Latest Research Into Meaningful Recognition

The latest research into meaningful recognition conducted by my colleague Cindy Ventrice is reinforcing what I share with others and might be eye-opening for you. She summarizes below and shares a link for more information. If you’ve chosen to lead, be sure to take a peek and let me know your thoughts. Cheers, Robert.

MakeTheirDay2“No one creates an employee recognition program and dreams of it bombing, yet many programs do fail because they don’t resonate with the recipients. Meaningful recognition boosts engagement and productivity. Ineffective recognition is a waste of time and money.

So what does resonate? What makes recognition meaningful? These are the questions we wanted to answer when we launched our latest survey.  For the 2013 Make Their Day Recognition Survey we asked respondents to remember a meaningful recognition experience from the past year. We then asked them to answer a series of questions regarding that experience. In this post, we will look at:

  • What does meaningful recognition cost?
  • Do rewards play a significant role in the recognition experience and if so what kinds of rewards provide the most meaning?
  • Who provides the recognition that is most valued?

What does meaningful recognition cost and does it include a reward?

We asked the dollar value of any reward that accompanied recognition. For 70 percent of respondents, the recognition they received had no dollar value whatsoever.  They didn’t receive cash or a gift card. There were no points redeemable for a prize, nor any physical gift of any value. It seems that the “stuff “of recognition, the tangibles, don’t provide much meaning. We did find that recognition does often include a reward. However, the most common rewards are intangibles such status, opportunity, or even virtual awards (existing only online).

Who provides the recognition that is most valued?

Managers, supervisors, and team leads are responsible for 45 percent of all meaningful employee recognition. No other source of recognition is nearly as important.

The overall percentage of meaningful recognition received from managers has decreased since we first ran this survey in 2007.  Other sources of recognition (organization, peer, and other) have increased in importance since the previous survey, but still none come close to the importance of the manager.

Many believe that younger employees are the exception. They grew up working in teams, relying on social media for feedback, and looking to their peers for positive reinforcement. It would make sense that they would find peer recognition most meaningful, but they don’t. For those 25 and under, most (76 percent) of their meaningful recognition comes from managers!

Bottom Line

Employees are motivated by recognition more than rewards.  Rewards are fine, but they are not the recognition. When you think about rewards look at all your options, both tangible and intangible. Attach meaning to the reward. Opportunity and status are powerful because the meaning is inherent. With cash or gifts it is up you to supply the meaning.

The recognition they find most meaningful is praise from a manager, supervisor or team lead.  If you are a manager, notice what your team members are doing right and tell them. With younger team members do this frequently, noticing even the small things they do. With more experienced members save your praise for more significant accomplishments and your praise will be valued.”

Cindy Ventrice is the author of the best-selling book Make Their Day! Employee Recognition That Works. She has completed numerous studies to help organizations improve recognition satisfaction. She is a popular speaker for both conferences and corporate events.


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