A recent survey of U.S. employees reveals that employers can be doing more than increasing salaries and providing benefits and professional development opportunities to keep good workers.

Two simple words—”thank you”—could be the difference between a happy employee and one with a foot already out the door, according to The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated, which bases the advice of results of an online survey of more than 850 U.S. employees, commissioned by the Institute and conducted in February by Harris Poll.

Noting that the intent of the survey was to explore the roots of day-to-day happiness in the workplace, Kronos reports that 61 percent of employees have thought about searching for a new job in the past year, and 26 percent thought about within the past week.

Focusing on the 61 percent that contemplated jumping ship in the past years, 59 percent of them either “do not feel appreciated” or said they feel “somewhat appreciated” at work. Only 11 percent feel “very appreciated.”

According to Kronos, pay raises don’t always boost appreciation ratings, and if they do, they’re quickly forgotten. Nearly a quarter—24 percent—of those who ever received a pay raise said it did not improve their motivation or general feelings of appreciation at work. Some 40 percent said a past pay raise improved their motivation or general feelings of appreciation for six months or less; 30 percent put the effect at a mere month or less.

Contrast those numbers against the “power of ‘Thank You’—or more specifically, a thank you from a direct manager.

When asked what gives them a high sense of satisfaction at work, employees said receiving a “thank you” from their direct manager (55 percent) nearly doubled the impact of public recognition of a job well done (28 percent), even if this recognition is tied to rewards such as a gift card or company award.

Getting positive feedback from fellow employees at all levels gave the highest sense of satisfaction, with 70 percent of employees saying it boosts their level of satisfaction with work.

Additional tips:

  • Private, one-on-one communication is preferred over receiving positive recognition with others present or copied on a group email (59 percent vs. 26 percent)
  • Sixty-one percent prefer verbal recognition (either privately or in front of a group) over electronic communication such as email (24 percent) when receiving positive feedback.
  • While positive performance feedback from direct managers and co-workers both provide satisfaction, only 39 percent for adult workers say positive feedback from their leadership team/executives does the same.
  • Co-worker relationships are the No. 1 thing that employees who had a previous job miss most about the most recent job they left (32 percent), beating out company benefits (22 percent), unique perks (20 percent), and relationship with their previous boss (16 percent).

What Makes Workers Feel Unappreciated?

Nearly half (48 percent) or workers who said they feel only “somewhat appreciated” or “not at all appreciated,” also selected “not being recognized for the work” as the top reason for feeling the way they do. In fact, not being recognized for work done is cited nearly twice as much as receiving criticism (26 percent) and heavy workload (25 percent), and more than twice as much as poor work-life balance (23 percent) and someone taking credit for the work they did (22 percent).

Joyce Maroney, director, The Workforce Institute at Kronos, offers this advice in a statement about the survey: “Acknowledging employees’ efforts motivates and inspires much more than many people realize. It’s also easy to do and doesn’t cost a thing.

“This employee appreciation study shows that all of us, from part-time workers to senior leaders, play a role in how much our co-workers feel appreciated at work. Fostering a culture of appreciation could be the simple, secret ingredient to higher employee engagement.”

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of Kronos from February 20-24, 2015 among 2,030 adults ages 18 and older, of whom 855 are employed full or part time.

About The Workforce Institute at Kronos

The Workforce Institute provides research and education on critical workplace issues facing organizations around the globe.

About Kronos Incorporated

Kronos delivers workforce management solutions in the cloud. Organizations in more than 100 countries use Kronos to control labor costs, minimize compliance risk, and improve workforce productivity.

Source: Kronos Incorporated