Kathleen O'Donnell

Kathleen is a freelance writer and employee communications specialist, with 6+ years of experience in corporate internal communications. She’s also a full-time traveler who loves spending her time writing in little Greek cafes about life as a digital nomad.

Articles by


Recognition gets a whole lot of airtime these days when we’re talking about employee experience, engagement, retention, and everything else that makes businesses succeed and people perform at their best. (Bonusly included—we’ve got a whole section on our blog dedicated to the topic!)

But with all the much-deserved love given to recognition, another equally important element of the employee—and human—experience is often overlooked: appreciation. Let’s dive into why appreciation is not the same as recognition, why they’re more powerful together, and why your business should embrace appreciation to succeed. 

Recognition vs. appreciation

Too often, recognition and appreciation are used interchangeably. And while they’re certainly connected, there’s a vital difference in the two concepts that matters if you’re trying to create a workplace where everyone feels seen, supported, and engaged. 

Here’s the breakdown: recognition is about what someone does—the results they get, the milestones they hit, and the progress they achieve. Appreciation, on the other hand, is about who someone is—the work they put in, the way they collaborate with others, and the way they make your team and your company a better place to work. 

Appreciation is a way to show gratitude for a person's value, and recognition is a way to show gratitude for their actions. Recognition is conditional upon achievements and results, while appreciation celebrates peoples’ intrinsic selves. 

While recognition and appreciation differ, you need both elements to create a company where employees enjoy working, and where they’re motivated to perform at their best. In fact, they work better when paired. But since appreciation gets a lot less buzz than recognition right now, let’s cover why it deserves to be a higher priority for every business. 

Why appreciation matters at work 

Recognition is, of course, critical to the success of any company (just check out all the data on the ROI of recognition for proof). But there’s a natural limit to how much recognition you can give people, not everyone can get the maximum bonus, an annual promotion, or an award. Plus, your employees can work hard and work well and still not achieve the desired result, and recognition would feel inauthentic. 

Appreciation, however, can go to everyone, all the time, just for being themselves. Let’s take the example of an employee who led a team to get an innovative new project off the ground. It took months of hard work, strategic thinking, and leadership, but due to external market conditions, the project didn't succeed. The employee’s dedication to the task and the team merits plenty of appreciation, even if the results don’t warrant recognition. 

And imagine you’re that employee, feeling discouraged and down after putting in those months of work. Even a small gesture of appreciation—a handwritten note, a kind email—can mean the world, because it shows that the company, and their managers and peers, value them as a person, not just for what they achieve.  

How to balance recognition and appreciation 

All this talk about how amazing appreciation might seem like it’s more important than recognition, and that’s not true. They both play an absolutely vital role in employee engagement and retention, and generally in creating a company that people love to work for. 

Recognition is critical because, of course, you’re running a business and you do want to reward outcomes and results. You have targets to hit, and recognition helps you celebrate the people who take your business across that finish line. Plus, employees also want to be recognized for the results they produce when they’re successful—it feels great to hit those milestones and reap the rewards. 

But unfortunately, appreciation is missing in many workplaces, and so the balance is tilted towards rewarding results and accomplishments only. This can leave many hard-working employees feeling lonely and discouraged more than they should when something doesn’t pan out as they hoped. 

Finding a way to encourage managers, leaders, and colleagues to both recognize and appreciate employees begins with effective communication about why both elements are essential. Let people know what you expect of them, and why it matters from both a human and a business perspective, and you’ll begin to build a better workplace culture. 

The business case for appreciation

Appreciation is not about giving participation trophies for simply showing up—that would be inauthentic, and that’s the opposite of effective appreciation. Plus, accountability and standards still matter when giving appreciation. It’s really about ensuring that everyone in your workplace feels like they’re valued for their whole selves, not just their contributions to the quarterly quotas you’ve set. 

And this feeling has more benefits than giving everyone a warm, fuzzy glow (although that’s lovely!). Psychological safety is a term that’s used a lot because more and more organizations understand that it’s a key component in creating innovative cultures, and it can sound complex. But at its core, it’s about creating group trust—knowing that you can make a mistake or fail and still be a valued member of your team. 

Without that feeling of safety, taking risks is frightening for employees at all levels. Appreciation can foster a culture of continuous learning and trying new things because your people know that they don’t need to fear failure; they’ll still be welcomed and celebrated and secure even if the risk they took doesn’t pan out. 

When we work in a place filled with people at all levels who we know care about us, we not only want to work harder—we want to push the envelope (intelligently) and see what we can do for the company, our colleagues, and our leaders. 

And that combination of recognition and appreciation gets better results than recognition alone. According to a study by the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, when people were recognized for work they did well, they were 23% more effective and productive than those who weren’t recognized. Yet, when people felt valued and cared for by the team—appreciated, in other words—they were 43% more effective and productive than people who weren’t valued.

Speaking of leaders, appreciation isn’t any less valuable for them. In fact, managers and leaders often get the least amount of genuine appreciation (not recognition or compensation based on their position and power, but pure appreciation for who they are). It can be extra meaningful to deliver some well-deserved appreciation to those above you, as long as it’s done without an ulterior motive. 

The takeaway

While appreciation is not a brand-new or groundbreaking idea, it’s often sorely missing in our workplaces, and that makes them a less pleasant place to be. Adding appreciation into your recognition strategy can make a big difference in your employee experience and your retention rates too—people tend to stay in workplaces that reward both results and everything else they contribute to the team. 

