Kronos Survey Reveals the Secrets to Day-to-day Happiness in the Workplace: It’s Easier (and Less Expensive) Than You Think

CHELMSFORD, Mass.--()--Providing a competitive salary, good benefits, and professional development opportunities are considered table stakes for most successful organizations today. Yet two simple words – “Thank you” – could be the difference between a happy employee and one with a foot already out the door.

Ahead of the 20th anniversary of Employee Appreciation Day on March 6, The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated commissioned an online survey of more than 850 U.S. employees, conducted in February by Harris Poll1, to explore the roots of day-to-day happiness in the workplace. The power of thank you and positive recognition score high with employees, while co-workers can play a significant role in how appreciated people feel in the workplace.

News Facts

  • Employee feelings of appreciation in line with engagement studies. The good news for organizations is that more than half of employees (53 percent) say they feel either “very appreciated” or “mostly appreciated” at work. However, those who feel less appreciated in the workplace align with well-known employee engagement statistics.
    • According to a Gallup study2, 51 percent of U.S. workers say they are “not engaged” at their current job. Compare this with the 47 percent of employees in the Kronos study who either do not feel appreciated or feel only somewhat appreciated at work.
    • In the same Gallup study, 17.5 percent of workers are “actively disengaged,” compared with 15 percent of employees who feel “not that appreciated” or “not at all appreciated.”
  • A grass-is-greener correlation with feeling underappreciated. Overall, 61 percent of employees have thought about searching for a new job in the past year, and more than a quarter of employees (26 percent) thought about looking for a new job in the past week.
    • Of the employees who thought about searching for a new job in the past year, 59 percent either do not feel appreciated or feel somewhat appreciated at their place of work compared with 11 percent who feel very appreciated.
    • Forty-four percent of employees say their company is “average” compared to other organizations when it comes to showing appreciation to employees, while 20 percent say their company is “one of the worst / worse than most.”
  • Pay raises don’t always boost appreciation. If they do, they’re quickly forgotten. While salary, promotions, and bonuses typically win out in employee motivation surveys, nearly a quarter (24 percent) of those who ever received a pay raise say it did not improve their motivation or general feelings of appreciation at work.
    • Perhaps worse, of those who had ever received a past pay raise, 40 percent said it improved their motivation or general feelings of appreciation for six months or less, while 30 percent say the raise boosted these feelings for a mere month or less; making day-to-day acts of gratitude and appreciation in the workplace that much more important.
  • The power of “Thank You” can’t be underestimated. In an increasingly competitive job market, many organizations turn to unique perks, pay raises, and benefits to keep employees happy, but creating a culture of gratitude could be just as impactful.
    • When asked what gives them a high sense of satisfaction at work, employees say receiving a “Thank you” from their direct manager (55 percent) nearly doubled that of public recognition of a job well done (28 percent) even if this recognition is tied to rewards such as a gift card or company award.
    • Receiving positive feedback from fellow employees at all levels gave the highest sense of satisfaction, with 70 percent of employees saying it provides a boost.
    • Private, one-on-one communication is preferred over receiving positive recognition with others present or copied on a group email (59 percent vs. 26 percent); while 61 percent prefer verbal recognition (either privately or in front of a group) over electronic communication such as email (24 percent) when receiving positive feedback.
    • Managers believe in the power of thank you, too, since a higher percentage of those with direct reports say positive feedback is important to their personal satisfaction compared to those without direct reports (78 percent vs. 70 percent).
  • Managers can’t do it alone: Co-worker appreciation matters more than you think. Organizations can spend time and money on programs that cultivate the best managers, but co-workers have as much power to make fellow employees feel less appreciated.
    • Interestingly, while 50 percent of employed adults say positive feedback on their performance from their direct manager provides satisfaction, nearly the same amount (49 percent) say positive feedback from their co-workers gives them satisfaction; yet only 39 percent say positive feedback from their leadership team/executives does the same.
    • Among those who do not feel appreciated or who feel somewhat appreciated at their place of work, rude or mean-spirited communication coming from their co-worker is just as detrimental to feeling appreciated as it is coming from their direct manager (25 percent vs. 26 percent).
    • Co-worker relationships are the number-one thing employees who had a previous job miss most about the most recent job they left (32 percent), beating out company benefits (22 percent), unique perks (20 percent), and relationship with their previous boss (16 percent).
  • What brings employees down? For employees who feel somewhat or not at all appreciated, not being recognized for the work they do was the top reason cited by nearly half (48 percent) as something that makes them not feel appreciated at work.
    • In fact, not being recognized for work done is cited nearly twice as much as receiving criticism (26 percent) and heavy workload (25 percent), and more than twice as much as poor work-life balance (23 percent) and someone taking credit for the work they did (22 percent).
  • What would employees change if they traded places with their boss for a day? While more than half of employees feel at least mostly appreciated at work, more than three-quarters (76 percent) who have a direct boss/manager think they could do even better. When asked what they would immediately change with respect to showing appreciation and recognition if they traded places with their boss, 38 percent – the highest percentage – would simply say “Thank you” more.

