There is no doubt face-to-face recognition given in a meaningful and personalized way will always outshine the text-based recognition given through most online recognition programs.
But can technology driven recognition programs actually enable daily recognition practices?
I will show you some ways how technology-based recognition programs can enhance regular recognition giving where you work.
Recognition Program Criteria
I have written elsewhere on establishing foundational criteria for your recognition programs so that they do what you planned for them to achieve. Check out these perspectives and see what might need to change in your organization.
- It is important to align all your recognition practices and programs with your organizational culture so that your values are driving recognition giving, and recognition reinforces your culture. To keep recognition alive and well it must also be aligned with your business strategy, so recognition is seen as a tool to reinforce strategic initiatives.
- If there is one common complaint that leaders and recognition program owners give me is the lack of consistency in using the programs. One state-side agency had only 6 percent of their leaders take part in sending out ecard expressions of appreciation to staff on employee appreciation day. Leadership needs to set a personal standard and commitment in leading the way with using recognition programs and being exemplary recognition givers in practice.
- Put a focus on the quality of recognition that is given. You well know that I am a strong advocate for eliminating saying, “good job” or “well done.” Teach and encourage everyone to be more specific in identifying the positive behaviors and actions performed by people. Remind people to tell the people they are recognizing the impact or difference their actions made on others.
- And speaking of impact, it is important that your recognition programs provide more than just descriptive and diagnostic analytics. They must be designed to produce predictive and prescriptive analytics that lead to transformation of people and performance.
Humanizing Recognition Technology
It was back in 1997 at the Macworld Expo, Apple co-found Steve Jobs said, “One of the things I’ve always found is that you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.” Similarly, you must look at the employee experience with recognition and work backwards to ensure the recognition programs designed to create a meaningful recognition experience for everyone.
- In one example, I could influence our recognition program design to reflect how we typically prefer to communicate recognition when in person. It is important to not ignore the power of in person recognition and to strive to replicate that online.
- Allowing people to share the recognition with others allows the expansion of the recognition strength of others to magnify the recognition experience. If there is a positive relationship strength between giver and receiver of recognition, then the recognition experience is more highly valued.
- Short-form video messaging allows people to communicate on a more personal level via the recognition technology. This gives people the tools to replicate face-to-face recognition and still track that recognition was given to someone.
- Take extra care to capture fond memories and gratitude of your experiences with an individual when sending them an ecard message on their career milestone anniversary. It makes the difference between keeping a message sent or forgetting it.
People Watch Recognition
In just the same way as employees put a label on their leader or manager whether they are a good recognizer face-to-face or not, they do exactly the same thing watching people’s usage of recognition programs.
- Employees will monitor the consistency of how well their managers use your organization’s recognition programs. Employees will remember if you recognized them on their non-milestone and their milestone anniversaries. Even if you recognized them, how well was it delivered?
- Share the observations you make at work or relayed by others as part of the shared story experience you use in your recognition expressions. Become a storyteller with brief captures of positive memories and sharing the outcome of an employee’s positive actions.
- Don’t just be the thumbs-up “like” person. Take the time to add a personal comment to other people’s recognition of their peers. Clicking the like button takes no time at all. Adding a message shows caring and an investment of time.
- Be positive in your choice of words communicating recognition both online and offline. Remember that online recognition creates a permanent record of what you say to people. Work at using strong positive words like amazing or exceptional.
- Don’t just state the obvious like “Congratulations on your 5th Anniversary with the company.” Add warmth and genuine appreciation for the person’s contributions to the company. Otherwise, they will not perceive you as a good recognizer of people.
Strategy Behind Recognition
All recognition programs should have a strategy and goals behind them, so then you know how well your organization’s recognition programs are doing. Your recognition strategy will help set goals to be achieved by your communications team and by learning and development.
- Ensuring people and performance indicators are communicated out and accessible to managers gives more timely observations for managers to recognize their direct reports. Get whatever HR and Talent management systems understood and used properly to maximize recognition opportunities.
- Create your programs for your formal award nominations so they are submitted and adjudicated online and make it a seamless process that is transparent and quickly done.
- Review and search out recognized employees online and encourage leaders to consider specific employees for nominations for any of your informal or formal award programs.
- Consider how the text mining from your programs can reveal insights on employees’ performance and unique tasks completed that might merit greater trust, empathy, and responsibility within the organization.
Embedding Recognition Everywhere
My research has shown that recognition practices are three times more effective than recognition programs in driving people metrics like employee engagement and retention. But combined, imagine the impact they can have.
- Many organizations start off their meetings with kudos and shout outs on stellar performance and actions from staff. Make the first round of announcement online with recognition via ecards or your social recognition platform before publicly announcing.
- Meet with your direct report managers and supervisors once a week to learn about the amazing actions and behaviors displayed by staff that week. Recognize these same employees and give them second-hand compliments on your recognition programs. In this way, offline recognition practices lead to online use of recognition programs.
- With your above-and-beyond, best-of-the-best award programs, use every available communication medium to promote and encourage manager and peer submissions. Do whatever you can to make any type of recognition as visible as possible, whether on your in-house digital TVs or in your emailed newsletters. Increase the visibility of recognition everywhere.
- When onboarding your new hires give them the tools and instructions for how to recognize those staff who made them feel most welcome to the organization. Include in their onboarding welcome gift a branded thank-you card and pen to write a note to someone. Send them a video link on how they can use the online recognition programs and send an ecard to someone to thank them.
Reinforcing Recognition Giving
Technology must become a positive reinforcer of recognition giving. Think of ways you can integrate recognition programs in supporting recognition practices and vice versa.
- Usage of your online recognition programs generates analytics and reports to identify who is strong, and who is not, at recognizing their employees. Create accountability with these recognition results in your performance reviews and with your one-on-one with direct reports.
- Set up your recognition programs to notify users if they have not used them at all in a month. You could get more granular with managers using the analytics to notify them when they fall below the average usage for each of your programs.
- Make sure your programs have a leaderboard on who is an exemplary user of your various programs. Draw on these super users to share in leadership meetings their practices and habits to recognize their staff offline and online, and the benefits they have seen from consistently recognizing people.
- Set up a chatbot for people to sign up for and receive recognition tips and recommendations for becoming better and more frequent at giving meaningful and effective recognition to one another. Monitor the progress and benefits from this system and share results at leadership meetings.
Pick just one section of this post and explore activating the principles outlined in your organization with your recognition practices and programs.
Recognition Reflection: Do you feel the technology behind your recognition programs enhances recognition giving?
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.
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