This past summer, as part of an effort to promote innovative recruitment
and retention strategies at NIH, a workforce retention strategies work group
launched an NIH Employee Recognition Survey focusing on the types of nonmonetary
recognition employees find most meaningful. More than 3,000
employees participated in the survey.
The results reveal that employees value acknowledgement and leadership support,
as well as projects of interest, additional training and time-off awards. Of
those responding, 92 percent indicated they are interested in receiving personal
praise/accolades from their supervisor and 89 percent of employees are interested
in time-off awards and projects or assignments of interest. In addition, 87
percent of employees are interested in receiving additional training/conferences.
Further analysis demonstrated how strongly employees felt about each method
of recognition. When taking the average rating for each method of recognition,
time-off awards were rated highest, projects or assignments of interest were second
and personal praise/accolades from their supervisor came in third.
For IC and NIH leadership, employees stated a desire for more visibility and contact
through: more personal visits (e.g. in labs, units, town-hall meetings); open
communication and transparency; and collaboration, soliciting and listening to
A 2012 study by the Partnership for Public Service stated that, in their government-wide job satisfaction analysis, satisfaction with leadership was about five
times more important than pay. The report said: “Federal employees weigh the
totality of their job experience, and if they admire the agency leaders, get along
well with their supervisor and feel their talents are being used well toward a
compelling mission, they may remain engaged and motivated even if they are
dissatisfied with pay.”
The NIH Employee Recognition Survey results are important for supervisors
to note, given limits on cash awards and tight budgets. Often, verbal or written
personal accolades and additional workplace flexibility are just as, if not more,
meaningful to employees.