On Friday, March 1st, we will be observing a holiday that should be on every organization’s radar: Employee Appreciation Day. Celebrated annually every first Friday of March, Employee Appreciation Day was established in 1995 by Dr. Bob Nelson, considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on employee motivation, performance, engagement, recognition, and rewards. This day was created for leaders and management to say “thank you” to their employees for their hard work that contributes to the organization’s success day in and day out.
We know some of you may be thinking, “I pay my employees well, even give hefty bonuses. Isn’t that enough?” Well, the short answer is no, it is not enough. According to recent research by Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Ashley V. Whillans, Winning the War for Talent, every year U.S. companies spend more than one-fifth of their budgets on wages and salaries, to the tune of $38 - $77 billion in cash rewards and incentives. While this spending is impressive, more than 80% of American employees still say they do not feel recognized or rewarded. In addition, about 40% of the employees surveyed in the study reported that they would work harder if their contributions were more widely recognized. This means that just throwing money at the problem will not motivate your employees or help you retain the top talent you want to successfully operate your business.
Whillans’ research is not an outlier in terms of the numbers on employee recognition and appreciation. The following stats from various sources show that we are nearing or at an employee engagement crisis.
- 51% of employees surveyed are not engaged or haven’t been engaged for quite some time (Gallup)
- 59% of employees surveyed are more likely to be engaged when they are supervised by a highly engaged manager rather than an actively disengaged manager (Gallup)
- 5% of workers who don’t feel recognized for doing great work have interviewed for a job in the past three months vs. 12.4% who do feel recognized (HRDrive)
- 12% of workers say they would quit their job because they don’t feel appreciated (Robert Half)
- Employees who feel their rewards meet their needs are seven times more likely to be engaged with work compared to employees who don’t feel that way (Alight)
Although these numbers can be disheartening, we’d rather take a "glass is half-full" approach. We can challenge ourselves to implement employee recognition and appreciation programs that can improve these numbers within our own organizations. What can we do to engage our team at all levels? What do our employees value? How can we show them we value them and see their hard work?
Patrick Lencioni stated, “engaged, enthusiastic, and loyal employees are pivotal drivers of growth and health in any organization”. This week, we have the opportunity to provide genuine recognition and appreciation to our employees to help foster a positive work environment. In a time where unemployment is at historic lows and every organization is working hard to attract and retain the top talent in their industries, employee recognition and engagement programs can surely become the competitive advantage for an organization.