Recognition vs. Rewards vs. Gratitude: What The Science Says, Part I

The evidence showing the positive impact that recognition and gratitude have on people, and business outcomes, is compelling.In one study done by the University of Pennsylvania, telemarketers who had a brief visit from the head of giving thanking them for the efforts outperformed the shifts that did not have that visit by 50%. A Bersin study on recognition programs shows that those with a modern, recognition-rich culture have 31% lower turn-over.

However, that same study also showed what didn’t work about recognition:  tenure-based recognition programs. While 87% of companies have tenure-based recognition programs and spend 1-2% of payroll (nearly $40B dollars!) on them, the study found they have virtually no impact on organizational performance.  And traditional financial rewards can backfire as well.

So what are the best practices for recognition and appreciation programs?  The Bersin study found:

  1. Recognize people for results and specific behaviors
  2. Enable peer-to-peer recognition because it is more powerful than top-down
  3. Use storytelling to share why they are being recognized
  4. Make it easy and frequent
  5. Tie to company value or goals

So these are the best ways to design modern, impactful recognition programs, but how does that apply to having a culture of gratitude?  Is there a difference in benefits and outcomes between a recognition program and gratitude/appreciation program?

What do you think?  We’ll collect your responses, run it by the experts and share more in the upcoming weeks.