Research: Fewer than One in Five People Are Satisfied with their Jobs

04 Apr 2022

New study also found that people will leave their current jobs for an employer that does a better job of giving recognition and rewarding them

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics1, 47 million people voluntarily quit their jobs last year-12 million more than the previous year when the COVID-19 pandemic began. With more than 76.5 million current job openings in the U.S. alone1, the jobseeker’s market could not be more pronounced.

Employers today are faced with an intimidating challenge: retain and attract top talent while engaging their existing workforce amidst stiff competition. To help better inform our partners and other businesses about how to combat these hurdles, we conducted new research of more than 3,000 Americans that directly asked people whether they are happy at their current jobs, what they expect from their employers, and whether recognition and rewards play a factor in their workplace satisfaction.

The results were deafening. Only 18% of respondents are happy at their current jobs. Among those who are unhappy, nearly half (42%) would seek out new employment with an employer that does a better job of rewarding, incentivizing and recognizing them. Nearly nine in 10 (89%) of respondents reported that it is important that their employers recognize them, but one quarter reported that their employer doesn’t even offer recognition or rewards programs. Further, those surveyed that are offered these programs report that the programs aren’t aligned with their preferences.

Here are other noteworthy findings:

  • People know what they want when it comes to rewards. The rewards people would most like to receive from their employers include gift cards (75%), bonuses (72%), prepaid cards (72%) and additional vacation days (65%).
  • Recognition methods need alignment. . The 75% of respondents whose employers offer recognition and reward programs repeatedly reported that these programs don’t actually recognize people the way they’d prefer:
    • 52% would like to be recognized alongside a group of other colleagues during a company meeting/event/ceremony (only 40% report their employer does this)
    • 48% would like to be recognized privately during their review (only 36% report their employer does this)
    • 43% would like a personalized card or email (only 29% report that their employer does this)
  • The right rewards and recognition can pay serious dividends. Receiving a reward or recognition would increase 83% of respondents’ productivity and loyalty to the company. Considering about half of respondents want to receive monthly or quarterly recognition, employers have an opportunity to create regular check-ins with employees to keep their businesses running smoothly and their employees happy.
  • Employees want to be able to recognize their colleagues.More than three-quarters of respondents (77%) feel that it’s important to recognize others for their positive contributions at work, and 82% respondents would be interested in leveraging an employee recognition platform where they could send and receive recognition to or from anyone in their company.
  • Timing matters.People want to receive recognition and be rewarded during certain times:
    • Work anniversaries (57%)
    • Upon completion of a project (57%)
    • At the end of the year (57%)
    • After achieving a key project goal (56%)
    • At the end of a period or quarter (55%)
  • It’s never too late to offer rewards and recognition.About two-thirds of respondents (63%) would stay at their current job in some capacity if they received a reward or incentive even after resigning or giving notice that they are leaving.

“There is a marked disconnect in what people want versus what employers offer in terms of recognition and rewards. This is a major problem for employers in today’s hyper-competitive labor market, especially considering so many people are unhappy at their current job,” said Jeff Haughton, SVP, Incentives, Corporate Development & Strategy at Blackhawk Network. “The pandemic has been a catalyst in reforming peoples’ expectations for their employers and more than ever, people crave acknowledgement in their workplace and want to acknowledge their colleagues as well. A lack of recognition and acknowledgement can be a significant contributor to workplace apathy, disengagement and attrition. Reward and recognition programs are an effective way employers can demonstrate they are listening, watching, and willing to make adjustments to improve employee satisfaction and show employees they are appreciated.”


1 “Job Openings and Labor Turnover – January 2022” is part of a monthly report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

2 “Workplace Arrangements, Rewards, and Engagement Survey” is an internet-based survey conducted by Survey Monkey on behalf of Blackhawk Network between February 25, 2022 and March 1, 2022. The sample size included 3,278 U.S. respondents ages 18+.

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