Looking for a way to make recognizing your employees’ accomplishments and appreciating everything else they do easier and more instinctive? That’s the key to making both elements more frequent so they become an integral part of your company culture. Bonusly is here to help—see for yourself

The data is clear: employee recognition has a significant and substantial ROI. But that clarity comes with a caveat—you’ll only see that return on recognition if you do it right. And that’s harder than it sounds. 

Simply bumping up how often you toss a “good job!” into a conversation with employees isn’t enough to create an authentic culture of recognition. Those conversations are forgettable, while effective recognition is memorable and thoughtful. And without those essential components, you’ll find your return on your investment in a recognition program doesn’t measure up to your hopes. 

There are data-backed ways to maximize the ROI of employee recognition. In this guide, we’ll cover all the best practices you need to know for giving effective recognition and choosing the right recognition platform. When you know what makes recognition resonate with employees most deeply, your whole organization will be better equipped to offer meaningful and authentic recognition consistently. 

gratitude giving

Best practices for giving recognition

How can you recognize employees in the most effective way possible? It’s both an art and a science to do recognition well, and it includes these essential components and best practices. 


Effective recognition happens in the moment or shortly after; keeping it timely means employees don’t think their hard work was ignored or forgotten. It’s more meaningful to receive recognition when the feeling of accomplishment is still fresh. 

Timely recognition can look like giving specific in-the-moment feedback, like telling an employee, “great job on the presentation you just gave—your clear examples really drove home the message.” For larger projects, giving recognition via shoutouts on your internal social media, awards, or a private thanks should come as soon as possible after the project is completed.  


Recognition also needs to be frequent to make the greatest impact. Employees who do not feel adequately recognized are 2x likely to quit versus someone who is regularly recognized. On the flip side, employees who are consistently recognized are more innovative and creative, and more willing to go above and beyond the basic expectations of their role.

Gallup says weekly recognition, at a minimum, is best. That doesn’t necessarily mean big awards or huge shout-outs; small moments of recognition for a job well done should be happening consistently to reap all the rewards of a good recognition program. 


Giving someone a smile and saying, “good work—keep it up!” is, technically, recognition, and it can feel positive. But the most memorable and motivating recognition comes with very specific and clear praise. 

“Great job on that project—I loved how you clearly communicated deadlines and held everyone accountable; it ensured we launched this critical initiative on time” is a whole lot more likely to encourage the receiver to repeat those behaviors again. 

Plus, being specific shows employees you’re not simply checking a box on a checklist to increase the sheer volume of recognition. Specific recognition feels more authentic because it shows you were paying attention, and recognition that feels authentic is powerful. 


Recognition isn’t only about thanking someone for a job well done (although that’s important!). It’s also about showing your whole organization what great work looks like, and how it gets noticed and rewarded. 

Ensuring recognition is visible can mean sharing wins and shoutouts on your internal social media, or even external platforms when it’s relevant. It can mean acknowledging wins in town halls or all hands meetings, or in a small team meeting. Or it can mean sharing however your organization finds effective, and how your recognized employee prefers (not everyone loves public kudos). 

Do find a way to share recognition more broadly, more of the time, to gain more ROI. One act of recognition, when shared widely, can reap you the rewards of 10 or more similar but invisible acts. 


Inclusivity is another essential part of an effective recognition program. If you’re mostly recognizing the same group of people or the same narrow set of accomplishments over and over again, it can actually be discouraging to employees who don’t fit into those groups. 

And many employees don’t feel that recognition is inclusive or equal at their organization. Gallup research has found that only 26% of employees strongly agree they receive similar amounts of recognition as their team members who perform similarly. 

When determining how to make your recognition program more inclusive, try looking beyond your typical metrics for recognition. Are large, flashy projects getting all the awards while critical behind-the-scenes work is overlooked? Try encouraging managers to highlight a broader range of wins and hard work. And regularly review your recognition program to ensure it’s not always the same people getting the same awards. 


Finally, your recognition program needs to be clearly based on your company’s values to gain the most ROI. That’s because you want to align the work that you recognize with what your organization values, not merely financial results or external praise. 

Too many companies overlook this important part of recognition. In fact, 52% of employees don’t feel their recognition program is aligned to their organization’s values. This can make your recognition program seem inauthentic—if you say your company values collaboration and teamwork but reward teams that are excessively competitive because they have higher profits, that’s a serious mismatch. 

When designing your recognition program, be sure that your company values are centered, not an afterthought. And regularly check in to see if what you espouse as your corporate values are truly being celebrated in your recognition program, or if you need to reevaluate. 

Want to see all six of these best practices in action? Here are real-world recognition examples for each one!


Best practices for a recognition platform

The best practices above will help you develop the best recognition program to get you maximum ROI. But that’s only part of the puzzle. You also need to choose the right recognition platform to get that ROI as well. Here’s what you should look for when shopping for a recognition platform. 

Allows for personalization

Recognition is highly personal! Not everyone likes to be recognized in the same way. Some people get a huge thrill from being publicly acknowledged in a company-wide all-hands, while that’s another person’s nightmare because they’d prefer private praise in a one-on-one meeting. And lots of people fall in between those two sides of the spectrum, too. 

