The Research Behind Staff Recognition

Written by
George Dickson
George Dickson

It's one thing to say that staff recognition is important, and another thing entirely to prove its value. There has been a vast body of research focused on the effects of recognition recently, and the results of that research are telling.

Dr. Haiyan Zhang of the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute published a thought leadership whitepaper titled: How do I recognize thee, let me count the ways. The whitepaper shared some fascinating information about the effects of recognition on a workforce.

The study found that employee recognition has a dramatic impact on engagement, stating:

Employees who receive recognition are more likely to be engaged at work. The engagement level of employees who receive recognition is almost three times higher than the engagement level of those who do not.

Employee engagement touches nearly every aspect of a business, which is why so many organizations are struggling to improve it. The Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2015 report stated that 87% of organizations cite culture and engagement as one of their top challenges.

In addition to its effects on employee engagement, recognition has shown to directly impact employee retention.

[Smarter Workforce Institute] analyses reveal recognition is not only important to engage talent but also to keep talent.

The Smarter Workforce Institute, Dr. Zhang, and Watson aren't alone in their findings. The 2014 TINYpulse Employee Engagement and Organizational Culture Report uncovered further evidence of recognition's importance—particularly that of peer recognition. Their research found that:

Peers—not money—are the #1 influence on their colleagues, and the source of 20% of all employees going the extra mile.

With the massive cost of employee turnover and disengagement as the alternative, it's not surprising that many organizations are working to find an effective employee recognition tool. Despite that effort, and the general acceptance of recognition's importance, there's a clear lack of execution. Employees all over the world are still experiencing a lack of appreciation. According to the TINYpulse study,

Organizations are underperforming when it comes to showing how valued employees are, with only 21% of employees saying they feel strongly valued.

That means the vast majority of employees don't feel strongly valued, and that's a big problem. Almost no company would survive if only 21% of its customers felt they were valued. It's up to leaders of organizations to step up and ensure their team receives recognition for the contributions they're making, or watch engagement and retention drop.

Peer-to-peer recognition is an effective and efficient way to ensure contributions are recognized. Read more about its transformative powers here:

Getting the Most from Peer Recognition

Originally published on September 30, 2015 → Last updated August 24, 2019

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George Dickson

George is dedicated to strengthening organizational cultures with thoughtful leadership and frequent recognition. George formerly managed content and community at Bonusly.


Bonusly is a fun, personal employee recognition and rewards program that helps people feel engaged and successful at work. ✨