by Deanna Ting | June 03, 2015
What makes employees happy? That's what Lewisville, TX-based Blackhawk Engagement Solutions set out to find when it conducted "The Happiness Study" this April. Surveying more than 1,800 employed Americans, both salaried and hourly paid employees, the international incentives provider wanted to examine what impacts employees' happiness at work, what types of recognition and rewards are the most motivating, and what additional engagement strategies and activities they'd be willing to participate in, if they were properly incentivized.

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

Some of the key findings from the study included the following:

Work is significant, but it isn't most important factor in overall happiness. From a list of 12 influencers, with one being the highest, respondents ranked their jobs No. 8 in terms of contributions to their overall happiness. Ranking in the top spots were family, friends, and health. However, 67 percent of respondents reported that their jobs are important to their overall happiness.

Employers think they make their employees happy by giving them clear expectations and proper resources. When asked how they believe their employers strive to make them happy, 90 percent of employees surveyed said they are given a clear understanding of what is expected of them at work; 80 percent said they have the materials, equipment and training they need to do their job; and 78 percent believe their colleagues are committed to quality work. Only 42 percent of respondents, however, said they are happy with the rewards and recognition that their companies offer.

Employees want to be recognized when they do good work. Exceeding personal performance levels (82 percent), receiving a promotion (79 percent), exceeding team performance levels (77 percent) and achieving a milestone for years of service (69 percent) are the occasions during which employees most want recognition from their employers. 

Employees also said they would be happier if their employers offered the following types of incentives: bonus (55 percent), employee recognition (50 percent), spot rewards (48 percent) and wellness incentives (47 percent). A significant number of respondents (38 percent) 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 percent of employees would prefer a prepaid card, versus a reward that can be redeemed online from select participants (6 percent) or a catalog where rewards can be selected (2 percent). Additionally, employees prefer prepaid cards even when the value is less than other rewards. For example, 45 percent of respondents would prefer a $500 prepaid card over just 37 percent who would select a four-day, all-inclusive vacation and 12 percent of respondents who would pick $1,000 in merchandise credit from a catalog.

Engagement goes up when employees are incentivized. Eighty percent of employees surveryed would be willing to participate in a safety awareness program that requires quarterly training with a $25 reward for completing each component. Seventy-two percent would attend after-hours training for a $25 reward. Sixty-four percent 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. Sixty percent would participate in a wellness program for a $25 reward.

The complete "Happiness Study," employee rewards & recognition report can be downloaded here