Feature Article - January/February 2014

'Like' and 'Share' the Good News

Social Recognition & The Extended Enterprise

By Dawn Klingensmith

Stories and Glories

"For many people, celebrating successes and sharing stories, comments and insights online is a daily event, but until recently this bore little resemblance to the way we work," Callahan said. "Traditionally, businesses operated in silos, impairing collaboration and co-action between colleagues and cross-functional practitioners."

Today, "A whole new notion of social learning is beginning to evolve around the distillation and distribution of knowledge and recognition of its individual contributors," according to a September 2012 Social Recognition report co-produced by Marketing Innovators and the Enterprise Engagement Alliance. "Social connectivity could hold the key to a more productive way of doing business by providing an engaging virtual forum for showcasing achievements, recognizing people, leveraging social currency and identifying pockets of expertise within the organization."

By virtue of the way they are structured, social recognition platforms also promote learning by breaking down long-term goals and using game mechanics to track and reward progress. "Traditionally, we'd reward a final outcome, such as completing a sale," Hennessey said, "but that doesn't help people know the best path for that."

With today's recognition software, employees—or "players"—get bonuses for completing challenges on their way to the ultimate goal or achievement. For example, salespeople may be incented to watch a series of videos to learn all about the company's new product line, share their successful completion with peers and invite others to do the same. "You have to do more things than just write up the sale," Hennessey acknowledged, "but you now have a better foundation for closing future sales. It makes people more effective at what they do."

Social recognition generally takes place on the intranet, and there's debate in the industry about whether to broaden recognition via public social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, extending the celebration and further reinforcing the achievement.

"I believe social recognition needs to stay in-house. I don't necessarily support the view that most employees would want their business achievements pushed out on Facebook," Callahan said.

From an employer's perspective, there are concerns that such broadcasts "can be used by competitors to poach top performers," Reisner said.

However, "If you have highly engaged talent and you're rewarding them appropriately, the risk of losing them to a suitor is probably low," Hennessey pointed out.

For whatever reason, most companies engaging in social recognition have not gone outside the corporate firewall except to involve virtual workers and external partners.