What motivates employees?

What motivates employees? With so many other opportunities out there, especially for high performers, what makes workers stay at their companies? Globoforce posed this question in a 2017 survey to over 2000 employees in the WorkHuman Research Institute: 2017 Survey Report with some interesting results.

What motivates employees – ‘Do you enjoy your work?’

The top answer from nearly a third (32%) of respondents was, “My job – I find the work meaningful.” Having a personal sense of meaning in one’s work was even more important to respondents than compensation (salary, benefits, and other perks), which ranked as the third most important reason for staying. The second most common reason for staying at a company was, “My team – I really enjoy the people I work with,” which reinforces the notion that relationships can make or break an employee’s experience at work. And perhaps given the job market, 16% of respondents answered this question with, “N/A – I’m looking for a new job.”

What motivates employees – ‘Are you recognised at work?’

Trhe study showed that one in four workers (25%) has been recognized in the past month, but sadly -16% have never been recognized at work and a surprising 45% of workers surveyed have not been recognized in six months or more. What is key is that the more recently someone has been recognized, the more likely they are to see the meaning and purpose in their work. Those recognized in the last month are 29% more likely to agree with the statement, “The work we do at my organization has meaning and purpose for me,” compared to those who have never been recognized.

DID YOU KNOW: The more recently someone has been recognized, the more likely they are to see the meaning and purpose in their work.

What motivates employees – ‘Is there a formal recognition programme at work?’

Interestingly, there is very little difference for employees having no recognition program and having one that is not tied to a company’s core values. Some companies will implement a recognition program just to check a box – to say they recognize employees. But the survey results clearly show that an investment in a recognition program that is not strategic or aligned with greater company goals fails to deliver the same ROI when it comes to employee experience and engagement, whether employees love their jobs, and whether employees will recommend your company to their friends.

When asked ‘When was the last time you recognized someone else for their contributions at work?’ –  the study revealed at someone who has given recognition in the last two months is more likely to love their job (75% v. 48%), recommend your company (83% v. 63%), identify as highly engaged (89% v. 64%), and have a positive work experience (82% v. 58%).


Someone who has given recognition (eg Peer to peer) in the last two months is more likely to love their job , recommend your company, identify as highly engaged AND have a positive work experience.

What motivates employees – ‘Would recognition make you work harder?’

The best part of the study is the answer to the question every manager wants to know – would recognition improve performance? Well, seventy-four percent of people said they would work harder if their efforts were better recognized or appreciated. And that recognition is most meaningful when it is crowdsourced. As shown in Figure 15, 56% of respondents said recognition from senior leaders, managers, and peers is the most motivational, followed by recognition from managers (18%), senior leaders (15%), and peers (11%).

It seems that this year’s employee survey has shown a fundamental shift in employee attitudes and sentiments toward traditional workplace rewards and motivation. How will you be integrating the changes?

Let us know on twitter – search for @IncentiveHub – you can also read the full report here