The pandemic has had an impact on the way we work, but also on the way we feel recognised at work. Not being able to go into the office has meant many employees feel isolated and apart from the team – and in some cases that their work is not visible to managers due to remote working. So how has this new way of working affected employee benefits?
In December 2019, we surveyed UK employees to understand how they were recognised at work and what their preferences were when looking at recognition from their company. A little over 18 months since the first survey, we asked more than 1,000 UK respondents the same questions to understand if COVID-19 has changed the way that companies recognise employees and, in turn, if the types of employee benefits received have changed since the beginning of the pandemic. (Full methodology at the bottom of the article.)
The survey results show that, in addition to recognition being considered important, the way people like to be recognised at work has changed since the beginning of the crisis. Below we explore the key changes over the last 18 months.
Key takeaways from the survey include:
- 62% have received at least a thank you for a job well done. This is a significant increase from last year (34%).
- 58% believe recognition and employee benefits are a priority in their company. (This is an increase of 8 points.)
- 53% don’t think they get enough recognition at work, compared to the results in 2019 (56% didn’t think they got enough recognition from their companies).
- Recognition is still a strong factor for employees. 81% of respondents (compared to 78% last year) consider it a strong motivator for them.
Employee recognition has almost doubled since COVID-19
62% of respondents state having received at least a verbal thank you for a job well done. This is a significant increase from last year, when 34% had at least received a verbal thank you for a job well done at work as recognition.
The two ways most frequently used by companies to give recognition to employees are one-on-one with a manager (37%; an increase of 1% versus 36% in 2019) and informally within teams (from 29% in 2019 to 23% in 2021).
The next two most popular forms of recognition are treats (such as gifts or a points-based system), with an increase from 15% in 2019 to 24%. Likewise, monetary forms of recognition, such as bonuses, have increased from 13% to 21%.
Despite the increase in recognition, there is a slight mismatch between the type of recognition that employees are receiving and the one they would rather get. Monetary bonuses take the lead, chosen by 61% of employees. Over half would prefer to get perks such as vouchers, and finally, 37% would prefer a verbal thank you in public.
When looking at how they would like the communication to be carried out when receiving recognition, the preferences remain similar to before the pandemic: 37% of respondents prefer the recognition to be communicated in a one-on-one meeting with a manager (an increase of 1 point since 2019). However, when looking at the way it is communicated to the team, 42% prefer the recognition to be made in private (versus 33% from 2019).
Perks and money: the two types of recognition preferred by Millennials
93% of respondents aged 25-34 consider recognition from their employer to be a strong motivator. In addition, 89% of them admit they would work harder if they had more recognition at work.
When asked about what type of recognition they would like to get, 22% of respondents aged 25-34 prefer perks (such as a voucher or a gift card) or monetary bonuses (23%). Monetary recognition is also preferred by almost 1 in 3 employees aged 55 and over (28%).
When asked how often respondents are recognised at work, there is a significant difference across generations. For example, almost 1 in 4 respondents aged 25-34 (22%) state receiving recognition once a month, whilst 41% of respondents aged 55 and overstate receiving recognition on an ad-hoc basis, and another 22% of the same age group state never receiving recognition from their employers.
The importance of recognition has increased during the pandemic
58% believe employee recognition is a priority in their company. This has increased from 50% in 2019. In addition, respondents consider the recognition received from their manager more motivating (57%) than when received from their colleagues (43%).
Respondents state that praise from colleagues seems ‘more sincere and honest’ and also helps them see how they are perceived by their colleagues. For employees who prefer the recognition coming from their manager, they state that the manager can help with advancing their careers and provide monetary rewards (such as a bonus).
The percentage of employees that consider recognition as a way to retain talent and motivate staff has decreased since 2019. 92% of respondents consider that employee recognition is key to retaining talent. This is 2% less than in 2019 (94%).
The survey results also show that over 3 in 4 respondents (76%) stated they would work harder if they had more benefits, compared to 78% in 2019.
However, despite the slight decrease of 2 points, the link to talent retention and motivation through recognition is still a strong one among British respondents.
Companies are investing more in employee benefits during the pandemic
Although employees still consider that recognition is key to retaining talent and motivating staff, before and during the pandemic, 53% don’t think they get enough recognition at work. This is a decrease of 3 points compared to 2019’s results (56% didn’t think they got enough recognition from their companies).
The survey results also show that there has been an 8% increase in companies that use software for employee recognition since 2019 (from 11% to 19%). In addition, the percentage of companies who don’t have a specific recognition programme has decreased from 39% to 24%. This change could mean that companies are seeing the value of having employee recognition programmes in place, to attract, retain, and motivate employees – especially since the pandemic.
To collect the data for this report, we conducted an online survey in June 2021. Of the total respondents, we were able to identify 1,012 UK respondents that fit within our criteria:
- UK resident
- Employed by a small or mid-sized business
- Employed full-time or part-time