Give People Social Badges To Increase Engagement

If any of you were ever in Boy Scouts or Girl Guides, or you currently have children in these programs now, you’ll be familiar with merit badges.

A merit badge is typically a round or geometric shaped material badge, with a symbolic image, representing more than a 100 achievement areas. You can learn about sports, crafts, trades, the outdoors, business and many other areas.

They are awarded to youth based on fulfilling a required list of activities and study in any chosen area.

Does anyone remember when Microsoft® Xbox 360 came on the scene back in 2005? That is when they first introduced the idea of digital badges as an achievement system within online games.

Badges are all the rage in the world of gamification with playing video games and online learning.

Today, digital badges use visual representation of real-world accomplishments such as running marathons or with certifying learning on instructional sites like Khan Academy.

I would advocate that badges are a great way to acknowledge people for living company values and accomplishing specific strategic goals.

What is the benefit from incorporating badges into your online recognition programs?

Benefits of Recognition Badges

In researching badges in social media, Yahoo! researchers, Judd Antin and Elizabeth Churchill, provide five social psychological functions of badges in social media contexts, which I think we can apply to employee recognition programs too.

1. Goal setting cue. Badges with recognition programs can be used as a motivator for people to aspire to receive. Seeking the goal that merits receiving the badge becomes the primary reward for the individual. It at least becomes another option to consider in recognizing people for living values, or for achieving specific milestones and strategic goals.

2. Learning and instruction. Badges display the expectation and social norms for the type of behavior and activities you want to encourage by them. It creates a social shaping of desired behaviors even if people do not obtain a specific badge.

3. Positive reputation. Obtaining badges helps build a reputation for the recipient of their desires and interests and their level of engagement within the organization. The badges become an indirect measure of a person’s level of involvement and commitment to various skills sets and attributes.

4. A status symbol. Yes, badges can actually motivate as a status symbol. This power, or image, comes from the expectation that others will look more favorably upon them for performing the activity represented by the badge.

5. Group identification. It’s easy to forget that once several employees obtain the same badges they’re automatically part of an elite community. This positive group identification helps to promote increased cooperation and collaboration in the workplace.

Consider incorporating social badges into your employee recognition programs.

Question: What organizational behaviors and activities would be great places to integrate badges with?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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