5 trends in social recognition

Bots, apps, gamification, analytics all play a part in peer-to-peer rewards
By Muni Boga
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/30/2019
Recognition
Bots, apps, gamification and analytics all play a part in peer-to-peer rewards. Credit: Max Griboedov (Shutterstock)

Peer-to-peer social recognition is a concept that grew out of newer social technologies, diminishing hierarchy at work, and the increasing diversity of today’s organizations which are comprised of up to five generations.

Employees have varying values, beliefs, drivers and work styles. But they all share one common element — they are all human, so they are motivated and inspired by recognition.

The key to social recognition is the fact that it is “social.” It involves everyone and it is transparent.

The visibility that is created by a social feed allows every employee to see who is being recognized, and what people are being recognized for, and it enables others to endorse and comment on the messages.

The old top-down, reward-focused recognition models and “Employee of the Month” posters pinned to a bulletin board are being revolutionized and decentralized at a rapid pace with a solution that touches people in the moment, makes a meaningful impact, and can unite any group of people.

This engagement technology and philosophy can lead to reductions in turnover and absenteeism, and improvements in performance at both the individual and organizational level.

When selecting a peer-to-peer social recognition solution, the decision-making process can often be overwhelming.

So, what constitutes a great recognition program, and what are the top trends to look for in a peer-to-peer social recognition solution? Let’s take a look.

Bots and apps for instant recognition

To initiate a successful recognition program and empower employees to give recognition easily, it’s about making recognition available everywhere.

Web applications, mobile applications and browser extensions — supplemented by bots and integrations into  collaboration and communication tools such as Slack, MS Teams, Outlook and Gmail — will enable this strategy.

These social recognition applications and integrations all have varying degrees of connectivity with employees’ workflow, ensuring the messages of recognition are both timely and connected to the work at hand.

Non-monetary recognition for intrinsic motivation

Traditional recognition typically involved rewards programs aligned with compensation and benefits — do blenders and pens sound familiar?

However, rewards are not recognition. They can be part of a recognition equation — but they motivate people differently. Not all solutions were designed with a “recognition-first” philosophy.

Are you trying to motivate intrinsically, based on people connecting to culture and their work? Or are you trying to motivate extrinsically with a carrot?

It’s important to ask solution providers about their recognition and reward philosophy.

Cultural values and behaviours

What can be done to reinforce an employer’s values and promote individuals to live those behaviours? Align them with the social recognition program. Behaviours can provide valuable indicators on the health of an organization and its people at any point in time.

Identifying the value and behaviour profiles for individuals, departments and locations can provide interesting insights into the cultural ambassadors and top performers.

Gamification, behavioural incentives for motivation

Gamification can mean point scoring, creating competition and providing rules of play. And while gamification can encourage certain behaviours, some forms can motivate the wrong behaviours and actually be detrimental to corporate culture.

For example, in a rewards-centric culture, people sometimes ask for recognition from their friends so they can buy a reward for themselves. Recognition shouldn’t be demanded or requested. Recognition software that enables too much gamification with a strong focus on rewards can create this type of environment.

One of the newest trends for social recognition solutions is called behavioural bonusing or behavioural incentives.

This is the concept of creating incentives or bonuses for individuals who complete certain activities either inside or outside the workplace, such as donating blood, getting a flu shot or being a brand ambassador.

Bonusing can be used effectively when tied to a stretch goal, but bonusing for everyday work can lead to a very slippery slope.

While it’s about encouraging the right behaviours, it’s also about staying objective about how the activities being encouraged are interpreted by employees — we don’t want to cross any ethical boundaries and we don’t want people to feel like they are being manipulated or controlled. If this happens, employees can feel like their employer is a villain in disguise and are left with feelings of stress and anxiety.  

So, while behavioural modification may have worked for Pavlov and his dog, it’s not likely to build trust with employees.

Analytics and insights for ROI

Most social recognition solutions provide analytics that show which messages are trending or considered more meaningful by their peers. This way, you know what is important to employees.

Some of the more advanced social recognition solutions have leveraged new technologies such as machine learning and are pushing the boundaries on delivering more meaningful insights into the performance of employees and the organization itself, as well as recommendations for turnover with some predictive elements. While the analytics and insights are still in their early days, they add great value and an ROI.

We live and work in exciting times. The value proposition derived from social recognition is being pushed to new heights, where recognition is no longer a nice-to-have, but a need-to-have. The time required to run a successful program is continually decreasing and the ROI and value of analytics are increasing.

There are many flavours of social recognition to pick from and it can be difficult to choose which one. The key is to define what is important for your organization and to ask the right questions.

At present, social recognition is still an area of HR technology due to see much more innovation and added value.


Muni Boga is the Calgary-based founder and CEO of Kudos, an online employee experience and culture platform. For more information, visit www.kudosnow.com.

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