That’s why recognition technology that can understand and personalize recognition automatically depending on the recipient is so critical. It makes that recognition more meaningful to each employee, no matter how they prefer to receive it.  

Incorporates automation 

One of the reasons you might not be getting the maximum ROI from your recognition program is because thoughtful recognition takes time, and your managers and employees are busy. But the right recognition platform can take a lot of that work off your plate with automation. 

By automating recognition actions like celebrating anniversaries and birthdays, rewarding employees for referrals or completing trainings, and fulfilling gift cards and donations, your managers and team members can save valuable time. Plus, it means those important events won’t be forgotten even during your busy season.  

Is habit-forming for users

Even the greatest recognition platform won’t get you much ROI if your users abandon it soon after launch. That’s why choosing a platform that makes recognition a habit is essential. 

Recognition technology can ping employees when they need a prompt to give recognition so it’s timely. And over time, with these easy reminders, recognizing team members or colleagues becomes a habit. Integrating recognition into an employee’s daily workflow makes it seamless and simple, and that reduced friction means more consistent recognition. 

The takeaway

That is how you truly build a culture of recognition, and deliver the maximum ROI for your recognition program. Want to explore a recognition platform that enables effective recognition across your entire organization? Try Bonusly today!  

bonusly demo

It’s a basic human need—we all long to feel seen, valued, and appreciated for our contributions, whether those are within our families, our communities, or our jobs. We work harder and feel happier at any task where we know we shine, from crafting nourishing and tasty meals for our loved ones or ensuring that our work is done to the highest standard. 

That’s why recognition in the workplace is so vital; your employees need to know that their hard work is seen and appreciated. But it’s not just because recognition feels good (although it does!). It’s because there’s a tangible, measurable return on investment when you invest in recognition. 

Many companies today are looking to tighten their costs in an uncertain economy. Recognition budgets might seem like a tempting area to cut in these times—shouldn’t employees be grateful to have a job and a reliable salary?—but that decision may actually cost you money. 

The ROI of recognition is high, and well-documented to boot. Investing in recognizing your employees frequently and thoughtfully can actually increase your bottom line. So let’s dive into the biggest benefits recognition has on your organization, and how to measure the ROI of recognition for your own business too. 

return on investment

Recognition leads to greater employee engagement

Engaged employees are the secret weapon in a highly competitive marketplace. They feel connected to their colleagues, your company and its mission, and the work they do every day—and that feeling of connection means they do great work. 

In fact, companies with high levels of employee engagement are a whopping 23% more profitable than companies with low engagement. That makes employee engagement vital to your bottom line as well as your workplace culture. 

It makes sense. Engaged employees are happier in their jobs, so they bring lots of energy and enthusiasm and excitement into the workplace. They take pride in their work so they take care with their tasks, and are excited to think about how to help the company succeed. 

And one of the best ways to increase employee engagement is to recognize employees more for the important work they do. It’s hard to feel connected to a role or a workplace where it feels like no one notices your accomplishments and effort. But increasing the frequency of recognition and ensuring it comes from all directions—leaders, managers, and peers—can raise engagement rates and boost your profitability. Deloitte research has found that recognition is highly correlated with improving employee engagement, and that increased engagement translates to higher productivity too. 

--> Ready to see for yourself? Request a free and fast demo of Bonusly!

Recognition leads to increased employee retention 

Employee turnover costs US employers more than $1 trillion every year.  Think that figure sounds high? It’s not: replacing employees who leave is expensive. A SHRM study found that the replacement cost of an employee who leaves is about six to nine months of that employee’s salary. Additional research shows that this figure could be much larger—up to 213%.

And those data points don’t even include the time spent in the hiring process as a result of turnover either. Increasing employee retention is critical to your company’s bottom line, as every employee retained is a major savings. 

The answer to these high retention costs is a culture that regularly recognizes and rewards employees. Companies with recognition-rich cultures boast 31% lower voluntary turnover rates. And employees are up to ten times more likely to agree that they belong to their organization when they’re frequently recognized. 

Recognition is a critical part of the puzzle in lowering turnover rates, and that increased retention means more budget available for other priorities. 

--> Ready to see for yourself? Request a free and fast demo of Bonusly!

Recognition leads to higher productivity 

Engaged, happy workers are not just more likely to stick around—they’re also responsible for significantly higher profit levels. Profits increase by 21% as a result of engaged workers’ higher productivity. 

Recognition programs feed into these higher levels of productivity and engagement because recognition creates a positive feedback loop for employees. They see their hard work get noticed and appreciated, and notice that their colleagues are also rewarded for their effort and efficiency, and they feel motivated to keep performing. We’ve probably all felt at some time in a past job that there was really no point to working hard or doing great work because it would go unnoticed or uncredited or simply result in getting more work piled on. A thoughtful recognition program ensures this negative loop doesn’t happen. 

