Thursday, May 30, 2013

Getting Social with IBM Connections

Our goal of making it easy to celebrate great work the moment it happens took a huge step forward this week. 

We are thrilled to announce that we integrated our social recognition platform with IBM ConnectionsIDC has named Connections the #1 Worldwide Market Leader in Social Software four years in a row.

What this means aside from KangoGift being named a "Ready for Social Business" Partner is that organizations can easily turn on an employee recognition solution that captures, amplifies, and measures the workforce without much effort.

Now from Connections, if a colleague went above and beyond on a project, you can say thank you, include real gift like dinner at Macaroni Grill, share the praise with your network, and add a positive data point to the colleague's performance dashboard. 

We know from working with large organizations, that employees crave a way to give timely praise and reinforce great work. And the ability to attach a small gift strengthens the impact. And with this integration, companies don't have to implement a stand alone recognition platform. 

As companies embrace smarter workforce strategies, we are proud to bring our approach of capturing timely performance data and using that information to assess engagement, high performing employees, and uncover those ripe for a promotion. Maybe someday our recognition data will feed into IBM's Watson to help HR departments manage teams. 

We made a video highlighting how it all works or feel to check out our site to learn more

Thank you to everyone on the IBM team for embracing social HR and for working closely with us to bring our recognition product to companies.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Two Most Important Words

The title of this post comes from a recent article by Robert Eckert, the former CEO of Mattel, who suggested the two most powerful words in the workplace are - Thank You. 

Those familiar with KangoGift know that we strongly believe in the power of thank you and don't think it's said often enough at work. For us this is strange given how simple it is to take a moment to show appreciation to a colleague, peer, manager, or team member.

A lot of research on employee engagement, corporate culture, and high performing teams suggests that timely and public praise can reap expected and surprising benefits. Yet, while many companies cite employee engagement as a core area of opportunity, HR teams struggle with fostering a thank you culture. 

While there may not be a magical solution, Eckert's five tips on recognition are effective, simple, and come from a CEO who helped bring Mattel into Fortune's Great Places to Work list

  • Set aside time every week to acknowledge people’s good work.
  • Handwrite thank-you notes whenever you can. The personal touch matters in the digital age.
  • Punish in private; praise in public. Make the public praise timely and specific.
  • Remember to cc people’s supervisors. “Don’t tell me. Tell my boss.”
  • Foster a culture of gratitude. It’s a game changer for sustainably better performance.

We bolded the point about sharing the praise with a person's boss since this is one of the most common ways we've seen organizations adopt KangoGift. The ability to add a data point to an employee's on-going recognition statement and broadcast it to colleagues and a manager taps into the ROI of social tools. 

Managers we work with find it helpful to have a dashboard of who on their teams has been recognized and can offer unique insight into the contributions of the employees. It's common for us to hear, "I didn't know a member of my team helped the other department with a time sensitive project." 

These types of insights work wonders because it helps the employee shine at review time and the manager feels more informed about how their teams are working toward the goals of the organization.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Using the Science of Teamwork to Engage Employees

A recent Harvard Business Review article caught our attention for the way researchers at MIT sought to link a team's effectiveness to the way team members communicated. 

Alex "Sandy" Pentland head of MIT's Human Dynamics Lab noticed, "How we communicate turns out to be the most important predictor of team success, and as important as all other factors combined, including intelligence, personality, skill, and content of discussions. The old adage that it's not what you say, but how you say it, turns out to be mathematically correct."

This prompted us to think more deeply about the "how you say it" part of Pentland's comments. Given our focus on helping companies reward great work in timely ways, we wanted to share three broad trends we have seen which tap right into the HBR findings of how people are communicating at work.

1. Communicate Frequently 
Employee engagement is raised when feedback is delivered frequently and in a targeted way. While this sounds obvious, many organizations haven't equipped managers and employees with ways to deliver informal, frequent praise. 

Increasing the frequency in which your employees communicate can lead to interesting outcomes. 

One example is the effectiveness of the formal employee evaluation. The value of the formal review has declined over time and feels like an administrative obligation more than a chance to develop an employee in many organizations. The reason is that it no longer feels timely.  

These days employees are looking for ways to have on-going conversations around their work and how they can be developed. We call it the "real-time assessment" of how an employee is performing and developing to her goals. 

These conversations can happen with managers, peers, or cross functional team members. The important part is that feedback is given frequently. 

2. Communicate Openly 
IBM’s 2012 CEO Survey revealed that 57% of CEO’s identified social business as a top priority. Helping your employees collaborate, give feedback, and reward great work is becoming a social activity that has a direct business benefit. 

The ROI of open communication through the HR lens can be measured in employee retention, engagement, and productivity. 

Having the chance to amplify great work across teams and in a public way helps companies communicate their values in ways that were not available until recently. 

3. Big HR Data is Here 
In the same IBM survey, more than 73% of respondents indicated they are making significant investments to draw insights into data. 

While this isn't a "how" to communicate insight, we believe organizations that use structured ways to capture the informal communication that occurs among teams can be used to better understand the workforce. Consider this more of a "how to" so that organizations can mine the workplace data generated from these conversations. 

A traditional pat on the back, captured in a formal recognition system can create real time performance reviews of employees and their contributions. 

While technology is just a tool, making these tools natural extensions of how employees want to communicate leads to valuable insight from the analytics that are possible. 

Companies are becoming more social in the ways employees give feedback, share insight, and reward great work are changing. Helping your employees manage how they communicate can lead to developing a great and engaging culture. 

As the tools and ways we interact with our colleagues changes rapidly, Pentland's remarks may extend beyond teams to entire organizations.