amazon is the tip of the iceberg

By in Appreciation, Culture, and Talent Management
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A recent article from the New York Times about the rigorous corporate culture at Amazon has brought much attention (and criticism) to the retail giant. But before we scoff at Amazon’s culture, let’s evaluate the state of corporate culture from a holistic perspective.

Employees don’t feel appreciated for the work they do.

In a recent study conducted by the O.C. Tanner Institute, employees working at companies with more than 1,000 employees were asked a few simple questions about their work and the appreciation they receive. The results aren’t great. 13% of employees stated they have never received any kind of recognition or felt appreciated by their supervisor. The same group was asked how often employees at their company are sincerely recognized or appreciated when they produce great work, and 70% indicated that appreciation or recognition only happened half the time or less (only 4% indicated that their company “always” recognized or appreciated when people produce great work).

Note that the definition for appreciation and recognition was really quite minimal. It “may be as simple as having others acknowledge, notice, value, or care about your work.” So, 70% of employees from the study felt like their work was acknowledged, noticed, valued, or cared about half the time or less, and more than 1 out 10 employees feel like they have never been acknowledged, noticed, valued, or cared about by their supervisor. Ouch.

Appreciation is what causes people to produce great work.

The main purpose of the study conducted by the O.C. Tanner Institute was to determine what practices employers can do to get their employees to produce great work–work that is productive, innovative, and makes a difference people love. The overwhelming result was that companies need to recognize their employees. Through qualitative and quantitative research, it was concluded that of the six most common motivating perks and practices companies undertake to incentivize employees to produce great work, recognition is the strongest driver of great work.

One of the most surprising results of the study was that when asked the open-ended question of what the most important thing their manager or company does (or could do) that would cause them to produce great work, the number one employee answer was some variant of “recognize me.”

The recent news about Amazon’s work culture may be shocking, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to talent management. Although it may not be true that most employees are “encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings” as the New York Times article suggests about Amazon, the fact remains that most employees don’t feel like much of their work is noticed or appreciated. Most corporate cultures don’t do a good job of making employees feel valued or cared about. And what happened to Amazon could happen to anyone unless something changes.

Ultimately, recognition and appreciation are the best motivators of great work over the long haul. Research backs it up. Don’t be the next Amazon. Read up on our recognition best practices and start appreciating great work today.

By jordan rogers
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