Think about the best job you ever had. Probably one of the reasons why you loved it was because of the relationships you had with your peers. You spend an extraordinary amount of time with your coworkers, and knowing that they appreciate and respect you has a direct influence on your motivation.
While most companies encourage manager and leadership feedback, they neglect the power of peer-to-peer recognition. Not only does peer recognition boost team morale and enhance engagement, it also increases productivity, improves customer service, and decreases absenteeism. These all ultimately have a dramatic impact on your bottom line.
This post will explain what peer-to-peer recognition is, how it can benefit your company, and give suggestions and best practices for creating a culture of recognition.
What is peer-to-peer recognition?
Peer-to-peer recognition is the act of acknowledging another employee’s skills, deliverables, or talent. Usually people think of recognition coming from their boss, but positive feedback from peers can be just as powerful. Peers are ‘in the trenches’ with each other and know the unique, day-to-day obstacles and challenges. This deeper understanding can make peer recognition especially meaningful.
Why peer-to-peer recognition matters
Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, authors of Leading with Gratitude, found that 67 percent of managers think they are above average in offering praise and recognition to their employees but only 23 percent of their workers agree. How can you bridge this gap? Although peer-to-peer recognition might seem insignificant to some, it carries more impact company-wide than you may suspect. Below are top reasons why peer-to-peer recognition matters.
- Enhance company culture: Peer-to-peer recognition can establish a more collaborative, empathetic work environment. When you recognize a peer, you help them feel appreciated and more confident. Peer-to-peer recognition strengthens connection among teammates and helps people feel like a sense of belonging.
- Fosters diversity and inclusion: Peer-to-peer recognition is one way that companies can emphasize diversity and inclusion Encouraging employees to publicly recognize teammates for the unique skills and experiences they bring to the table starts to create a sense of connection and belonging. Not only that, peers can recognize others who are living out D&I values, such as running Employee Resource Groups or working on D&I initiatives. Organizations can even have specific company values around D&I incorporated into their recognition program. Recognition ensures employees are getting recognized often and being valued for not just their work, but their uniqueness as well.
- Strengthens team morale: Positive work relationships are crucial to keeping your employees happy. During times of crisis and changes in the workplace, these relationships become tougher to uphold. Peer recognition can help increase employee morale by enabling colleagues to extend words of support and appreciation to another on an everyday basis.
- Improves performance: According to Gartner, peer feedback can enhance performance by as much as 14 percent. A study from Harvard Business School also found that it can dramatically increase motivation and performance. Peer recognition can be little to no cost to your company, and yet it can yield a significant and measurable impact on performance and productivity.
- Increases employee engagement: It’s well-known that recognition is the leading driver of employee engagement. With more peer-to-peer recognition, employees feel motivated to produce better business outcomes, deliver better customer service experiences, and uphold a positive workplace culture.
- Boosts profits and ROI: Gallup research shows that companies with highly engaged workforces have a 21 percent increase in profitability and a 1 percent increase in engagement leads to an additional 6 percent growth in sales. Employee recognition can have dramatic effects on employee wellness, happiness, and, therefore, output. Harvard Business Review purports that when a program was implemented in which workers’ strengths are recognized by managers, it resulted in happier workers and a 14 to 29 percent increase in profits.
- Empowers managers and leaders: Employees look to their managers to set the tone of their work relationship. As many as 58 percent of employees report that their manager relationship would improve with more recognition. Peer-to-peer recognition empowers managers to see how their teams are working together and to have opportunities to build stronger, high-quality teams. If peer-to-peer recognition is low, managers can step in and figure out a way to boost employee morale. When peer-to-peer recognition is high, managers can celebrate their team’s wins and continue building on positive team culture..
- Decreases employee turnover: Disturbingly, 64 percent of employees say they may leave their jobs. Why? One of the top reasons is a “lack of recognition” (19 percent). Retention has been an ongoing issue for employers, so building a culture where peers feel appreciated is paramount.
Peer-to-peer recognition best practices and ideas
There are clear advantages to peer-to-peer recognition, but it can be daunting to get started. Here are ways to build an effective peer recognition program in your organization.
