Recognition Can Be Worth More Than $5,000 to Employees

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine

April 25 — Being publicly recognized by their employers for the hard work they are doing is worth a lot to some employees—more than a bonus of $5,000 or even higher in some cases, according to a survey by HR software firm BambooHR of Lindon, Utah.

Three out of 10 U.S. employees age 21 and up who were surveyed online in March by BambooHR said they'd want to receive a bonus of at least $2,000 if they had to forgo a companywide e-mail commending their work, while a minority of these—6.6 percent of all respondents—named the $5,000 or greater figure.

Moreover, “one in 5 employees would prefer to receive a promotion to a higher title without a 3 percent raise in salary instead of a 3 percent raise in salary without a promotion to a higher title,” and 68 percent of that minority “would require a 10 percent raise or more in salary to take the money without the promotion to a higher title,” the company said in an April 20 press release.

“What surprised us is how much nonmonetary recognition meant,” Rusty Lindquist, vice president of human capital management strategy at BambooHR, told Bloomberg BNA April 22.

“It doesn't surprise me at all,” Sabrina Son, content marketing specialist at Seattle-based employee recognition company TINYpulse (which was not involved in the survey), told Bloomberg BNA in an April 22 e-mail. “Recognition gives employees a sense of validation for the hard work they put in, and going without recognition for your work and efforts takes a toll on morale.”

“One of the perceptions out there as I talk to HR leaders is that recognition costs money—but it doesn't have to,” Lindquist said. “You can pull people aside and say thank you. People want in-person recognition from their boss, or a personal e-mail from the boss. You can do that without spending any money at all.” He added that the frequency of the recognition the employer offers matters—if it's at least monthly, it makes a significant difference to employee happiness.

Son offered “some steps organizations can take to create better recognition”:

  • “Shift the responsibility to the employees. Managers are busy as is, and they're not always around to see the good deeds. So leverage a peer-to-peer recognition tool to let employees recognize their colleagues for the time and effort they put into their day-to-day activities.”
  • “Start small. Recognition doesn't need to be one huge celebration at the end of the year. Small random acts of kindness work wonders. Some examples are writing a handwritten note, bringing in treats for breakfast [or] helping employees with a professional development plan.”
  • “Hold weekly one-to-ones with employees, and just ask them, ‘How are things going?' Build trust with your employees and show them you care about them as an individual, not a cog in the machine.”

    To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at

    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris at

    For More Information

    A blog post on the Bamboo HR survey can be found at A blog post by TINYpulse's Sabrina Son on employee recognition can be found at