WorldatWork and Maritz Motivation Release Results of 2019 Trends in Employee Recognition Survey

June 19, 2019

June 19, 2019 — Scottsdale, Ariz. — The “2019 Trends in Employee Recognition Survey” conducted by WorldatWork with underwriting support from Maritz Motivation reveals the vast majority of companies are recognizing employee accomplishments both informally and increasingly, through a formal company-wide program. But the survey shows that while there is an increase in deeply-embedded recognition programs (17% in 2019 compared to 10% in 2015), there is also an increase in companies who say they have no employee recognition policy, strategy or philosophy (19% in 2019 compared to 12% in 2015).

The survey aimed to identify new and continuing trends into why, how often and how employees are recognized. To motivate high performance, create/maintain a positive work environment and increase engagement were all popular reasons for recognition; 24% used recognition to support a culture of change at their organizations, the survey found.

Some tried and true huzzahs -- like rewarding employees for length of service, celebrating the employee of the month, and rewards of watches, trophies and plaques and certificates are popular incentives.

The survey respondents agreed that while their programs are doing a fairly good job of meeting goals, there is definite room for improvement. Only 18% said they are definitely meeting their goals.

Key Findings:

  • Most organizations have an informal recognition program; but 36% of those with written programs and policies say they are not widely applied, compared to 44% who said they were applied in 2015.
  • The average organization uses eight separate recognition programs. The most typical are length of service (72%) and above-and-beyond performance (62%). Programs to motivate specific behaviors or outputs such as customer service (34%), productivity (27%) and quality (27%) are also occasions for recognition.
  • Two old chestnuts, the employee of the month/year is used by 18% of companies; and 49% give clocks and watches as rewards.
  • Gift cards are the most common reward, given by 62% of respondents.
  • Companies use incentives to keep employees healthy. Biometric/wellness programs are the recognition programs that reach the highest proportion of the workforce (40%).

Human Resources administers recognition programs in half of the organizations, followed by the compensation department in about a quarter of them. But most organizations are not training managers and employees on them, the survey found. Only 52% of senior management views recognition as an investment.

“Recognizing co-workers – publicly and often -- is a terrific way to reinforce what is really important to any organization,” said Scott Cawood, President and CEO of WorldatWork. “A well placed ‘thank you’ generates buzz for delivering on a promise to a customer or exceeding an expectation. Recognition costs very little but delivers powerful ROI, including helping all employees celebrate their great work, which both excites them and encourages them to stay with you. As this study suggests, those who administer these programs recognize that they are valuable, but there is a big opportunity to call out employees for work well done in a more formal way.”

NOTE: Journalists may request a complimentary copy of the survey report by contacting Judy Kalvin,

About the Study

WorldatWork and Maritz Motivation collected survey data for the “2019 Survey of Trends in Employee Recognition” from February 20, 2019 to March 11, 2019. The survey report was based on 445 responses. Survey respondents were WorldatWork members employed in the HR, compensation and benefits departments of mostly U.S. organizations.

About WorldatWork®

WorldatWork ( is the leading nonprofit professional association in compensation and total rewards. We serve those who design and deliver total rewards programs to cultivate engaged, effective workforces that power thriving organizations. We accomplish this through education and certification; idea exchange; knowledge creation; information sharing; research; advocacy; and affiliation and networking. Founded in the United States in 1955, today WorldatWork serves total rewards professionals throughout the world working in organizations of all sizes and structures.

About Maritz Motivation

Maritz Motivation helps companies drive growth by forming actionable insights that release the untapped potential of any company’s most valuable asset – their people. We connect people to purpose by partnering with Fortune 500 companies to strategize, evaluate, and optimize the way they interact with the people they care most about. Our consumer loyalty, employee engagement, and sales incentive programs enable people to establish and extend themselves through their companies, careers, or favorite brands. Maritz Motivation’s unparalleled industry experience, decades of behavioral science research, and proprietary approach to data allow us to move past just describing and diagnosing vulnerabilities. It allows us to prescribe solutions and predict growth that motivates human performance like no other company in the world. Today, more than 100 million people participate in client programs representing industries that include hospitality, airlines, pharmaceutical, automotive, and financial services. For more information, visit


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