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An Unhappy Workforce Can Cost Money. How to Turn Things Around

Amid the Great Resignation, the pandemic-era phenomenon of employees leaving their jobs, new research studying employees in the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland is shedding light on how employers can retain their staff and keep them happy.

“Unleashing the Human Element at Work: Transforming Workplaces Through Recognition,” a new research report by Gallup and Workhuman, reveals that currently, only about one-third of employees say their employer has a formal recognition program, and 81% of senior leaders say recognition is not a major strategic priority for their organization.

Industry experts define a culture of recognition at its most basic level as one in which gratitude, praise and appreciation are freely given and regularly received in an authentic and equitable way throughout the organization. The data suggests that not embracing this ethos is a missed opportunity. Indeed, Gallup’s analysis of the study data shows that an organization of 10,000 people with an already engaged workforce can save up to $16.1 million in turnover annually when they make recognition an important part of their culture. What’s more, employees who feel recognized are more likely to be engaged and feel loyal to their organization.

“The data clearly shows that when recognition is genuinely embedded in workplace culture, people feel its full impact -- they feel seen, valued and motivated to put in a little extra effort,” says Dr Meisha-Ann Martin, senior director of People Analytics and Research at Workhuman.

Employee recognition doesn’t just have an impact on work performance though, it also has an insulating effect that can help shield employees from burnout and support their overall wellbeing. More than 70% of employees who have good recognition experiences at work rate their lives more positively overall and are more likely to be “thriving” in their everyday lives compared to those who are not being fully recognized.

But Dr Martin advises companies to consider how they go about recognizing their employees. The study found that more than half of employees who say the recognition they receive at work is not authentic or equitable are actively looking or watching for new employment opportunities. Further, two in five employees say they are not receiving enough recognition from leaders at their organization -- only a few times a year at most -- when the bare minimum for positive impact is at least a few times a month.

Recognition of employees is not only useful for retention, but it can also assist with recruitment too, say, analysts.

“In today’s competitive talent marketplace, the power of employee referrals cannot be understated. Yet, only 28% of employees in this study strongly agree they would recommend their organization as a great place to work. Organizations that acknowledge employees through strong cultures of recognition can boost this figure to 68%,” says Ed O`Boyle, Gallup’s global practice leader. “When organizations celebrate employees’ successes and contributions, those employees pay it forward and become brand ambassadors.”

To read the full report and learn more about Workhuman, a leading global provider of technology solutions, analytics, expertise and services to build human-centred workplaces, visit

“Recognizing employees is a simple way organizations can demonstrate their commitment to their employees and inspire them to feel connected, confident and cared about, and in today’s climate, it’s no longer a nice-to-have program but rather a business imperative,” says Dr Martin.

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