Plus, the investment needed to get those higher profits via a recognition program is quite low. Since the average recognition budget is just 1% of an employee's salary, the ROI here is pretty stunning. 

measure roi

How to measure the ROI of recognition 

So we’ve discussed how amazing the ROI of recognition really is, but how can you calculate it for yourself? Take a holistic view of your organization to see how a great recognition program can increase your profits, productivity, and employee engagement. Here are a few places to start:

  • Calculate your current cost of employee turnover and your turnover rate, and measure to see if it decreases a year after your new recognition program is in place. 
  • Use your performance management data to track progress against employee and team goals, performance ratings, and the time employees spend on learning and development to track progress.
  • Ask managers to gather qualitative data, such as how satisfied they are with their team, their feelings about the team’s performance, and how well the team collaborates and cooperates.
  • Measure your revenue per employee before and after implementing your recognition program. Divide your business revenue by your number of employees to measure progress in dollars. 

Essentially, you should pick some areas you’d like to see improvement in and measure them before you create a rewards program so you have a baseline. Then, continue to measure once the rewards program is in place and tweak as you go so it’s maximally effective.  

--> Ready to see for yourself? Request a free and fast demo of Bonusly!

Making recognition easier with automation 

The time-consuming manual recognition programs of the past don’t need to drag down your recognition efforts anymore either. With automation like Bonusly’s recognition platform, recognition is fast and easy because you can give kudos or a shoutout to a colleague, direct report, or team in the tools you’re already using, like Slack. 

That time saved adds to the ROI of recognition programs, because hopefully, your managers and leaders are already recognizing employees even without a tool or program in place. 

With such strong evidence in favor of developing a smart recognition strategy—more profits, more productivity, and employees who love coming to work every day—can you really afford to not invest in recognition? The data is clear: recognition has an ROI that’s too strong to ignore.

Bonusly get a demo

Resilient teams are better equipped to handle whatever is thrown at them—from uncertainty, transitions, and pivots, to the many other unknowns that may unfold this year. Especially during uncertain times or crises, resilient teams experience a reduced initial impact, higher recovery speed, and a greater degree of recovery. Resilience is vital for business success, but how do individual employees and teams actually build resilience at work? 

Fortunately, resilience is not a trait a person is born with—it’s a skill that can be built and developed over time. At work, resilience comes from having a sense of purpose, progress, and belonging in a role, whether as a front-line employee or company executive.

For a deep dive into resilience at work:


Helping employees find a sense of purpose means showing them how their day-to-day work connects with the larger goals and success of the organization. 

For example, a salesperson who needs to enter prospect data into a CRM every day probably doesn’t find that part of their job enthralling. But if you connect that data entry to the sales pipeline your company uses to ensure growth is on track, this tedious task becomes a little less onerous because they understand why it’s important.

HR leaders should help managers proactively communicate how each employee’s role contributes to the overall mission of the organization. If work begins to seem meaningless, that’s a bad sign for engagement and resilience, so take care to link their work to the company’s success. 





Employees who feel stuck (in their role, their level, or their team) are likely not engaged or resilient. It’s hard for staff to feel motivated when there’s no clear path for advancing up the career ladder or simply developing new skills. And if employees are stuck in one place too long, they may lose the ability to adapt to new conditions, practices, or roles. 

While promotions are the most visible form of progress (and they’re important), they’re not the only way to give employees a sense of progress. 

Investing in ongoing learning and development and offering employees stretch assignments or lateral promotions helps them see their careers progressing. And they also increase your organizational resilience because they let employees develop and flex new skills instead of remaining in a silo. 


To build teams that are ready to handle whatever comes next:



Feeling a sense of belonging at work is critical to resilience. Diversity in the workplace helps to avoid the pitfalls of groupthink (which the International Monetary Fund cited as a major cause of the 2008 global financial crisis) and spurs innovation. 

Belonging also fosters better social connections and support at work, which increases resilience. Imagine a time when you worked long hours on a complicated task or project—did having committed colleagues who made you feel like part of a team lighten the load? It’s no surprise that employees who are on a team are 2.6 times more likely to be fully engaged and 2.7 times more likely to be highly resilient than those who aren’t. Other surprising statistics of employee belonging include a 50% lower risk of turnover, a 56% increase in job performance, and a 167% increase in eNPS scores! 

Interestingly, a sense of belonging and engagement doesn’t necessarily come from being in the same physical place. 20% of virtual workers are fully engaged and 18% are highly resilient, in comparison to the 11% of fully engaged and 9% of highly resilient office-based workers. Resilience and connection are a state of mind, not a physical place.




Practicing resilience

It can be helpful to think of building a resilience practice similar to a gratitude practice. Resilience is rarely built all at once—it must be cultivated during small but frequent, meaningful moments. 

These small moments can look like encouraging team members to turn to each other or their manager for support when they need it, ensuring employees take time off to rest and recover, and recognizing when employees succeed because of their adaptability and resilience. 

For example, if you have a team that just completed a project that went far beyond the initial scope and timeline, give them a shoutout in a team meeting, email, or (best yet) through a recognition platform. Praising their flexibility and problem-solving skills reminds them of how resilient they are, which is inspiring for the next time they face a challenge. 

These small moments and efforts build on each other to create a strong foundation of resilience. By building them now, when a crisis or challenge hits, you can draw from those resources you’ve carefully built during the good times. 




Employee recognition and building resilience

A dedicated employee recognition program can build a sense of community in your team or company helping employees feel a greater sense of purpose, progress, and belonging. Additionally, when recognition is visible throughout your organization, people can see how their individual contributions make an impact during times of ongoing change and get rewarded for exemplifying resilience—a powerful way to build a culture of resilience.

Bonusly is here to help! 

