Real-Time Rewards

How today’s technology is reinventing the way companies show appreciation.

By Audrey Roth

Ninety percent of adult Americans have mobile devices, and 58 percent of them are smartphones. Truth be told, this accessibility means a plethora of advantages to everyday life: You can check your email, pay your credit bill, and play Angry Birds, all while on the go. And this anytime access easily translates into helping global organizations connect with employees as well. Mobile connectivity provides another outlet to communicate with your workforce. So it’s no surprise that more and more organizations today are leveraging mobile to increase employee engagement through their recognition programs.

New technology, including mobile, expands the capabilities of recognition. Three benefits that mobile capabilities bring to the table are downright impressive:

Accessibility. Twenty-two percent of the global population has a smartphone, up from five percent in 2009. This means even more people have access on the go. Employees and managers alike have the opportunity to give recognition on the spot, at the click of a button, on the road, and in any time zone. “By having recognition on a mobile device you can actually nominate someone when you think about it or when you see good work happening,” says Charlie Ungashick, chief marketing officer for Globoforce. “The fact that you’ve got a notification on your mobile phone, just like a notification that you’ve got a new tweet, or an email, makes recognition just as easy as replying back to somebody or checking on an update on Instagram.”

Accessibility allows managers to recognize as they see fit—no more waiting for that formal professional landmark to acknowledge employees. “It doesn’t need to have a monetary component or reward tied to it, just the simple act of recognizing someone on your team for doing great work. Mobile has completely made that possible,” says Razor Suleman, founder and chief achiever for Achievers. “We took away the excuse from managers of, ‘I don’t have time, or I wasn’t in front of my computer.’ Everyone’s got a smartphone in their pocket.”

This easy access is even more beneficial for organizations where employees are not consistently at a computer— workers in a manufacturing plant, a dealership, or a retail store. “It provides employees that aren’t necessarily tied to a work station an opportunity to access recognition, and also provide and give recognition on a timely basis,” says John O’Brien, vice president, employee performance group, of BI WORLDWIDE.

 

Usage. The combination of accessibility with a simple user experience has led to a skyrocket in usage of recognition on mobile devices. “We’ve seen mobile usage on our platform increase by 212 percent over the past year. It’s just been on fire,” says Suleman.

Mobile analytics provider Flurry found that between January and March of this year, time spent in applications accounts for 86 percent of average mobile use opposed to 14 percent of use on the mobile web. The provision of an application to use the recognition program makes the user experience more enjoyable, inevitably promoting the increase of use. “It’s easy to get, easy to download, easy to log into it,” says Ungashick. “We do see increasing adoption just because it is so commonplace for anyone to download apps.”

When companies provide an application designed specifically for alternative devices, the capabilities and user experience is amplified positively. “They’re richer, they’re more fun to use, they’re more responsive, they show me notifications, but they also have things like embedded rich media and sharing,” says Ungashick.

This simplification and encouragement of use has a positive effect on business outcomes, as the ease can promote recognition between peers rather than just from the top down. According to The Business Impact of Employee Recognition, provided by SHRM/Globoforce, of the companies who use peer-to-peer recognition programs, 57 percent have seen increased engagement, and companies who promote peer-to-peer recognition programs are 35.7 percent more likely to have a positive financial impact than those that do not.

Social. “The traditional service award program where you can recognize someone for five years of service just didn’t feel right to us. People do great work everyday,” says Suleman. And a newer category of recognition does just that: acknowledges achievements on an everyday basis— social recognition.

Social recognition provides a platform to create a community where everyone is involved in the recognition process. “Social recognition makes great work visible to the organization as a whole, and it allows peers and colleagues to amplify that award by saying great job themselves,” says Ungashick.

Some programs provide a newsfeed of recognition to be shared and viewed among workers, which ultimately has a social feel—but employees can also keep recognition private if they prefer. Allowing this privacy keeps employees engaged in the process, while also giving them their personal control. “We really want the employees to individualize how they want to share their info, and how they want to post it. If organizations want to have a little bit more control over that, they have the ability to help set some protocol around it as well. It’s social media, responsibly,” says O’Brien.

Integrating social programs can help to grow, develop, and communicate a company’s culture. “It’s a very exciting time for social recognition in the industry. It allows people to interact in a whole new way, but in a way that is advancing what the company is looking to achieve through competitive advantage of their culture, or by demonstrating values that advance the company goals,” says Ungashick.

