Trends in employee recognition – what you need to know

Employee Recognition - What you need to knowThe 2013 Trends in Employee Recognition report by WorldatWork has just been released. But if you don’t fancy wading through all the data in its 28 pages then here’s a summary of what you need to know.

Who and What

The 2013 Trends in Employee Recognition report was carried out by WorldatWork and the ITA Group in February and March 2013. They surveyed 5,520 randomly selected WorldatWork members, of which 499 responded. The data was then cleaned, duplicate records removed and then analysed using statistical software.


Key findings

1.    Recognition programmes are a staple reward

Despite changes in the environment, economy and the labour markets the 2013 data suggest that even with a recession and some visible blips in the data during the past few years, recognition programmes remain an important variable in the total rewards and motivation equation.


2.    The balance of recognition programmes goals is changing

Schemes that reward specific behaviours have increased in numbers. This may be because organisations are moving away from traditional employee recognition programmes, such as those that reward long service, and towards those that drive business results.

It is interesting to note that sales performance recognition, which has been one of most prevalent forms of recognition programme since 2003, dropped out of the top five. It suffered a reduction of 15% down to 25% for the prevalence of the scheme. One reason may be the divergence between sales goals and sales performance during 2012 when the economy was thought to be in recovery mode and in fact was not. Another reason may be the bad press sales incentive schemes have received, especially in the financial sector, which has led to many sales recognition schemes being closed or completely overhauled.


3.    Leadership and management

2013 saw yet another increase in senior management buy-in for recognition programmes, up 4% to 41%. Only 6% of respondents said that there was low or no support for recognition programmes from senior management. Interestingly, nearly half of respondents (46%) believe senior management views recognition as an investment rather than an expense.

However, organisations are generally not training managers on their recognition programmes, with only 12% of businesses providing manager training. This is typically online or in-person training.


4.    Recognition budgets

Budget SqueezeThe amount organisations are budgeting for their recognition scheme has not changed in recent years with recognition schemes being allocated on average 2% of the payroll budget, however the most common response was just 1% of the payroll budget.

Nearly half of the respondents (44%) held some of the budget centrally with some of the budget being allocated to department managers to reward their staff. 39% of respondents held the entire budget centrally whilst 17% had department specific budgets.


Top five recognition goals

  1. Recognise years of service
  2. Create a positive work environment
  3. Create a culture of recognition
  4. Motivate high performance
  5. Reinforce desired behaviours



WorldatWork has found that recognition programmes continue to hold their place in the HR team toolkit used to incentivise and motivate employees. Plus more organisations are using employee recognition programmes to motivate and incentivise their staff as the economy recovers.

The balance of type of programmes on offer by organisations is changing, and WorldatWork speculate that the increase in employee wellness programmes and the continuing increase in schemes that reward and motivate specific behaviours are intermingled.

Overall recognition and reward programmes are seen to have primarily positive effects, with most respondents stating that their organisations would say that the effects of recognition on employee engagement, motivation and satisfaction are positive or extremely positive, but they are less confident when it comes to the perceived impact on retention.


John Sylvester

John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.

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