The pandemic, and the shift to remote working, has left some employees feeling isolated and detached from their team. It has also changed the way managers communicate with their team and provide feedback, since day-to-day interactions have transitioned online.

So, how has this new way of working affected employee recognition and benefits? We asked over 1,000 UK respondents how they like to be recognised at work and by whom. (Full methodology at the bottom of the article).

Methods of employee recognition graphic

The results of the survey show that the way people like to be recognised at work has changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. From the adoption of employee recognition software to more demand for peer-to-peer feedback, below we explore the key changes to employee recognition since the beginning of the pandemic.

#1 – People are receiving more verbal thanks as opposed to handshakes 

It may seem obvious, but with COVID-19 and the new social distancing measures, the traditional way of communication has also changed. Most people are now working from home, or a mix between the office and home. This has meant that, for most teams, the majority of communication is carried out through email, chat, or video software. Therefore, the way in which employers are giving recognition has transitioned from physical displays, such as a handshake or a pat on the back, to a verbal (or virtual) “thank you”.

Verbal thank you for employee recognition

In fact, the results of the survey show that 62% of respondents have received a verbal thank you for a job well done, as opposed to a handshake, which only 11% of respondents had experienced this year. This is a significant increase from the results of the 2019 survey, in which only 34% said they had received a verbal thank you for a job well done. 

Looking for software that integrates features such as manager-to-peer feedback or mention management can help increase the level of satisfaction in a company. Also, recognition from a manager can also increase trust and employee satisfaction. In fact, Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Ashley V. Whillans, states that: “What employees crave even more is to feel that their managers appreciate them and aren’t afraid to show it, not only in paycheck terms, but in other ways such as flexible work-at-home schedules, gift cards for pulling off impressive projects, or even just by saying “thank you” for a job well done.”

#2 – Companies are investing more in employee recognition software since the pandemic began

Following handshakes, the employees surveyed chose rewards (such as gifts and point-based systems) as the next most popular method of employee recognition, with an increase from 15% in 2019 to 24% in this survey. Monetary recognition such as bonuses was the third most popular response (with an increase from 13% to 21%).

In fact, in the past 18 months, there has been an 8% increase in respondents that say their companies use software for employee recognition (from 11% to 19%). In addition, the percentage of companies that don’t have a specific recognition programme has decreased from 39% to 24%. 

Software usage for employee recognition

Companies are seeing the value of having an employee recognition programme in place. When looking at implementing one, there are many features available depending on what the focus is. Some options include peer-to-peer recognition, a points-based system, a rewards catalogue, or goal tracking. The aim of these tools is to help companies in creating rewards programmes to enhance team communication and employee engagement.

#3 – Recognition from managers is still preferred, but colleagues’ opinions also matter

The results of the survey show that recognition is still communicated mostly in private meetings with managers (37%). However, when asked which type of recognition is more motivating for employees, the results are almost evenly distributed. Over half (57%) prefer to receive positive feedback from their managers, stating that this type of recognition is more meaningful since managers are usually the ones making decisions on pay raises and promotions. However, for almost half of respondents (43%), the recognition from their colleagues is more motivating. Respondents said that peer feedback seems more sincere and is more meaningful as they work hand in hand.

Motivation from manager and peer feedback

When looking at employee recognition software, peer-to-peer features — such as giving kudos or leaving a note on a public board — are some of the most common. These features provide employees with a platform to acknowledge colleagues’ contributions and achievements. This, in turn, can translate into a more collaborative and open working environment, better engagement, and less turnover.

#4 – Employees crave more recognition due to working from home

The impact of the pandemic on employee’s lives expands beyond their private life into their workplace environment too. The implementation of working from home and the change in working habits have also had an impact on productivity and performance. Therefore, employee recognition is even more important now that many employees are feeling isolated at home. Some employees are working under more difficult conditions, whilst still having to maintain the same productivity levels.

Over half of employees surveyed (58%) believe employee benefits are a priority in their company. The results of the survey also show that over three quarters (76%) of respondents stated they would work harder if they had more benefits. However, despite employees still considering that recognition is key to retaining talent and motivating employees, 53% don’t think they get enough recognition at work. 

In fact, Gartner identified employee recognition as one of the six key initiatives to keep employees engaged and motivated during the coronavirus crisis. “Effective recognition not only motivates the recipient but can serve as a strong signal to other employees of behaviors they should emulate.”

Having the right recognition programme in place can help companies and employees feel rewarded and recognised, motivating them to perform better and also to become an example for other employees. 

Looking for employee recognition software? Check out our catalogue!

*Survey methodology

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