Drive Success Through Employee Recognition
A Robert Half Company
TAble of ConTenTs
HOW RECOGNITION AFFECTS THE BOTTOM LINE…………...........................2
LET’S NOT DO LUNCH………………………………………….…..................4
THE POWER OF PRAISE………………………………….......................….7
SEVEN KEY TAKEAWAYS……………………………….......................8
A FINAL WORD………………………………….....................…11
In the current economic climate, you may feel that even “Bagel Mondays” are an expense you
can’t afford, much less a costly employee recognition program.
But new research from OfficeTeam and the International Association of Administrative Profes-
sionals® (IAAP®) shows a lack of employee recognition carries its own cost — both in terms
of morale and your company’s bottom line.
The good news? Recognition doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective. In fact, the types of
recognition administrative professionals seek may surprise you.
This report includes research compiled from surveys of both managers and career-minded
support staff. It shows why recognizing your employees is so important and provides insight
into the rewards your administrative staff value most. Also included are tips for strengthening
your firm’s recognition programs.
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How ReCoGniTion AffeCTs THe boTToM line
Results from the survey of administrative professionals are clear: Support staff place a high
priority on a company’s employee recognition efforts. In fact, receiving the proper
recognition factors heavily into their decision to join — and remain — with a company.
More than 70 percent of respondents said an organization’s recognition programs
would factor into their decision to accept employment with that firm. Perhaps even
more telling, two-thirds of administrative professionals said they would be “very
likely” or “somewhat likely” to leave their current position if they did not feel
appreciated by their manager.
Administrative professionals were asked, “How likely is it
that you would leave your current position if you did not feel
appreciated by your manager?”
Very likely 23%
Somewhat likely 43%
Not very likely 27%
Not likely at all 7%
source: officeTeam and iAAP survey of 549 administrative professionals
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Virtually the same proportion of respondents (67 percent) said receiving recognition “greatly” or
“somewhat” improves their job performance.
Administrative professionals were asked, “What effect, if any, does receiving recogni-
tion have on your work performance?”
Greatly improves performance 28%
Improves performance somewhat 39%
Has no effect on performance 33%
Performance worsens 0%
source: officeTeam and iAAP survey of 549 administrative professionals
No business can stand to lose talented, resourceful people at any time, but
retention is particularly important in a difficult economy, when resources are
already lean. There are serious bottom-line implications if employee morale and
It is a challenge to quickly find suitable replacements to step into key administrative
positions suddenly left vacant, especially executive and senior assistant roles. The training
required can be costly and time-consuming. According to the 2008 Employment Dynamics
and Growth Expectations (EDGE) Report from Robert Half International and CareerBuilder.com,
recruiting a new administrative staff member takes 4.5 weeks, on average. Can you afford to
lose your “right hand” person for more than a month?
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leT’s noT Do lunCH
Employers are aware of the relationship between recognition and productivity: Nearly all
managers surveyed said employee recognition efforts improve the work performance of
administrative professionals. Still, not all managers have been effective at putting this
knowledge into practice. One-third of support staff surveyed said they do not receive
sufficient recognition throughout the year.
How could this be? After all, chances are your firm invests in employee recogni-
tion initiatives. The surveys show it’s probably the result of miscommunication
rather than lack of effort. According to the research, there is often a dis-
connect between the kind of recognition support staff feel is meaningful
and what is provided by management.
For example, taking your assistant out to lunch is a common
reward, and, although a support professional is likely to appreciate
the gesture, he or she probably considers other forms of rec-
ognition more valuable. According to the survey, employees
prefer praise, as well as company-sponsored professional
memberships and attendance at professional confer-
ences or seminars.
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What Support Staff Want vs. What Managers Think They Want
Administrative professionals were asked, “On a one-to-five scale, how much do you value the following
types of recognition?” Managers were asked, “What forms of recognition do you believe administrative
professionals value most?”
