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Employees say recognition they receive is “just an empty gesture”

“The holy grail of recognition is to have it integrated into everyday workplace culture so that the natural response to someone going ‘above and beyond’ is to recognise them.”

Almost half of U.K employees (47 per cent) admit that the recognition they receive at work feels like an empty gesture and is not meaningful – an increase of five per cent on last year’s figures (2022: 42 per cent). This is despite more employees – 61 per cent – stating that their leaders acknowledge the great work they do (2022: 60 per cent). These findings* involved in-depth research with 36,000 employees, leaders, HR practitioners, and business executives, including 4,653 from the U.K.

“The majority of U.K. leaders are realising the importance of appreciating their people”, says Robert Ordever, European MD at O.C. Tanner. “However both managers and employees must consider how to appreciate others effectively. Recognising staff in a way that’s impersonal and inauthentic can have the opposite effect to what was intended, causing employees to feel invisible and dejected.”

O.C. Tanner recommends a recognition programme that champions regular organisation-wide appreciation for effort, accomplishments and career milestones. And both leaders and peers must be encouraged to give recognition in a way that’s personal and sincere.

Ordever says, “For recognition to come across as genuine and meaningful, it can’t be an afterthought but must be given with intent, with the recognition giver shining a light on the individual’s achievements. Giving appreciation publicly in front of leaders and peers also elevates the moment, making it truly memorable.”

The Report reveals that 47 per cent of U.K. employees believe that staff recognition is an integrated part of their organisation’s culture. The remaining 53 per cent either say that it’s not integrated or aren’t sure whether it is or not!

Ordever adds, “The holy grail of recognition is to have it integrated into everyday workplace culture so that the natural response to someone going ‘above and beyond’ is to recognise them. Organisations with highly integrated recognition regularly display great work. They also enjoy high levels of engagement, low attrition, and 80 per cent fewer cases of burnout.”

O.C. Tanner’s 2023 Global Culture Report

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