The 2022 UK Employee Recognition Survey

June 20, 2022

Paris Stevens

"Nearly three in four UK employees feel they deserve more recognition for the work they do"

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Employee recognition has always been important. From day-to-day words of praise through to pay rises and bonuses, receiving recognition helps employees to feel motivated, valued and confident. 

But in recent years, employee recognition has become even more crucial. With many employees now working from home, companies are having to change how they show staff recognition. According to ONS data, the proportion of employees adopting hybrid working practices rose from 13% in early February 2022 to 24% in May 2022.

The so-called 'Great Resignation' has also heightened the need for workforce recognition. Almost a fifth of UK workers have said they expect to leave their current job for a new one within the next 12 months, seeking more job satisfaction. For this reason, recognition has also become a vital factor in improving staff retention. 

At Wildgoose, we wanted to find out whether UK employees feel they’re receiving sufficient recognition within their workplaces. 

We surveyed employees from 133 different UK companies, asking them whether they feel they’re given enough recognition, how they would react to a lack of recognition and how companies could better meet their ‘recognition needs’. Here’s what we found…

Key findings:

  • Nearly three in four UK employees feel they deserve more recognition for the work they do
  • Less-recognised employees are 131% more likely to lose faith in their management team and company’s core values
  • These employees are twice as likely to experience an impact on their mental health 
  • Women are 34% more likely to experience mental health issues due to insufficient recognition
  • A third of less-recognised employees have either left their company or are looking for a new job
  • Millennials experience the greatest mental health impact when they don’t receive enough recognition
  • The majority of employees (53%) would like simple, regular, in-person appreciation from management

The lack of recognition is widespread

Our survey revealed that many UK companies are failing to provide their employees with enough recognition. 

With nearly three in four UK employees believing they deserve more recognition for the work they do, it's clear that they’re increasingly expecting acknowledgement. In fact, fewer than 1 in 20 employees feel that they’re given fair recognition for their work.

These statistics should come as a warning for UK companies. With job vacancies reaching record highs, management teams risk losing their staff in the ongoing ‘war for talent’ if they’re not fairly recognised. 

Ignoring employee recognition has a wider impact

Failing to value, respect and recognise employees can have various negative results. From poor mental health to a decrease in productivity, the effects of being unrecognised can affect both employees and the company as a whole. 

Our survey revealed that 40% of employees became less productive after suffering a lack of recognition. Plus, 38% lost faith in their management team and the company’s values. Both of these factors can be deeply detrimental to a business, with poor levels of employee performance impacting the work completed. 

In terms of mental health, a third (33%) of employees felt that a lack of recognition contributed to excessive stress or burnout. 23% of employees also felt their relationships with colleagues changed if recognition was given out unequally.

Recognition alters employee attitudes

Our findings uncovered a clear difference in the attitudes of employees who are frequently recognised compared to those who are not.

Employees who suffer from a lack of recognition from their company are:

  • Almost twice as likely to lose productivity (83%)
  • 131% more likely to lose faith in the management team and company’s core values
  • Twice as likely to experience an impact on their mental health 
  • 32% more likely to currently be looking for a new job
  • 92% more likely to have already left the company and found work elsewhere

Contributor to the Great Resignation: poor employee recognition leads to high turnover rates

The longer term effect of infrequent employee recognition is an increase in turnover rates. If staff don’t feel appreciated for the work they do, they’re less likely to stay in their role. 

Our findings show that just under a quarter of employees who don’t receive enough recognition are currently looking for a new job. One in 10 employees who weren’t receiving sufficient recognition left their company for a new role elsewhere.

And losing employees brings its own problems for companies and management teams. With 1.3 million open job vacancies, it can be incredibly difficult to hire someone new. 

How do employees want to be recognised?

So how can companies improve the way they acknowledge their employees’ efforts?

Of the people we asked, over half said they would like to receive regular, in-person appreciation from their managers. This is a simple way to make sure employees feel valued for the work they do. By taking the time to deliver this easy form of recognition, companies will also be improving their employee retention rates.

As we continue to feel the impacts of the cost of living crisis, not every company can afford pay rises and bonuses. But providing personal shout-outs, praise and appreciation is a cost-effective way to help employees feel valued.

As more employees start returning to the office or adopting hybrid-working approaches, managers should be scheduling regular, in-person meetings to recognise employees for their work and contributions. 

Does age matter? Different generations have different ‘recognition needs’

Our survey also highlighted that different demographics desire different forms of recognition. For this reason, employee recognition needs to be adapted to suit the individual.  

