Employee engagement

Survey Says: Appreciation Matters More Than You Think

Vanessa Kahn
March 2, 2022
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Do you know the warning signs of disengaged employees? They’re subtle, but you can see them if you know what to look for. 👀🔎 SHRM cites that a disengaged employee can show symptoms like pessimism (being continually negative when their team is shy of a goal), absenteeism (taking "unlimited" PTO a little too seriously), or egocentrism (handing off "busy work" to a colleague). 

What’s the antidote to these troubling traits? 

We recently conducted a poll of 2,000 Americans, all of whom have either been employed in some capacity over the last five years or are currently searching for a new job. This audience shared how appreciation fits into the larger puzzle of what employees want from their employers and how peer relationships influence engagement.



If salary and professional development opportunities make up the corners and sides of the puzzle, the center pieces are shaped by relationships with peers and managers. Without further ado, let’s dive into what this data means for improving employee engagement in 2022 and beyond!

So, how do employees want to be recognized?

Psst, download our white paper based on the survey results for an in-depth look at what we found.

Employee recognition preferences are as unique as each of your employees. Some people deeply value recognition from their peers, while others find it much more meaningful when it comes from their manager. Some folks want to be recognized in person, whereas others may prefer a form of digital recognition that doesn't require them to respond. (Acknowledging compliments can be stressful, am I right? 😅)

Despite these differences, the need for recognition in the modern workplace remains constant: 65% of the people we polled believe they’d be likely to stay at a job with an unappreciative manager if their coworkers and peers still recognized their work. 


The dark side of recognition comes into view when employees begin to assume that the system is rigged. If hierarchical or top-down recognition is the only kind of appreciation that people receive, employees may eventually divest their trust in shout-outs and assume that favoritism is at play. 

Survey says: the relative majority of respondents (41%) said that favoritism among employees from management made them feel the most unappreciated, followed closely by a significant portion (39%) who cited a lack of communication and recognition from management.

So, how does recognition impact your business? 

In addition to having a positive impact on your employees' mental health and happiness at work, recognition has a sizable impact on issues like retention and productivity. According to those surveyed, almost half (46%) of respondents have left a job because they felt unappreciated. Another 65% admitted that they would work harder if they felt like their contributions would be noticed by management.


TL;DR: visible recognition matters! After all, engaged employees tend to be optimistic, team-oriented, and selfless. Aren't those the qualities of a teammate that we all strive to be and want to work with?! ☀️

So, how can I improve appreciation as an employer? 

Employers have more power than they might think to impact employee experience and prevent voluntary turnover. Here are a few things you and your company can implement today to incorporate appreciation more fully into your employee experience.

Support your managers

Supporting employees starts with supporting managers. Managers are the key to employee retention and engagement, but in order to crack the code, managers themselves need to feel supported.

Many of the people that we surveyed cited career development opportunities as a key driver of a positive employee experience. A quarter of respondents reported that they would appreciate one-on-one coaching from management as a way their company invests in its employees on a daily basis. If managers at your organization have the time, tools, and interest to support and coach their direct reports, the effort could benefit everyone involved.

On the appreciation side of things, managers need an easy, public way to recognize their direct reports. While managers ought to provide constructive feedback to their direct reports in private, it’s important for managers to have a public place to praise their direct reports and give visibility to their great work! Of the 54% of survey respondents who manage others at work, 63% said their favorite way to commend employees was by making that praise visible to other team members and the company.


"Visible peer-to-peer recognition plays a vital information sharing function,” points out Kai Robinson, Bonusly's Director of Talent Acquisition. The benefits of visible recognition extend beyond the praise Kai gives her direct reports: "Our VP of Design recently recognized the recruiter on my team who’s running the hiring process for designers. Public recognition helps me understand the breadth and impact of my team's contributions since I’m not present for everything they’re doing."

Explore peer-to-peer recognition 

When we asked what larger ways their employers should show appreciation, survey respondents would most prefer salary increases, wellness and professional development stipends, and recognition programs.


One in five people (22%) would prefer to be recognized with praise from management, while another 22% would also like recognition from their peers. When asked how their current place of employment could improve, 35% said they’d like recognition from their employers in the form of perks, bonuses or a recognition program.

Preferences for peer versus manager recognition was split down the middle, demonstrating the importance of a recognition program that all employees are empowered to use. As Kai points out, peer-to-peer recognition programs like Bonusly help teams come together:

Illustration of a quote from Kai Robinson, Director of Talent Acquisition at Bonusly: "I love being able to recognize my team and I love seeing how they interact on Bonusly. I could pinpoint when my team really started to come together because they were recognizing each other directly."


We hope this data helps you turn over all the puzzle pieces you need to improve employee engagement at your organization. Now go forth and start empowering your managers, speaking directly to your employees about the changes they'd like to see, and exploring peer-to-peer recognition. We think you'll like what you see when the puzzle comes together! 🧩

Psst, download our white paper based on the survey results for an in-depth look at what we found.

Bonusly Appreciation Data White Paper Illustrations_Landing Page (1)


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