Feature Article - March/April 2011

The 'Social' Revolution

Using Social Media to Help Recognize & Reward

By Rick Dandes

The use of social media is increasingly becoming a key component in well-designed recognition and reward programs. After all, organizations—and incentive program designers—are constantly looking for new tools that will offer better program communications and enhance the overall recognition experience for the employee participant.

In fact, according to Janice Barton, senior partner and founder of Performance Plus Marketing, based in Roswell, Ga., social media and networking has become "table stakes in the evolution of communication. Businesses that can effectively communicate internally and externally through a variety of channels will reach a higher level of success than businesses that communicate ineffectively or resist embracing social media altogether," she said.

"Absolutely, we are seeing social media becoming a part of the incentive/reward program mix," added Steven Green, founder and president of PollStream Inc., a provider of interactive engagement and community building solutions, with headquarters in Toronto, Canada. "We are also seeing a change in the wording that companies are using to describe their programs, moving away from incentive/rewards programs, and toward recognition programs. Once companies embrace social media within their organization, they quickly realize the currency that has the greatest value to knowledge workers is the desire for recognition, the kind of recognition that allows an employee to build a personal legacy within the organization."

Social recognition, Green said, brings to light the contributions and milestones of employees and transmits the story instantaneously across the corporate intranet.

It's all about the story. Recognition becomes a cultural asset, infusing the social intranet with tales of success and achievement.

Not all organizations, however, are completely sold on the value of social media, although most companies have adopted electronic tools to keep their diverse, multi-located employees connected.

Like it or not, the buzz about social media is inescapable.

"I am in the social media camp and strongly believe that social recognition is already here within informal social networks like Facebook," Green continued. "The jump to the enterprise has already happened. I don't know of any large organization not implementing or investigating some aspect of social media, and the small and mid-sized organization will surely follow along soon after."

Green added that for the most part, small and medium-sized businesses are still relying on traditional incentive programs. "Large organizations are better equipped to be current with social trends and research and have dedicated teams that can focus on the investigation and trialing of social recognition programs," he added.