Supporting Quotes

  • Joyce Maroney, director, The Workforce Institute at Kronos
    Acknowledging employees’ efforts motivates and inspires much more than many people realize. It’s also easy to do and doesn’t cost a thing. This employee appreciation study shows that all of us, from part-time workers to senior leaders, play a role in how much our co-workers feel appreciated at work. Fostering a culture of appreciation could be the simple, secret ingredient to higher employee engagement. And, in the spirit of the survey, I’d like to thank our own CEO, Aron Ain, for inspiring a corporate culture of gratitude, collaboration, and mutual respect.”
  • Sharlyn Lauby, author, HR Bartender, and president of ITM Group Inc.
    The best way to engage and retain employees is to connect the good work they do to the organization’s goals and accomplishments. This survey emphasizes the impact employees can have on the bottom-line when they receive specific feedback in a timely fashion. It also shows that even the simplest, yet too often forgotten, acts – like saying ‘thank you for staying late’ or ‘nice job on the client report’ – can mean the world to employees.”

Supporting Resources

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of Kronos from February 20-24, 2015 among 2,030 adults ages 18 and older, of whom 855 are employed full or part time. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact

About The Workforce Institute at Kronos

The Workforce Institute provides research and education on critical workplace issues facing organizations around the globe. By bringing together thought leaders, The Workforce Institute is uniquely positioned to empower organizations with the knowledge and information they need to manage their workforce effectively and provide a voice for employees on important workplace issues. A hallmark of The Workforce Institute’s research is balancing the needs and desires of diverse employee populations with the needs of organizations. For additional information, visit

About Kronos Incorporated

Kronos is the global leader in delivering workforce management solutions in the cloud. Tens of thousands of organizations in more than 100 countries — including more than half of the Fortune 1000® — use Kronos to control labor costs, minimize compliance risk, and improve workforce productivity. Learn more about Kronos industry-specific time and attendance, scheduling, absence management, HR and payroll, hiring, and labor analytics applications at Kronos: Workforce Innovation That Works.

© 2015 Kronos Incorporated. All rights reserved. Kronos and the Kronos logo are registered trademarks and Workforce Innovation That Works is a trademark of Kronos Incorporated or a related company. See a complete list of Kronos trademarks. All other trademarks, if any, are property of their respective owners.

Footnote 1: This survey was conducted by Harris Poll in February 2015 among more than 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18+, of whom 855 are employed full-time/part-time. Throughout the survey, “employees” will be used to represent full-time/part-time employees.

Footnote 2: According to the January 2015 Gallup Daily tracking survey on employee engagement.


Kronos Incorporated
Domenic Locapo, +1 978-947-4777

Release Summary

To honor Friday's 20th anniversary of Employee Appreciation Day, The Workforce Institute at Kronos releases a survey about day-to-day workplace happiness and how appreciated employees feel at work.


Kronos Incorporated
Domenic Locapo, +1 978-947-4777