February 27, 2024

Hello, Quartz at Work readers!

Return-to-office mandates have been linked to lower morale at work, and some software companies think they can be the solution to that problem.

Such is the promise of employee recognition software, a growing workplace perks system that allows colleagues to say thanks with redeemable rewards. Employees earn virtual “points” from their managers and teammates for everything from delivering a great presentation, to helping a colleague with a project, or otherwise tipping goodwill their way. Those points can often be swapped for cash or gift cards (and in a less lucrative alternate, they’re just a symbol of appreciation).

The market for these programs is enormous: employee recognition software is a $33 billion industry, and some projections expect that share to grow to $46 billion by 2028. Clients include brand-name businesses from Heineken and Chick-fil-A to KPMG, IBM, LinkedIn, and more.

And while data does link the software to a small uptick in employee morale, management scholars say companies looking to adopt this software amid return-to-office mandates miss the point.

“The people who are most likely to get rewarded by the culture of the organization are also more likely to get call-outs on these platforms,” David Kryscynski, an associate management professor at Rutgers University, tells Quartz. Employees who are more likely to be on the margins at work are less likely to get rewards. Plus, points are little consolation for more systemic dissatisfactions on the job. (Of course, gift cards for presentations do little to move the needle when workers are seeking raises instead.) Today in Quartz, reporter Laura Bratton outlines why piling on thank-you points has its limits.


Business dinners are back in a big way. American Express members expensed a mouth-watering $100 billion at restaurants around the world last year, a new record as companies swap business travel for meals.

Musicians are drumming up protections for their work from AI. Following the strikes of writers and actors this summer, the union representing Hollywood musicians is now negotiating AI clauses in their next contract.

Walmart decided its managers deserve raises on their raises. Thanks to new stock perks, store leaders can now take home between $138,000 and $148,000 a year—then triple it once bonuses are factored in, too.

Carmakers want your commute to get chattier. More auto brands are adding conversational bots to their vehicles, with Peugeot being the latest to announce a new ChatGPT integration.

US job postings ticked upwards. That’s according to the latest data, which saw employers add 9 million roles in December—but economists noted that fewer Americans are quitting, and layoff numbers rose, too. 


While plenty of executives would like to speed up those return-to-office rates, employees aren’t exactly sprinting back to work in person: Thanks to hybrid arrangements, US office visits are still much lower than pre-pandemic rates. But it turns out one US city is outpacing the rest in RTO.

New data finds New York City workers are heading to their office desks more than anyone else. In New York, office foot traffic is about 19% below what it was before the pandemic—while in San Francisco, attendance is still down 53%.

Image for article titled Saying thanks a lot

Graphic: Quartz

Read more in Quartz about how the Big Apple has brought more of its workers back to the office than other major US cities.


EV leader Tesla released its annual report to shareholders this week. But while the report touts bigger numbers—$100 billion in revenue, 1.8 million cars delivered to customers, 140,000 employees and growing—for the year in review, it’s also dropped some details over time. Tesla’s been slowly removing language about the company’s staff diversity.

😄 The 2021 report: Tesla’s goals to “attract a pool of diverse and exceptional candidates and support their career growth” get a mention, along with a rundown of employee resource groups like Asian Pacific Islanders at Tesla, Black at Tesla, Intersectionality, Latinos at Tesla, LGBTQ at Tesla, Veterans at Tesla, and Women in Tesla.

🙂 The 2022 report: The “majority-minority workforce” receives a shout-out, along with a nod to employee resource groups.

🤐 The 2023 report: Mentions touting diversity in the workforce have been removed.

The cuts aren’t necessarily a surprise from a company led by CEO Elon Musk, who’s publicly attacked diversity, equity, and inclusion (or DEI) on X in recent weeks. But following a year when DEI programs have gotten political pushback in the US, Tesla is far from the first to pull back on highlighting all the diversity in its ranks. As more companies outline their goals for the year ahead, eyes are on corporate leaders to hold up the previous commitments they’ve made to DEI.


📝 AI is coming for your job application long before it comes for your job

💼 What worries business leaders the most about generative AI

💰 Point systems used to boost workplace culture miss the point

🤖 It’s expensive to replace humans with AI, MIT says


Send questions, comments, and what you want instead of rewards to talk@qz.com. This edition of The Memo was written by Gabriela Riccardi and Laura Bratton.

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