1. Have a recognition program in place
Do you have a recognition program in place? If not, it’s time to start building a business case for one. If you do, does your program include peer-to-peer recognition? Organizations that include peer-to-peer recognition as a component of their overall recognition initiatives rate their programs as more effective than those that don’t. Also, it’s important to note that nearly two in three organizations include peer-to-peer recognition in their program. Your recognition tools must make peer-to-peer recognition fun and easy for employees—with the ability to send recognition from anywhere, anytime. It also should promote your company values by enabling employees to tie each recognition to a particular value. Peers who recognize each other publicly for activities related to core values inspire others to do the same.
Recognition platforms that give users the opportunity to send real-time, public recognition from anywhere is particularly valuable. The software should also provide data and insights that help continuously improve your program.
2. Use a single employee recognition platform
Another important aspect of a recognition platform is its ability to integrate with other systems. Recognition platforms should be infused with programs that enable employees to do their best work. By centralizing HR staples, such as Workday, Microsoft Outlook, and more, you can increase employee productivity and create a seamless user experience. Outside of improving the user experience, consolidation alleviates headaches for administrators. Instead of managing multiple systems separately, admins will simply set up API integrations. This is especially helpful for companies looking to combine several recognition programs into one global program and platform.
One example of the importance of a single platform is Power Design Inc., a leading electrical contractor. Power Design Inc. already had a few recognition programs, but each operated separately. This caused a lot of manual work for their HR department as the company scaled, and it was tough for employees to consolidate these recognitions during review cycles. After implementing a comprehensive recognition platform, 89 percent of Power Design’s employees were active on the platform, and 7 percent of employees log in at least once a month.
A truly great recognition platform increases adoption by more than 80 percent. But, the right platform will only get you so far—you have to actively encourage its ongoing use and adoption. A common misstep is companies put in the work to get budget spend for a program but then don’t follow up on a success strategy after its launch. Without a dedicated owner to encourage ongoing use and adoption, the platform will eventually become a ghost town.
3. Ensure recognition is inclusive
Everyone should have the chance to give and receive recognition. Surprisingly, in companies that have effective recognition practices, only 34 percent give recognition that is inclusive. You must establish an inclusive culture in order for employees to develop trust and a sense of connection and belonging. Allowing all employees to recognize peers encourages them to find a community within your company where they feel supported and valued.
While it’s important to encourage employees to partake in your recognition program, participation should be voluntary, not mandatory. Mandatory recognition feels disingenuous; employee recognition should be authentic and come from the heart. Even small acts of recognition can create a multiplier effect and cause more employees to recognize and motivate each other. What gets recognized gets repeated. The more you make recognition inclusive, the closer you are to maximizing this ripple effect to build a true culture of recognition across the entire workplace. Remember to empower your employees to recognize another and offer them the freedom to send customized recognitions anytime, anywhere.
4. Give public recognition
Make sure that you leverage a platform that enables public recognition, like a company-wide newsfeed. Public recognition offers a special spotlight on employees that private recognition simply can’t deliver on. Through a company-wide newsfeed, peers can easily stay updated on every recognition sent in real-time. They can also show additional support by jumping in on each recognition and adding a “like”, comment, or boost (aka the ability to reward points). Recognizing people publicly encourages recipients (and others who see the recognition) to participate and emulate exemplary behavior.
Meijer grocery store chain uses a public recognition platform to reinforce a culture of peer-to-peer recognition. One of their Customer Service Team Members, Sam De Haan, says, “when I get recognition on mteam, it makes me feel like I’m a part of a team.” Another Garden Center Team Member, Carol Anderson says that she “loves giving a recognition on mteam because I love paying it forward.”
Meijer leverages peer-to-peer recognition to drive business success.
This energy shows in Meijer’s numbers. Since launching their platform, they’ve had over 10 million recognition moments, and individual users on mteam are receiving an average of 7.7 recognitions each month. Today, every Meijer user receives an average of 7.7 recognitions each month.
“The best stat of all is that 92 percent of our total population, over 70,000 team members, have received a recognition.” – Michael Rotelle, SVP of Human Resources, Meijer
5. Practice frequent recognition
Currently, only 25 percent of companies are giving recognition frequently. Frequency of recognition matters – if recognitions are sent only once every few months (or worse, only once per year), the impact will be miniscule. To truly build a culture of recognition, recognition must be frequent and given in real-time. If you wait too long to send a recognition, it can lose meaning to the recipient.
According to Brandon Hall Group’s Pulse Survey, organizations that rate their culture of recognition highly are 2.25 times more likely to give frequent recognition. Businesses that give frequent recognition are also 41 percent more likely to see increased employee retention and 34 percent more likely to see increased employee engagement. In addition, overall engagement is expected to go up five percentage points every time companies double the number of recognitions in their organization. To produce similar outcomes, choose recognition technology that makes it easy to recognize peers at any time, in any place, on any device.
