Feature Article - January/February 2014

'Like' and 'Share' the Good News

Social Recognition & The Extended Enterprise

By Dawn Klingensmith

The youngest generation in the workforce is accustomed to sharing information, giving and getting instant feedback, and receiving rewards and recognition—points, badges, Foursquare mayorships—in virtual communities. Due to their near-constant use of mobile technology and various forms of social media, including games as simple as Words with Friends or as complex as World of Warcraft, millennials enter the workforce expecting "accelerated feedback cycles, clear goals, fair rules, and a balance of challenge and achievement," said Bill Hennessey, engagement solutions director at Maritz Motivation Solutions, Fenton, Mo.

In fact, 39 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds would consider leaving a job if they were not allowed to access socially interactive sites like Facebook and YouTube at work, according to the 2012 Bersin & Associates report "New Talent Technologies: Managing People Better."

As this age group's influence and affluence continue to grow, so does their power. Hence, incentive industry professionals tend to point to millennials to create a sense of urgency around the need to incorporate social components in incentive programs in order to maximize engagement and return on investment. But by framing the discussion around the expectations of millennials, we lose sight of the bigger picture. It's time to broaden the viewfinder to envision how "social" will drive the success of business in the future, and what that means for reward and recognition programs.

Extended Enterprise Engagement

"Extended enterprise" is the concept that a company does not operate or achieve success in isolation but rather depends on a network of partner relationships. Though the concept may seem newly minted to describe the widespread reliance on outsourced labor in today's economy, it actually dates back to the 1990s when the Chrysler Corporation coined it to explain its "suppliers as partners" philosophy. Back then, Chrysler pioneered one of the first extranets to securely share information with suppliers on a private network. Today, the extended enterprise is held together by information technology, or "enterprise systems," to facilitate communication and collaboration, and provide data access to stakeholders.

Online social recognition provides the foundation for organizational change aimed at fostering an open, barrier-free environment in which employees are encouraged to share, collaborate, recognize and innovate virtually.

Extended enterprise engagement may prove to be an "adapt or die" proposition, said Brad Callahan, vice president of business solutions at Marketing Innovators International Inc., Rosemont, Ill.

"In today's business environment, competition is no longer a contest between companies; it's really a competition between networks?the sum of connectivity, communications, collaboration, and reward and recognition systems used to empower a collective value chain," he explained. "Having the ability to bring together thoughts and ideas from team members scattered across a country, or even across the globe, and being able to find information, people and expertise faster can only help businesses grow and remain competitive."

"Enterprise systems" are generally understood to involve the entire organization and its stakeholders, and not all companies have this sort of centralized "brain" in place. But plenty of companies have "nerve centers" that function the same way, on a smaller scale—think of collaborative online workspaces and project management tools like SharePoint and Basecamp, which bring together select stakeholders with a shared goal. These programs have the capacity to track each individual's contribution to the project and, by extension, to the organization as a whole. So, it is easy to imagine how social recognition and rewards could be built in to such systems, and eventually to one centralized system connecting employees, external partners, suppliers and customers—the extended enterprise—though "what we're describing is probably out there on the horizon," Callahan said.

Meanwhile, "a number of providers are building systems to help incorporate social recognition through existing platforms by building modules that allow individuals to share, engage in conversations and recognize their colleagues," he said, and then broadcast the recognition "in a more visible, transparent way for the entire organization."