Today’s technology provides three key components to ensure a rewarding employee experience.
Research shows that modern employees, regardless of age, gender or industry, want to be recognized for a job well done. Despite this desire—and the fact that SHRM research finds 76 percent of companies have recognition programs—a 2014 survey from BambooHR found that nearly 82 percent of employees don’t think they’re recognized for their work as often as they deserve. But technology is helping to solve this problem. Today’s recognition platforms are designed to make delivering, streamlining, and tracking company-wide recognition efforts more intuitive.
“Rewards and recognition act as a primary feedback mechanism for organizations to communicate their vision and goals to staff, not to mention a tool to create positive feedback loops within teams to encourage successful behaviors,” says Cord Himelstein, head of marketing for Michael C. Fina Recognition. “Recognition platforms give management several tools and channels to accomplish this with minimal administration.”
What should HR teams look for from a platform? There are some key features that help ensure more efficient recognition management and easy implementation.
Configurability. Given the diverse needs and approaches to recognition that today’s companies have, it is increasingly important for recognition platforms to be highly configurable in order to accommodate.
Instead of pre-built platforms that offer only minimal customizations—such as changing the site’s logo, color, or text—organizations have the opportunity to Bring a more unique, employer-branded experience to employees.
“From a client perspective, they should be looking for solutions that have the ability to do multi-budget capabilities, multi-program capability…and ultimately, [are] highly configurable so that the solution can turn components on and off depending on how they want to use them,” says Alex Alaminos, managing director of Madison Recognition.
“So for example, you have social recognition, which is available through most recognition products, but…a global company may find that social recognition is very applicable to their U.S. audience but not applicable to an EU audience. So being configurable and able to turn [features] on and off means that [the organization] can use social recognition for the U.S. but have it off for Germany because of their data privacy concerns.”
If customization is a priority, organizations should look for a platform that is highly configurable and can be catered to an organization’s specific vision for recognition.
Ferguson Enterprises, the largest supplier of residential and commercial plumbing supplies in the U.S., is one company that has successfully leveraged a configurable recognition platform to its advantage. When they began working with Michael C. Fina Recognition in 2007, they already had systems in place to recognize service awards, sales incentives, safe driving, warehouse management, and performance. In 2013, the organization wanted to relaunch the program to fill in recognition gaps. They were also looking to use technology to tie these pieces together and increase engagement.
A customized recognition platform allowed the organization to consolidate those programs and add a peer-to-peer eCard component. In 2016, the organization reported a 52 percent increase of on-the-spot recognition.
This is just one example of configurability at work. Jeff Gelinas, vice president for product and people for Engage2Excel, recommends using systems that use points and level-based currencies, where the value of the points toward recognition can be adjusted by the client. These systems allow employees to accumulate points for performance and receive specific awards for career milestones, but the types of achievements that warrant points and the nature of the rewards are for the company to decide.
Taking this approach also ensures that as an organization continues to grow and evolve—and its recognition needs possibly change—the recognition platform can be adjusted accordingly.
Mobile-mindedness. According to a 2015 report from Pew Research Center, 64 percent of adults in the U.S. now own smartphones, and 45 percent own tablet computers. This number grows every year, and employees use these devices to access a wealth of information not only at home but also at work.
“With the expansion of work-at-home positions and global work forces, the need for mobile technology that works in tandem with the desktop or laptop computer interface is a necessity,” explains Patrick Elalouf, chief information officer for Rideau. “Mobile-friendly recognition platforms allow your employees to feel part of the team no matter where they actually sit. Sometimes employees no longer want or need laptops to do their jobs so the technology piece of your recognition program has to keep up with the changing ways we do business.”
Thus, it is mission-critical to make sure that the selected recognition platform is designed with mobile-use in mind. This may translate to using an app for managing and delivering recognition or it could be as simple as ensuring that all versions of the recognition portal page are consistent—no matter what type of device someone uses to access it.
“Mobile technology is increasingly important for the employee experience, as employees bring their consumer experiences to work and expect to encounter the same ease of use in their workplace applications,” Gelinas says. “It’s not enough for recognition technology to be mobile-friendly; recognition systems must be mobile responsive so that the experience is consistent across all devices.”
Gelinas also adds that when it comes to implementing technology in the recognition space—and in the HR space in general—simplicity is key. A good recognition platform keeps online forms simple without sacrificing features and functionality and makes it easy to recognize employees or coworkers for their work.
Social recognition. Peer-to-peer recognition—also called social recognition—isn’t necessarily new, but the push for more collaborative recognition experiences has become more pronounced. According to research produced by Globoforce and SHRM, companies that use peer-to-peer recognition see a 57 percent increase in engagement. There are also positive correlations between peer-to-peer recognition and customer satisfaction, retention, and financial returns.
What’s more, Globoforce’s 2014 Employee Engagement Report found that 44 percent of employees give peer-to- peer recognition when they have an easy tool to do so, but only 14 percent of companies are supplying these tools. This represents a serious disconnect between what employees want—not to mention what is most effective in driving engagement—and the recognition resources that employers are providing.
“Today, you find that most of these solutions have social recognition: I recognize you, and that recognition is visible to the organization and others can comment on it with additional recognition and ‘likes.’ That also enhances the recognition experience and ultimately drives ROI in the program,” Alaminos says.
Likewise, peer-to-peer recognition adds an ever-important social element to the recognition puzzle. It generates buzz throughout the organization about the recognition program, which in turn, drives engagement and promotes a culture of ongoing appreciation. In an ideal scenario, a recognition program should also allow employees to share their achievements and the achievements of their coworkers on external social media platforms.
“In today’s height of social media, there needs to be a social features baked into all recognition platforms,” Kimberly Abel-Lanier, vice president and general manager of Culture Next at Maritz Motivation Solutions, says. “Whether it’s creating internal social networks or the ability to socialize accomplishments outside of the platform via other social media platforms, people today like to share their successes with others and receive positive feedback and responses.”
All of these features—mobile-mindedness, configurability, and peer-to-peer components—have the potential to make recognition technology more effective than ever before, but the ability of this technology to measure its own effectiveness is almost more important.
Evaluating the ROI of recognition programs has historically been, and continues to be, a major challenge for many organizations—so much so that 20 percent of respondents in a study conducted by SHRM said their company’s recognition program focuses only on the ultimate results without taking into consideration how the results were achieved.
But the design of recognition technology can address this problem, specifically by incorporating clear, comprehensive reporting tools and dashboards that help measure data at all stages of program maturity.
“The reality among today’s recognition program owners is that while many want to measure program effectiveness and ROI, few actually know how to,” Abel-Lanier says. “Tracking baseline data like platform engagement can provide insight into who is participating in the program, frequency of participation, and how they are using it. More mature programs should be able to report out on individual program activity, transactions, and outcomes.”
Abel-Lanier adds that as a recognition program evolves, its focus should shift to results and link key performance indicators to strategic business objectives.
Data For Better ROI
Patrick Elalouf, chief information officer for Rideau, says there are keys to demonstrating sought-after ROI of recognition programs. Technology provides tools that help give effective recognition, but certain information can help organizations understand their programs and measure that investment.
To achieve this, Elalouf recommends to organizations that are working with recognition partners:
• Complete a full diagnostic review.
• Speak to everyone who has a major stake in the recognition plan, including the C-suite, line managers and employees.
• Understand current recognition challenges.
• Evaluate recognition programs and find out how employees feel about them.
• Understand how the programs links to the company’s vision, mission, and values.
• Use all of the above information to conduct a custom gap analysis.