuously Evaluate and Refine Your Recognition Strategy

  • Frequently evaluate your recognition program to ensure it is accurately promoting the workplace culture you have set out to achieve. The research shows that employees who receive great recognition are 20 times as likely to be engaged as employees who receive poor recognition.

Step 4: Promote Quality Recognition Across Your Organization So Your Culture Can Flourish

  • Ensure recognition is frequent, consistent, and genuine, and is being embraced by individuals across all tiers of the organization for all accomplishments. Among employees who have great recognition experiences, 72% say that performance for little things is commonly recognized at their organization, compared with 16% of employees with poor recognition experiences.