General Motors (GM) is an example of a company that practices frequent recognition. GM launched their platform to an enormous user base—67,000 employees across 26 countries. Due to GM’s emphasis on frequent peer-to-peer recognition, their platform achieved a 97 percent activation rate. Moreover, 7 out of 10 employees are active in the program monthly, and every employee receives at least 1 recognition per month. Even more impressive, leaders at GM send an average of 4 recognitions per month.
6. Be specific when sending recognition
Peer-to-peer recognition is best when it’s specific. When training staff recognition best practices, urge them to explain what their peers did in detail. Be specific when describing the desired behavior and personalize your message. The last thing an employee wants is to receive the same thank you message that was given to hundreds of other people. Further, the recognition should tie back to a specific company value so employees can easily see the connection between their action and your company’s values. Descriptive recognitions deliver results. If recognized, 92 percent of employees will repeat their behavior and 90 percent of employees will be motivated to work harder.
7. Encourage leadership to model peer-to-peer recognition
When leaders model desired behavior, employees are more likely to follow suit. Too often, managers exclusively focus on helping their team figure out what to do next. People in upper level roles should lead by example, recognizing team success and taking pride in the team’s work.
It’s shocking that only one in three organizations train employees in how, when, and why to recognize their peers. Moreover, only half of those organizations report that they offer recognition training to managers. Practices should flow from the “top-down”, so train your managers to give meaningful recognition in real-time and on a frequent basis. Start teaching managers the value of recognition and how they are expected to participate in leadership training sessions. Also consider adding one-click recognitions so leaders simply can’t use the excuse that they’re “too busy” to recognize employees.
Below are a few examples of companies that are leading by example when it comes to leadership recognition.
- Bill Gosling Outsourcing is a great example when it comes to having c-suite leaders encourage peer-to-peer recognition and lead by example. CEO David Rae was featured in a thank you video message that was shared across their social media platforms during Employee Appreciation Week. As a result, Bill Gosling’s total unique recognitions skyrocketed by 619.6 percent on their recognition platform.
- Availity, the nation’s largest real-time health information network, is a wonderful example of a company that trains their managers effectively. During their recognition and rewards platform rollout, they encouraged senior leadership to participate and now leadership participation is at a full 100 percent.
- Bayhealth’s executive team made it a priority to lead by example when they introduced their recognition platform. Post-launch, 97 percent of Bayhealth’s leaders are active in the recognition program, Driven, at least one a month. This activity had a direct impact on the Bayhealth workforce—98 percent of employees activated their Driven account. Today, 84 percent of employees use Driven on a monthly basis, and Bayhealth’s employee engagement scores went up 0.11 points in the first year alone to 3.79 (on a scale of 1 to 5).
8. Leverage social and monetary recognition
Employees who feel recognized are more likely to promote their employer’s brand, contribute to company-wide goals, and go above and beyond their daily responsibilities. Social recognition is a must-have when it comes to making employees feel appreciated. In fact, one social recognition a month increased employee engagement 43 percent. Additionally, an Aptitude Research Partners study showed that companies that invested in social recognition doubled individual employee performances, doubled their NPS scores, and saw a four times improvement in stock prices.
In addition to social recognition, it’s also important to leverage points-based recognition. Employees receive a certain number of points each month that they can use to recognize their peers. Once employees have built up enough points, the points can be redeemed for rewards of their choosing. This enables employees to personalize their rewards experience and pick gifts that are meaningful to them. Recognition technology that includes both a social and monetary component are often the most successful, as they are solutions that employees genuinely want to use.
Olympus, an innovative technology company, wanted to continue inspiring their incredible talent with a points-based recognition and rewards system. Just one year after implementing their recognition platform, Olympus saw a 100 percent increase in total points-based recognition given. Plus, Olympus saw an increase in positive engagement from 34 to 63 percent, and a 189 percent increase in the number of team members who provided recognition.
9. Celebrate milestones, work anniversaries, and more
It’s obviously important to celebrate work achievements, but major milestones, both personal and professional, should be celebrated too. Consider giving employees digital celebration cards they can use to recognize peers. Team members can sign and customize these cards with a special message of thanks. Birthdays and work anniversaries are also a perfect opportunity for team members to sign a digital card and host a team party. Managers should be recognition champions, coming up with innovative ways to praise employees for hitting big milestones in their life and work.
