Employee engagement

10 Employee Recognition Statistics Your Leaders Can't Ignore

Elle Mason
September 11, 2019
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Here on the Bonusly blog, we talk so much about employee recognition that we forget that not everybody spends their working hours obsessively thinking about recognition. 😅

We cite a lot of data and research in our posts, so we thought we’d compile together an article with the best and most enlightening of these statistics in the hopes that it’d be helpful to you—because honestly, it’s helpful for us to have everything in one place, too! 😂

So: would employees rather get gifts or receive praise? Does recognition from peers mean as much as when it comes from a leader? What happens exactly when an employee isn’t recognized over the course of a year?

These are questions you and your leadership team are probably asking, and we’re here to help you find the answers. With this list of the most significant recognition statistics, this article aims to demystify recognition using data from modern workplaces.

1. Research shows that happiness raises business productivity by 31%.


Let’s start with this one: according to positive psychology research by Shawn Anchor, the single greatest advantage in the modern economy is a happy and engaged workforce. A decade of research proves that employee happiness raises nearly every business and educational outcome: raising sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and accuracy on tasks by 19%, as well as a myriad of health and quality of life improvements.

Given what we know about recognition’s ability to tap into our desires for connection, belonging, and esteem, showing appreciation (and not just on employee appreciation day) is an easy way to boost happiness. And it works both ways—improving the mood of both the giver and the recipient.

2. 65% of employees haven’t received any form of recognition for good work in the last year.

Despite that last statistic showing how impactful employee recognition can be to an organization, the reality is that, well, not too many people feel very appreciated!

And when people aren’t appreciated for their great work, they’re less likely to continue their efforts.

... Relationships are crucial in business. Data from the U.S. Department of Labor show that the main reason people leave their jobs is because they don't feel appreciated.”
Tom Rath, author of “How Full Is Your Bucket?”

It only takes a few seconds to respond to an email with praise, or tell someone that you enjoyed their presentation—but those few seconds add up over time, and can make all the difference.

3. Employees want to appreciate each other. When offered a simple tool to do so, 44% of all workers will provide peer recognition on an ongoing basis.


After reading those last few statistics, you’re probably feeling like you should recognize your employees. Which you should! 😉

But you don’t have to shoulder all of that weight, because you can easily benefit from employee recognition by opening up opportunities for peer-to-peer recognition.

Relying solely on supervisors to offer recognition to subordinates is outdated. In today’s increasingly global business environments, there is a growing need to enable and encourage peer-to-peer recognition tools. This decentralizes recognition and empowers all employees to recognize great work and effort.

Peer relationships in the workplace are important, and any opportunity you give your team members to recognize each other only contributes to a more positive company culture and bottom line.

4. Peer-to-peer recognition is powerful—it’s nearly 36% more likely to have a positive impact on financial results than manager-only recognition.

In fact, you should be creating these opportunities for your team members to appreciate one another, because peer-to-peer employee relationships have a significant positive impact on an organization’s success.

Many people tend to think of leader-to-employee recognition as the only valid form, as we tend to link it to future rewards and advancement. As it turns out, recognition from our peers is just as validating—if not even more powerful!

Peer-to-peer recognition is a more authentic approach to recognizing an employee’s achievement. It not only motivates employees, but it also builds a culture of support, collaboration, and achievement.

When peer recognition is encouraged, employee engagement levels rise—which then lead to increased employee retention, productivity, and quality of customer service. These are all factors that positively influence a company’s financials.

5. "Receiving gifts" and "words of affirmation" are modern employees' favorite ways to be recognized.

If you’re familiar with “The Five Love Languages,” then you already know that people have different preferences for how they best receive love, affirmation, and appreciation.

Bonusly applied that same idea to how people prefer to be appreciated in the workplace in the Bridging the Appreciation Gap study to see exactly what people want! As it turns out, it’s mostly receiving gifts and words of affirmation, but there are definitely other methods as well—be sure to check out this article for the full details! The good news is, if you’ve been waiting to start recognizing people until it’s in the budget, you don’t have to delay any longer—there are other forms of recognition that are just as well-received.

6. 70% of employees say that motivation and morale would improve “massively” with managers saying thank you more.


There’s a disconnect here between employees and supervisors—34% of senior decision-makers report that they don’t think regular recognition and thanking employees at work has a big influence on staff retention. This flies in the face of the 70% of employees who say that motivation and morale would improve with appreciation from managers.


Plus, the same survey revealed that 85% of employees think managers and leaders should spot good work and give praise in the moment, and 81% think this should happen on a continuous, year-round basis.

This is a great opportunity to start a new habit! 😉

7. Employees who don’t feel recognized are twice as likely to quit in a year.

This one doesn’t need much explanation. If an employee isn’t being appreciated for the hard work they do, they’ll probably leave the company. 😬

As Gallup points out, “this element of engagement and performance might be one of the greatest missed opportunities for leaders and managers.”

Now scroll back up to #5, and remember that simply saying “thanks!” can make a big difference at your organization.

8. 86% of Highly Engaged employees were recognized the last time they went above and beyond at work compared to only 31% of Actively Disengaged employees.


Failing to be appreciated for the day-to-day movements we all make to keep things running can be frustrating enough, so, imagine how much worse it feels to exert more effort than usual, only to have it be ignored!

With only 29% of workers feeling engaged, as surveyed in Bonusly Employee Engagement and Modern Workplace Report, leaders should be certain to recognize people going above and beyond the call of duty—particularly if they’d like to encourage similar and sustained performance.

9. In a survey about dream rewards for reaching a milestone, respondents strongly preferred a gift card (44%) followed by a paid trip with teammates (41%).

You’ve worked hard, now you get to pick out a dream reward. Here are your options:

  1. An all expenses paid trip somewhere tropical with your teammates
  2. A $600 gift card to the store or company of your choice
  3. Dinner at a Michelin Star restaurant with the CEO of your company
  4. A dedicated intern for 2 months

Which would you pick? More importantly, which one would your employees pick? In Bonusly's Bridging the Appreciation Gap report, most workers preferred a gift card, closely followed by a paid trip with team members.

Here’s the more important question: Which one would your employees pick?

This just goes to show that preferences really matter when you’re showing appreciation. Make sure you know what your team likes, and make your rewards unique to each person. With Bonusly, recognized recipients can redeem their points for gift cards of their choice—and if they want a gift card to take that trip with their team members? They can do that too, with hotel, flight, and experiential gift cards. 🌴😎

10. While 71% of highly engaged organizations recognize employees for a job well done, the same is true for only 41% of less engaged organizations.


Clearly, employee recognition and employee engagement go hand-in-hand.

There are clear distinctions between the climate and performance at highly-engaged organizations compared to their low-engaged peers—and the State of Employee Engagement from Bonusly and HR.com shows that recognition is one of the behaviors that makes a big difference.

How can you recognize someone today?

Given what we know about recognition in the workplace and its impact on a company’s bottom-line and wellbeing, it’s crucial to build the habit of appreciating others. For a turn-key recognition platform, we invite you to take a tour of Bonusly.

If you want to take action now, you have the tools to start, whether it’s picking one idea from a list each month to try or launching a new company-wide intervention. Here's a good place to start:

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