It’s time to rethink your employee recognition strategy

How people want to be recognized in the workplace

Study reveals that 85% of professionals want to hear “thank you” in day-to-day interactions.

Business Chemistry can help leaders reinvent recognition in the workplace with a more human-centric approach

Recognition in the workplace is associated with increased levels of engagement and lower rates of turnover. It can make the work environment more positive and help everyone be more productive, all while having positive benefits for the person expressing appreciation. Today’s employees want a relationship with their employer that is personalized, flexible, and customized, and they want to feel appreciated and valued for what they do.

Deloitte’s Business Chemistry has released a new survey of 16,000 professionals, across a variety of industries, from C-suite leaders to junior staff, that confirms that when it comes to employee recognition programs, like many things at work, one size doesn’t fit all — and surprisingly, very few people want recognition that’s widely shared.

As part of the research, Deloitte explored the varying preferences of different Business Chemistry types to help identify practical employee recognition strategies for creating stronger working relationships with them, both individually and on a team. There are four primary Business Chemistry types, each with unique perspectives and strengths.

Business Chemistry can help leaders, managers, and professionals at all levels understand individual preferences for recognition in the workplace, enabling organizations to move beyond delivering rewards to building relationships with the workforce of the future.

Deloitte employee recognition study highlights

Key takeaways of the employee recognition study:

  • While we likely all agree that recognizing others for their work is a positive thing, people differ in “how” they want to be recognized, “for what” and “by whom.”
  • Three-quarters of people are satisfied with a “thank you” for their everyday efforts. However, 36% of women would prefer you make the extra effort and put that in writing.
  • Most people prefer recognition in the workplace that is either shared with a few people or delivered privately, rather than widely shared.
  • Even when the accomplishment is significant, cash isn’t king. Across organizational levels, generations, genders, and Business Chemistry types, the most valued employee recognition strategy is a new growth opportunity particularly for millennials, Pioneers, and Drivers.


This study is certainly not the first to suggest the wisdom of paying attention to individual preferences when it comes to employee recognition programs. But if the overall messages are more reminders than epiphanies, what’s new here is Business Chemistry® as a framework for thinking through your employee recognition strategy so that it’s truly meaningful to people.

Our findings suggest there are some areas where most people are in agreement—saying "thank you" and offering opportunities to learn and grow are key to making people feel appreciated—and other areas where the Business Chemistry types differ quite a bit, as do different generations and organizational levels.

The organizations that thrive in the future will likely be those that create cultures, structures, programs, and policies that prioritize recognition in the workplace and help people find meaning in their work. But there is a critical role for individuals to play as well. When you recognize someone for their unique contributions to your team or organization—especially when you do so in ways they prefer—it validates them, demonstrates that they belong, and helps them connect with that sense of meaning. At the same time, you can positively impact your work environment, while making the world a better place. For that, we’ll say in advance, “Thank you.”

Deloitte recognition study methodology

Between January 2017 and December 2018, 16,066 professionals completed our online Business Chemistry assessment and answered questions about their recognition preferences. Participants worked at varying organizational levels, representing more than 4,000 organizations in 101 different countries across a variety of industries.


The practical magic of ‘thank you’ finding excerpts

For questions about the report, please contact Suzanne Vickberg

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