Social Recognition Programs: Why They Matter


By Steven Green

Fifty-four per cent of organizations involuntarily lost high-performing employees during the first half of 2010, reports T&D Magazine. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the number one reason people leave their jobs is lack of appreciation. These figures speak to the challenge of talent retention and employee engagement, illustrating that a troubling percentage of employees who feel undervalued move on to what they hope will be greener pastures.

But what of the productivity of those that remain? Discretionary effort is directly linked to feeling valued. If you believe that your efforts matter, then you will be less likely to leave and more likely to invest greater effort into your job each day. The authors of 12: The Elements of Great Managing drew on ten million workplace interviews to prepare their New York Times bestselling book. Their findings show that variations in recognition and praise account for ten to twenty percent differences in productivity and revenue, as well as customer engagement.

“In one investment firm, the difference between one third of its investors feeling recognized and half feeling that way represented an eleven per cent difference in revenue – millions of dollars in play.” Their findings reinforce the numerous studies that cite the same fact: employee recognition matters. Recognition and praise in the workplace are not just ‘nice-to-have,’ they are a necessary good business practice. William James – influential psychologist and philosopher – recognized this long ago when he stated that “The deepest human need is the need to be appreciated.” How this translates within your company cannot afford to be overlooked.

Key Criteria For A Successful Social Recognition Program

  • A collaborative environment with two- way dialogue around the recognition process.
    This allows any employee to extend a story that has previously been published. As employees contribute comments they:
    – Retain and extend corporate knowledge around specific contributions and milestones;
    – Promote social capital, meaning praise and acknowledgment are not confined to top-down communications within corporate and departmental boundaries; and
    – Build deeper connections to the mission and purpose of the organization.
  • A browseable and searchable space that aggregates all recognition.
    While systems to capture documents and other resources that benefit organizations have been in place for years, what has been missing is significant. Milestones, events and the people tied to these events that make the company a great place for employees and customers have consistently been lost to the corporate knowledge base. Aggregating all recognition transforms recognition into a business resource for finding the people within the company who have the required peer- validated skills when they are needed most.
  • Public recognition and visibility.
    By celebrating in a public forum the types of activities that your company wants to promote, you reinforce your corporate culture. You create a repository of stories that would otherwise go untold or remain hidden. By sharing stories about one’s co-workers within the Social Intranet, the recognition moment becomes a personal, social, and highly interactive event to be valued by the recipient and appreciated by the community.
  • Customized reporting to answer questions unique to your organization.
    Built in reports help you understand how your social recognition program is being used. They can also reveal who the go-to people are in your organization as well as those with managerial qualities.

How Non-Monetary Peer-to-Peer Recognition Pays

  • Provides Public Validation
    Recognition by your peers makes you feel valued, and does so in a significant way. This is because only your peers truly understand the skill, time and effort of the finished project. Although others may appreciate the result your peers recognize the process, and this recognition is especially validating.
  • Increases Talent Retention and Productivity
    If you believe that your efforts matter, then you’ll be less likely to leave and more likely to make greater contributions. Non-monetary social recognition builds employee engagement, which is proven to increase retention and discretionary effort.
  • Reinforces Corporate Culture
    Peer-to-peer recognition programs build institutional memory, serving as a repository of stories that would otherwise go untold. The act of publicly celebrating these stories helps to shape the culture of the company.
  • Improves Talent Spotting
    When your peers recognize your contributions your successes are seen by the entire company. The sender also benefits by visibly demonstrating managerial skills.
  • Fosters Collaboration
    Allowing praise and recognition to be shared out in the open creates a rich gallery of stories that can be searched and browsed by anyone.
  • Inspires and Energizes Employees
    It doesn’t take much to say “thank you” for a job well done. Yet the impact of those two words can be astounding, changing the way employees feel about themselves and their work.
  • Streamlines Processes
    Ongoing peer-to-peer recognition removes the bottleneck often experienced when already busy managers are the required starting point for recognition.
  • Builds Community
    The achievement system brings everyone together, to work towards a mutual goal that drives employee engagement to meet strategic goals.

Non-monetary social recognition programs provide short and long-term benefits. They deliver a win-win situation. Not only are they far less expensive than traditional monetary rewards programs, they are also proven to be more effective in engaging and motivating knowledge workers than traditional monetary incentives.

Steven Green is the founder of PollStream Inc., – a leading provider of interactive engagement and community building solutions. Steven built PollStream with the intention of helping global companies to engage their customers and employees in measurable and meaningful two-way dialogue. As a result he has become a valuable resource to key decision makers as they explore the growing field of online dialogue and social media. With an impressive roster of clients, such as The US Navy, TD Bank, GE Capital, and Best Buy, Steven continues to grow PollStream’s reputation as an innovator of online solutions designed to segment, engage and inform. He has a BA from McGill University in Montreal and a Social Work degree from York University in Toronto.

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