Weekly Wrap: Employee Appreciation? It’s Not As Good as You Might Think

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Here’s a sobering statistic to ponder on Employee Appreciation Day: Nearly half (47 percent) of employees recently surveyed say they either don’t feel appreciated or feel only somewhat appreciated at work.

This comes from a new online survey in February by Harris Poll for The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated, a company that makes sophisticated time and attendance software. Although the findings are pretty interesting, they aren’t terribly surprising given all that we read and hear about the mindset of the workforce today.

Appreciation mirrors employee engagement

The hook for the survey is Employee Appreciation Day, and like so many fabricated “holidays,” it’s one I struggle with because appreciating the good things our workers do needs to be a year-round activity. As frequent TLNT contributor Derek Irvine has often argued, Employee Appreciation Day simply “reinforces bad employee recognition practices. … (and) lets people off the hook for timely, frequent, meaningful recognition.”

Amen to that, because it underlines so many of the glass half empty/half full findings from the Kronos Workforce Institute survey. Some of the highlights include:

  • Employee feelings of appreciation in line with engagement studies. “The good news for organizations is that more than half of employees (53 percent) say they feel either ‘very appreciated’ or ‘mostly appreciated’ at work. However, those who feel less appreciated in the workplace align with well-known employee engagement statistics.”
  • According to a Gallup study, 51 percent of U.S. workers say they are “not engaged” at their current job. “Compare this with the 47 percent of employees in the Kronos study who either do not feel appreciated or feel only somewhat appreciated at work.”
  • In the same Gallup study, 17.5 percent of workers are “actively disengaged.” “This is compared with 15 percent of employees (in the Kronos survey) who feel ‘not that appreciated’ or ‘not at all appreciated.’ ”
  • There is a grass-is-greener correlation with feeling underappreciated. “Overall, 61 percent of employees have thought about searching for a new job in the past year, and more than a quarter of employees (26 percent) thought about looking for a new job in the past week.
  • Of the employees who thought about searching for a new job in the past year, “59 percent either do not feel appreciated or feel somewhat appreciated at their place of work compared with 11 percent who feel very appreciated.”
  • Pay raises don’t always boost appreciation. If they do, they’re quickly forgotten. “While salary, promotions, and bonuses typically win out in employee motivation surveys, nearly a quarter (24 percent) of those who ever received a pay raise say it did not improve their motivation or general feelings of appreciation at work.
  • Perhaps worse, of those who had ever received a past pay raise, “40 percent said it improved their motivation or general feelings of appreciation for six months or less, while 30 percent say the raise boosted these feelings for a mere month or less; making day-to-day acts of gratitude and appreciation in the workplace that much more important.”
  • The power of “Thank You” can’t be underestimated. “In an increasingly competitive job market, many organizations turn to unique perks, pay raises, and benefits to keep employees happy, but creating a culture of gratitude could be just as impactful.”
  • Managers believe in the power of thank you, too, “since a higher percentage of those with direct reports say positive feedback is important to their personal satisfaction compared to those without direct reports (78 percent vs. 70 percent).”
  • What brings employees down? “For employees who feel somewhat or not at all appreciated, not being recognized for the work they do was the top reason cited by nearly half (48 percent) as something that makes them not feel appreciated at work.”
  • In fact, not being recognized for work done is cited nearly twice as much “as receiving criticism (26 percent) and heavy workload (25 percent), and more than twice as much as poor work-life balance (23 percent) and someone taking credit for the work they did (22 percent).”

Showing appreciation “doesn’t cost a thing”

“Acknowledging employees’ efforts motivates and inspires much more than many people realize. It’s also easy to do and doesn’t cost a thing,” says Joyce Maroney, director of The Workforce Institute at Kronos, in a press release about the survey.

She also adds this: ‘This employee appreciation study shows that all of us, from part-time workers to senior leaders, play a role in how much our co-workers feel appreciated at work. Fostering a culture of appreciation could be the simple, secret ingredient to higher employee engagement.”

As I look at the Kronos survey results, I can’t help but think that employees would feel a lot more appreciated if we took the Employee Appreciation Day mindset and applied it to our workforces every day of the year. As Jason Lauritsen pointed out this week here on TLNT, ham-handed, cut-and-paste style appreciation is not only offensive to workers, but it may actually have the opposite effect on them. As he noted:

If your employees suspect that you don’t really care about them, don’t prove them right by sending out an awful communication like this one. As a society, we have developed a pretty finely tuned BS detection system to defend against the constant stream of lies and manipulation that flow constantly towards us in the media. We will see through your half-hearted attempts to trick us into believing you really care about us.”

Smart organizations don’t need to make a big deal out of Employee Appreciation Day because they do it all the time, all year round. Unless that is how your business operates, no amount of celebration and frivolity today is going to make much of a difference anyway.

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You would be wise to ponder THAT before another Employee Appreciation Day comes to pass.

Why aren’t workers seeing more raises?

Of course, there’s more than just a new Employee Appreciation Day survey in the news this week. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • Job market perks up for recent graduates. According to The Wall Street Journal, new college grads are having an easier time finding a job. “Preliminary results from the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ First Destination Survey, being released at the group’s legislative summit on Friday, show that 52.9 percent of bachelor’s degree graduates were employed on a full-time basis this winter, and 7.3 percent worked part-time. Another 16.8 percent were enrolled in graduate programs, while 18.7 percent were still seeking jobs or graduate-school admission. The results show the job market is bouncing back with the economy.”
  • Why aren’t workers getting more raises? Although this was written before today’s latest unemployment numbers were release by the Labor Department, this Washington Post article does a pretty good job of tying the lack of robust job growth over the past few years to the lack of meaningful salary increases. “The problem is that even though unemployment is a normal-ish 5.7 percent, wage growth is still a below-normal 2.2 percent. It could be that companies aren’t increasing wages to make up for the fact that they wanted to cut them during the recession, but couldn’t. That’s what the Federal Reserve calls “pent-up wage deflation.” Or it could be that companies aren’t increasing wages due to the fact that there’s more slack than the unemployment rate is letting on. And that’s why the Federal Reserve is, for example, paying close attention to part-time workers who want full-time jobs but can’t find them.”
  • A message for a CEO: Be nice. A Kentucky Girl Scout had a simple message for the CEO of a plant that makes Girl Scout cookies: Be nicer to your workers. Here’s the entire story, courtesy of USA Today and the Louisville Courier-Journal.
  • Still more management lessons from that clueless boss in Office Space. The movie Office Space never really gets old, and one of the great characters in the film is a clueless manager by the name of Bill Lumbergh who is wonderfully played by actor Gary Cole. Software development firm Atlassian has brought him back for a series of ads, and they’re just about as funny as the original film. Here’s another one you should enjoy: