Values-Based Employee Recognition Proves Fruitful

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine

July 22 — Employee recognition programs that are carefully based on the organization's values are more effective than those that are more ad hoc, according to the results of a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management and social recognition provider Globoforce.

Values-based recognition can be defined as “aligning your recognition initiatives with your company's values,” Darcy Jacobsen, senior content analyst and blogger for Globoforce, said during a July 22 webinar that the company sponsored. This results, she added, in “using recognition to inspire the right behaviors” from the standpoint of the organization's goals.

Values-based recognition helps with employee retention, according to the results of the survey, which SHRM and Globoforce conducted among 823 SHRM members who were HR professionals working for companies with 500 or more employees. Data were collected Jan. 13 to Feb. 14.

The proof: 68 percent of respondents with a values-based recognition program say it positively impacted retention, versus only 41 percent of those whose recognition programs weren't values-based, Jacobsen said.

And retention/turnover was cited as the top HR challenge by the survey respondents, topping the list at 40 percent, Brenda Pohlman, senior recognition strategist for Globoforce, said during the webinar.

“This is the first time that we've seen retention top the list since the inception of our survey years ago,” she said, adding that the “war for talent” the HR profession was “obsessed with” in the late 1990s is a set of problems that “never really went away, though they were masked for a while by the poor economy.”

With unemployment standing at 5.3 percent in June, the lowest level since 2008, “it's more important than ever that we have magnetic cultures,” Jacobsen said.

Values Affect Many Areas

On question after question that Jacobsen and Pohlman cited, values-based recognition programs were reported by respondents as being more effective than ad hoc employee recognition:

• For those who had values-based recognition, 90 percent say it positively impacted employee engagement; only 67 percent of those who didn't have values-based recognition said that.

• About a quarter (26 percent) of those who had values-based recognition say it positively impacted health and wellness goals, versus 13 percent of those without it.

• Two-thirds (66 percent), versus 28 percent, said it helped them to build a stronger employment brand. Some companies, Jacobsen said, have begun citing their values-based employee recognition programs in their recruitment campaigns.

• Eighty-six percent, versus 70 percent, said it increased employee happiness.

• Eighty-four percent said it improved employee relationships, versus 66 percent. “A lot of times when you're talking about retention, you're talking about relationships,” Jacobsen said.

• Thirty-one percent, versus 11 percent, said it helped meet learning and development goals; 88 percent, versus 42 percent, said it helped instill and reinforce corporate values; and 85 percent, versus 70 percent, said it added humanity in the workplace.


Effective Resource Use 

Additionally, 37 percent of respondents with a values-based employee recognition program said it positively affected safety at the company. Jacobsen said the way to do values-based recognition of individual employees, as opposed to general compliance-based signs like, “360 days since our last safety incident,” is to use “just-in-time recognition,” recognizing individuals immediately for safety improvement actions.

Still more benefits cited by respondents with a values-based recognition program were on sustainability or cost-control goals (36 percent) and culture management (48 percent).

By contrast, familiar years-of-service recognition awards are not particularly effective, in that 51 percent of employees said in Globoforce's separate Workforce Mood Tracker survey that “a service award changed nothing” and “only 15 percent of employees reported being more engaged.”

If the organization is going to do them, though, a $100 to $300 outlay per employee recognized led to the highest rating for service anniversaries, in the judgment of HR professionals, Pohlman said.

More broadly, she said “1.5 to 1.9 percent of payroll is the most effective employee recognition spend, according to our survey respondents.” This figure was obtained from survey responses by matching what the organizations were spending with how satisfied they were with how their employee recognition program worked.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at

Information on how to download the survey report can be found at