Native and Innovative Capabilities
The effectiveness of recognition programs is strengthened when integrating with already-existing mobile capabilities, beyond the benefits of the data plan. Already-existing assets include photo and video, where users can capture the performance being commended and share it, or capture the recognition itself. “We have a number of employees that are posting YouTube videos, or taking videos of themselves, or doing selfies, and putting it on the system, and creating their own cards, if you will, electronic cards,” says O’Brien.

Suleman says their strategy has evolved from making sure the mobile matched up with web functionality to, “What are the unique things you can you do on mobile first?”

Voice recognition capabilities, which are built into smartphones, add a layer of accessibility, explains Ungashick. If users need to be hands-free due to particular circumstances, mobile technology helps encourage recognition at anytime and anywhere. “By having the native capabilities of the phone, and the fact that those capabilities expand over time, recognition can really take off in new ways,” he says.

Access to the mobile program can even serve as a platform to information about other employees. “I actually use it as a company directory. Because everyone’s on that same application, I can put someone’s name in and access their email, extension or mobile number, or even their Facebook or LinkedIn,” says Suleman.

Smartphones and mobile technology can also be leveraged to select and obtain rewards. Suleman explains through the Achievers app, employees can redeem points for a Best Buy item from their marketplace and even pick it up at a retail location through the app.

“It’s changed the reward experience to instant gratification,” explains Suleman. “It’s completely reinvented the way we think about recognition and the enterprise.“

Smartphones’ GPS capability can also lead to new use cases related to recognition. “If I want to redeem an award, my mobile phone knows that I’ve landed in Germany,” explains Ungashick. “The Globoforce application will show me all of the vendors that I can redeem with in the German market, by having GPS awareness or integration.”

Two Worlds Collide

Should private, personal social networks integrate with professional achievements? It’s been a lingering question in the industry over the last few years—and continues to lack a concrete answer.

On one hand, it is beneficial for employees to be able to share instances of recognition: It can be viewed as an advertisement for their capabilities, as well as their employer. “It reinforces that the organization is a great place to work,” says O’Brien. “There’s a lot of re- consumption value with that social media strategy.”

Suleman says that recognition can easily be listed on a user’s LinkedIn profile, advancing their professional endeavors. Rather than posting potentially vague recommendations, the real-time acknowledgement is a direct result of a job well done.

There are potential drawbacks to integration. Users may not want to connect their professional profiles to their personal profiles for privacy reasons. Another concern is that sharing recognition on external social networks could lead to a breach of company information and confidentiality. By sharing information about a project, specific employees will be linked to it.

And there is potential poaching of top employees from competitors. “Do you really want your external headhunters knowing who your top performers are in your company?” explains Ungashick. “There is a way to share the information inside your company in an open and viral way, but in a way that protects your corporate assets and your people.”

Mobile is not the wave of the future—it is the future. “For those who haven’t made the leap to a social platform that has a mobile component to it, I think now is the time to act,” says Suleman. “We’re happy the future is here because we’ve been preaching the benefits of mobile and the impact on recognition and engagement for quite a while.”

All of the newly implemented benefits to recognition programs are increasingly impressive, but is likely that the industry has only scratched the surface of what is to come for recognition technology.

5 Best Practice Pointers

Our experts reveal five ways to ensure mobile is a successful way of sharing recognition.

1. Communicate the recognition program, and communicate the mobile capabilities. “Many of my clients will do a broad communication initiative to launch a program. They may go as far as to have a video featuring the CEO of the company. You’ll see posters in the break room, you’ll see promotional things on the Internet sites, to promote the accessibility of the mobile app is always a good idea,” says Ungashick.

2. Make sure the program is user friendly and accessible on all devices. “Whether that’s desktop, smartphone, or tablet, there’s a solution for them,” says Suleman.

3. Consider your entire workforce. “Keep it simple. But also very intuitive, because there are audiences that aren’t necessarily as comfortable with it,” says O’Brien.

4. Confirm security measures. “Integrate with your company’s security system, so employees don’t have to remember a separate login, or password,” says Ungashick. “The convenience factor is that if I’m an employee using single sign-on, I’ve already been authenticated by my IT department.”

5. Align mobile recognition with business goals. “Make certain that the mobile strategy connects with the overall recognition strategy,” says O’Brien. “Make sure that the connections and the recognition activities that are happening on the mobile devices are connected back to the organization objectives. Then you can measure that and make certain that it’s driving performance, or driving objective, of what the company is trying to achieve.”

Posted August 19, 2014 in Performance Management & Rewards