Our rewards and recognition platform helps you build a culture that shows appreciation for the work employees do every day and rewards them for adapting to the challenges and shifts facing every workplace in 2023. 

Key takeaways

  • Employees build resilience on an individual level through a sense of purpose, progress, and belonging.

  • Focusing on all three of these areas through small, meaningful efforts will help your employees increase their resilience.

  • These practices are like putting deposits into the bank when cash flows are good so you have a cushion of resilience savings to draw from when unforeseen obstacles arise. 

For further reading download our complete guide to building more resilient, engaged teams today. 👇


2022 was a year of constant change. Between inflation, rising interest rates, a historically tight labor market, and the Great Resignation, there were few industries and companies unaffected. Combine all of these challenges, and it’s no surprise that many HR teams weren’t equipped to handle them, nor were employees equipped to face them.

These consistent, unexpected changes led to issues like high levels of turnover, low employee morale, and decreased engagement in the workplace—problems that persist in 2023. As economic conditions continue to be unpredictable, success in 2023 demands adaptability.

How can HR teams, managers, and leaders inspire employees to be stronger and more flexible in times of ongoing change? Building more resilient teams is the answer. 

Resilient teams and companies are better equipped to handle whatever is thrown at them—from uncertainty, transitions, and pivots, to other unknowns that may unfold this year. 

We will take you through everything you need to know about the business case for resilient and engaged teams that are ready for the future, including what resiliency is, and why it matters especially amid uncertainty.  


For an in-depth look at how you can build stronger, more resilient teams during unpredictable times:


What is resiliency and why does it matter?

Resiliency is a person's ability to bounce back from, withstand, and work through difficult events or circumstances. In other words, it’s the capacity to endure challenges and come back stronger from them—instead of falling apart. 

Resiliency isn’t about ensuring that employees and teams don’t fail—they are guaranteed to at some point, and some amount of failure is actually required for successful innovation. Rather, it’s about building teams that can bounce back from those challenges and failures with forward momentum.


resilient team


The relationship between resilience and engagement

Resilient teams are also more likely to be engaged at work, meaning they’re deeply committed to their work and willing to give their all because they find work meaningful and satisfying. Resilience has positive effects on well-being, job performance, and work engagement.

Engagement tends to be proactive, measuring how much employees are willing to go above and beyond at work. Resilience, on the other hand, is reactive, describing how employees react to challenges when they arise unexpectedly.

And unfortunately, either quality remains fairly rare in the workplace. Research from MIT Sloan Review found that worldwide, only 14% of workers were fully engaged and 15% were highly resilient in 2021. That’s one employee engagement trend we hope to see change in 2023.

Of course, while resilience and engagement are strongly related, they still remain somewhat independent of each other—a person can be engaged and not resilient. However, employees can’t be resilient without being engaged, because having a sense of meaning and purpose in their work gives them a way to survive, and even thrive, through tough times.

So if you can build teams that approach their work with both engagement and resilience, you’ll have a company that can thrive during great times and challenging ones alike.


thrive during challenge


The business case for building resilience at work

The first step is understanding why resilience is so important in the workplace.

Resilience is increased when people and teams feel a sense of purpose, safety, trust, and belonging at work.

Trust is especially critical—it’s hard to have confidence that you and the organization you work for can bounce back when you don’t have trust in your manager or leadership.

A report from the ADP Research Industry found that employees who completely trust their team leader are 14 times more likely to be fully engaged. 

And those who completely trust their colleagues, team leader, and senior leaders are an astonishing 42 times more likely to be highly resilient.

Teams that can trust their leaders to act with integrity, accountability, and honesty don’t need to spend time worrying about workplace dysfunction or looking over their shoulders for the next problem. They can simply do the work they find meaning in, and know that their leaders and colleagues will look out for them no matter what comes next. 


How can HR teams, managers, and leaders inspire employees to be stronger and more flexible in times of ongoing change?


Why engaged, resilient teams matter

Why do you need engaged, resilient teams? They’re always important, but are especially critical during a crisis, whether it’s a global pandemic, the burst of the dot-com bubble, or a worldwide financial crisis. 


3 keys advantages of resilient companies


In fact, during a crisis, resilient companies have three key advantages over non-resilient organizations:

1. A reduced initial impact as a result of a crisis.

2. A higher recovery speed.

3. A greater degree of recovery.

When it comes to employee engagement, having disengaged employees is costly, not just to your organization’s morale but also in hard numbers. Gallup estimates that employees who aren’t engaged or are actively disengaged cost the globe a staggering $7.8 trillion in lost productivity. This is largely because employees who aren’t engaged are a turnover risk, and the costs of turnover are also quite high—from .5 to 2 times the annual salary of a single employee. Additionally, disengaged employees are less likely to be productive or motivated to do their best work.

On the other hand, resilient and engaged employees are a powerful engine of business growth and a significant competitive advantage. They’re too valuable to ignore, especially since we live in times of ongoing challenges and swift shifts in the workplace and economy. If your teams aren’t adapted to take on challenges as they come, you’re likely to fall behind your competitors the next time a crisis arises. 

