Employees who have some influence at work perform better service but praise and encouragement from managers has no particular significance in terms of loyalty toward the employer.

Social recognition, recognition as an individual whose expertise and input are appreciated, is crucial for how well employees in service companies perform their job assignments. Tómas Bjarnason, a doctoral student in sociology from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, studied over 900 employees in service organizations for his thesis.   He states that social recognition contributes to increased self respect, which means that employees make a greater effort to act in the company’s best interests. 

"I have examined three different kinds of experiences that lead to social recognition: having an influence within the company; being able to utilise skills and knowledge and receiving encouragement, praise and feedback," says Bjarnason.

Bjarnason based his measurement of employees’ support for the company on four dimensions:

1) Organizational commitment (attitude)
2) Loyalty (intent to stay)
3) Service effort
4) Service improvements

He says those dimensions are important for the performance of a service organization and therefore constitute a good basis for assessing the support that the employees have for the company.

"The results showed that when employees have a sense of influence and are able to make use of their know-how and skills their commitment to the company increased," says Bjarnason.

Employees who had an outlet for their knowledge and skills were also more inclined to stay at the company. The same thing applied to service effort. Those who had a more positive attitude to the company also took greater pains to give a good service.

"In terms of improvements in the service, it emerged that the most important thing was that the employees felt that they had an influence within the company. On the other hand, receiving encouragement, praise or feedback had no direct effect on the support they gave to the company.

"One of the most important aspects of the results is that the effects of social recognition were similar in three different service departments in the company, where there was a range of experience and education among the employees. The results are important as it is usually claimed that improvements in the way work is organised would have a greater positive effect on the input of certain groups, for example those with a higher level of education," says Bjarnason.

The results were based on some 900 responses from a questionnaire survey among employees in an Icelandic service business.

The thesis was successfully defended on Friday 15 may 2009.