REWARD ADMINISTRATIVE PROFESSIONALS MANAGERS
Boss relates your achievement to senior management 4.47 4.19
In-person thank-you 4.47 4.16
Promotion 4.46 4.45
Membership to a professional association 4.32 2.45
Registration for a conference or seminar 4.29 2.63
Paid time off 4.21 4.26
Handwritten personal thank-you 4.07 3.74
Cash 3.99 4.27
Recognition at staff meeting/in company newsletter 3.85 3.83
Award nomination 3.76 3.51
Recognition on Administrative Professionals Day® 3.74 3.22
Gift cards 3.67 3.99
E-mailed personal thank-you 3.58 3.25
Lunch 3.08 3.67
source: officeTeam and iAAP surveys of 549 administrative professionals and 300 managers. Respondents rated each type of reward
on a one-to-five scale, one being not valued and five being highly valued. The mean responses are listed. lines highlighted green
indicate areas on which support staff and employers disagree the most.
When both support staff and managers were asked about the relative value of various forms of recognition, their
responses did not always align. As a result, employers should periodically step back and evaluate whether they are
getting real value from their recognition efforts. What do administrative professionals want in terms of recognition,
and are you meeting those needs?
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Stuck in the Middle
Company size seems to affect managers’ assessments of whether their
recognition programs are effective or not. More respondents from small
and large companies than from midsize firms thought their programs
were beneficial. This may be because managers in smaller firms have
more opportunities to interact on an individual level with employees,
and larger companies often have formal programs in place. For
midsize companies, which fall somewhere in between, there
are still cost-effective ways of acknowledging the contribu-
tions of support staff. These include handwritten or per-
sonally delivered thank-yous, as well as the recognition
administrative professionals rated highest of all: a
supervisor who communicates their achievements
to upper management.
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THe PoweR of PRAise ‘I Can Always Count
As a manager, you may feel like your hands are tied: You understand the value of recogniz- On You.’
ing your team, but with budgets and resources tight, your options for doing so are limited.
However, many of the rewards administrative professionals rated highest did not involve Praise can mean a great deal to
money. Cash, for example, was far down the list. administrative professionals. Support staff
Most forms of recognition ranked highly by administrative professionals are cost- in the survey cited comments from their
effective. Top responses included an in-person thank-you or communicating an bosses that they prized the most:
administrator’s achievements to upper management.
• “You went beyond the expectations of the
One professional’s comment may best sum up the power of praise:
“Simple recognition on a frequent basis keeps me going far more than
customers and didn’t pass the buck.”
anything else.” • “Your contributions have kept the company afloat,
especially during this economic downturn.”
• “Thanks for a job well done. I couldn’t have done it without
your able assistance.”
• “I wouldn’t be where I am today without you.”
• “You are the ‘name and face’ of our company.”
• “You are an excellent communicator with the ability to see the bigger
picture and what needs to be done.”
• “You are a sponge — willing to learn and absorb new things.”
• “You are trusted to provide advice to support staff anywhere in the organization.”
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seven KeY TAKeAwAYs
So what can you take away from this research? The following tips can help ensure your recog-
nition efforts have a positive impact on your administrative team:
1. Don’t take your workers for granted. Although many administrative professionals
may feel fortunate to have a stable position, this doesn’t mean managers can safely
ignore their needs for positive recognition and career support. Remember that
your most talented employees always have options. Good people are market-
able in any economy, and you want your best performers to be on board when
your firm begins to grow again.
2. Be specific in your praise. Support staff want managers to be specific
when giving recognition. Fifty-five percent of respondents said the
feedback they receive is merely “somewhat specific” or “not very
specific.” With 15 percent in the latter category, managers still
have a ways to go in this regard. Clearly tie recognition back to
employees’ accomplishments, and don’t wait — you’ll forget
the details they consider important. Administrative professionals were asked, “How do you feel about
3. Challenge your support staff. Administrative profes- the amount of recognition you receive throughout the year?
sionals want to be recognized for their work, but not
just any work. Challenging assignments and a I receive plenty of recognition 15%
feeling of accomplishment/satisfaction were top
responses when administrative staff were asked I receive a fair amount of recognition 52%
which factors motivate them to do a good
job. Offer your team attainable career I don’t receive enough recognition 27%
paths and work with them to develop
professional goals that stretch their I never receive recognition 6%
source: officeTeam and iAAP survey of 549 administrative professionals
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4. Don’t under- or overdo it. Forty-two percent of support staff said their supervisor fails to recognize
them even on Administrative Professionals Day®. And one in three respondents reported that they do
not receive enough recognition throughout the year. Never acknowledging your employees’ efforts
is a definite mistake, but doing so just once or twice a year is nearly as harmful. Administrative
professionals don’t expect to be showered with constant praise — after all, even the nicest
compliments seem insincere when given too often — but they do expect to receive it when
warranted. Fifty percent said they prefer “occasional recognition gestures when I ac-
complish something that exceeds expectations, but not every time.”