And Gallup's study of over 112,000 organizations confirms employee engagement as a competitive advantage. Researchers discovered that companies scoring in the top 25% for employee engagement experienced these benefits compared to the bottom 25%:

  • 10% higher customer loyalty and engagement
  • 23% greater profitability
  • 18% more sales
  • 14% higher employee productivity
  • 18% less turnover for companies with historically high turnover (those with average annual turnover rates above 40%)
  • 43% less turnover for companies with historically low turnover (those with average annual turnover rates at or below 40%)

While preparing for potential specific crises, such as an upcoming recession or economic slowdown, is helpful, the truth is that many crises can’t be forecasted or planned for in advance. For example, in 2019 even the most prepared organization likely did not have a global pandemic plan in place that would have enabled them to cope with that specific scenario. 

Instead, building resiliency ensures that your organization is prepared for anything, both what you may expect and what you can’t foresee. It’s an all-purpose tool for strengthening your people, teams, and organization as a whole.


Key takeaways: 

  • Resilience is the ability to adapt to, and bounce back from, challenges. It is not a way to avoid failure altogether.

  • Resilience begins with trust. How much do your employees currently trust their colleagues, team leader, and senior leaders? Knowing where you stand now will help you build a plan to improve in the future.

  • Resilient organizations suffer less and bounce back faster in a crisis, even ones they may not have anticipated.  

Learn more

Bonusly is the leader in employee engagement through our top-rated employee recognition platform.

The Bonusly platform:

  1. Makes recognition visible helping employees stay connected during uncertain times.
  2. Strengthens relationships between peers, supervisors, and direct reports.
  3. Builds strong communities that can bounce back from unexpected obstacles. 

For further reading on how employees can build resilience on an individual level and specific ways that leaders can help build resilience within their teams, check out our complete guide. 👇

Chatter about a potential recession is all over the news right now, along with headlines about big, successful companies cutting headcount—Meta, Amazon, and Twitter, just to name a few.

And that’s got quite a few senior leaders and HR teams feeling a little worried. 🫣

But if the economy does head into a recession, it’s clear that this one won’t look like the last few. With an unemployment rate still sitting at a near-record low of 3.7%, businesses are struggling to find new employees and hold onto the ones they already have. 

Making sure your employees are engaged and enthusiastic about their work isn’t easy during a recession, but it’s critical—since hiring their replacements will continue to be very challenging. Your current employees are the key players holding your company together through tough economic times, keeping your company surviving and even thriving—but only if you can keep them around.  

To boost employee retention and plan for a successful year:


Why retention during a recession matters 

Employees are well aware of the shortage of workers right now and it’s giving them plenty of well-earned confidence. In fact, confidence is so high that one in three U.S. workers say they wouldn’t sacrifice anything to keep their job during an economic downturn. That’s definitely not what we saw in the 2008 recession when workers were happy to go far beyond their duties just to keep their jobs.  

There are still almost two jobs for every job seeker, which means that employee confidence is coming from a very real place. Employees know they still have other job options if they’re unhappy with their current role, so many of them aren’t willing to sacrifice their personal lives or the benefits they’ve earned. They’ll simply hunt for, and likely find, a job that suits them better.  

According to Axios


Employers have a huge appetite for more workers and aren't letting go of the employees they do have. The still-elevated level of quits mean workers are confident enough about better job prospects — and, likely, higher pay — to leave their current jobs.


There’s still plenty of uncertainty about exactly how severe a potential recession will be, or if we’ll even experience one. But all of these numbers add up to one certainty: the extremely tight labor market isn’t going anywhere, so focusing on retaining your employees (especially your top performers) is more essential than ever. 

economic uncertainty


How to retain top performers in a recession 

A recession offers plenty of retention challenges for employers, but it offers opportunities as well. If you can show employees that you truly care about them and value them even during tough times, you can earn their loyalty for years to come. 

And best of all, most of these solutions are low-to-no-cost so you can prioritize retention even when growth is slow and budgets are tight.


1. Prioritize recognition 

One very simple and completely free way to reduce turnover is regularly appreciating and acknowledging the hard work your employees do every day. Saying thank you is free! And it feels great for both the giver and the receiver. Plus, a failure to recognize employees is 2.9 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover. 

Recognition can come in many forms: from one peer to another, from a manager to a direct report, from senior leadership to their team, and in pretty much any other direction you can imagine. 

But recognition doesn’t happen on its own. You need to proactively build a culture of employee appreciation and recognition so that individual contributors, managers, and leaders all feel comfortable giving and receiving recognition frequently. 

Creating a culture of recognition begins with your senior leadership team. They should set the example themselves by increasing how much recognition they give to their reports and employees in their departments (a super short thank-you email from a higher-up can make an employee’s week!). 

Then, make sure you’re making it easy for employees to recognize their colleagues and managers to recognize their direct reports for a job well done. This can look like adding agenda space to a weekly meeting for appreciation, applauding accomplishments in the department Slack channel, or using a platform like Bonusly to enable recognition for anyone on the team with just a few clicks. 


2. Practice empathy 

Recessions are mentally and emotionally challenging for employees, even if their jobs are secure. They may worry about family members and friends who are struggling, feel anxious about the future outside of work, or have stressful memories of previous recessions (*waves as a millennial who graduated into the Great Recession*)

Understanding the stresses employees might be feeling can help HR teams and company leaders prioritize ways to help them through tough times as much as possible. You can try out creative new wellness programs, proactively communicate about existing benefits that can help employees, and train managers to have better one-on-one conversations with employees to see what’s going on in their lives. 

