Monday, February 20, 2012

The power of thanks… and using mobile gifting to reinforce it

Guest post by an HR leader from Boston

I love receiving positive feedback and thanks. It usually doesn’t matter what it’s for, who it’s from, or how I received it; I like knowing the work I do is appreciated. It puts a spring in my step, a smile on my face, and motivates me to do more. Not to mention the warm fuzzy feeling you get when someone, especially your boss, takes the time to say “Thank You.”

While the above is true for me, I wanted to know if it’s true for everyone else. Even though the answer seems obvious, I’m a data and numbers guy so I decided to research what empirical evidence I could find to prove it.

Shortly into my search, I found a ton of content from HR professionals or software companies telling me thanking someone will motivate them, increase the bottom line, and other great things. However, none of them provided any real data to back up their assumptions! I was disappointed but not deterred.  

So, I began researching psychological studies on the impact of thanks and gratitude and finally found proof that I’m not alone in my love of receiving thanks! Here is some of what I learned:

Paying it forward

Did you know that when you say thank you to someone they’re more inclined to help you or a stranger?  Adam Grant and Francesca Gino completed a study in 2010 where they demonstrated this. 

In their experiment, they started with 69 participants and asked them to provide feedback to Eric (a fictional person) on his cover letter. Eric then responded to everyone asking for additional feedback on his cover letter. In these responses, he thanked half the group for feedback already given and sent a neutral response to everyone else. 66% of those who received a thankful reply offered additional feedback compared to 32% of those who received the neutral reply. 

Pretty impressive to see that simply saying thank you increased people’s willingness to help by 100%!

In their next study, they had the same set-up with one exception.  One day after helping Eric the participants received an email from another fictional person (Steven) asking for help with his cover letter. 25% of those who received a neutral response from Eric also helped Steven. 55% of those who received a thankful response from Eric also helped Steven. 

Again, simply thanking people increased their willingness to help by over 100%.

I found this study to be fascinating. While I think we all know that when you thank someone they’re more inclined to help you again, I was surprised to see they were almost just as willing to help a complete stranger!

Now imagine this at your company.  If your employees regularly thank each other then think of the benefit you’ll receive when your employees pay it forward to your prospects and customers.

Improving your image

In 2007, Louisiana State University professors (Randle Raggio & Judith Folse) completed a study on nationwide advertisements run by the state of Louisiana thanking the country for their support in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. There were two rounds of surveys asking participants about their attitude towards Louisiana, including how greedy and ungrateful they thought Louisianans are. In total they had over 4000 completed surveys across all 50 states.

They learned that many things, like gender, residence, and so on impacted people’s perception of the state; however the greatest impact came from people who witnessed the thank you ads!  In every metric they were measuring, respondents who saw the ads were always more favorable towards the state than those who didn’t.  

Additionally, the more times participants saw those ads, the more favorable they were!

So, not only does thanking someone increase the chances they’ll pay it forward, it also improves your personal image!

Again, tying this to the work place, think about the positive image you can build by thanking people, both internal and external to your company.  You’ll not only increase your personal brand, but by thanking customers and prospects you’ll also improve your company’s image!

Reinforcing through mobile gifting

Professors Robert Emmons & Michael McCullough conducted a study in 2003 where several sample populations, from healthy people to those with neuromuscular disorders, kept journals of their mood, coping behaviors, health, life appraisals, and so on. 

Additionally, the populations were split into 3 groups where they would log in their journal one of the following: 

  •  Gratitude – this group regularly updated their journal with things they were grateful for
  •  Hassles – this group updated their journal with things that bothered or hassled them
  •  Neutral – this group updated their journal with a list of events that impacted them – could be positive or negative

In all populations, those in the gratitude group exhibited a heightened sense of well-being.  This was determined by looking at the other data logged in their journal, like mood and life appraisal.  In other words, these researchers showed that those who are regularly reminded of what they’re grateful for are generally happier and healthier!

So, what does this have to do with telling someone thanks?  Well, if you send a mobile gift, like a cupcake or gift card, then think what will happen when the recipient uses their gift.   It will remind them of the thanks you gave them.

