Employers: Celebrate Labor Day By Showing That You Value Your Workers

August 28, 2014

PRESS RELEASE

August 28, 2014, Washington, DC —Labor Day is a celebration of American workers and the contributions they have made to the well-being of the country. As we mark Labor Day’s 120th year as a federal holiday, only about half of the U.S. workforce (51 percent) say they feel valued by their employer, more than a third (36 percent) haven’t received any form of recognition in the last year and just 47 percent say recognition is provided fairly. These were among the findings of a survey released today by the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence. The survey was conducted on APA’s behalf by Harris Poll on Aug. 13-15, 2014, among 882 adults who are employed either full time or part time.

Employee recognition efforts reward employees both individually and collectively for their contributions to the organization. Recognition can take various forms — formal and informal, monetary and nonmonetary. Although a majority of working Americans (81 percent) reported that their employer provides some type of recognition, less than half (46 percent) said their organization recognizes employees for individual job performance.

Additionally, less than a third (29 percent) said that team or work-unit performance is recognized and even fewer reported that their employer provides recognition for company-wide results (21 percent), or engaging in specific behaviors, such as those consistent with the organization’s values (18 percent).

“Today, business success depends on sustainable workplace practices and a healthy, high-performing workforce,” said Norman B. Anderson, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Psychological Association. “Part of promoting employee well-being is demonstrating how their efforts contribute to the organization’s success and recognizing them for their good work.”

According to U.S. workers, the most common form of recognition their employer provides is salary increases based on merit (39 percent). Less than a third (31 percent) said that direct supervisors express verbal or written appreciation and only about 1 in 4 (24 percent) reported that their organization uses performance-based bonuses or promotions as a form of recognition.

Survey results linked effective recognition practices to both employee and organizational outcomes. Employees who said that recognition practices are fair, that direct supervisors provide recognition effectively and that they value the recognition they receive reported a variety of positive outcomes. They reported higher levels of job satisfaction, a greater likelihood to work harder because of the recognition they receive, stronger motivation to do their best and a greater sense of feeling valued. In addition, employees who received recognition more recently also reported higher levels of satisfaction, motivation and work effort.

The survey also explored the relationship between recognition and employee retention. Employees were most likely to plan to leave their employer in the next year when they felt less valued, had lower perceptions of fairness regarding the organization’s recognition practices and experienced lower overall job satisfaction. Working Americans who reported high levels of supervisor effectiveness in providing employee recognition and valuing the recognition they receive were more likely to say they plan to stay with their current employer three years or longer.

“When an organization makes people feel valued and appreciated, that not only creates a better work environment, it also affects whether employees want to stick around and help the company achieve its goals,” said David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, assistant executive director for organizational excellence at APA.

Additional findings from the survey include:

  • More than a quarter of working adults (28 percent) said that written or verbal appreciation from their direct supervisor is important, but when it comes to the types of recognition that working Americans say are important to them, money tops the list. Six out of 10 employees (62 percent) cited merit-based salary increases as important, followed by fair monetary compensation (47 percent), performance-based bonuses (43 percent) and promotions or advancement (38 percent).
  • Men and women reported that recognition in general is equally important to them (87 percent), but men were more likely than women to report being satisfied with their employer’s recognition practices (54 percent vs. 46 percent), to believe that recognition is provided fairly in their organization (52 percent vs. 42 percent) and to say their supervisor provides recognition effectively (56 percent vs. 47 percent).
  • Although 4 in 10 employees reported working remotely at least sometimes (30 percent sometimes, 5 percent often, 6 percent always), no significant relationships were found between employees working remotely and their satisfaction with recognition or how long they plan to stay with their current employer.

“American workers have contributed immeasurably to the prosperity and quality of life in the United States,” said Ballard. “Labor Day is the perfect time for employers to take a look at whether they are showing employees how important they really are.”

About the Survey

This employee recognition survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association from Aug. 13-15, 2014, among 882 adults ages 18 and older who are employed either full time or part time. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. More information is available online, including weighting variables and full results of the survey.

The American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence works to enhance the functioning of individuals, groups, organizations and communities through the application of psychology to a broad range of workplace issues. The center houses the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, a public education initiative designed to engage the employer community, raise public awareness about the value psychology brings to the workplace and promote programs and policies that enhance employee well-being and organizational performance.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes nearly 130,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.