Surveyed employees seek recognition and acknowledgement: Are Australian SMEs prepared?

Published on 30/10/2023 by Ojasvini

Employees who enjoy what they do and the atmosphere they work in are more likely to stay with the company for an extended time. This could result in improved productivity and performance. This survey article provides insights into job satisfaction, comfort/discomfort at the workplace, and the job-switching situation of 994 Australian employees.

Tips to help SMEs support and retain employees in 2023

1.3 million people changed jobs during the year ending February 2023, equating to a job mobility rate of 9.5% of all employed people changing jobs during the year’, as per the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The data clearly shows the overall state of Australia's job market and how a significant number of people are changing their jobs every year.

But what exactly are employees seeking from their jobs? Is it recognition, a higher salary, a decent working environment, or job security? What is making employees switch their jobs? In fact, last year released an article talking about ‘the great resignation’ and how it can affect job holders in Australia. 

For this purpose, Software Advice conducted an online survey to find precisely what employees are looking for, and what small to midsize enterprises (SMEs) can do to retain their employees and simultaneously offer job satisfaction. The selection criteria for the survey participants, including the full methodology, are available at the end of this article.

50% of respondents have changed jobs 1-2 times in the past five years

Job mobility is at its highest in the decade, with younger people more likely to switch jobs, as per data shared by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Even 50% of our survey participants said they have changed jobs 1-2 times in the past five years. Moreover:

  • Only 2% said they’ve changed jobs more than five times
  • 10% answered with ‘three to five times’ 
  • Lastly, 38% said ‘never’

The 38% ‘never’ stat indicates that a significant proportion of respondents have never changed their jobs. This could be because they were satisfied with the salary, had good work flexibility, or positive working conditions, or all of these. 

Additionally, we asked the set of job-hoppers who changed jobs three to five and more than five times the following question: ‘How do interviewers react to the fact that they have frequently changed jobs?’ Interestingly, 48% feel ‘it didn’t have any impact on the interviewer’, and 28% mentioned that ‘the interviewer liked or valued their frequent job changes’. 

The data clearly shows that employment loyalty may no longer be a highly regarded factor. For example, if a person switches jobs for obvious reasons such as work environment, flexibility, professional progress, or diverse experience, an interviewer will either welcome the shift or will not be influenced by the underlying reasons.

Top 3 reasons that made survey-takers switch jobs

What could be the reasons that are making employees switch jobs frequently? To evaluate this, we asked the same subgroup of respondents to state some of the reasons for doing so and got the following answers.

Reasons that made some respondents switch their jobs

Considering the data, it may be important to understand employees’ expectations from the moment they join the company. Additionally, throughout the recruitment process, company values should be clearly communicated, and employees should be given the opportunity to elevate those values and grow with the company.

66% of Australian respondents are satisfied with their current job

Not only does job satisfaction result in employee engagement, but it can also help improve overall productivity. Even an article by LinkedIn states that ‘happy workers are more productive and hard-working’. When we questioned our respondents on job satisfaction, a combined total of 66% indicated their satisfaction with their current job. Of these, 47% reported being ‘satisfied’ while 19% chose the ‘very satisfied’ option.

Additionally, 42% of the respondents also shared that they don’t currently have any plans to leave their jobs. On the contrary, a combined total of 51% of participants do have plans to leave their current job, with answers ranging from ‘as soon as possible’ to ‘not having a definite timeline at the moment’. 

Moving forward, we asked these employees the primary reasons why they’re currently sticking to their jobs. We cover this in the next section.

Good work environment and work-life balance are major contributing factors for retention

If remuneration plays an essential role in employee loyalty, some other key aspects are now more prominent. These include respect for the work-life/personal life balance and the office environment. 

In the same light, we asked those respondents who have plans to leave their company their reasons for leaving, while we asked the other set with no plans to leave their reasons for staying:

Major contributing factors for sticking to/leaving the current job

In addition to the above stats, we also discovered that the following factors can make respondents change their mind and leave their current company:

  • A ‘higher salary’ (58%)
  • ‘Higher position’ (27%), 
  • ‘Better work flexibility’ (26%) and 
  • ‘Moving to a preferred destination’ (26%)

Tips to improve job satisfaction

  • Be transparent about your company’s financial performance, carry out frequent audits, and communicate effectively about salary expectations.
  • Understand your employees’ expectations of their roles, provide them with appropriate training, and help them grow their careers within the company.
  • Provide better work flexibility in terms of work-life balance to improve job satisfaction. For instance, encourage your employees to use their available time off and ensure that they don’t overwork using dedicated monitoring tools.

In the next section, we will discuss respondents’ comfort/discomfort in the workplace, what they want/do not want, and how SMEs can help.

46% believe high stress levels lead to discomfort at work

Apart from higher pay and an upgraded position, being stress-free and comfortable is also important at the workplace. Moreover, as stated by Better Health Channel in an article, ‘work-related stress is a growing problem around the world that affects not only the health and wellbeing of employees, but also the productivity of organisations’. 

