The Importance of Employee Recognition in a Pandemic

What kind of recognition do workers want in this COVID climate?

Posted Aug 10, 2020

Employee recognition is one of those chronic management challenges. As a longtime corporate manager, I felt recognition was surprisingly problematic: something that should be easy but often wasn't. Later, as a management writer and speaker, I began to see more data on the topic and it confirmed that recognition problems were in fact widespread. 

 Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels
Working remotely with no idea how you're doing can be a stressful experience.
Source: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

This is why I was interested recently to come across a concise but insightful survey examining employee feelings about recognition in these strange pandemic times.  The survey was conducted by Snappy Gifts, a gifting platform, and it contained responses from approximately 1,000 members of the U.S. workforce. 

How are employees feeling? Are they isolated and stressed and bothered by a lack of recognition? Or are they beset by weightier concerns (like staying alive and employed) and thus see recognition as a minor matter temporarily falling by the wayside?

Clear survey findings 

These survey results were clear. Recognition still matters, arguably more now than ever. Sixty-four percent of employees felt recognition and appreciation were "even more important while working from home."

Despite the radically changed pandemic environment, only 26 percent of employees felt their organization had "implemented new ways to reward and recognize them." Additionally, 43 percent felt a large amount of working from home "had a negative effect on their workplace culture."

The survey also asked employees how they'd like to be recognized, given these new job-related realities.

What employees want

As is usually the case when employees are asked for their opinions, they came up with thoughtful, creative grassroots ideas on what would make a positive difference to them in the current COVID climate. A few examples:

  • "Work-from-home gifts"
  • "Virtual social hours would be wonderful"
  • "Some money for office supplies or to help set up a home office"
  • "Take into account kids at home"
  • "Make evaluations more frequently now, so we know if things are working out or if we need changes”
  • "More positive feedback or verbal expressions of appreciation."

Not surprisingly, given the enormous changes that have occurred in a short time and the losses felt by so many, some responses had a psychological flavor.

  • "Ask us how we feel and what we need"
  • "Try to keep things as normal/same as possible"
  • "Check in with the mental health and well-being of employees"
  • "Provide more 'mental health days' off."

I strongly suspect that in these uniquely trying times the mental-health component is one that management will never go wrong paying increased attention to.