Feature Article - March/April 2012

Getting Social

Engaging Employees With Social Recognition Tools

By Dawn Klingensmith

Social media pervade every aspect of our lives, so it's no surprise to employers that there is a social media component to most revamped or newly designed reward programs.

The benefits of using social media as part of employee incentive programs are many:

  • Recognition and feedback are instantaneous, personal, visible to peers and superiors, and instructive.
  • A social platform is both a tool and an outlet for positive corporate story telling.
  • A well-designed social recognition platform provides each employee with an ongoing recognition record.
  • Managers can use the content for talent spotting and performance reviews.
  • Recognition via social media captures and makes visible corporate values in action.
  • Social media fosters positive communication in the workplace.
  • Social media use aligns with newer employees' expectations.

Regarding the last point, younger employees in the workforce "are people who, when they're not working, are accustomed to being able to have a voice and comment and share and get feedback" via social and interactive media, said Steven Green, president, TemboSocial, Toronto.

In addition, "Social recognition matches the employee expectation of being able to build their personal legacy within the organization," he added.

Perhaps the most important benefit of social recognition is that it shines a light on employee behaviors that tend to go unrecognized. To underscore this point, Green paints a hypothetical situation involving two bank tellers.

Traditional recognition programs celebrate behaviors that go above and beyond what's expected, so naturally heroic acts would be held up as examples. For example, let's say our first teller is helping customers when someone in line collapses. The teller leaps over the wicket to the person's aid, administers CPR, and revives her by the time emergency responders arrive on the scene. Understandably, the teller receives recognition for acting fast and possibly saving a customer's life.

"It's a great story," Green said, "but it's not really repeatable behavior."

On the other hand, Teller No. 2 doesn't have any heroics under her belt, but she never fails to greet customers by name, with a broad, sincere smile. She doesn't just bid people to have a nice day, she does what she can to make their day brighter. That ongoing commitment to providing excellent customer service also deserves recognition. What's more, the behavior is learnable and repeatable.

The second teller's unrecognized positivity helps illustrate why employees sometimes feel they know better than executives who the high performers are in an organization. As such, employees are increasingly being called upon to call out recognition-worthy behaviors, sometimes even as they are occurring. Social recognition platforms provide a forum for doing so.