What makes employees happy? Our CIPD ‘tree of happiness’ results

Being valued, recognised and listened to are more important for employee wellbeing than flexible working, pay and autonomy, according to our mini-survey at this year’s CIPD Annual Conference.

Almost a third of people who contributed their ideas to our tree of happiness said that being appreciated was key to their wellbeing. The comments left by 31% of respondents included:

  • ‘Being recognised for doing the work – a simple thank you.’
  • ‘Knowing I provide value and make a difference.’
  • ‘Non-financial reward and recognition.’

Employee benefits were mentioned in this category, a key way in which employers can show appreciation for their employee contributions. The words ‘recognition’ and ‘valued’ appeared on our tree of happiness more often than any other words.

Download our ‘Tree of happiness’ results now

Good communication

The second highest grouping of comments centred around good communication, with ‘being listened to’ given special importance. Fifteen per cent of respondents contributed comments such as:

  • ‘Listening to what people really want.’
  • ‘Frank conversations with line managers.’
  • ‘Asking, what matters?’
  • ‘Feeling listened to.’

Clearly, HR has an important role to play in ensuring that managers and leaders are trained to listen well and hold frank, open conversations with their staff.

Wellbeing interventions

A focus on specific wellbeing interventions and having fun at work mattered to 13% of respondents. Wellbeing strategies, out-of-office events, fun initiatives and team-building activities were among suggestions which could be summed up by one comment:

‘Investment in wellbeing and personal development.’

Wellbeing is a broad term. It’s worth pointing out that PES wellbeing audits cover almost everything mentioned on the tree of happiness. When we take the wellbeing temperature of an organisation, we can offer interventions to measurably improve many areas of the business, from physical health and wellbeing to culture, communication and reward.

Autonomy and belonging

Having autonomy was almost matched by a need to belong and work with others. Words like ‘ownership’, ‘staying true to yourself’, ‘individual impact’ were cited by 9% of respondents, while 8% valued ‘working with incredible people’, ‘a culture of belonging’ and ‘collaborative team working’.


Strong leadership was mentioned by 8% of people, although we could infer from some of the other responses that leadership has a role to play in creating a culture where people are valued, listened to and rewarded in non-financial ways for their contributions.

Pay, work/life balance and environment

Surprisingly perhaps, work/life balance, purpose, pay and environment were not mentioned that often, with only 6%, 4% and 2% of respondents making comments in these areas respectively.

It’s encouraging to realise though that what employees appreciate more than anything else relates to behaviours and culture, which can be changed – as opposed to factors which may be dictated by budgetary constraints.

About PES

Delivering a great employee experience is a challenge for growing organisations. At PES, it’s what we do. Our online employee benefits platform, HR support and workplace wellbeing services bring out the best in your employees – enabling your business to thrive.

Call us on 01454 808658, email us at hello@wearepes.co.uk or fill in our enquiry form.