Human Workplace Index: The Power of Thanks

September 3, 2021 Sarah Bloznalis

human workplace indexWe’ve been through a lot in the last year and a half. Employees had to adjust to working at home while at the same time taking on more work – all with the looming threat of layoffs if their organization couldn’t survive the pandemic.

This month’s Human Workplace Index suggests that the events of the past year continue to take a toll on workers. Overall, data shows that employee happiness is trending down, with a rising number of employees planning to leave their current company imminently.

As the business landscape starts to build back up, employers must make a conscious effort to show support and appreciation for those who did the building – their people. As we approach World Gratitude Day on Sept. 21, the Human Workplace Index aims to help employers better understand the difference authentic appreciation makes when it comes to engagement, productivity, and culture in the workplace. We surveyed and analyzed the responses of 1,000 full-time U.S. workers to uncover the most up-to-date insights on what employees are looking for from their employers during this unique time.

Below are the key takeaways from that survey.

1. The Great Resignation isn’t going anywhere.

Most organizations have begun to feel the effects of the great resignation. As the employment market continues to flourish, employees are taking a hard look at their happiness in their current positions. When asked if they plan to stay in their current role, 32% of respondents said they were not likely to stay or definitely not staying.

Further, of the respondents who are on the fence about staying at their current company, almost half (48%) said they plan to leave their roles “as soon as possible or within the next 30 days.” This result increased by 20 percentage points from last month’s survey. If almost half of these employees are planning to find a new job as soon as possible, it’s clear that employees are in the driver’s seat. If they don’t feel appreciated and valued for their work, they are ready to move on.

The value employees place on culture is high: 56% of respondents who indicated they’ll be staying at their company said it’s because they like their company and/or coworkers. A simple, yet incredibly effective way to promote a strong culture is through gratitude. Workhuman research has found that investing in an employee recognition program can have a vast impact on retention.

With just five moments of recognition per year (that’s less than one “thank you” every two months), voluntary turnover is reduced by 22%.

While it may be too late to save the employees planning to leave in the next 30 days, that doesn’t mean you can’t prevent any more from following in their footsteps. Simply acknowledging the hard work and dedication of your employees saves you money and improves morale. It’s a no brainer, really.

2. Workplace bias still lingers.

Following the trends seen in the first iteration of the Human Workplace Index, there continues to be clear discrepancies between men and women feeling valued in the workplace. Almost 70% of men feel very valued by their employers, while the majority of women (47%) feel only somewhat valued.

The trend continues when the responses are broken down by race. People of Color (POC) have consistently reported feeling less valued than white employees – with 50% of white employees responding they feel very valued, while 44% of POC feel only somewhat valued.

And while 53% of all respondents report being thanked in the workplace more now than before COVID, inequalities persist. More men than women responded that they’re being thanked more often (63% vs. 40%); and the same goes for white employees as compared to their POC counterparts (56% vs. 44%).

These results suggest a large portion of the workforce still struggles with workplace bias. In order for employees to feel psychologically safe, they must feel like they are appreciated for the work they are doing – no matter who they are. If companies don’t address these disparities, employees are more likely to pick up that recruiter’s call and explore opportunities elsewhere.

3. Without authenticity, appreciation doesn’t matter.

Seventy-six percent of all respondents reported taking on more work and/or responsibilities after COVID-19. More work means more appreciation, right? Not according to this month’s data. While approximately half of everyone surveyed said the thanks they receive has increased (53%), 47% felt the thanks they receive has largely stayed the same, despite some of those people taking on more work.

When asked whether they agree with the statement “The thanks or recognition I receive from my employer is authentic,” 37% of employees said they disagree. If leaders are looking to improve their culture and employee engagement scores, authenticity is one of the best places to start.

Knowing there is room for improvement uncovers a deeper understanding of what employees want – and need – in the future of work. We all know what it’s like to receive an insincere or impersonal message from a manager. It often feels worse than receiving no thank you at all.

The power of thanks is undeniably effective. In fact, a collaborative study between Workhuman and SHRM found employee recognition helps move the needle on organizational culture, engagement, employee experience, employee relationships, and organizational values. With the chance for this much goodness, it’s important to get it right.

4. Equality starts with appreciation.

There are many ways to show gratitude and give thanks in the workplace. However, it’s critical that the way you show appreciation is fair across your organization. Nearly half (42%) of respondents report that their employer uses financial means to show recognition, with 22% saying that their employers show recognition by acknowledging them on shared platforms.

On the surface, this seems great. But looking deeper into how employees are appreciated reveals some inconsistencies. For example, the respondents who reported taking on more responsibility because they were given a higher salary comprised of 87% men and only 22% women. The data suggests men are being compensated for taking on more responsibility at a higher rate than their female counterparts.

All of your employees have helped you get to the other side of these uncertain times, so show them equal appreciation for their hard work and support. As we approach World Gratitude Day at the end of this month, we hope these insights give you the knowledge you need to best support your employees as you work together to rebuild the workplace.


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Human Workplace Index – Looking Back to Plan Ahead

Human Workplace Index – The Future of Employee Benefits

Human Workplace Index: Getting Real With DE&I

Introducing the Human Workplace Index: The Return-to-Work Rundown

About the Author

Sarah Bloznalis

Sarah Bloznalis is a content marketing specialist at Workhuman from Dorchester, Mass. When she’s not writing about the future of work you can find her in the library, at the beach, or exploring the city.