New Research Shows Employee Recognition Engages and Retains Through Salary Freezes and Layoffs

Achievers research finds employees say adequate recognition can outweigh layoffs, increased workload, stagnant salary, maintains productivity and engagement amid economic downturn

Toronto, ON, June 12—More than half of employees agree that feeling recognized would inspire productivity, balance a heavy workload, and help maintain morale during layoffs, according to the 2023 State of Recognition report from Achievers Workforce Institute (AWI). AWI is the research and insights arm of Achievers, the global leader in employee voice and recognition solutions.

In addition to acting as a protective factor, high recognition frequency improves employee engagement, productivity, and retention, according to this report. For example, increasing recognition frequency from quarterly to monthly increases the likelihood of high engagement and productivity at work by 40% and high job commitment by 25%.

AWI research shows 77% of HR leaders are concerned about a coming recession, and 66% say the labor shortage is getting worse. In light of a possible economic downturn, productivity and retention are top priorities for HR leaders.

“In the current economic climate, company leaders have to make tough decisions, and employees are feeling a lot of fear and uncertainty. HR is stuck in the middle trying to engage and retain employees while maintaining productivity with fewer resources,” says Achievers Chief Customer Officer Matt Tremmaglia. “This research shows that creating a culture of recognition can bring these objectives together by driving business results and improving employee morale and engagement.”

Cash rules everything around me?

In tight economic times, HR leaders are seeking low-cost ways to boost performance. AWI research indicates that social (non-monetary) recognition is just as impactful as monetary recognition for driving productivity, engagement, and job commitment.

However, social-only programs with no monetary component are less effective at creating a culture of recognition. Employees who say their company’s recognition platform has no points component are significantly less likely to say they are regularly recognized or that they feel recognized compared to the average employee with a recognition platform.

“One trend we see is that points get people into the program initially — it’s a pull factor encouraging employees to log into the website or mobile app,” says Tremmaglia. “Once these employees are in the habit of logging in, social recognitions increase as well. Regular points uploads, quarterly campaigns, and nudges to use expiring points create new reminders to log into the recognition platform. A culture of recognition doesn’t happen on its own, it requires effort to get momentum.”

Recognition equity must remain a focus

More than eight in ten HR leaders (84%) say diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a high priority for their organization. As a key driver of business results, tracking recognition equity is an important measure of who is seen and valued in an organization.

Unfortunately, according to AWI research, women are 28% less likely to receive at least monthly monetary recognition. Women are also 39% more likely than men to say they never get monetary recognition. The findings indicate that employers hoping to engage and retain women at work must consider whether this group is undervalued.

“Ad hoc programs are especially vulnerable to these kinds of unconscious bias because it’s difficult, sometimes impossible, to know what proportion of employees are being recognized and which groups may be missing out,” Tremmaglia says. “Having a recognition platform that integrates with the organization’s HRIS can help track who gets recognized and how often. Then, when HR leaders understand who is being left out, they can introduce specific training or campaigns to improve recognition equity.”

About the Study

The survey of 4900 respondents from Australia, Canada, Singapore, UK, and USA was conducted in February 2023 and included 1400 HR leaders. For more information about the 2023 State of Recognition and additional data on trends in Australia, Singapore, Canada, UK, and USA click here.

About Achievers
Achievers partners with hundreds of organizations around the world to elevate their engagement and retention strategies through our employee voice, recognition, and connection solutions.


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