Many companies incorporate recognition for both professional and personal achievements. For instance, employees should recognize peers who have worked hard to finish college or certificate programs, buy a house, or complete a marathon. Some organizations even host quarterly recognition and rewards meetings to spotlight top performers. Regardless of the recognition method you choose, remember to encourage and empower employees to celebrate each others’ everyday wins and major milestones.
10. Deliver a fun recognition experience
Employees won’t adopt a recognition culture if it’s not fun. You want to make recognition an easy and engaging experience for employees. Make employees look forward to sending and receiving recognitions by allowing them to write custom messages and add fun imagery or even gifs. Give a social dynamic by having employees “like” or comment on other recognitions so that the person being recognized will feel even more appreciated.
Keeping recognition active and fresh is paramount to a highly adopted recognition and rewards program. Scotiabank used a two-week campaign to generate excitement about their recognition program. Their “Pay it Forward” campaign prompted employees to use any recognition they’d received as an opportunity to pay it forward and recognize another peer. Pay it Forward produced a 46 percent increase year-over-year for all activity on Scotiabank’s recognition platform. Plus, 20 percent of all employees sent more than one recognition during the campaign period, indicating that they prioritized peer recognition in their workday. Due to these strong results, Scotiabank has run the campaign two years in a row.
Bonus tip: Check out fun campaign ideas that major companies, such as Mercedes-Benz Canada and ESS, ran to boost peer-to-peer recognition activity during Employee Appreciation Week
Making a concerted effort towards designing a recognition experience that employees love will pay off. In fact, organizations that rate their culture of recognition highly are 79 percent more likely to give their employer brand a high rating and 2.5 times more likely to see increased employee engagement.
11. Send individual and team recognitions
Of course it’s important to recognize individuals, but make sure your recognition platform also permits team recognition. This makes for a more inclusive and democratized recognition and rewards environment. If your team has to stay up late for a new product launch, or put countless hours into revamping a sales process, take the time to recognize them. Recognition should encompass teams, business units, locations, and individuals. Practice sending both individual and team recognitions to ensure employees feel appreciated and valued everyday for their efforts.
12. Measure, measure, measure
Some metrics you might want to track in your peer-to-peer recognition platform are: number of peer recognitions sent and received, number of leaders active on the platform, activation rate, and trends in upticks or losses. If you notice slow activity, it could indicate that you need to think of more creative ways to get people excited about peer-to-peer recognition, or to check that the platform is user friendly and enjoyable for all. If it isn’t easy and fun, no one will want to use it.
On top of looking at recognition platform metrics, it’s equally, if not more, important to ensure you analyze your data to find any valuable correlations between recognition and your key business metrics, such as customer satisfaction and retention. Meijer and the research arm of Achievers, The Workforce Institute, collaborated on a data partnership to gather insights on Meijer’s new recognition and rewards program’s direct impact on business objectives.
Meijer found that the employees who stayed at the company received significantly higher recognition rates on average than those who left. Furthermore, employees who chose to leave Meijer were receiving statistically identical rates of recognition as those who were asked to leave the organization. Both of these outcomes demonstrate that recognition is an invaluable way to retain valued employees.
Recognition also positively affected customer satisfaction. Stores with higher recognition rates reported higher customer satisfaction overall. Increasing recognition from twice a month to twice a week yielded a 5 percent increase in customer satisfaction scores. This suggests that recognition has a direct impact on frontline employees’ quality of customer service, and on the company’s bottom line.
Get started with peer-to-peer recognition
No matter your industry or company size, peer-to-peer recognition can directly improve employee engagement, productivity, and retention. Often, the daily activities that keep your company afloat go unnoticed. You can counteract this imbalance by implementing an advanced platform that allows for fun, easy, and real-time employee recognition.
Achievers Recognize supports every step of the rewards process, from recognition, to approval, to reward redemption. In fact, HRO Today’s Baker’s Dozen Customer Satisfaction Ratings for Recognition identified Achievers as a top provider based on customer satisfaction surveys in the categories of service breadth, deal sizes, and quality of service. Achievers customers are 3.6 times more likely than customers of other providers to give recognition multiple times each month. Our customers are also 107 percent more likely to give their culture of recognition a high rating than organizations that don’t use recognition technology.
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