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Report: A Little Praise Goes a Long Way in Boosting Employee Morale

  • Study looks at effect of symbolic awards on employee morale
  • Social workers who received a letter of praise from their direct manager were more likely to feel valued at the company than those who didn’t
  • Tips for managers on effectively offering symbolic awards

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

Employers have often recognized outstanding workers with monetary rewards, such as gift cards, but recent research suggests that symbolic awards can have a more pronounced effect on employee morale.

Researchers from Harvard University and King’s College London looked at the effect of “light-touch, cost-effective interventions” in improving happiness among social workers. Half of the workers in a study received a letter of praise from their direct manager, and this group was more likely than the control group to report feeling more valued at the company.

The study also issue recommendations for managers in effectively offering symbolic awards, including

  • Making sure the awards come from a valued stakeholder in the company
  • Timing the awards so they aren’t too frequent or infrequent
  • Publicly recognizing employees in some circumstances
  • Using a personal messages rather than a form statement to recognize multiple employees

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