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!

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