5. Tell your own boss. It’s important to let senior management know when an
employee has performed especially well. Support staff in the survey rated
“supervisor communicates my achievements to upper management” as the
most valuable form of recognition.
6. Customize rewards. Twenty-five percent of managers surveyed said
they never ask employees if they are satisfied with the recognition they
receive. The percentage is highest for small companies. The message
here is simple: You should take the initiative and learn what forms
of acknowledgment employees value. Then, try to offer it in a way
that is truly meaningful to them. Find out by asking staff directly
during regularly scheduled touch-base meetings or perfor-
mance reviews. Anonymous informal surveys also can be
7. Remember, recognition can be a recruitment tool.
With more than 70 percent of support staff saying
an organization’s recognition programs would
factor into their decision to accept employment
with that firm, you should assess how you
are currently sharing information about
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Cost-Effective Ideas for Recognizing Administrative
• Make a member of your administrative staff “employee of the month.”
Although these honors are often reserved for sales or customer
service staff, your assistant regularly goes above and beyond the
call of duty.
• Share a message sent by a customer or other stakeholder
praising your assistant’s work.
• Give office support staff a subscription to an industry trade
publication, such as OfficePro.
• Ask your assistant to help a colleague get started with
a project or solve a particularly difficult problem.
• Implement a solution throughout the organiza-
tion that your assistant recommended and
give him or her credit.
Find additional tips in OfficeTeam’s “25
Ways to Recognize Results.” Request a
free copy at 1.800.804.8367.
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A finAl woRD
If you’re like most managers, you’re constantly concerned about properly rewarding your employees
for their hard work, especially in today’s tough times. The fact that two-thirds of support staff said
recognition greatly or to some degree improves their on-the-job performance gives managers a
solid, bottom-line reason to continue to invest in these initiatives.
Our research indicates that a little recognition — as long as it’s the right type — can go a long way.
The key is to make sure you remain aware of the rewards administrative professionals value most.
Offering what they consider most meaningful is, for the most part, affordable and easy to do. And
more than half of support staff said, of all the praise they receive, they value accolades from their
supervisors the most. Your employees are telling you a more satisfied and productive team is within
To learn more from administrative professionals and their managers about how recognition has helped
support staff become more effective in their jobs, visit www.officeteam.com/RecognizeResults.
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OfficeTeam partnered with an independent research firm to conduct the online manager
survey, which included 300 individuals at U.S. companies who directly or indirectly
manage an administrative professional. OfficeTeam partnered with IAAP to conduct the
online survey of 549 career-minded administrative professionals within the association
and living in the U.S. or Canada.
The International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) is the
world’s largest association for administrative support staff, with more
than 550 chapters and 40,000 members and affiliates worldwide.
For more than 60 years, IAAP has provided up-to-date re-
search on office trends, cutting-edge publications, outstanding
seminars and conferences, leadership development, global
networking opportunities, and top-notch resources to help
administrative professionals enhance their skills and
become more effective contributors to their employers.
For more information, please visit www.iaap-hq.org
or call 1.816.891.6600.
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OfficeTeam is the world’s leading staffing service specializing in the temporary placement of
highly skilled office and administrative support professionals, ranging from executive and
administrative assistants to receptionists and customer service representatives. Throughout
the year, we compile data, trends and insights we uncover through our daily contact with
clients and candidates, and our extensive research on employment and workplace issues.
We offer this information in the form of complimentary guides, articles and other mate-
rials. We have more than 325 offices worldwide and offer online job search services
and career resources at www.officeteam.com. Please call 1.800.804.8367 for
the office nearest you.
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