You could go even further by giving gifts with more staying power (like a certificate, coffee mug, or a decoration for their desk) and when used it will continually remind the recipient of the thanks you gave them and the gratitude they felt.  So, something as small as a $5 gift could greatly increase the staying power of the benefits you get by saying those magical words…. “Thank You.”

So, let me end this post by thanking all of you for reading it! And let me say a big “THANK YOU” in advance for sharing this article with all your friends and co-workers J.

As always, I welcome any comments or feedback!  Let us know if you agree, disagree, have read other interesting studies, or anything else thanks related that you want to discuss.  Also, feel free to get in touch if you’re interested in learning more about social gifting software.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Three ways to keep Social Recognition meaningful

Social Recognition is a powerful way to promote culture, reward performance, provide real-time feedback, and more.  But what happens when people start recognizing their coworkers for minor or nonsensical things like “Your hair looks great today”?  Chances are you’ll find your employees stop paying attention, or even worse, stop participating all together!

Social Recognition can function like any currency, the more you put in the system, the less valuable it becomes.

Hopefully you won’t run into this problem, but if you do, here are 3 ways to fight back.

Educate your employees

One of the best ways to prevent or reduce overuse of recognition is to simply educate everyone. Clear up any confusion and make it clear what kind of recognition is useful and what is not.

To make the training effective, show examples of both good and bad recognition. Try to use real recognition given at your company or at least provide very relevant examples. The important thing here is that you’re providing very clear examples in order to remove confusion.  

You should also have guidelines to follow. Don’t make them hard and fast rules, but offer guidance to help people know what to recognize others for. The most common examples would be when someone embodies your company culture, goes above and beyond the call of duty, meets a difficult goal, helps out at a company event, assists someone outside their job function, and so on. Posting these guidelines in a visible spot can help show what people should give recognition for.

Lastly, reinforce this over time by highlighting some great recognition on a regular basis. You could share some real examples at company meetings, through an internal newsletter, or whatever channel you use to communicate to your employees. You may also want to consider recognizing people who give effective recognition!  

Have different levels of recognition

If you have a culture where people want to give recognition for every little thing, fighting it may not be wise, especially if it was difficult to gain adoption of a social recognition system across your organization.  Rather than try to introduce guidelines or require additional education, which could dampen everyone’s enthusiasm for the system, try introducing different levels of recognition.

The easiest way to do this is to keep the recognition digital – so it’s just a badge on a profile, or a publicly posted message.  Then when someone gets recognized for something more significant, give something tangible for it – like a certificate or cupcakes.  This tangible gift will make the recognition stand out more for the person receiving it and make it more visible to others.

You can go even further if you want, by giving big gifts (steak dinner for hitting a very difficult goal), small gifts (cupcakes for embodying company culture), and then keeping the minor recognition digital.  It’s up to you based on your budget and preference.  The key here is that you’re rewarding people for the real behavior you want while at the same time letting people have fun with your social recognition software.  

Recognition should have a real impact

In some corporate cultures, if social recognition doesn’t have a real impact on their job, then employees won’t take it seriously.  Fortunately there is a relatively simple fix – tie recognition into performance reviews!  If someone knows that the recognition they get will be visible to their manager and referenced during performance reviews, then it has a real impact on them.  

Please note, this does not mean you should look at the kind of recognition someone gives. Instead, focus on the recognition your employees get. Mention it in reviews and let the employee know that they’re getting a slightly bigger raise because multiple coworkers have consistently given them positive recognition.  

By giving social recognition this kind of attention, you’re demonstrating that it’s important, so people will participate. You’re also reinforcing the kind of behavior you want by reviewing recognition during reviews and making it clear what influenced their raise. Combined with a little education (as described above), it can go a long way in getting your employees to give real and useful recognition.

While we presented 3 ways to keep social recognition meaningful, there are definitely other strategies. Please feel free leave a comments and share other strategies you think will work or that you’ve actually implemented.

If you’re interested in learning more about social recognition or want to see what a social recognition system looks like then let us know!