By Melissa J. Anderson

According to a new study by Gallup, employees say they are receiving little feedback and recognition on the job. But, the research shows, feedback is necessary for a well-functioning workforce. In a recent article in the Gallup Management Journal, Steve Crabtree wrote:

“Personalized feedback and recognition aren’t just ‘frills’ that make workers feel good. Rather, they are crucial predictors of positive workplace outcomes such as employee retention and productivity. These attributes may not seem necessary to keep a workplace functioning — but they do increase the chances that it will function well.”

But based on Gallup’s global survey focused on the Q12, the organization’s “12-item assessment of engagement,” across almost every region, employees reported receiving a lack of feedback. The two lowest ranked questions were “In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work” and “In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.”

According to Crabtree, this means employees across the globe aren’t performing at their highest ability. Here are three reasons to make an effort at giving employees better feedback.

1. Improve employee engagement.

Feedback-related assessments make up one sixth of Gallup’s Q12, the twelve points of measurement that make up employee engagement. Implementing or clarifying feedback-mechanisms is an inexpensive and simple way to improve engagement. According to Crabtree, many managers neglect to recognize employees for good work, because they assume employees already know what they’re good at.

But, the research shows that praise or recognition for quality work goes a long way. Managers should make a point to communicate more with workers about their strengths and progress in order to boost employee engagement.

2. Boost productivity quickly.

Gains in employee engagement from improving feedback mechanisms and processes are not only long-term factors. According to the research, the results are apparent in the short-term as well. Crabtree wrote:

“Gallup’s experience suggests that instilling frequent personalized feedback and recognition is one of the surest ways to drive that shift in workplaces worldwide. And it may take less time than one might think. ‘It’s interesting that the two lowest rated elements are also the two that produce the quickest changes in organizations, once measurement and good education is put in place,’ [Jim Harter, Ph.D] says. ‘And because they are both linked to performance outcomes, in many cases those outcomes can be affected relatively quickly as well.’”

3. Gain the competitive advantage.

Finally, Crabtree says, in many global regions, recognizing individual workers isn’t a cultural norm. But it can still improve employee engagement and productivity in these areas. Managers looking to shore up their workforce in these areas can utilize improved feedback practices to gain an advantage over competitors. He writes:

“Given the low ratings worldwide for feedback and recognition, organizations that implement — or countries that encourage — effective feedback and recognition systems could gain a competitive advantage. For example, Russian labor productivity is among the lowest in the world… Motivating employees in countries like Russia to excel in their roles — rather than just exerting the minimum effort to get by — requires a critical shift in mindset and approach.”

If managers can overcome cultural barriers to providing feedback and recognition, they can motivate employees to go the extra mile – which will eventually create a competitive advantage over companies that are satisfied with the status quo.