Empathy doesn’t need to mean avoiding difficult conversations or necessary layoffs. But it does mean keeping employee feelings and morale top of mind when making important decisions. When your people don’t feel understood by their HR teams or senior leaders, they’re at a higher turnover risk—and just might go find a company that prioritizes their well-being more. 

Sad Employee 2


3. Don’t forget about career development 

Promoting your top workers is a proven way to keep retention high. After all, highly skilled and productive people aren’t likely to stick around if there’s no room for them to grow. But a common mistake leaders and HR teams make is thinking of career growth only in terms of promotions. 

In a recession, it might be difficult to promote employees because of budget concerns. In that case, you should prioritize other options for career growth for your employees so they know they’re still progressing toward the future they’ve imagined for themselves. 

Creative career growth options could look like creating a strong framework for lateral moves, which is a huge retention boost. 

Gartner research found:


Employee intent to stay is 33% higher in companies with strong internal hiring markets.


Mentorship programs can also be a cost-effective way to help employees grow their careers right now without focusing on promotions. And providing additional training is another great way to encourage employees to stay during a recession as they develop skills that will serve them in the future. 

(And you might want to run the numbers on how much it would cost to replace a top performer given the true cost of turnover if they leave for a promotion somewhere else. But that’s another story altogether. 😬)


4. Keep meaningful benefits in place 

Your company's perks and benefits aren’t only there to reward employees in roaring economic times. They’re just as vital in the tough times too. Great benefits and perks can be critical differentiators in a tight hiring market and often provide motivation for employees to stick with your company. 

The urge to immediately cut benefits when a recession hits is strong in many industries. And of course, you don’t need to keep absolutely all of them at the risk of your company’s financial health. But indiscriminately cutting perks, or slashing the ones with the highest cost, might actually make your company less set up for success in the future. 

Let’s say your leadership team decides that the company doesn’t need to provide free coffee anymore as part of cost-reduction efforts. They might reason that your well-paid employees can simply buy coffee from one of the many coffee places surrounding your office. 

But employees consider the coffee you provide as an act of care, plus they like to gather and chat while they pour their morning cup. The money your company will save on coffee may pale in comparison to the goodwill and collegial connections you’ll lose. 

Wondering which benefits your employees value the most? Don’t assume you know—ask them directly! Gathering their feedback will help you make the case to retain the benefits that matter most to your employees, instead of cutting the ones they value and risking a rise in resignations. 



5. Enhance internal communication 

Communication and transparency are surprisingly strong contributing factors to employee retention. Employees who believe their leaders are transparent report more than six times higher satisfaction with their work environment, and four times higher sense of belonging at work. 

Prioritizing regular, clear internal communication is even more critical during a recession than during good times. Employees want to hear from their leaders when things feel uncertain, so developing an internal communications strategy and cadence should be top of mind for your team. 

Transparency doesn’t mean you need to tell employees everything—they know you can’t do that, and they don’t expect it. But the more you can proactively communicate priorities, decisions, and the company vision, the more employees will trust that your company has their interests at heart—and the less likely they are to look for another job out of frustration or fear. 


Employee retention resources 

Our guide to retaining your top talent offers plenty of data-backed actionable strategies you can use to increase retention so your company is set up for success, no matter what the future of the economy holds. 

To plan and accomplish a successful 2023 with retention in mind, download our free checklist made just for HR pros. 

Inside, you'll find:

✅ An interactive PDF that yes, lets you literally check off boxes!

💭 Reflection and planning prompts to align your people goals with overall business objectives.

💚 Actionable tips to improve culture and engagement, recruitment and hiring, growth and development, performance and feedback, wellness, and recognition.

⚒️ Over 10 new tools and resources you can use for free today!

2023 HR checklist mock


Many managers and employees look at one-on-one meetings with a little (or a lot) of anxiety—and so too often they avoid them altogether. 

But that means they’re missing the opportunity to give and receive regular feedback, which hurts employee engagement. Research from Gallup shows that when employees strongly agree they received "meaningful feedback" in the past week, they are almost four times more likely than other employees to be engaged.

Plus, setting aside time to connect every week is good for your relationship as two people with goals, lives, stresses, and joys outside of the office as well. Having open discussions about what’s going on in your work and in your life deepens your engagement as people and colleagues too. 



The best one-on-one meetings aren’t born out of a rigid checklist of the same questions to ask each time. But having a few go-to questions in your back pocket can ease some of the anticipations and make getting into a great discussion easier. Not to mention being intentional by planning your agenda ahead of time is also a great way for managers to improve company culture overall! Here are a few questions we love for both managers and employees to ask in your next one-on-one meeting and why they work so well. 

Download our free One-on-One Meeting Agenda Template to start improving your meetings today!


One-on-one meeting questions for managers to ask employees 

1. How are you feeling?

Knowing what’s going on in an employee’s life, whether it’s at work, at home, or in any other sphere of their world, helps managers gauge what support they need at this moment. It sets an open tone for the meeting ahead as well, which is great because you both might be feeling a little nervous as the meeting kicks off (that’s normal!). Instead of saying the usual "fine" or "good, thanks," encourage your employees to use a few descriptive words from this chart.


