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Investing in Workforce Pride

Employee engagement and recognition are key to improving fulfillment and reducing turnover.

By Maggie Mancini

Work is a vital aspect of human life. Given that the average full-time employee will spend about one-third of their life at work, finding fulfillment in employment is an important part of supporting overall well-being and staving off burnout. Still, many people do not feel fulfilled with their work or their organizations, according to recent research from WorkProud. In fact, just 34% of respondents say that they feel a “tremendous sense of pride” in their work, while 47% feel moderately proud or neutral about their work. One-fifth (20%) of respondents feel low or no pride in their work, the study finds. And while having moderate satisfaction with work has a minimal effect on engagement, the study reveals a very stark contrast in engagement among employees who feel high or low levels of it in their work. 

“Feeling proud of your work and feeling proud of your company are interconnected yet distinct experiences, in my opinion,” says Chris Nelms, head of human resources at WorkProud. “Pride in one’s work is the satisfaction that comes from knowing you’ve done your best, achieved goals, and made a difference. On the other hand, satisfaction with one’s company extends beyond personal accomplishments to encompass a sense of belonging, shared values, and collective success.”  

Feeling satisfied with an organization is about being part of something larger than just an individual—a team, a mission, or a brand—that inspires admiration and loyalty, Nelms says. The study indicates several contributing factors impacting the state of workplace fulfillment, including the mass retirement of baby boomers who are proud of their work, increased stress from workers compensating for labor shortages, and price inflation.  

When it comes to improving workforce fulfillment, the study finds that receiving recognition and appreciation for exemplary performance plays a pivotal role. Meaningful recognition, Nelms says, enables teams to find the tangible good in their work, whether it comes from colleagues, clients, or executives. When companies recognize and celebrate collective achievements, the bond between employees and the organization is strengthened, fostering a culture of unity. 

“Engagement and recognition shape the feelings of fulfillment among team members,” Nelms says. “Engaged team members are more emotionally connected to their work or company, leading to increased satisfaction. Recognition ignites pride and validates the efforts of team members while reinforcing pride in work.”  

The study also finds that 23% of workers under 42 are interested in staying with their current employer long-term. This further declines to 18% among workers under 30 years old. Nelms says that now more than ever, team members are highly driven by a sense of purpose, meaningful recognition, and social responsibility. 

To address turnover among younger employees and improve workforce fulfillment, Nelms recommends several strategic and tactical measures for HR leaders to utilize.  

  • Bring young employees on the journey. Establish open—and safe—channels of communication and seek feedback from every level of the organization. Themes and patterns will emerge that will be much more telling than a human capital management (HCM) report with a blaring statistic.  
  • Understand that non-work life is a reality. Life outside of work is real and very different for each employee. From having children to navigating transportation, it’s important to discern poor work habits from individuals with complex life experiences.  
  • Prioritize organizational alignment. From entry-level employees to the C-suite, there must be alignment across the organization about the company’s mission and goals. Most importantly, team members must be in tune with and feel the tangible good that results from their contributions to the company’s strategic goals and vision.  
  • Invest in meaningful recognition. Employee recognition is not about expensive gifts, employee trophies, or appreciative emails. Rather, leaders should invest time each week reflecting on their team members. Be specific and encourage repeatable moments that benefit the team and organization.  

When asked whether employees are proud of their company, 32% strongly agree, while 41% remain neutral, and 27% disagree. The study finds that workers with high company pride are 36 times more likely to recommend their companies to others as a place to work, which is a key source of recruitment. Much like with individual workforce fulfillment, company pride is also deeply linked to employee recognition, engagement, and workplace culture. 

The study also finds that just 16% of workers under 42 would choose to stay loyal to their companies if presented with better compensation for the same job elsewhere. For Nelms, loyalty is always tied to turnover.  

“Loyalty should be viewed like a net promoter score where the employee’s likelihood to recommend their place of work to others is the KPI as opposed to flight risk,” he says. To improve employee loyalty and ensure that workers can be proud of both their work and their company, HR leaders should consider the following:  

  • seek feedback from employees and remain transparent; 
  • align every business leader with the mission, rather than making it the sole responsibility of HR; and 
  • prioritize meaningful and authentic employee recognition.  

“Authentic, consistent, and meaningful recognition goes beyond appreciation,” Nelms says. “It is a symbolic act that communicates how one’s work matters.”  

Tags: Current Features, Recognition, Turnover

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