For example, millennials are the most likely to feel they deserve greater amounts of recognition, meaning more effort should be made to focus acknowledgement efforts within this age group. 

Different demographics also respond to a lack of recognition in different ways. Understanding how employees feel when they aren’t given sufficient praise is the first step to fixing the problem.

Gen Z (18-24)

  • 68% of employees within this demographic feel they deserve greater recognition for the work they do
  • However, Gen Z scored the highest for recognition satisfaction — 32% feel they get what they deserve
  • This age group are the most likely to see their productivity fall as a result of no recognition
  • They’re also most likely to lose faith in their management team and the company’s core goals

Millennials (25-35)

  • Millennials are most likely to feel they deserve greater recognition for the work they do
  • This demographic are most likely to feel that a lack of recognition at work impacts their mental health

Gen X and older

  • 70% of employees aged between 35-44 feel they deserve greater recognition at their company
  • Gen X are most likely to take action — 29% said they’re currently looking for a new job due to a lack of recognition
  • Nearly one in five Gen X employees feel that unequal recognition has impacted working relationships between colleagues

How should companies tailor their methods of recognition?

If companies want to make their employees feel recognised, they need to do so in a way that’s tailored to the individual. 

As the most digital-savvy generation, Gen Z are the most likely (21%) to engage with recognition through digital platforms, such as social media or messaging services. However, this medium is less favoured by older generations, such as Gen X.

Instead, Gen X are most likely (51%) to want recognition through receiving a higher salary than the industry standard. Similarly, 49% of millennials want recognition to be delivered through opportunities for career growth and promotions.

But across all age groups, in-person, private conversations are still the preferred method of recognition.  

Which gender receives most recognition within the workplace? 

Over the last few decades, much more has been done to combat gender inequality within the workplace. However, there’s still a long way to go.

Examining employee recognition can help to uncover unconscious imbalances that may not be visible on the surface. Perhaps more praise is given to a particular gender within a company, or maybe pay rises are given out unequally.

Our survey found that both male (73%) and female (71%) employees feel they deserve more recognition from their employer. Yet of the female employees we asked, none at all feel they’re given fair recognition when compared to their colleagues.

A lack of recognition also has greater impacts on the mental health of female employees. Females are 34% more likely to experience mental health implications, such as stress or burnout, due to not having their efforts at work sufficiently acknowledged. It could be argued, therefore, that females have higher ‘recognition needs’, which managers should take into account.

On the other hand, male employees are slightly more likely to move jobs if they don’t receive the recognition they feel they deserve. 26% of male employees are currently looking for a new role, compared to 22% of female employees. 

Companies need to change the way they give recognition

To help retain employees, companies need to ensure that each gender feels equally respected and valued for the work they do. Failure to do this can result in feelings of inequality, stress and upset, which in turn can affect mental health and levels of performance. 

Our survey established that female employees prefer to receive recognition for their work through:

  • Regular, in-person conversations with management (57%)
  • Being respected by colleagues, with regular feedback given (54%)
  • Receiving a high salary compared to the industry standard (43%)

Male employees, meanwhile, prefer to receive recognition for their work through:

  • Being offered a high salary compared to the industry standard (52%)
  • Regular, in-person conversations with management (50%)
  • Receiving feedback showing their work adds value to the company (52%)

Which size of company gives its employees most recognition? 

Our survey found that different-sized companies provide varying levels of employee recognition. Companies at different scales each have their own operating challenges, so what works for employees at an SME might not work at a global enterprise organisation.

For this reason, it’s vital that companies find an employee recognition strategy that works for them. 

Of the employees that haven’t received enough recognition over the last year:

  • SME employees are most likely to lose faith in their management team and the company’s core goals
  • Employees at large companies are most likely to have left their job due to receiving no workplace recognition
  • Employees at enterprise-level workplaces are most likely to become less productive for their company

The next steps: how can companies encourage employee recognition?

As our survey revealed, companies need to do more to help their employees feel recognised and valued. Harnessing the power of employee recognition helps to increase retention, productivity and happiness within the workforce. 

While each employee will have different ‘recognition needs’, offering in-person, one-to-one conversations is preferred by the majority. 

With this in mind, managers should look to implement regular feedback sessions into the structure of their working days. In addition, companies can utilise digital platforms to share words of praise with their employees. This is a great way to help staff feel recognised throughout their working week. 

Encouraging team collaboration and communication is also important for helping employees to build relationships with managers and colleagues. This makes it easier to open conversations around the topic of recognition. 

Here at Wildgoose, we offer a mix of in-person, hybrid and virtual events to boost team morale:

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