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Organizations continue to deal with change and uncertainty as the pandemic subsides and the possibility of an economic recession looms.

This year's report examines many of the issues relevant to employee retention and great work amid ongoing transformation. Regardless of their workplace, people are looking for connection, community, and fulfillment. Scroll down for the highlights or click into the details.

The current state of six essential elements that define thriving cultures.



As organizations adjust to a new era of work, connection is a big challenge. Successful organizations reconnect with their people by adopting a community mindset where employees find meaning in their work, believe that they belong, and feel more fulfilled.

A sense of belonging improves several cultural metrics:

A table showing how a sense of belonging improves several cultural metrics
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“[Community is] a way of being together with both individual authenticity and interpersonal harmony so that people become able to function with a collective energy even greater than the sum of their individual energies.” —M. SCOTT PECK
Workplace Community Takeaway: The workplace is a natural community capable of giving employees a greater sense of belonging and connection, especially when recognition is an integrated part of the culture.
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The weaknesses of an organization are often attributed to its leaders. However, data suggest the blame may be at least partially misplaced—especially in organizations that prioritize the experiences of individual contributors. The reality is leaders are employees, too, and increasing their recognition and reducing their stress and anxiety will directly result in better leadership and less burnout. Until then, leaders have a difficult and lonely role, and organizations face consequences.

248% improved odds that leaders will practice modern leadership principles when their workplace culture integrates recognition
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“Leadership is an active role; ‘lead’ is a verb. But the leader who tries to do it all is headed for burnout, and in a powerful hurry.” —BILL OWENS, FORMER GOVERNER OF COLORADO
Leadership at Risk Takeaway: Leaders are burning out due to expanding responsibilities and expectations. They need support and appreciation as much  as any employees do because higher compensation can’t replace recognition.
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As an increasing number of people resigned from their jobs last year, our research examined why. Most often, the reasons boiled down to a compelling desire for a more fulfilling life. Employees’ sense of fulfillment increases when organizations enable life balance, support the growth and development of everyone holistically, create a thriving workplace community, and help each person contribute to the collective purpose. Our data also show that when employees are fulfilled, great business outcomes follow.

Employees who reach a high level in each of the following areas see better odds of fulfillment:

A table showing that employees who reach a high level in certain areas see better odds of fulfillment
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“When pursuing an employee experience that engages workers, companies too often make the mistake of looking at only one-size-fits-all solutions. They vow to provide more flexibility, opportunities, and an inclusive culture. While these factors matter, they don’t cover what is often the most important one that’s missing: a personal sense of fulfillment.” —AARON HURST, AUTHOR, AND KATHRIN BELLIVEAU, CHIEF PURPOSE OFFICER, HASBRO
Finding Fulfillment Takeaway: Personal fulfillment is now an expectation of employees, which means it’s now a mandate for organizations. Balance, growth, purpose,  and community all contribute to fulfillment,  which, in turn, improves more than just retention.  It drives great work.
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Personal histories shape our current and future perceptions, and this holds true for employee recognition. We found that people’s poor recognition experiences at prior organizations can create a negative bias toward recognition programs and cultural initiatives that come after. On the other side, excellent previous recognition experiences create an equal challenge by raising employees’ expectations. The answer lies in expressing appreciation early and often.

Recognition integration (RI)—the degree to which recognition is embedded in an organization’s culture—has a significant impact on subsequent cultural outcomes:

A table showing that recognition integration has a significant impact on subsequent cultural outcomes
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“Part of why it’s so important that we weave recognition and appreciation into the fabric of our culture and elevate the importance of its impact is because now, more than ever, we understand that recognition, just like compensation and benefits, is a fundamental part of the associates’ experience at work. ” —NICK ROSENTHAL, SENIOR ASSOCIATE IN HR COMPENSATION, CAPITAL ONE
Integrated Recognition Takeaway: Organizations that give recognition frequently  for a wide variety of reasons—including during onboarding—counteract the ghosts of prior  recognition experiences and positively impact  several business outcomes.
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Symbols are woven throughout organizational culture. Think of the framed first check, the founder’s portrait, or even military medals, for example. Companies that use relevant symbols in their employee recognition—and integrate them early and often in the employee experience—significantly amplify the positive impact.

Employees are three times more likely to remember a recognition experience when it includes a symbolic award
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“Symbols are powerful because they are the visible signs of invisible realities.” —ST. AUGUSTINE, THEOLOGIAN AND PHILOSOPHER
Harnessing Symbols Takeaway: Symbolic awards have the potential to improve the gamut of employee recognition experiences. And they’re most effective when thoughtfully presented as part of a timely, specific, and personalized moment.
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Organizations benefit greatly from the talent and expertise of generalists—those multi-dimensional employees with diverse backgrounds who are curious, imaginative, and willing to embrace evolving work environments. Unfortunately, our latest research shows generalists are also much less likely to feel appreciated and much more likely to feel burned out, especially compared to their specialist coworkers.

Despite the value they bring to the workplace and the high demand for them, many generalists feel under-recognized by their employers:

“Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses—especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” —LEONARDO DA VINCI, INVENTOR AND ARTIST
Rise of the Generalist Takeaway: Generalists have the breadth of experience and  skills to innovate and lead in the constantly changing workplace, but they need recognition and opportunities to grow in order to thrive.
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