But employers missing the mark, says new study

A new Blackhawk Engagement Solutions' survey of employed Americans reveals that happy employees are more productive than unhappy employees. The study also shows that employee rewards and recognition may not be aligned with what actually makes employees happy and more productive.

"Gone are the days when all-expense paid trips and merchandise hold much weight to make employees happy, productive or motivated," said Rodney Mason, GVP of marketing with Blackhawk Engagement Solutions, an international incentives provider.

"Our research demonstrates that employees want recognition for their contributions and rewards for exceeding expectations, putting in extra hours and working beyond their responsibilities."

The Happiness Study examines what impacts employees' happiness at work, which types of recognition and rewards work best for motivating them, and what additional engagement activities employees would be willing to participate in, if properly incentivized.

The survey, conducted in April 2015, queried more than 1,800 workers, including both salaried and hourly employees.

Key findings from the research include:

  • Work is a significant but not the most important factor in overall happiness. Out of a list of 12 influencers, with one being the highest, respondents ranked their jobs number eight in terms of contributions to overall happiness. Ranking in the top spots were family, friends, and health. However, 67% reported that their job is important to overall happiness.
  • How employers strive to make staff happy. When asked how they believe their employers strive to make them happy, 90% of employees reported that they are given a clear understanding of what is expected of them at work; 80% have the materials, equipment, and training they need to do their job; and 78% believe their colleagues are committed to quality work. Only 42% of respondents are happy with the rewards and recognition that their companies offer.
  • When employees want to be recognized. Exceeding personal performance levels (82%), receiving a promotion (79%), exceeding team performance levels (77%), and achieving a milestone for years of service (69%) are the occasions that employees most want recognition for from their employers. Employees also report that they would be happier if their employers offered the following types of incentives: bonus (55%), employee recognition (50%), spot rewards (48%), and wellness incentives (47%). A significant number of respondents (38%) report that their employers currently offer no rewards or recognition at all.
  • Employers can delight staff and save money with prepaid cards. Employees reported that prepaid cards are the top reward choice in many circumstances. If offered a $100 reward, 92% of employees would prefer a prepaid card, versus a reward that can be redeemed online from select participants (6%) or a catalog where rewards can be selected (2%). Additionally, employees prefer prepaid cards even when the value is less than other rewards, for example, 45% would prefer a $500 prepaid card over just 37% that would select a four-day, all-inclusive vacation, and 12% that would pick $1,000 in merchandise credit from a catalog.
  • Workers are willing to increase engagement when incentivized. Eighty percent of employees would be willing to participate in a safety awareness program that requires quarterly training with a $25 reward for completing each component. Nearly three quarters (72%) would attend after-hours training for a $25 reward, and 64% would recruit a candidate for an open position with the company for a $100 reward. Sixty one percent would stay another year on the job for three $50 spot rewards, and 60% would participate in a wellness program for a $25 reward.

Download the complete study here.