2. What are your priorities and plans for this week?

Checking in on your employee’s plans for the coming week helps you see what they’re focused on. It might surface some tasks you didn’t know they were taking on, an opportunity for new projects, or a chance to redirect their focus to a priority you want to make sure is high on their list. 


3. What support do you need from me this week?

As a manager, you’re an enabler of the work your employees do—so what do they need from you right now? It might be removing roadblocks, prioritizing a heavy workload, or doing some exciting career development, but you won’t know until you ask. 



4. What aspects of your job have energized you recently?

Finding what makes your people feel energized, happy, and recharged is one of the best parts of your role as a manager. And it can play a crucial part if you're wondering how to motivate employees. Asking employees this question can help you determine what kind of work makes them feel most empowered and engaged with their work and the organization so you can prioritize it where possible. Plus, the answer may surprise you!


5. What has challenged you in your role or working with others on the team recently?

Uncovering unexpected challenges is just as important as unexpected joys. This question can help you realize issues you might have been unaware of so you can remove roadblocks in an employee’s way, and help them feel supported and seen as well. 


6. How are you progressing toward your long-term career and life goals?

One-on-ones should definitely focus on an employee’s career goals, but it’s also a good idea to check in on life goals too. After all, work is a critical part of a well-rounded life. Asking employees about both kinds of goals, and their current progress gives you a better understanding of how their work fits into that bigger picture. If you really want to be a good manager, you can help them achieve both!




7. How is everything going with the people you work with, or on the team?

Peer relationships are a vital part of workplace culture, so don’t forget to check in on them from time to time. This question can uncover positive collaboration opportunities, colleague conflicts, and also simply how connected your employee feels to the rest of the team, which is key to their happiness and engagement. 


8. Do you have any questions about the recent organizational changes?  

If your company has recently made any major announcements, organizational changes, or shifted processes or policies that might affect your employees, check in with them to see how they’re feeling and if they have questions. While changes may seem straightforward or clear to you, ensuring your reports feel informed and alleviating any anxiety they have is a good leadership practice. 


9. Do you have any feedback for me?

Feedback is a two-way street! Ask your employees if they want to share any constructive, upward feedback to help you become a better manager—even if there’s nothing at the moment to say, the act of asking for their feedback regularly builds openness and trust. 


10. Is there anything we didn’t cover that you’d like to discuss?

If your employee is on the quieter or more introverted side, or simply doesn’t know how to approach a tricky topic, this open-ended question can get them to open up. This is a good question for the end of the meeting to close out the chat.  

Get our free, customizable one-on-one meeting agenda template that includes a proven structure for effective and productive one-on-ones.


One-on-one meeting questions for employees to ask managers

1. How are you feeling?

Emotional check-ins go both ways—don’t be afraid to ask your manager how they’re feeling too! If you sense your manager is feeling tense or stressed, this question can be a great way to let them know you’re open to appropriate sharing and can be supportive with anything work-related. 


2. What’s your highest priority right now? How can I help?

Knowing what your manager considers a high priority can help you organize your workload at busy times to focus on what truly matters to reach team goals. Asking this question will also show your manager that you’re willing to proactively help the team to succeed and help you manage up




3. Is there anything I should be doing differently? 

Even great managers can fail to give feedback regularly if there’s a lot on their plate. Asking for constructive criticism or advice can open up that discussion so you know where you're meeting expectations and where you might have some room for growth. If you’re struggling to understand the answers, asking a follow-up question like “Do you have examples?” can clarify the feedback. 


4. What should I consider adding to my growth plan?

Your career development plan is a constant work in progress, and your manager is your partner and ally in your growth strategy. So don’t be afraid to ask if there’s anything missing from your current plan! 


5. What are your long-term goals for the team?

Knowing how your manager envisions the team’s future can help you create a plan for your own future as well. It gives you the chance to explore new skills and opportunities and consider your career direction, whether it continues with your current team or somewhere else. 

employee growth


6. What are you most hopeful for and worried about in the team or organization’s future?

The answer to this question can offer insight into your manager’s thinking about what lies ahead for your team or company. It may alert you to organizational challenges or opportunities you weren’t aware of, industry trends, or simply some team dynamics you should know about. 


7. What part of my job would you like more visibility into?

Your manager might not have as much visibility into your role or day-to-day tasks as you imagine, so asking them this question can allow you to shine a light on any gaps and keep them up to date on your hard work and accomplishments. 


8. Is there anything I should prepare for our next one-on-one?

Proactively asking your manager about your next one-on-one does a few great things: it ensures the meeting cadence stays on track, and lets you prepare ahead of time for any larger conversations like upcoming opportunities. 


Creating better one-on-one conversations 

One-on-ones aren’t just another item on your weekly to-do list: they’re a very valuable way for employees and managers to communicate and connect. These questions are a way to start initiating more productive and helpful conversations on both sides, but don’t be afraid to get creative with them!  

Looking for more ways to make your next check-in even better? See our guide to improving one-on-one meetings for managers!

Download our free PDF, Google, or Word Doc one-on-one meeting agenda template to take these meetings to the next level.

The template includes:

🗒️  A proven structure for effective and productive one-on-ones.
✅  Fillable form fields to record agenda and action items.

📄  Customizable Word and Google doc templates to fit your needs.
💡  One-on-one meeting best practices.
📘  Additional resources to help you improve your one-on-ones. 

Looking for an employee engagement solution? Try Bonusly for Free!