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RESEARCH: Emotional bonds drive workplace engagement – but are you getting the recognition you deserve?

70% of employees highlight the importance of recognition, but less than half (42%) report receiving regular recognition from their CEOs.

That’s according to Boostworks’ research-based whitepaper ‘The Heart of Workplace Engagement’, carried out across 3,000 HR professionals, C-suite leaders, and employees across UK businesses.

The findings emphasise the particular importance of line managers and peers and how they’re the ‘unsung heroes’ for recognising employee achievements and progress: i.e. receiving recognition from managers was cited as pivotal, impacting morale and engagement for 51% of employees.

“In today’s dynamic workplace environment cultivating a thriving culture must extend beyond mere words,” said Andy Caldicott, CEO at Boostworks. “It requires embedding emotional connections and personalised recognition into the daily experiences of employees.

“Our research shows a significant discrepancy between employee needs for recognition and what is actually given, underscoring a substantial gap in leadership practices where the emotional and professional needs of employees are not being fully met.

Key findings and recommendations:

Emotional connections matter:

  • 70% of employees emphasised the importance of emotional connections, highlighting empathy as a critical part of the recognition process.
  • Unfortunately, less than half (42%) of employees reported receiving regular recognition from their CEOs.
  • 81% of HR professionals resonated with the need for emotional bonds, emphasising direct manager feedback and peer recognition.
  • 76% of C-suite leaders acknowledged challenges aligning these practices with business goals due to traditional compensation strategies.

Mind the gap:

  • Nearly 70% of employees and 81% of HR professionals believed in the importance of emotional connections at work.
  • However, only 42% of employees felt acknowledged by their CEOs.
  • Receiving recognition from managers was cited as pivotal, impacting morale and engagement for 51% of employees.
  • Peer-to-peer recognition also held significant value – (55%) acknowledge work milestones and 59% acknowledge their personal milestones.
  • Yet, half of the employees surveyed (50%) agree that senior managers receive more recognition than those at a lower level.

Unsung heroes: Line managers and peers:

  • 51% of employees believed direct recognition from managers positively impacted their morale and engagement.
  • 53% agreed that their line managers regularly acknowledged work milestones, while 51% acknowledged personal milestones.
  • Colleagues also play a role in recognition, with 55% acknowledging work milestones and 59% acknowledging personal milestones.
  • Managers need adequate support; 48% of employees believed they should regularly share information about available rewards and benefits.

Communication and transparency:

  • While 76% of C-suite executives perceived communication as open, only 51% of employees shared the same view.
  • A significant portion of employees (25%) desired more frequent updates on rewards and recognition. Meanwhile, 40% of HR professionals and 39% of C-suite executives agreed on communicating about rewards every 2-3 months, though 38% believed it should be monthly or more often.

“The narrative here is clear – the journey towards a thriving workplace culture is a collective endeavour, demanding a strategic approach to harmonise recognition practices with the holistic aspirations of all employees,” concluded Caldicott. “Businesses must prioritise emotional connections and recognise the unsung heroes – line managers and peers. By fostering a culture of recognition and setting the tone for better, more transparent communications, organisations can enhance engagement, satisfaction, and all importantly, retention.”