SHRM Poll Highlights Recognition Challenges


Although 80 percent of organizations have a recognition program, less than a third of HR professionals (31 percent) believe that employees are satisfied with the level of recognition they receive for doing a good job.

And while 56 percent of survey respondents said employees are rewarded according to their job performance, just 46 percent said managers and supervisors acknowledge and appreciate employees effectively.

These are some of the findings of the 2011 SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey report released June 23, 2011, reflecting the input of 745 randomly-selected HR professionals from all sectors. Nearly half of respondents represent firms with more than 2,500 employees; 43 percent have multinational operations.

According to the poll, organizations most commonly recognize employees for:

  • Years of service—58 percent.
  • Going above and beyond regular work—48 percent.
  • Boosting the organization’s financial bottom line—43 percent.
  • Exemplary behavior that aligns with the organization’s values—37 percent.

A few respondents said they recognize those who produce high-quality results on regular work projects (9 percent) and for faster-than-expected completion of regular work projects (2 percent).

“Employee length of service, while important to recognize, is not directly link with performance and therefore may not have a significant impact on employee engagement and motivation, said Evren Esen, SHRM’s survey research manager. “Employees want to be recognized for the work they do, therefore specific recognition of their work performance tied to the organization’s values and business strategy are generally more meaningful.”

Yet those who believe that “what gets measured gets done” and that top management support is critical for a program’s success might be dismayed by some of the report’s findings.

For example, the vast majority of respondents (87 percent) said their organization makes no effort to track the return on investment (ROI) of their recognition program. Perhaps that’s because of those organization’s that do track ROI, more than three-quarters (77 percent) said they strongly agree or agree that such programs are challenging to measure, because metrics of success keep changing and their program is not linked to talent and performance management efforts, among other reasons.

Moreover, less than a quarter of respondents (23 percent) said their organization’s CEO or president is involved in every aspect of the recognition program.

Link to Engagement

More than two-thirds of poll respondents (69 percent) named employee engagement as the top “very important” HR challenge organizations will face in the next three to five years. Other very important challenges identified were employee retention (63 percent), recruitment (53 percent) and managing the corporate culture (51 percent.)

Unfortunately, the most common ways organizations track employee engagement—using exit interviews (71 percent) and measuring retention rates (65 percent)—capture data at a time when there is little that organizations can do to retain employees or improve their perception of the employer.

Fewer than half of respondents reported they use proactive methods for measuring engagement such as vendor- and company-administered engagement surveys (43 and 40 percent, respectively) and monitoring employee comments on social media platforms (11 percent).

Globoforce, a provider of employee recognition solutions, commissioned the survey to shed light on organizational employee recognition practices.

“Our first survey shows companies put engagement at the top of the priority list yet fall short in aligning these programs at the strategic level,” said Eric Mosley, CEO of Globoforce, in a statement. “Measuring recognition adds a level of accountability for all employees and is ultimately how behaviors change and culture is actively managed. It’s also how today’s HR leaders can gain the much-needed support and investment from senior management for strategic engagement and recognition programs.”

Survey respondents said that some of the most important workforce management challenges they are grappling with involve multiple cultures and different generations in the workplace—issues that can impact the design and implementation of employee recognition programs as well.

Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.