Even 46% of our survey-takers consider stress a leading cause of discomfort at work. On the contrary, the two primary factors contributing to a comfortable workspace were ‘maintaining a healthy work-life balance’ (48%) and ‘healthy relationships with co-workers’ (48%).  Some other factors that led to respondents’ comfort/discomfort included:

Top factors leading to comfort/discomfort in the workplace

It is important to review and monitor the comfort level of your employees periodically. You should ideally ask for consistent employee feedback about their current working conditions. This information can help businesses identify the key aspects that impact employees’ comfort level in their jobs and act to improve or optimise them. 

We also discovered that ‘salary expectations’ can be both a source of comfort and discomfort. Furthermore, employees' comfort and discomfort also are influenced by their relationship with management. This could imply that a lower expected pay plus a poor connection with management can cause workplace discomfort and perhaps lead to people quitting.

Tips for businesses

It is crucial to encourage and initiate dialogue with your employees about the stress they experience at work. Supporting them and offering all the necessary resources for their overall wellness is equally important.

Taking time to assess their feelings about their mental well-being and understanding whether they can manage their workload could be beneficial. In addition to this, the following points should also be considered:

  • It is critical to have an open discussion about salary and employee expectations so that everyone is on the same page.
  • Management should be flexible and open to employees’ suggestions. They should ideally trust their employees and foster a positive and collaborative work environment. A good example could be taking your employees for team lunches/dinners or some fun activities to build constructive relationships.
  • Avoiding micromanagement could also be a significant measure that can enhance trust among employees

Recognition and acknowledgement are what more than 50% of respondents need

Another important element to consider here is what these employees expect management to do for them. Our participants highlighted the following five most important skills/capabilities they think a manager should have to support them in their job:

  • 51% of them want recognition and work acknowledgement from their managers
  • 48% believe that a manager should have the ability to maintain a positive and collaborative work environment within the team
  • 43% believe that managers should be able to provide helpful and constructive feedback and foster efficient communication
  • 38% feel they should possess strong soft skills and a human approach, supporting the individual and not just the job
  • 36% would like their manager to provide the tools or resources necessary to successfully complete their tasks

Clearly, it is imperative to a majority of respondents that their managers recognise and acknowledge their efforts. Additionally, management should also place trust in their employees’ work and offer them more flexibility in daily tasks. They can, for instance, use specific software solutions to manage multiple tasks, plan better to manage staff rotation and resources, and improve collaboration.

Did you know?

As per our survey-takers, the top priority for companies/employers to focus on in the next two years should be:

  • Adding more benefits (26% mentioned this)
  • Creating programs for upskilling/reskilling (23%)
  • More remote work flexibility (19%)
  • Diversity and inclusion (11%)
  • Internal mobility including career progressions (11%)

The last section of this article will lay down some detailed tips that can help companies support employees better while simultaneously retaining talent.

5 tips to help SMEs support and retain employees

A report by Gartner says that ‘people seek purpose in their lives — and that includes work. The more an employer limits those things that create this sense of purpose, the less likely employees will stay at their positions’. In the same vein, to help SMEs support employees, here are some useful tips:

1. Design an effective onboarding process

The first piece of advice is to design an interactive onboarding process. Any onboarded employee should be informed about their benefits, introduced to the necessary stakeholders, and made to feel part of the team via activities and ice-breaker meetings. One method to help and mentor a new hire could be to assign him a buddy or mentor, who could be a tenured member of the team.

2. Encourage work-life balance and provide flexibility

Next would be encouraging a healthy work-life balance. Management can help employees achieve a more balanced work-life balance by giving them more flexibility with their schedules, or even offering remote work options. Additionally, they can help them with time management and prioritising their tasks.

3. Offer professional development opportunities

Another measure could be to offer professional development opportunities, such as an internal transfer. This could help build up internal relationships and also lead to employee retention. Moreover, the assessment metrics for promotions should be as objective and transparent as possible to avoid being vague or unattainable. 

4. More benefits are a win-win

Giving your staff extra benefits could be crucial in today's cutthroat employment market. Think about offering healthcare benefits, retirement plans, and performance-linked bonuses. You can also offer free consultations to mental health specialists or reimburse people for fitness sessions.

5. Recognise and acknowledge your employees’ hard work

Lastly, thank and honour your staff for their efforts. While there are numerous methods to do this, it is crucial to give equal weight to social and financial acknowledgment. Additionally, be sure to reassess your employee engagement plans to remain in line with current market norms for pay and benefits, as well as update best practices for fostering a happy work environment and stronger manager-employee relationships.

Looking for employee recognition software? Check out our catalogue!


To gather data for this report, Software Advice conducted an online survey of 994 people during July 2023. The selection criteria for the participants are mentioned below:

  • Australian residents aged between 18 and 65 years
  • Those who are either employed full-time or part-time in a small or medium-sized business (with a minimum of 2 and maximum of 250 employees)
  • Who reports to a direct manager
  • Does not hold an owner or intern position

This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.

About the author

Ojasvini is a content analyst for Software Advic. She shares insights about software technologies critical to SMEs. Inspired by growing tech trends and how these help SMEs to grow.

Ojasvini is a content analyst for Software Advic. She shares insights about software technologies critical to SMEs. Inspired by growing tech trends and how these help SMEs to grow.